December 22

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

Connecticut Courant (December 22, 1772).

“WATCHES … Advice to those who are about to buy, sell or exchange.”

When Thomas Hilldrup arrived in Hartford in the fall of 1772, he commenced an advertising campaign in hopes to introduce himself to prospective customers who needed their watches repaired.  He first advertised in the September 15 edition of the Connecticut Courant.  That notice ran for three weeks.  On October 13, he published a slightly revised advertisement, one that appeared in every issue, except November 10, throughout the remainder of the year.  Although many advertisers ran notices for only three or four weeks, the standard minimum duration in the fee structures devised by printers, Hilldrup had good reason to repeat his advertisement for months.  He intended to remain in Hartford “if health permit[s], and the business answers.”  If he could not attract enough customers to make a living, then he would move on to another town.

Hoping to remain in Hartford, he asked prospective customers “to make a trial of his abilities” to see for themselves how well he repaired watches.  Satisfied customers would boost his reputation in the local market, but generating word-of-mouth recommendations would take some time.  For the moment, he relied on giving his credentials, a strategy often adopted by artisans, including watchmakers, who migrated from England.  Hilldrup asserted that he “was regularly bred” or trained “to the [watch] finishing branch in London.”  Accordingly, he had the skills “to merit [prospective customers’] favors” or business, aided by his “strict probity, and constant diligence.”  In addition, Hilldrup offered ancillary services in hopes of drawing customers into his shop.  He sold silver watches, steel chains, watch keys, and other merchandise.  He also provided “advice to those who are about to buy, sell or exchange” watches, giving expert guidance based on his professional experience.  Hilldrup concluded his advertisement with an offer that he likely hoped prospective customers would find too good to dismiss.  He stated that he did “any other jobbs that take up but little time gratis.”  Doing small jobs for free allowed the watchmaker to cultivate relationships with customers who might then feel inclined or even obligated to spend more money in his shop.

By running an advertisement with the headline “WATCHES” in a large font larger than the size of the title of the newspaper in the masthead, Hilldrup aimed to make his new enterprise visible to prospective customers in and near Hartford.  He included several standard appeals, such as promising low prices and noting his training in London, while also promoting ancillary services to convince readers to give him a chance.

November 28

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

Providence Gazette (November 28, 1772).

“He has had the Advantage of several Years Experience in some of the principal Shops in London.”

John Sebring, a “Saddler, Chaise and Harness Maker,” used solely his last name, “SEBRING,” as the headline for his advertisement that ran in the Providence Gazette in November 1772.  Occasionally advertisers deployed that strategy, perhaps intending to suggest to prospective customers that their reputations were already so well established that they did not need to give their full names.  That did not prevent Sebring from providing plenty of information about his business to refresh the memories of prospective customers who could not quite place him by last name alone.

The saddler listed all sorts of saddles and accoutrements that he made “in the newest Fashion” at his shop.  He also provided details about some of the specialized merchandise that he produced, including “Men and Womens Saddles on such a Construction, that if the Horse should throw his Rider, and the Foot should hang in the Stirrup, the Stirrup will leave the Saddle before the Horse takes three Steps.”  Sebring emphasized safety in marketing his saddles, indicating that his concern for his customers extended beyond the point of sale.

He also highlighted the experience he gained in London, using an appeal often made by artisans who migrated across the Atlantic.  In addition to introducing himself as “from London,” Sebring declared that he “has had the Advantage of several Years Experience in some of the principal Shops in London.”  Artisans often believed that such declarations served as testimonials to their skill and experience, pledging that they would deliver the same quality workmanship to prospective customers in their new towns as they did for former customers in the cosmopolitan center of the empire.  Sebring stated that he “hopes to merit the Approbation of all that may please to favour him with their Custom” by fulfilling their expectations for the saddles, harnesses, and other items he made and sold at his shop.

Sebring’s advertisement contained a lengthy list of his wares, a common element in newspaper advertisements of the era, but the saddler also incorporated elements intended to distinguish him for his competitors.  He used a flashy headline, emphasized his experience in “principal Shops” in London, and featured a saddle with detachable stirrups for the safety of his customers.  Any of those strategies could have piqued the interest of prospective customers, inciting them to visit the saddler’s shop to satisfy their curiosity.

November 22

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

Maryland Gazette (November 19, 1772).

“They are well acquainted with the newest Fashions.”

When they settled in Annapolis, Jane Nelson and Anne Nelson took out an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette to introduce themselves to the community and encourage “Ladies … to favour them with their Commands” or orders for “all Kind of Milliners and Mantua-makers Work.”  As newcomers to the colony, they could not rely on their reputations to market their services.  Instead, they emphasized their connections to London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire, and their knowledge of current styles there.

