October 4

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

New-York Journal (October 1, 1772).

“The surest Means to acquire a speedy Sale … is to make them of full Quality, at a moderate Charge, and good Attendance.”

Richard Deane, “DISTILLER, from “LONG-ISLAND,” considered experience one of the best markers of quality for the spirits that he sold in New York.  He stocked “a Quantity of neat Brandy, Geneva, Spirits of Wine, and Cordials of different Sorts” as well as “the very best Quality” shrub and New York rum.  In an advertisement in the October 1, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, he attempted to leverage a precursor to name recognition or brand recognition, stating that the “good Quality of said DEANE’s Brandy, Geneva, and Cordials, has for several Years past been well experienced” by satisfied customers.  In turn, he redoubled his efforts “to excel in that particular Branch of Business” to further enhance his distillery’s reputation.

Deane elaborated on his business philosophy in a note that concluded his advertisement, confiding that he was “fully convinced by long Experience, that the surest Means to acquire a speedy Sale of the above Articles, is to make them of full Quality, at a moderate Charge, and good Attendance, which, with every other Endeavour to give Satisfaction, will be the constant Study, of the Public’s very obliged humble Servant.”  A manicule drew attention to the distiller’s promise to combine high quality, reasonable prices, and excellent customer service.  In many ways, Deane’s marketing strategy anticipated those deployed by breweries and distilleries today.  Many modern companies link their beers and spirits to traditions that date back to previous centuries, invoking a heritage their founders passed down through generations.  They invoke “long Experience” to encourage consumers to feel as though they participate in customs of significance when they imbibe beverages from their breweries or distilleries.  That “long Experience” also testifies to quality.  After all, breweries and distilleries would not remain in business so long if generations of customers did not appreciate their beers and spirits.  The philosophy that Dean expounded at the conclusion of his advertisement in the New-York Journal is the type of historical record that modern advertising executives would love to exploit in connection to the products they market.

August 12

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (August 12, 1772).

“He proposes to affix his Name on the Heads of all his Bolts, rolling Screens, and Fans.”

In the summer of 1772, John Sellers of Darby placed advertisements promoting “VARIOUS Kinds of Wire Work” in the Pennsylvania Gazette.  He made and sold “rolling Screens for cleaning Wheat,” “rolling Screens for cleaning Flaxseed from the yellow or wild Seed,” “small Bolts for separating the Cockle from the Flaxseed,” and “common Dutch Fans” for separating wheat from chaff.

Sellers presented a variety of reasons that readers in need of any of those devices should purchase them from him.  He promised that customers who “favour him with their Orders, may depend on their Work being done with Care,” reiterating a description of his products as “made in the neatest and best Manner.”  He also offered a guarantee, stating that “the Work [is] Warranted.  Furthermore, Sellers drew on long experience as an artisan who met the expectations of his clients.  He was “not pretending to perform that which he has not, in a great Number of Instance, given the utmost Satisfaction.”  Over time, he made “upwards of 50 rolling Screens for Wheat, and upwards of 70 for Flaxseed,” establishing his reputation.

Sellers did not expect prospective customers to visit his workshop in Darby, six miles away from Philadelphia, to examine his products or purchase them.  Instead, “for the Conveniency of his Customers,” he arranged to have them on display “in Plumsted’s Stores, in Philadelphia.”  Sellers instructed to customers to ask for John Brown to handle sales.  For those who wished to confer with the artisan directly, he advised that he “attends generally twice a Week, in Philadelphia.”  Anyone interested in contacting him directly could do so by “leaving a Line at the Conestogoe Waggon, in Market-street, or sending by the Post.”

To attract notice to the various appeals he deployed in the copy of his advertisement, Sellers adorned it with a woodcut depicting one of the rolling screens he constructed.  He commissioned that image at least five years earlier, having included it in an advertisement that ran in the Pennsylvania Gazette in September 1767.  Just as sellers aimed to make his newspaper notice distinctive, he also marked the items he made in his workshop.  He informed his customers that he “affix[ed] his Name on the Heads of all his Bolts, rolling Screens, and Fans.”  That demonstrated pride in his craft while also marketing his products every time someone encountered his name on this equipment after it left his workshop. Sellers did not limit his marketing strategy to describing his products.  Instead, he used distinctive marks to draw attention, both an image in his newspaper advertisement and his name branding his bolts, screens, and fans.

