September 25

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

Sep 25 - 9:25:1769 Massachusetts Gazette Green and Russell
Massachusetts Gazette [Green and Russell] (September 25, 1769).
“The Baking Business which was carried on by his late Father, is continued by him.”

An advertisement that ran in the September 25, 1769, edition of Green and Russell’s Massachusetts Gazette served two purposes. It opened with a standard estate notice: “All Persons having Demands on, or that are Indebted to the Estate of William Torry, late of Boston, Baker, deceas’d, are desired to bring in their Accounts to Bethiah Torry, Administratrix to said Estate, in order for Settlement.” That was the extent of most estate notices that appeared in colonial newspapers. This advertisement, however, included a second section that revealed the continuation of the family business and new responsibilities for one member of the Torrey family following the patriarch’s death.

William’s son, Ebenezer, advised “his Friends and others” that he now operated “the Baking Business which was carried on by his late Father” at the same location on Water Street. William provided all the services expected of bakers, qualified to do so because “he served his Apprenticeship with his Father” before working for “a number of Years” in the business. Ebenezer did not merely step in to take William’s place; he had learned the trade from William. At the end of the advertisement, William shifted the audience for his appeal, addressing “his Fathers Friends” directly. Having inherited the family business, he hoped to inherit his father’s clientele as well. His advertisement implicitly played on sympathy, but more explicitly made the case that customers who formerly patronized his father’s shop could depend on a continuation without significant change or disruption. He leveraged existing relationships as he encouraged customer loyalty to a family business that passed from one generation to the next rather than to any particular baker who ran the business.

Those existing relationships were not necessarily limited to those between his father and his father’s clients. Immediately before announcing that Ebenezer now ran the business, the estate notice portion of the advertisement listed Bethiah, most likely William’s widow, as the executor. Former customers unfamiliar with Ebenezer may have forged relationships with his mother that motivated them to continue purchasing their bread “at the same Place in Water-Street.” The Torrey family incorporated a familiar mechanism for managing an estate into their efforts to promote a business that survived the death of its founder.

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.

March 29

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

Mar 29 - 3:29:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 29, 1768).

“He intends to open School … she will undertake to teach the Girls their Needle.”

In preparation for opening a school in Charleston, Daniel Stevens placed an advertisement in the March 29, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He advised “the Public, and his Friends in particular” that he would teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, establishing a curriculum that set his school apart from the “British Academy on the Green” that Osborne Straton promoted in another advertisement in the same issue. Osborne taught English, Latin, and French as well as drawing, “Poetry, Rhetoric, [and] Logic.” Instead of “Writing” and “Arithmetic,” he taught “Writing in the Mercantile and Law Hands” and “The various useful and practical Branches of the Mathematicks.” Straton implied that he welcomed only boys as “Day Scholars,” but he tutored “Gentlemen or Ladies” in their homes on selected afternoons.

Stevens, on the other hand, invited readers to send both boys and girls to his school, where he provided a more modest and practical education. To that end, his advertisement included a short section in which Katharine Stevens announced “that she will undertake to teach the Girls their Needle.” As Straton cornered the market when it came to a genteel education, Daniel Stevens offered a different sort of enhancement to his curriculum, an enhancement that readers who could not translate the Latin quotations sprinkled throughout Straton’s advertisement may have considered much more useful and important.

That enhancement depended on the contributions of Katharine Stevens, presumably Daniel’s wife (but possibly a sister, daughter, or other female relation). The wording of the advertisement presents the school primarily as Daniel’s venture, but Katharine likely acted as more than a mere assistant in the endeavor. Even if she did not teach the academic subjects, she did participate in the instruction of the female students. In the process, she also supervised the children at the school, contributing to good order within the classroom. Some parents of prospective students may have been reassured simply by Katharine’s presence, assuming that it signaled more care and attention than Daniel could deliver by himself.

Both the copy and the format of this advertisement position Katharine as subordinate to Daniel. He sought pupils for his school; she taught a gendered skill, sewing, to only some of his students, the girls. Yet that description likely belied a more equal partnership that guided this joint venture in both planning and execution. At the very least, Daniel Stevens relied on the contributions made by Katharine Stevens when marketing his (their?) new school. She provided instruction in an area that he did not possess skill or expertise, an addition to the curriculum intended to make the school more attractive to prospective students and their parents.