In the deadline for their advertisement, the Nelsons proclaimed that they “Just arrived from LONDON.”  Artisans, tailors, milliners, and others often trumpeted that they were “from London” in their advertisements, sometimes long after they crossed the Atlantic.  The Nelsons made it clear that they only recently made that journey.  Accordingly, prospective clients could trust that they were indeed “well acquainted with the newest Fashions” and capable of making hats, cloaks, and other garments “in the most elegant and fashionable manner.”  Having recently come from London, the Nelsons could also provide guidance about “Ladies fashionable dress and undress Caps” and other items.

The Nelsons also aimed to convince prospective clients that they offered exemplary customer service.  They asserted that “Ladies … may depend on having their Work neatly done, and with the utmost Dispatch.”  If given a chance, the Nelsons assured those ladies that “they will not be disappointed in their Endeavours to please, as it shall be their constant Study and greatest Ambition.”  In addition to serving clients who visited them in Annapolis, the Nelsons also took “Orders from the Country,” pledging to punctually complete them.

These “Milliners and Mantua-makers” deployed a two-pronged approach to marketing their services upon arriving in Annapolis.  They promoted their connections to London, underscoring their familiarity with the latest tastes there, while simultaneously vowing to meet and exceed the expectations of their clients in terms of customer service.  The Nelsons hoped that combination of appeals would entice the ladies of Annapolis to engage their services.

November 13

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

Connecticut Journal (November 13, 1772).

“Will alter any Fault (if observed within Twelve Months) gratis.”

Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, Edward Hart, a “WIG-MAKER,” described himself as “Lately from London” when he introduced himself to prospective customers in a newspaper advertisement.  Realizing that readers were unfamiliar with him and his work, he sought to use his origins to suggest a certain level of skill and, especially, knowledge of current fashions in the cosmopolitan center of the empire to convince clients in Wallingford and nearby towns to give him a chance.  In an advertisement in the November 13, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Journal, he declared that he made “Lady’s Hair Rolls … in the best Manner.”  He also boasted that his customers would “be served with all Sorts of Wigs, made in the present Taste.”

Hart did not confine his marketing efforts to those appeals.  He also offered free repair services for a year, pledging that he would “alter any Fault (if observed within Twelve Months) gratis.”  Knowing that he could not yet depend on his reputation to sell his wigs, Hart likely hoped that providing that warranty would persuade prospective customers that they had nothing to lose when they purchased his wares.  If they discovered any defects, the wigmaker pledged to correct them without charge.  Customer service extended beyond the initial purchase, aiding Hart in cultivating a clientele in a new location.

At a glance, Hart’s advertisement may look like little more than a dense block of text to modern readers, but it was not a mere announcement that he made and sold wigs.  Instead, he advanced several appeals intended to entice consumers to acquire their wigs from him rather than other sources.  He promoted his origins in London, the quality of his work, and his knowledge of the latest trends.  In case that was not enough, he also provided a warranty to reassure customers still hesitant after his other marketing appeals.  Rather than inserting an announcement in the newspaper, Hart devised a strategy for attracting customers to his new shop.

October 14

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

Pennsylvania Journal (October 14, 1772).

“Having for some years operated for, and with the most proficient of the art, in the above-mentioned metropolis (of London).”

When William Johnson, a “GLOVER and BREECHES-MAKER,” arrived in Philadelphia in the fall of 1772, he placed advertisements in the Pennsylvania Journal to introduce himself to the community and invite prospective clients to visit the shop he opened on Front Street.  Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, Johnson emphasized his experience working in London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire.  Until he had time to establish his reputation in the local market, he depended on his connections to London to sell his services.  In the headline for his advertisements, he described himself as “lately arrived from LONDON.”  In the nota bene that concluded his notice, Johnson declared that he “hopes himself capable to give all possible satisfaction, with respect to the neatness of the fitting, and execution of the workmanship; having for some years operated for, and with the most proficient of the art, in the above-mentioned metropolis (of London).”  He opened and closed his advertisement with references to London.