March 2

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (March 2, 1772).

“NEW-YORK BEER.”

Benjamin Williams, a brewer, touted his skill and experience when he placed an advertisement in the March 2, 1772, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  He invited both “Gentlemen in Town” and “Captains of Vessels” to purchase beer at his “Store-Cellar, upon HUNTER’S-QUAY.”  To convince them to choose his beer over others, Williams informed the public that through “great Experience and Application, in Brewing, Managing, and Bottling NEW-YORK BEER” he “brought it to that Perfection, which, with Pleasure, he can boast superior to any Attempt of the Kind in this, or in any other Colony on the Continent of North-America.”  That was a bold claim!  Today, brewers continue to promote the quality of their products and, in many instances, the years of experience and tradition associated with their breweries. When they do so, they echo marketing strategies already deployed by brewers during the era of the American Revolution.

Williams encouraged local consumption of his “NEW-YORK BEER,” informing “Gentlemen in Town” that they could acquire it for ten shillings for a dozen bottles.  If they returned the bottles, consumers enjoyed a discount of three shillings.  The brewer also sought customers among “Captains of Vessels” headed to ports in other places, including the Caribbean.  He assured them that “Repeated Trials have prov’d” that his beer “will stand the West Indies” rather than go bad during transport.  Here again, Williams’s “great Experience and Application” played a role in marketing his product to prospective customers.  He also promoted another product, “Fine Cyder, of a peculiar Quality and Flavour,” for consumers interested in beverages beyond beer.  In the 1770s, he diversified his line of products in much the same way that many breweries have recently done by offering ciders and, especially, seltzers and other flavor-infused malt beverages.  Both Williams and his modern counterparts hoped that familiarity with the quality and reputation of one beverage would lead to purchasing others from the same brewer.

February 23

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

New-York Journal (February 20, 1772).

“Watches regulated, and such alterations which don’t require much time; gratis.”

For the past three years, the Adverts 250 Project has tracked newspaper advertisements placed by John Simnet, a “WATCH-FINISHER, and Manufacturer, of London,” first in the New-Hampshire Gazette during the period that he lived and worked in Portsmouth in 1769 and 1770 and then in newspapers published in New York after he migrated to that city.  Simnet often promoted his years of experience working in London in his advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette, but he also pursued a nasty public feud with one of his competitors.  That may have contributed to his decision to leave Portsmouth in favor of New York.

In a new city, Simnet adopted a much less aggressive approach in his advertising.  He deployed a variety of marketing strategies that did not focus on denigrating other watchmakers, though he did suggest that he possessed greater skill than any of his rivals.  In an advertisement that ran for the first time in the February 20, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, for instance, he trumpeted that he “had more practice, and general knowledge on new work [the mechanisms in watches] than any yet in this country could have.”  Drawing on his long experience and superior expertise, he provided a service to anyone considering buying, selling, or repairing watches.  Simnet offered to examine watches and inform the owners or prospective buyers of “the first cost, or value of any new, or old watch.”  Once they knew the value of watches “with certainty,” they could make informed decisions about buying, selling, or repairing watches.

To generate business and enhance his reputation, Simnet also declared that he made “such alterations which don’t require much time; gratis.”  For those jobs that did involve more time and attention, he stated that he “will clean them, fit glasses, springs, inside chains; and perform every particular article in repairing, at half the price, charg’d by any other.”  Perhaps Simnet discovered that bargain prices brought more customers to his shop “At the Dial … beside the Coffee-House Bridge” than cantankerous diatribes that insulted his competitors.  In this advertisement, he focused on his own skill, asserting that customers could depend on his work keeping their watches in good order for quite some time instead of having them become “an annual or continual expence.”  Simnet attempted to leverage his skill and experience “To the Advantage of those who wear WATCHES” as well as his own benefit in earning a livelihood through providing various services.

