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.

November 14

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

Nov 14 - 11:14:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (November 14, 1767).

He has two swift-sailing small Sloops, which ply constantly between Providence and Newport.”

Readers of the Providence Gazette encountered two advertisements for ferries between Providence and Newport on the final page of the November 14 edition. The operators adopted different strategies in promoting their services. Thomas Lindsey and Benjamin Lindsey inserted a short, streamlined advertisement to announce that their “STAGE-BOATS … ply twice a Week … with GOODS and PASSENGERS.” They made a nod toward customer service, assuring prospective customers that they “may depend on being faithfully served,” and concluded with standard language about the “excellent Accommodations for Passengers.” They dressed up their advertisement with a woodcut of a ship, which likely attracted attention since it was the only image that accompanied an advertisement in the entire issue.

Joshua Hacker devised a much more extensive advertisement. Even without a woodcut, its length and the table of fees distinguished it visually from the other advertisements on the same page. Hacker elaborated on many of the marketing appeals made by the Lindseys; he also launched additional appeals intended to convince prospective clients to choose him over his competitors. While the Lindseys sailed twice a week, Hacker’s sloops “set off every Day … Wind and Weather permitting.” Instead of using formulaic phrases that consistently appeared in other advertisements offering passage, Hacker expanded on the “exceeding good Accommodations,” promising that passengers “can be as comfortable on board … as in their Parlours.” Hacker did not merely reiterate stock phrases used in advertisements throughout the colonies. He exerted additional effort in writing copy to make it resonate with potential customers.

He also incorporated additional justifications for selecting his business over others. Not only did he make an appeal to price – “the very cheapest rates” – he provided a list of more than a dozen specific rates, including nine pence for a single passenger, three shillings for a four-wheeled carriage, and three shillings for a barrel of cargo. To cultivate customers, he also offered some services gratis. He informed those who wished to ship goods between the two ports that “he hath a convenient Store for depositing such Goods,” a warehouse where they would be stored for free. Hacker also made an appeal to his long experience, noting that he had “for upwards of ten Years, carried on this Business.”

Neither the Lindseys nor Hacker merely announced that they operated ferry and freight service between Providence and Newport. Both advanced appeals intended to make their businesses attractive to prospective clients, yet their approaches differed significantly. The Lindseys relied on methods already in use by their counterparts who advertised similar services in other colonial ports. Hacker, however, offered a much more innovative advertisement that further developed existing marketing strategies.

September 6

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

Sep 6 - 9:3:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 3, 1767).

“BLANCH WHITE, UPHOLSTERER FROM LONDON.”

Colonists lived in an era of intense geographic mobility. In the decade before the Revolution, the flow of immigrants from across the Atlantic accelerated. Even colonists born in North America moved from place to place as they searched for economic opportunities. Many residents of cities and towns up and down the Atlantic coast could not claim to be from the place they now lived. For various reasons, some continued to emphasize their origins even as they became members of new communities.

This was often the case with tailors, cabinetmakers, and other artisans, especially as newcomers attempting to promote their livelihoods in local newspapers. They needed customers, yet determined that maintaining some aspects of their outsider status would effectively attract patrons who were unfamiliar with them and the goods they produced. Artisans who placed advertisements frequently asserted their connections to cosmopolitan centers in Europe. This gave them a certain cachet, suggesting that they made and sold items that were particularly fashionable. In some instances connections to London and other European cities also implied specialized training superior to any undertaken in the colonies.

In the September 3, 1767, edition of the New-York Journal, Blanch White introduced himself to potential customers as an UPHOLSTERER FROM LONDON.” In the same issue, readers also learned of the services of “Charles Le Frou, From PARIS, Perriwig-maker and hair Dresser.” Recent arrivals often used such designations to identify and distinguish themselves, though many advertisements obscured precisely how much time had elapsed since the artisan had lived and worked in London or another cosmopolitan center of fashion and commerce.

White’s advertisement provided some clarification. Even though he pronounced that he was “FROM LONDON,” he also indicated that he “has followed the Business for many Years past in Philadelphia.” Apparently his connection to London was not recent, yet the upholsterer still considered it a selling point worth mentioning to prospective customers. Some advertisers would have been content not to provide additional information about any extended interim between departing London and setting up shop locally, but White sensed an opportunity in acknowledging the time he spent in Philadelphia. Given that he seemed to specialize in martial supplies, he believed that he “must be known to some Gentlemen of the Military in this City.” He extended a direct appeal to former customers and acquaintances that served as an indirect endorsement.

Years after migrating across the Atlantic, Blanch White continued to identify himself as “FROM LONDON,” at least for the purposes of promoting his business in print. Yet he also found value in underscoring the work he had done and the clients he had served for “many Years” in the largest city in the colonies.

August 20

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

Aug 20 - 8:20:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (August 20, 1767).

“A considerable number of rolling screens for cleansing wheat.”