Johnson also intended for the timing of his arrival to resonate with prospective clients.  Having “lately arrived from LONDON” suggested that he was familiar with the most recent styles in that “metropolis.”  His clients could depend on getting news and advice about current trends, helping them to keep up with new tastes on the other side of the Atlantic and perhaps stay ahead of friends and acquaintances in Philadelphia.  Some artisans continued to promote their connections to London long after they relocated to the colonies.  Johnson provided details that made it possible for prospective clients to determine for themselves that he did indeed recently arrive in the city and, by extension, his knowledge of fashions in London was as current as possible.  He reported that he “lately arrived from LONDON, by Capt. SPARKS.”  The “ship Mary and Elizabeth, J. Sparks from London” appeared among the “ARRIVALS” in the shipping news from the “Custom-House, Philadelphia,” in the September 30 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  When Johnson’s advertisement ran in the October 14 edition, he had been in the city for less than three weeks.  In addition, merchants, shopkeepers, and others also referenced the arrival of the ship in their advertisements.  Randle Mitchell, for instance, stated that he “Just imported” new merchandise “in the Elizabeth and Mary, Capt. Sparks, from London.”  Robert Bass, an apothecary, stocked new medicines “JUST IMPORTED in the Mary and Elizabeth, Capt. Sparks from London.”

As yet unknown to prospective clients in Philadelphia, Johnson attempted to leverage his experience in the “metropolis” of London to convince prospective clients to avail themselves of his services.  That experience garnered proficiency in his craft, including “the neatness of the firring, and the execution of the workmanship,” while also giving him access to current styles in the most fashionable city in the empire.  He included the name of the captain of the vessel that transported him across the Atlantic as a means of confirming that he possessed recent knowledge of the latest trends.

August 28

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (August 28, 1772).


Fashion was not solely the domain of elites who resided in London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire, or the gentry in urban ports like New York and Philadelphia.  Instead, colonizers in places like Portsmouth, New Hampshire, also styled themselves according to the newest trends.  To do so, they often relied on the advice and guidance of the purveyors of goods and services, including shopkeepers, milliners, tailors, and hairdressers.

In an advertisement in the August 28 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, James Deacon and Robert Hughes described themselves as “HAIR DRESSERS FROM LONDON.”  They did not indicate how recently they settled in Portsmouth, though many readers would have known if Deacon and Hughes were new arrivals or had been in town for some time.  Asserting a connection to London bestowed some cachet on the hairdressers.  It implied experience serving clients who set the latest styles or adopted them quickly as they emerged.  It simultaneously intimated exposure to the newest trends, knowledge that gave hairdressers and others “FROM LONDON” an advantage over competitors who labored solely in the colonies.  When Deacon and Hughes declared that they made “Gentlemen’s Perriwigs … in the genteelest Taste,” they suggested that they could advise clients what constituted that standard in London.  When they stated that they made “Ladie’s Curls & Toupees … on a new Construction,” they hinted that they used methods not previously known in Portsmouth.  Prospective clients, Deacon and Hughes insinuated, benefited from hiring hairdressers with connections to London.

Deacon and Hughes hoped such appeals would convince clients to commit to longer terms of service than a single visit to their shop.  They offered “to dress Ladies and Gentlemen by the Month Quarter or Year,” cultivating and strengthening relationships.  Dressing hair over several months provided many opportunities to advise clients on the newest fashions, convincing them of the value of consulting with Deacon and Hughes.  The hairdressers marketed knowledge as well as skill in their efforts to attract clients.

January 26

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

New-York Journal (January 23, 1772).

“The newest and neatest manner, either in the French or English taste.”

When John Burcket, a “Stay and Riding Habit-maker,” arrived in New York, he placed an advertisement in the New-York Journal to offer his services to the “ladies of this city.”  Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, he informed prospective clients where he had previously lived and worked, hoping to bolster his reputation among those who had not yet had an opportunity to examine the garments that he made.

In Burcket’s case, he proclaimed that he “lately arrived from London and Paris,” but did not mention where he had been most recently or how long he spent in either city.  What mattered more to him (and what he hoped mattered more to the ladies that he hoped to entice to his shop) was that his connections to two such cosmopolitan cities gave him greater knowledge of the current tastes and styles in both of them.  Burcket proclaimed that made stays (or corsets) and riding habits “in the newest and neatest manner, either in the French or English taste.”  This signaled that he did more than merely produce the garments; he also served as a guide for his clients, keeping them up to date on the latest trends and giving them advice.

Burcket buttressed such appeals with other promises intended to draw prospective clients into his shop.  He pledged that they “may depend on being punctually served.”  In addition to such customer service, Burcket aimed to achieve “utmost satisfaction” among his clients, hoping that “meriting their esteem” would lead to word-of-mouth recommendations.  He was also conscious of the prices he set, stating that he made and sold stays and riding habits “as cheap as can be imported.”  His clients did not have to pay a premium for consultations with an artisan “lately arrived from London and Paris.”  Even as he incorporated several marketing strategies into his notice, he made his connections to those cities the centerpiece of his introduction to the ladies of New York.