August 11

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (August 8, 1771).

“The first Person that ever set up, and regularly maintain’d a Stage Carriage in New-England.”

John Stavers was not pleased when a competitor set up stagecoach service between Boston and Portsmouth in 1771.  In July, he placed an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette to promote his “Stage-Coach, Number One,” proclaiming that “several Years” experience of transporting passengers, mail, and newspapers meant that his drivers provided superior service.  Stavers also suggested that the “Difficulty, Expence, Discouragements, and very little, if any profit” associated with operating the stagecoach for so many years meant that the public should “give his Coach the Preference” over a newcomer “big with Importance” yet lacking experience.

He placed a similar advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, hoping to draw the attention of prospective passengers at the other end of the line.  Stavers declared that he “was the first Person that ever set up, and regularly maintain’d a Stage Carriage in New-England.”  Regardless of the weather and other conditions, operations continued “at all Seasons” for a decade.  In recognition of both the “Marks of Approbation” he received from prior clients and the “Utility” of the service he provided, he stated that he “therefore humbly hopes that his Carriages will still continue to be prefer’d to any other, that may set up in Opposition to them.”  For those who needed more convincing, Stavers asserted that “his Carriages are universally allow’d to be as convenient, genteel, and easy, and his Horses as good (if not better) than any that have as yet travelled the Road.”  In addition, he promised that “the greatest Care will be taken of all Bundles and Packages.”  For passengers who needed food and lodging upon arriving in Portsmouth, Stavers offered “Good Entertainment at the Earl of Halifax Tavern … equal to any on the Continent,” including any in Boston.  Stavers also listed prices for transporting passengers “in the most genteel and expeditious Manner” from Boston to Portsmouth and Boston to Newburyport so prospective customers could compare rates if they wished.

Stavers never named his competitor in either advertisement, but he did make it clear that he believed his experience resulted in better service for passengers traveling between Boston and Portsmouth.  In addition, he apparently felt that the investment he made operating a stagecoach along that route entitled him to the patronage of travelers who might otherwise choose his rival.  He deployed a carrot-and-stick approach in his marketing efforts, alternating between the describing the benefits associated with his coaches and constructing a sense of obligation for selecting his services.

July 19

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 19, 1771).

“Stage-Coach, Number One.”

John Stavers faced competition for clients … and he did not appreciate it.  In the late 1760s and early 1770s, Stavers operated a stagecoach between Portsmouth and Boston.  For a time, he enjoyed a monopoly on the route, but he tried to convince the public that did not necessarily amount to an unfair advantage.  Instead, Stavers contended, he provided an important service to the community “at a very great Expence” to himself when no one else did.  In an advertisement in the July 19, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, he asked prospective customers to take into account the “Difficulty, Expence, Discouragements, and very little, if any profit” he experienced “when no other Person would undertake” the route.  He did so in service not only to his passengers but also to deliver “the Mails of Letters and News Papers.”

Stavers depicted that as a heroic effort.  His stagecoach had already “surmounted every Obstruction, and through Heat and Cold, Rain and Snow Storm, push’d forward, at Times when every other Conveyance fail’d.”  Regardless of any kind of difficulty, his operation previously ran like clockwork … and would continue to do so.  The stagecoach set off from Stavers’s tavern in Portsmouth on Tuesday morning and departed Boston for the return trip on Friday mornings.  Stavers hired a “careful Driver” and kept the carriage and horses “in such Order, that Nothing bit some unforeseen Accident, shall at any Time give Hindrance, or by any Means retard the Journey.”  Through experience, Stavers was prepared for any obstacle.

