December 5

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

Dec 5 - 12:5:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (December 5, 1767).

“All performed in the neatest and best manner.”

Blacksmiths Amos Atwell and Jonathan Ellis inserted an advertisement in the December 5, 1767, edition of the Providence Gazette to inform readers in “the Town and Country” that they had established a partnership and were “determined to carry on a large stroke of business.” Atwell and Ellis made a variety of items for use in the home, on the farm, in workshops, and aboard ships, including “broad and narrow axes, drawing knives, carpenters adzes, all sorts of coopers tools, farming tools, … kitchen utensils, and ships iron work of every kind.”

Shopkeepers in Providence and other colonial cities and towns frequently advertised a similar array of hardware, though they often indicated that they had imported their inventory from London and other English cities. In the face of assumptions that such goods might have been superior in quality to any produced locally, Atwell and Ellis concluded their advertisement with assurances that the items they sold had been made “in the neatest and best manner.” In so doing, they adopted a marketing strategy often deployed by colonial artisans. Advertisers of all sorts made appeals to the price and quality of their merchandise, but artisans – who produced the goods they sold – supplemented those common appeals with commentary about their own skill and expertise. Those attributes associated with individual artisans, not just the features of the goods they sold, played an important role in efforts to convince potential customers to purchase their wares.

Atwell and Ellis also promised to serve their patrons “with fidelity and dispatch,” but invoking those qualities fell into the realm of customer service rather than artisanal skill and expertise. Merchants and shopkeepers also played on personal characteristics of “fidelity and dispatch” when describing how they interacted with customers, but rarely did they express the sort of intrinsic responsibility for the quality of their merchandise that artisans made part of their testament to potential patrons.

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.

May 28

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

May 28 - 5:28:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (May 28, 1767).

“Have their Work done by Men who have been regularly brought up to the different Branches of Trade.”

Elkanah and William Deane made coaches “At their Shop in Broad-Street, New-York.” At the same location they also did “Coach-Harness Work, and Saddler’s-Work of every Kind.” The Deanes apparently were not impressed with many of their competitors, issuing sharp words about the quality of work customers could expect from other shops. In a nota bene they asserted, “The above named DEANE’S, have their Work done by Men who have been regularly brought up to different Branches of Trade, and not be Apprentice Boy’s, whose Master’s never knew the Business, or perhaps ever saw a Coach making in their Lives.”

The quality promised by the Deanes resulted from specialized training by qualified artisans. They accused competitors of hiring workers who had supposedly been through apprenticeships, but they cast doubt on the caliber of expertise and experience possessed by some of the supposed masters who trained the next generation of coachmakers and artisans in related occupations, such as harnessmakers and saddlers. The Deanes warned that prospective customers needed to heed not only the credentials of the coachmaker who ran a shop but also those of anyone employed in that shop. After all, the owner of a shop did not undertake all the work but instead distributed it and oversaw the labor of others. The Deanes took responsibility for the work done by every employee in their shop, pledging that they only hired experienced “Men who have been regularly brought up to the different Branches of Trade.”

Assuring potential customers of the quality of the work produced in their shop was so important to the Deanes that they offered a one-year guarantee. Whether repairs to coaches or new harnesses or saddles, everything that came out of their shop was “warranted for Twelve Months.” By providing a guarantee, the Deanes underscored that their scathing comments about training and expertise were not merely idle boasts. They could afford to guarantee their work because they were so confident in their own skills and experience as well as those of everyone who worked in their shop.

July 5

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

Jul 5 - 7:4:1766 Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (July 4, 1766).

“I have settled … in Henrico county, where I purpose to carry on the FULLING business.”

Mathew Dick, a fuller, used an advertisement in the Virginia Gazette to announce that he had just set up shop in Henrico county. Dated July 1, his notice appeared in the next issue of the Virginia Gazette. Although his “FULLING business” was a new establishment, Dick relied on many of the advertising appeals that were commonly deployed in the eighteenth century, reassuring potential customers that he knew his craft and could provide quality service.

He opened with appeals to quality and price, promising that he did his work “in the best and cheapest manner ever done in this colony.” That last bit – “ever done in this colony” – was a bit of hyperbole that underscored his confidence and dared potential customers to give him a chance and see for themselves if his work lived up to the advertisement. In addition, all the equipment and supplies were prepared “in the best order.”

He also offered some words of wisdom specific to his occupation, again reassuring potential customers of his expertise even though he operated a new establishment. “[T]he wool from the neck and shoulders is the best for the finest cloth,” he lectured. Furthermore, “all woolen cloth should be wove at least 5 quarters wide.” Dick knew his business and used his advertisement to testify to the fact.

Finally, Dick promised excellent customer service. He offered two different locations where customers could drop off the fabric they wanted him to process. He would see to it that their orders were fulfilled “in the neatest manner” and as quickly as possible, but not at the expense of deviating from their instructions. Dick fulled cloth to his customers’ specifications and satisfaction: “their directions most punctually observed and followed.”

Dick’s fulling mill may have been new, but he leveraged multiple appeals in his advertisement to demonstrate that he knew his craft and potential customers could depend on him.

June 23

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

Jun 23 - 6:23:1766 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (June 23, 1766).

“Having served a regular Apprenticeship to the Business, he flatters himself he cannot fail of giving general Satisfaction.”

“DALLAS, Silk Dyer and Scourer, from London” had a lot going for him and he wanted potential customers to know it. Being a “Silk Dyer and Scourer” required particular skills; novices or pretenders might end up ruining any garments turned over to their care, but Dallas had “served a regular Apprenticeship to the Business.” He had received the training necessary for his occupation. As a result, clients could trust the other claims he made in his advertisement. Dallas did not just market the services he provided or the products he sold. He also marketed himself, especially his expertise and training, much as many modern advertisers list their qualifications, certifications, or degrees when promoting their businesses.

Dallas “clean’d or dyed” a variety of textiles, sometimes seeming to work magic on them. No matter how damaged they happened to be when delivered to his shop “at the Sign of the Dove and Rainbow,” Dallas was able to remove spots and otherwise clean fabrics so “they shall look equal to any new imported.” He pledged that he did this work “to the greatest Perfection.” He was able to accomplish this in part because of his specialized training, but also because he learned during his apprenticeship that it was necessary to have the proper supplies and equipment. Accordingly, “he hath every necessary Dye-Stuff, and proper Utensils superior to any ever erected in America.”

Apparently Dallas was so skilled as a “Silk Dyer and Scourer,” a celebrity in his occupation, that he needed only one name!