December 14

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Providence Gazette (December 14, 1771).

“I intreat them to consider my late heavy, and grievous Misfortunes, and give their Custom to said Mill.”

In December 1771, Elisha Brown placed an advertisement in the Providence Gazette to inform readers that he would soon commence operations at his mill, “the nearest to the Town of Providence.”  In preparation, he offered advice to prospective customers, explaining “the best Way of keeping their Grain, in order to make good Meal.”  He lamented that sometimes “millers are blamed when they are not worthy of it, by Reason of the Grain’s being damp and unfit to grind.”  That being the case, he gave extensive instructions for storing corn and grain in order to avoid collecting moisture that resulted in “sweaty Dampness” and, ultimately, meal of “a soft, clammy Quality, which will never make good Bread.”  Prospective customers could save themselves a lot of grief if they followed Brown’s recommendations, though he likely aimed to spare himself from difficult interactions with dissatisfied customers as well.

Brown provided this guidance as a service to his customers.  For those not enticed by such concern for their prospects of receiving good meal upon supplying grain that had been stored appropriately, he also attempted to play on their sympathies as a means of convincing them to choose his mill over those run by competitors.  He had deployed a similar strategy several months earlier.  Brown declared, “I intreat” residents of Providence “to consider my late heavy, and grievous Misfortunes, and give their Custom to said Mill.”  He did not specify any particulars, assuming readers were already familiar with those events and might be inclined to assist him in overcoming those “Misfortunes.”  To further justify employing him, Brown underscored his industriousness, proclaiming that “constant Attendance will be given … from before Sunrise, in the Morning, till the Mill be cleared in the Evening.”  He planned to be on site as often as possible, but also arranged for Abner Thayer, a clothier, to tend the mill in his absence.

Whatever Brown’s “Misfortunes” may have been, he endeavored to recover from them, but he needed the assistance of customers who brought their grain to his mill.  He attempted to help them avert misfortunes of their own, giving lengthy directions for the best methods to store grain in order to produce meal of good quality.  In exchange for looking out for their welfare, he hoped that prospective customers would reward him by improving his own condition through their patronage at his mill.

April 6

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Providence Gazette (April 6, 1771).

Consider his Misfortunes, and to favour him with their Custom.”

When Elisha Brown resumed “his former Right and Estate in the GRIST-MILL” that he once operated, he took to the pages of the Providence Gazette to increase his chances of success.  He outlined his plans for running the mill, but also attempted to play on the sympathies of prospective clients in an advertisement that first ran on April 6, 1771.  He acknowledged that he was back in business thanks to “the Favour and Assistance of many of his Creditors, and some of his Friends” and requested “the Favour of his former Customers … to consider his Misfortunes, and to favour him with their Custom.”  Brown did not elaborate on those “Misfortunes,” apparently believing the community was already familiar with them and would respond to his plea that they once again entrust their grain to him for processing.

To serve his customers, Brown planned “to give constant Attendance” at the mill from sunrise until nine o’clock at night.  He would “make their Meal good” as well as replace any bags lost by mistake, but specified that he needed customers’ assistance in bringing him grain that was “clean and dry” in well-marked bags.  Achieving customer satisfaction depended in part on the care that clients took in preparing their grain for the mill, yet the miller also played an important role in the process.  Brown aimed “to please his Customers,” but resumed operations on a trial basis.  He pledged that if he “should be so unfortunate as not to please them” he would “procure some other Person to tend said Mill to their Satisfaction.”  Brown hoped to earn the approbation of his clients on his own, but he recognized that the success of the business might ultimately depend on hiring an associate.

In the process of informing the community that he once again operated his mill, Brown constructed a narrative of redemption to encourage clients to avail themselves of his services.  He already benefited from the “Favour and Assistance” of creditors and friends who overlooked his “Misfortunes” and now called on former customers and prospective new ones to do the same.  He asked them to give him an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment and competence during a trial period, intending to win their trust and return business.

December 3

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Dec 3 - 12:3:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (December 3, 1768).

“My Son, ELISHA BROWN, has undertaken to tend my Grist-Mill in Providence.”

Elisha Brown operated a family business. Late in 1768 he placed an advertisement in the Providence Gazette to inform residents of the city and its surroundings that his son, also named Elisha Brown, “has undertaken to tend my Grist-Mill.” Rather than the younger Brown advertise on his own behalf, the elder Brown realized that perhaps he possessed more authority to convince prospective clients to patronize the mill.

To that end, the elder Brown acknowledged that readers may not have had much knowledge of the new mill operation and, as a result, might be hesitant to entrust processing their grain to him. “Those who are unacquainted with his Character,” the father proclaimed, “may satisfy themselves by enquiring of the Neighbourhood up Street, where he used to live, or of DANIEL JENCKES and JAMES ANGELL, Esquires, down Street.” Rather than take the elder Brown’s word that the son was a fair dealer, potential clients were encouraged to speak with others familiar with “his Character.”

Realizing that this might not be enough to overcome the hesitation of some, the elder Brown also underscored that he continued to oversee the business, but only when necessary. “In case of any just Reason for Complain, either of bad Meal, Loss of Part, or Change of Bags,” he explained, unsatisfied clients “first are desired to apply to the Miller.” The younger Brown was a responsible entrepreneur who would remedy any concerns. However, just in case anyone had lingering doubts or required more security, the elder Brown did present the option that if his son “fail[ed] to give Satisfaction, it shall be given by applying to me.” Prospective clients continued to have recourse to the more established and more experienced miller, if circumstances warranted.

When he took a significant step in passing along the family business to the next generation, the elder Brown not only trained his son in its operations but also cultivated the community of prospective clients who might avail themselves of the mill’s services. His advertisement provided assurances that anyone who sent their grain to the mill would be well served.