June 3

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

Boston-Gazette (June 3, 1771).

“It is also by special appointment sold by Mr. Daniel Martin, in Boston.”

Many patent medicines were widely available from apothecaries, shopkeepers, and even printers throughout the American colonies.  From New England to Georgia, newspaper advertisements listed popular remedies, including Stoughton’s Elixir, Bateman’s Drops, and Hooper’s Pills.  Consumers recognized the various brands and understood which symptoms each supposedly relieved without encountering additional information in the advertisements.

Other patent medicines, however, were not as widely available.  Such was the case for the “GREAT AND LEARNED DOCTOR SANXAY’s IMPERIAL GOLDEN DROPS,” the subject of a lengthy advertisement in the June 3, 1771, edition of the Boston-Gazette.  The Imperial Golden Drops required greater elaboration since they were not as widely familiar to consumers as many other medicines.  The advertisement explained that the Imperial Golden Drops “are composed from the finest essence of the richest gums and balsams of the east and west parts of the world; therefore, this Medicine is truly the Balsam of all the other known balsams.”  The advertisement claimed that this restorative could “fortify the weak & enfeebled parts; to give health, strength and vigour to a worn-out constitution.”  The Imperial Golden Drops aided with “rheumatic and gravelly complaints” as well as “barrenness and sterility in women, & impotency in men.”

Consumers could not acquire this nostrum in just any shop in the colonies.  Instead, it was exclusively available from a select few vendors.  Thomas Anderton, a bookseller in Philadelphia, began advertising the Imperial Golden Drops in January 1771.  According to his advertisement in the January 31 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, Anderton supplied customers to the south via “WILLIAM DIELEY, Post-rider, from Philadelphia to Virginia” and “Mr. BALL, the sign of the White Horse, in Annapolis.”  Several months later, Daniel Martin supplied the Imperial Golden Drops to consumers in Boston.  Martin reprinted Anderton’s advertisement that first ran in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on February 18, adding an additional headline and a final note.  The headline proclaimed, “Sold by DANIEL MARTIN,” and listed the price before transitioning to the copy originally printed in other newspapers.  That copy included a short paragraph identifying Anderton as the supplier.  It also warned against counterfeits, noting that Anderton “hath sealed the bottle with his coat of arms, and signed each bottle in his own hand writing.”  For local customers, Martin added a brief note: “It is also by special appointment sold by Mr. Daniel Martin, in Boston.”

Apothecaries and other retailers in Boston marketed a variety of patent medicines found in shops throughout the colonies, but Martin provided access to an elixir not stocked elsewhere in the city.  His “special appointment” to sell the Imperial Golden Drops in New England made him the sole vendor of a patent medicine billed as “the greatest … medicine ever produced.”  Martin likely hoped that such exclusivity generated demand and added value to the unique product he hawked to prospective patients in Boston and surrounding towns.

June 14

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

Jun 14 - 6:14:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

“Gentlemen and others … may depend on the greatest punctuality.”

As spring turned to summer in 1769, Robert Gray launched a new business in Savannah. The wigmaker and hairdresser marked the occasion by placing an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette to inform the public that “he intends carrying on his business in this town.” Prospective clients could find him on Broughton Street, “Next door to Mr. Johnston’s.” He was conveniently located next door to the printing office operated by James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette. Yet Gray did not expect clients to visit his shop; instead, he offered to serve them “either at their lodgings or his shop,” catering to their convenience.

Gray used his advertisement to inform “the publick” of his new enterprise, but he also addressed “Gentlemen and others” when he pledged his “greatest punctuality” in serving his clients. This was a curious phrase, one that also appeared elsewhere on the same page in an advertisement placed by John Beaty, a tailor from London. Beaty proclaimed, “All gentlemen and others who may favour him with their commands shall be waited upon, and have their orders strictly obeyed.” Gray and Beaty attempted to peddle in exclusivity, but they also wanted to have it both ways. They encouraged prospective clients to think of themselves as genteel “gentlemen,” yet they did not want to position themselves as serving only the most elite residents of Savannah. In a small port with relatively few potential patrons compared to larger cities that may have been a practical strategy. The hairdresser and the tailor might have built their businesses around greater exclusivity in Charleston, New York, or Philadelphia, but they had to operate according to the realities of the market in Savannah. Gray and Beaty also implied that they recognized the distinctions between “gentlemen and others,” though neither would have given voice to clients that they considered them in one category or the other. As the consumer revolution gave colonists of various backgrounds greater access to goods and services previously reserved for the upper ranks, hairdressers, tailors, and others carefully presented their services to both the genteel and aspirants to gentility. The “others” might, over time, improve their social standing and become “gentlemen” if they used the services of hairdressers and tailors to their best advantage.

October 13

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

Oct 13 - 10:13:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 13, 1767).

“THE famous new-invented STOMACH PILLS, prepared by JAMES SPEEDIMAN.”

Colonial shopkeepers and apothecaries frequently advertised a variety of imported remedies, especially patent medicines with names widely recognized by consumers. The “new-invented” pills for stomach ailments “prepared by JAMES SPEEDIMAN” did not have that advantage. Since they were mostly unfamiliar to local customers, William Williamson had to put special effort into marketing them in the fall of 1767.

He first established that patients in other places, especially England, had embraced Speediman’s “STOMACH PILLS.” The proprietor had been granted “HIS MAJESTY’S ROYAL LETTERS-PATENT.” In addition, Williamson assured potential customers that “those Pills are found effectual” by patients on the other side of the Atlantic. They had earned a positive reputation and were “approved of in Great-Britain.” Williamson mobilized both bureaucratic approbation and public consensus as endorsements of Speediman’s pills.