John Sellers and Richard Truman both advertised their “SCREENS for cleaning all sorts of Grain” in the August 20, 1767, issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette. Truman devoted more than half of the space in his notice to a woodcut depicting a machine that used one of the screens he made. This strategy likely garnered a fair amount of attention since visual images were relatively rare in eighteenth-century newspapers; even the most humble woodcuts distinguished the advertisements they adorned from the vast majority of others.

Sellers purchased the same amount of space, but, like most advertisers, densely filled it with text. He used that space to develop two marketing strategies: an appeal to unparalleled expertise in his field and roll call of existing customers who could testify to his abilities and their experience using the screens he made.

Sellers not only “MADES and sold” screens for cleaning flaxseed and wheat, he claimed to be “the original inventor and institutor of that branch of business in America.” Furthermore, he protected his trade secrets by not sharing his techniques with anyone else. As evidence that former customers recognized the quality and utility of his “wire work of all sorts,” Sellers argued that he had made “all the wire boults used in the cities of Philadelphia and New-York” as well as a “considerable number” of rolling screens akin to those advertised by Truman. Due to his “long experience” and status as “the best master of the work,” he believed that he was “best intitled” to the patronage of those who needed to purchase such equipment.

Potential customers did not need to take Sellers’ word. Instead, he listed eight associates in Philadelphia and another eight in New York, encouraging readers to enquire of them for further endorsements. Realizing that consumers would rightfully be skeptical of what amount to nothing more than braggadocio, Sellers made it possible for them to independently verify his claims by speaking with satisfied customers.

Without a woodcut decorating his advertisement, John Sellers instead worked to convince potential customers of the superiority of his product over others marketed and sold by his competitors. Richard Truman’s advertisement was rudimentary in comparison. It included an eye-catching visual image, but did little beyond announcing that he sold fans and screens for cleaning grains. In contrast, Sellers explained why customers should prefer the products he made and sold. In addition, he directed them to satisfied customers who could speak authoritatively about his screens.

August 13

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

Aug 13 - 8:13:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (August 13, 1767).

“I likewise frame, gild and glaze Pictures at the cheapest Rates.”

According to his advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, Robert Kennedy provided a variety of goods and services at his “Copper-plate Printing Office, in Third-street, Philadelphia.” To entice potential customers, he extolled both the wares he sold and personal attributes that qualified him to pursue his occupation. Kennedy was no mere middleman who shuttled imported goods through his shop; instead, he was a craftsman who altered and improved his merchandise to conform to the tastes and desires of his customers.

Kennedy stocked a “general Assortment of Maps and Prints” that were “neatly framed and glazed” in a variety of sizes and fashions. Customers could choose among these items to decorate their homes. Alternately, they could bring their own prints to Kennedy’s shop for him to “frame, gild and glaze” and otherwise prepare them to be exhibited in homes, either as “Houshold Furniture” or in “Cabinets of the CURIOUS.” His other services included cleaning, repairing, and gilding paintings and looking glasses as well as painting houses and installing windows.

Lest potential customers fear that he might irreparably damage their irreplaceable possessions, Kennedy assured them that he “had several Years Experience.” During that time he “acquired such a Degree of Knowledge of the Branches of my Profession” that he would be able to “give Satisfaction” to any of his customers. Notably, Kennedy underscored his expertise in various “Branches” of preparing paintings and prints for display. He did not want prospective clients to worry or suspect that he specialized in one task and dabbled in the others. Instead, through years of experience he had developed expertise in each of the services he offered.

In his description of framed maps and prints as “Houshold Furniture,” Kennedy revealed the value colonists placed on these items. They were part of a culture of conspicuous consumption that included the exhibition of consumer goods to signal taste and status. In addition to clothing, housewares, and furniture, colonists displayed framed maps, prints, and paintings as testaments to their gentility and adherence to current fashions. These decorative items needed to withstand keen observation, which made Kennedy’s experience and expertise all the more important. Part of the “Satisfaction” that he marketed to customers was confidence that the quality of his work would impress their visitors who viewed the items he framed, gilded, and repaired.

June 9

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

Jun 9 - 6:9:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 9, 1767).

“He first introduced into this Province the most expeditious Method of teaching Writing.”

Osborne Straton was not the only schoolmaster who advertised his services in the newspapers printed in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1767. He needed to distinguish his instruction from that provided by W. Adams and William Johnson, both of whom inserted much more extensive notices in the public prints. Rather than going into as much detail about his curriculum and teaching methods, Straton advanced two other reasons “Parents and Guardians” should enroll their children in “the British Academy on the Green, at the West End of BROAD-STREET.”

