What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A Passage-Boat fitted in the best Manner for the Reception of Passengers.”
Samuel Beebe and Ebenezer Webb were competitors. Both operated a ferry service, or “Passage-Boat,” between New London, Connecticut, and Long Island, New York, but they did not follow the same route. In his advertisement, which appeared immediately above Beebe’s notice, Webb allowed that “Passengers may be landed on any Part of the East End of the Island,” but then claimed that “Sterling is preferable for a Landing Place.” Beebe, who delivered passengers to Oyster Point Pond at the easternmost tip of Long Island, disagreed. “Passengers, by being landed on the East End,” he argued, “saves more Time than the Distance between there and Sterling.” Beebe admitted that his passengers disembarked at a location farther from New York than if they sailed to Sterling with Webb, but there were other factors that they needed to take into account. “[F]or while a Boat is beating Seven Miles to windward,” Beebe explained, “a Traveler may go Twenty Miles on Shore.” Travelers needed to be well-informed and discerning about the relative advantages of transport via land versus over sea. Webb pointed out that by taking his ferry passengers “must save 50 Miles” compared to traveling only by land around Long Island Sound, but Beebe countered that sometimes traveling by land might be the faster option, especially since “a level plain Road” ran the 120 miles between Oyster Point Pond and New York.
Although Beebe and Webb focused primarily the advantages of their route, both enhanced their advertisements by mentioning other amenities to attract potential clients. In so doing, they marketed transportation services as a travel experience. They invited customers to consider the overall package, not just the route. Webb, for example, delivered copies of the New-London Gazette to subscribers on Long Island. When Beebe began advertising that “he keeps a House of Entertainment for Man and Horse” at Oyster Point Pond, an establishment where “Gentleman Travellers may be well used,” Webb updated his advertisement with a final note that “Good Entertainment for Travellers may be had at the Subscriber’s House.” Both indicated that their ferries operated “Wind and Weather permitting.” Should acts of nature delay departures, passengers could depend on comfortable lodgings while they waited. Time, distance, and comfort all played a role in convincing travelers which “Passage-Boat” to sail.