Yet local consumers did not need to trust solely William’s representation of how the pills had been received in England. He reported that he had brought a few boxes to South Carolina the previous year, “upon Trial” for his customers. After he distributed them, “they proved so beneficial to sundry Persons who used them” that patients wanted more of them and made “very frequent Applications” for them. This convinced Williamson to acquire a greater quantity, which had just arrived in port. Although Williamson did not provide testimonials, he did suggest that local consumers could verify that Speediman’s pills had worked for them.

In order to sell these stomach pills, Williamson also created a sense of exclusivity. He noted that Speediman made them available to him “by particular Appointment,” selecting him – “and him only” – to sell the pills in South Carolina. To substantiate the authenticity of the pills, Williamson delivered them with “printed Directions” that had been “signed with the Proprietor’s own Hand.” Advertisers sometimes indicated that other medicines came with printed directions and other marketing material, but rarely did they have such an immediate connection to “the Proprietor.” This also contributed to forging an aura of exclusivity.

William Williamson had a relatively new product, one not yet familiar to most consumers in his local marketplace. Colonists were already familiar with other patent medicines, with other brands, and their effects so he needed to convince them to give Speediman’s stomach pills a chance. To do so, he stressed that their effectiveness had made them popular in England, but emphasized that they were not yet widely available in South Carolina. Due to an exclusive contract, local consumers could obtain them only from him.

August 3

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

Aug 3 - 8:3:1767 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (August 3, 1767).

“He will always have all sorts of Pies and Tarts of different prices.”

Daniel Duchemin, “MEAT Cook and pastry Cook from Paris,” placed an advertisement in the New-York Gazette to inform its readers of the services he provided. Although he repeatedly addressed the “Ladies and Gentlemen of this City,” Duchemin did not seek the patronage of only elite customers. After listing a variety of pastries, including “Royal Cakes, Queen Cakes, Dutchess, [and] Savoy Campaigne,” he proclaimed that he would “always have all sorts of Pies and Tarts of different prices” available at his shop. Some of his more elaborate pastries may have been best suited for the tastes and budgets of “Ladies and Gentlemen,” but Duchemin did not depend on their business alone. Instead, he offered treats at various price points to encourage as many potential customers as possible to visit his shop. To that end, his language shifted in the final lines of his advertisement. Rather than continuing to address the “Ladies and Gentlemen of this City,” he indicated his “readiness to serve the Publick,” a much broader constituency.

Duchemin resorted to a marketing strategy frequently adopted by other entrepreneurs who advertised goods and services in eighteenth-century America: the suggestion of exclusivity. Without actually restricting his clientele, he implied that he primarily served the better sort. That could have given his business a certain cachet among elites who may have regularly made purchases at his shop. They could have done so secure in the assumption that Duchemin’s pastries were intended for them. Yet other customers with aspirations could also enjoy “all sorts of pastrey hot and cold” Duchemin made and sold. Occasional purchases gave them a taste of the culinary treats enjoyed by the better sort.

Advertisements for various goods and services suggest that formerly clear lines that distinguished colonists by status became blurred as the eighteenth century progressed. All sorts of customers increasingly had access to textiles, housewares, and other consumer goods previously acquired solely by the elite. Schoolmasters, foreign language tutors, and dancing and fencing masters suggested that they served elite clients but instructed all pupils who could pay. Duchemin utilized a similar strategy, positioning his pastry shop as a high-end destination for the most genteel customers but welcoming “the Publick” with “different prices” to get them through the door.

January 27

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

“THE Subscriber returns his sincere Thanks to his Friends and Customers.”

Andrew Taylor placed an earnest, yet cryptic, advertisement to express “his sincere Thanks to his Friends and Customers” for their previous patronage. He also expressed his desire to continue to serve them in the future. Unlike most advertisements, however, Taylor did not give any indication of what sort of business he pursued or where his store or workshop was located. While it was possible that many residents of Charleston already knew Taylor, the busy urban port was large enough to support three newspapers, hardly making it a small town where everyone could be expected to know everyone else.

Eighteenth-century advertisers frequently expressed their appreciation to their customers, but they usually used wording that extended an invitation to the general public, to others who might read the advertisement and wish to avail themselves of whatever services were being offered. Such advertisements aimed to drum up new business from new customers or clients, not just maintain relationships with current patrons.

Perhaps Taylor wished to cultivate an aura of exclusivity by making it seem as though he had little need for new customers but instead wished to focus on his existing clientele. In a nota bene he indicated that his wife was a mantuamaker; perhaps he was in the clothing trades himself. Maybe Taylor was indeed a tailor, one of sufficient prominence in Charleston that he did not need to list his occupation or location. Perhaps the sorts of customers Taylor wished to attract would have already been sufficiently familiar with him and his work that he did not need to provide additional information, and those who could not penetrate his brief open letter to his clients were not anyone whose patronage would contribute to the impression of his business and its patrons that he wished to project.

Many eighteenth-century advertisers played with the concept of gentility and its appeal to consumers, simultaneously offering goods and services that might allow the better sorts to maintain their status while also making the same goods and services available to anyone who could pay. Taylor may have been up to something similar in this advertisement, creating an appearance of exclusivity for his current “Friends and Customers” even as he implicitly invited others to join their ranks as he reminded all of the readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that he continued his “Endeavours.”