First, he underscored his experience, implying that the parents of prospective students should choose his academy because his competitors were newcomers who had not yet gained the public trust. Straton had been teaching in Charleston for half a decade; he considered it “his Duty to remind the Public, That A.D. 1762, he first introduced into this Province the most expeditious Method of teaching Writing, Drawing, &c. &c. in all their Branches.” His methods were particularly designed “to qualify Youth for Business in general,” a goal that Straton identified in an advertisement published several months earlier. He noted his long experience in that notice as well, stating that he had “forty years experience as head book-keeper in some of the first counting-houses in Europe” before migrating to South Carolina and becoming a schoolmaster. According to Straton, his experience, both in business and in teaching local youth, should cause parents to give him precedence over other schoolmasters.

Straton also argued that he served the public good in addition to earning a living by charging tuition of students who could afford it. He pledged to “Instruct six poor Children Gratis, every Thursday and Saturday in the Afternoon.” This was not the first time he made such an offer. Several weeks earlier he announced that “one youth may be qualified for business gratis, on a private benevolence,” an eighteenth-century scholarship of sorts. In making a new commitment to teach several poor children, Straton again played on his ties to the community established over the course of several years. He set a philanthropic example to make his academy more appealing to prospective students and their parents, suggesting that service rather than revenues motivated his instruction.

Compared to his competitors, Straton’s advertisement was relatively short. Despite its length, he included two appeals that made his academy both distinctive and attractive to residents of Charleston as they considered several options. Other schoolmasters might have offered effective instruction, but for Straton the work seemed to be a vocation rather than a mere occupation.

June 7

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

Jun 7 - 6:4:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette
Supplement to the Pennsylvania Gazette (June 4, 1767).

“He will draw any French or Spanish Writing, Contracts, Letters, or Accounts.”

William Fooks of Philadelphia was quite chatty in an advertisement offering his services as “NOTARY and TABELLION PUBLICK, for the French and Spanish Languages” to the “Gentleman Traders of this City.” To counter the effusiveness of his advertisement, he assured potential clients that of the “Secrecy, Prudence, and Intelligence” that defined his character and how he pursued his occupation. Those qualities, he asserted, “render him worthy of the Confidence of those who please to employ him.”

Although the term “tabellion” has declined in use today, residents of England and its colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would have readily recognized this description of the scrivener’s vocation, an occupation closely associated with (and sometimes overlapping) the duties performed by notaries. In taking on both titles – “NOTARY and TABELLION PUBLICK” – to describe his work Fooks underscored the level of expertise he possessed. This was particularly important given both his line of work and, especially, the differences in language and legal customs inherent in doing business in French and Spanish colonies. That may explain why he composed such an extensive advertisement. Special circumstances required that he underscore and reiterate his skill and experience as a means of convincing potential clients, those “Gentleman Traders,” that they could trust and depend on his work.

To that end, Fooks stated that “he will draw any French or Spanish Writing, Contracts, Letters, or Accounts, and state them in the most proper Methods and Uses of those Countries, and in the most mercantile and accurate Manner.” He repeated this promise later in the advertisement, again noting that he drew up documents “according to the Laws, Uses, and Customs, of those Nations.” He was particularly qualified to do so as a result of the experience gained through “his long Residence in those Colonies” (though the otherwise verbose Fooks did not elaborate on which colonies or the length of his residence).

Fooks provided very specialized services that could have had significant ramifications in the lives and fortunes of his clients. He may have believed that his turgid prose was necessary to convince prospective clients to entrust him with sensitive and substantial matters. They may not have viewed his notice as chatty but instead as reassuring about the professionalism Fooks brought to his occupation.

January 9

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

jan-9-191767-south-carolina-and-american-general-gazette-page-4
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (January 9, 1767).

“He … proposes opening his school after the holidays.”

Osborne Straton planned to start a new session at his school “after the holidays,” to commence three days after this advertisement appeared in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. In his attempt to attract students, he noted that he already had four years of teaching experience under his belt. For the past two years, he “had the honour of being intrusted with the tuition of the youth” from many households within the colony. He suggested that parents of prospective new students should “refer to the opinion of those that have employed him.” Straton was confident that he had earned a positive reputation as a teacher during his relatively short time in South Carolina.

In addition to relying on the endorsements from others, the schoolmaster presented further qualifications that were rather unique. Straton explained that he had been “regularly bred a merchant at London” and possessed “forty years experience as head book-keeper in some of the first counting-houses in Europe.” Straton taught what he knew from experience, arguing that he had many “opportunities of ratifying theory by practice.” Teaching was not an abstract occupation for him. He did not rely solely on so-called book learning passed down from the tutors who had educated him. Instead, he incorporated his own experiences from an earlier (yet extensive) career into his classroom and his curriculum in his efforts “to qualify youth for business.”

Straton identified two outcomes parents could expect after enrolling their children in his school. One was a lofty goal – “to open and enlarge the human understanding” – but the other had a purpose many parents might have found might more practical – “to qualify youth for business.” In his advertisement 250 years ago, Osborne Straton did the same dance that many liberal arts colleges, programs, and departments are doing in their marketing efforts today, striking a balance between exhorting the personal benefits of a liberal arts education and demonstrating the preparation for a profession derived from the training undertaken in the process of earning an undergraduate degree.