Accordingly, he felt “intitled to” the patronage of travelers now that he faced an upstart who challenged him for business.  Stavers requested that the public “now give his Coach the Preference” rather than hire a competitor “whose Drivers, big with Importance, new and flaming Coaches, expect mighty Things.”  Stavers made clear that he did not believe the competition could live up to its promises, especially in the face of “the first Snow Storm” when the seasons changed. Moreover, he felt annoyed that his rival plied the same route and schedule.  Stavers feigned best wishes for the competition, but simultaneously declared his enterprise “Stage-Coach, Number One,” seeking to establish a ranking to influence prospective clients.  Simultaneously, he asked those prospective clients to take his past successes and sacrifices into consideration when choosing which stagecoach service to hire for trips between Portsmouth and Boston.

April 7

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

Pennsylvania Journal (April 4, 1771).

“Spencer has already given convincing proofs of his abilities.”

In the spring of 1771, Brent Spencer, a “Coach & Coach Harness MAKER,” opened a new shop on Lombard Street in Philadelphia.  In an advertisement in the April 4 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, he noted that he drew on his experience “in all the branches of Coach, Chariot, Phaeton, and Chaise making” gained in London and Dublin.  Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, he intended that prospective customers would associate his time in those cities with superior skill and training.

That was one way of attempting to establish a reputation in a new place, but Spencer did not ask consumers merely to take his word.  Instead, he declared that he already had work on display in the local marketplace.  Spencer asserted that he had “already given convincing proofs of his abilities, in executing some of the principal Carriages now running in this city and province.”  He did not name his clients, but he did suggest that some of the most prominent residents of Philadelphia and its environs previously hired him.  Anyone who had admired or otherwise taken note of carriages already traversing the streets of the busy port city, Spencer suggested, had likely seen some that he constructed.

Given that he already cultivated a clientele among the better sorts, Spencer gave their peers and those who aspired to their ranks an opportunity to acquire one of his carriages.  Immediately following his comment about making “some of the principal Carriages” in the city, he noted that he “has now for sale a coach body and a waggon body, both of new construction.”  Prospective customers did not need to settle for secondhand carriages that may have previously belonged to friends or acquaintances, not when Spencer could outfit them with carriages that observers would recognize as new.

Spencer concluded his advertisement with assurances about customer service and low prices, two more reasons for consumers to purchase coaches from him.  In a short advertisement, he established his experience working in two of the largest cities in the empire, suggested that readers already glimpsed his carriages on the streets of Philadelphia, and promoted new carriages available at his shop.  Even for the most affluent colonists, purchasing a carriage was a major investment.  Spencer offered many reasons to choose his workshop over others in the city or imported alternatives.

December 18

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

Dec 18 - 12:18:1769 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (December 18, 1769).

“Will engage to make any Piece of Work as compleat as can be imported.”

In December 1769, Daniel MacNeill, a “Saddler and Cap-maker from DUBLIN,” turned to the Boston-Gazette to advise residents of Boston and its environs that he operated a shop in King Street. He made and sold a variety of items, including “Neat welted and plain Hunting Saddles,” “Pistol Cases & Holsters,” “Portmanteaus and Saddle Baggs,” and “every Article in the Sadlery Branch.” In addition to offering low prices, he assured prospective customers that he served them “with Fidelity and Dispatch.” He also made appeals to quality and fashion, proclaiming that he constructed these items “in the neatest and genteelest Manner.” MacNeill incorporated many of the most common marketing appeals of the eighteenth century into his advertisement.

As a relative newcomer to the city, MacNeill deployed another strategy that often appeared in newspaper notices placed by artisans who migrated across the Atlantic. He provided an overview of his work history as a means of convincing prospective customers of his competence. MacNeill asserted that he “had the Advantage of many Years Practice in the most principal Shops in Dublin and Towns adjacent.” In so doing, he attempted to transfer the reputation he established in one location to another, asking prospective customers to credit him for his years of experience. Although items he made during that time had not circulated for inspection in Boston, MacNeill hoped that his affiliation with “the most principal Shops” in one of the largest cities in the empire testified to his skill and expertise.

