What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Every Particular in repairing at HALF the PRICE charged by any other.”
In early December 1772, watchmaker John Simnet inserted a new advertisement in the New-York Journal. Simnet had a long history of advertising, first in New Hampshire and then in New York. He sometimes promoted the services he provided, but other times denigrated the skill and character of one competitor or another. This time he opted to compare his prices and ancillary services to those offered by other watchmakers, but he did not launch any attacks against particular rivals.
Simnet incorporated superlatives into his advertisement. He mentioned his origins, declaring that he had been “many Years [a] Finisher and Manufacturer to all (of Note) of this Trade, in London and Dublin.” In other words, he previously worked in only the best workshops in those cities before migrating to the colonies. Upon his arrival he became the “first [who] reduc’d the Price of Watch Work in this Country,” suggesting that others charged far too much for the mending and cleaning services they provided. Simnet also proclaimed that he “continues to bring it to the utmost Perfection,” leaving it to readers to determine if “it” meant prices alone or the entire watchmaking trade.
To entice prospective clients to avail themselves of his services, Siment listed his prices. He charged two shillings to clean watches and one to clean watch glasses. He replaced “Main Springs, inside Chains, [and] enamell’d Dial Plates, at Four Shillings each,” compared to others in the colonies who “(very conscientiously) Charge Twelve or Sixteen Shillings.” He accused the industry of purposely charging three or four times what the prices should have been for replacing certain parts. As for other fixing other parts of watches, Simnet asserted that he asked “HALF the Price charged by any other.”
If those prices were not enough to get clients into his shop, the watchmaker offered ancillary services for free. He promised “no future Expence, wither for cleaning or mending” for any watches purchased from him. Deploying one more superlative, Simnet proclaimed that such a deal “never was profess’d by any Watch-Maker” in the colonies. Simnet had a high opinion of himself and the work undertaken in his shop. He hoped that his confidence would convince prospective clients to choose him over his competitors, though he also compared prices and provided supplementary services as part of his sales pitch.