To that end, he pledged that he made saddles and other items “as compleat as can be imported.” Realizing that colonists sometimes had a preference for imported goods with an expectation of higher quality or better craftsmanship, MacNeill promised that his clients did not have to fear that they purchased inferior goods from his workshop. This appeal likely resonated with colonists who adhered to the nonimportation agreements and sought “domestic manufactures,” goods produced in the colonies, as alternatives to those transported across the Atlantic. An article on the first page of the December 18, 1769, edition of the Boston-Gazette proposed bringing artisans and their families to the colonies, suggesting that those migrants were much more welcome than imported goods that Parliament taxed. MacNeill’s advertisement reverberated with political implications, even as he made standard appeals to price, quality, and fashion.

December 24

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

Providence Gazette (December 24, 1768).

“PATRICK MACKEY … has opened a Skinner’s Shop.”

When Patrick Mackey arrived in Providence from Philadelphia, he set about establishing himself in a new town and building a clientele for his business by placing an advertisement in the December 24, 1768, edition of the Providence Gazette. He announced that “he has opened a Skinner’s Shop near the Hay-Ward, on the East Side of the Great Bridge, between Mr. Godfry’s and the Sign of the Bull,” offering familiar landmarks to aid customers in navigating to his location. Realizing that prospective customers were unfamiliar with his work, Mackey underscored that “he has worked in the principal Parts of Europe and America.” As a result, he “doubts not of gaining the Approbation of his Customers” once they gave him the opportunity to provide his services. He offered further assurances that his leather and skins were “dressed in the best Manner.” In case skill and quality were not sufficient to draw clients to the newcomer’s shop, Mackey also promoted his prices, proclaiming that he sold his wares “as cheap as any in Town.” In his first introduction to Providence in the public prints, Mackey deployed several of the most common advertising appeals used by artisans in eighteenth-century America.

Yet Mackey went beyond the expected methods of encouraging prospective customers to patronize his business. He also invoked his collaboration with colleagues who enhanced the services available at his shop. In addition to selling materials, he also had a “Breeches-maker, who learned his Business in Europe” on staff to transform his leathers and skins into garments for “Any Gentlemen who may please to employ him.” In addition, Mackey reported in a nota bene that Benjamin Coates, a cordwainer, “carries on his Business at the same Place.” Clients interested in Mackey’s services could also “be suited in the best Manner with all Kinds of Boots, Spatterdashes, Shoes, Slippers, &c.” at the same location. In his efforts to build his customer base, Mackey offered convenience in addition to quality and low prices. His clients did not need to visit other artisans at other locations after acquiring materials at his shop. Instead, they could consult directly with a cordwainer and a breechesmaker on the premises. All three artisans stood to benefit from such an arrangement. Increased patronage for one of them likely yielded additional business for the others.

February 9

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

Feb 9 - 2:9:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 9, 1768).

“Greatful thanks for the encouragement he has had for eighteen years past in Charles-Town.”

Experience matters. That was the central theme James Lingard presented in his advertisement in the February 9, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. In the process of announcing that he had moved to a new location at the east end of Queen Street, Lingard expressed his appreciation to his former customers, noting that he had served the residents of Charleston for the past eighteen years. While merchants and shopkeepers occasionally referred to their years of experience in their attempts to entice customers, artisans most commonly made such appeals. Lingard, a blacksmith and farrier, continued a common practice among eighteenth-century artisans who placed newspaper advertisements.

Lingard enhanced his professional reputation by promoting his experience and expressing “his greatful thanks for the encouragement” he had received from those who had previously engaged his services. It would not have been possible for him to operate a shop in the busy port for nearly two decades had it not been for his skills in “the smiths and farriers business, in all its branches.” Still, it did not hurt to inform potential customers that he had honed those skills over the years and now possessed significant experience. For those who had resided in Charleston for quite some time, Lingard’s advertisement served as a reminder that he had been operating his shop for years. For newcomers to the city, however, Lingard seized an opportunity to inform them of his long history working with local customers.

Lingard likely attracted some of his business via word-of-mouth referrals built on his reputation. Turning to print could have been a strategy to prompt more referrals, presenting himself for consideration among members of “the public in general” who had not previously hired him but who might ask others if they had any experiences dealing with Lingard. In such situations, his appeals to skill and experience in his advertisement set the tone for conversations among customers.