December 5

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

New-York Journal (December 5, 1771).


Nearly six months had passed since John Simnet last placed an advertisement in the New-York Journal, but he concluded the year by placing his notice in every issue published in December 1771.  Simnet, a veteran watchmaker with decades of experience working in shops in London, did not advertise in any of the newspapers published in New York nearly as often as he had advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette when he ran a shop in Portsmouth for about eighteen months in 1769 and 1770.  A rivalry with another watchmaker, Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith, played an important part in Simnet aggressively taking to the public prints, frequently denigrating his competitor.  Readers may have been amused by the feud between Griffith and Simnet that played out before their eyes in the New-Hampshire Gazette, though Simnet may have alienated as many prospective customers as he gained since his advertisements were often significantly more mean-spirited than those placed by Griffith.

Simnet did not even mention his time in Portsmouth after he relocated from the smaller town to the bustling port of New York.  He presented himself as “JOHN SIMNET, of London, WATCH-FINISHER,” choosing not to acknowledge that he passed through New Hampshire.  He adopted a more evenhanded tone in his advertisements in the New-York Journal, though he could not resist the temptation to make a blanket statement about “Watch-Butchers” who further damaged rather than repaired watches customers entrusted to their care when he advertised in the summer of 1771.  He eschewed such attacks when he once again ran notices in December.  He trumpeted, however, that he was the “only general Manufacturer in this Country,” dismissing the training, skill, and experience of his competitors.  Despite that interlude near the end of his advertisement, Simnet focused most of his effort on positive appeals.  He emphasized price, addressing his notice “to “those who desire to preserve their Money and their WATCHES, And avoid unnecessary Expence.”  He listed prices for some of his services, reporting that he performed “All other Repairs in Proportion, at half what is usually charged.”  The watchmaker also declared that he completed difficult jobs quickly.  Simnet may have learned that such strategies served him better than the antagonistic approach he took to marketing during the time he resided in New Hampshire.

November 27

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (November 25, 1771).

“Every other article that fashion produces in the millenary business.”

The appropriately named Susannah Faircloth sold a variety of textiles and adornments at her shop in New York in the early 1770s.  In an advertisement in the November 25, 1771, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, she listed “a variety of sattens and peelongs, figured and plain muslins, lawns, cambricks and taffeties” and “figured and plain gauze,” naming an array of fabrics familiar to discerning eighteenth-century consumers.  She acquired her wares from England, having imported them “in the Britannia, Capt. Thomas Miller, and the last vessels from London.”

Faircloth and other advertisers reported such connections to the cosmopolitan center of the empire as a means of convincing prospective customers that they carried the latest fashions.  Elsewhere in the same issue, for instance, the partnership of Leigh and Price promoted goods “imported by the Britannia, Capt. Miller, and by the late Vessels from London.”  Several artisans who set up shop in New York indicated that they formerly practiced their trades in London, including Bennett and Dixon, “Jewellers, Goldsmiths, and Lapidaries, from LONDON,” James Yeoman, “WATCH and CLOCK-MAKER, from LONDON,” and Thomas Brown, “Marble Cutter, FROM LONDON.”  With so many artisans hailing from London and so many merchants and shopkeepers outfitting customers in garments and goods from London, the advertisements in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury suggested to customers that they had full access to the styles of the fashionable metropolis.

Faircloth also invoked the latest tastes more explicitly.  Among her inventory, she carried “a quantity of the most fashionable ribbons.”  She concluded her advertisement with a proclamation that she also sold “every other article that the fashion produces in the millenary business.”  Prospective customers could depend on her to offer more than just goods shipped from London.  She also provided knowledge of the latest trends, a valuable resource for consumers.

May 1

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (May 1, 1771).

“Lower Terms than can be at any Shop or Store in the Province.”

Although “Sadler and Jockey Cap-Maker” Richard Sharwin signed his entire name at the end of his advertisement in the April 29, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, he deployed the mononym “SHARWIN” as a headline to draw attention.  The mononym suggested that consumers should already be familiar with his reputation, but he also declared that he was “From LONDON” to further underscore his importance for readers who were not familiar with his work.  Sharwin proclaimed that he made a variety of items, “the several Materials and Workmanship the best of their Kind.”  From “hunting Sadles with Hogskin seat” to “Pelm and Snaffle Bridles with Silver plated Bits” to “Velvet Jockey Caps,” the items he produced in his shop were “as Neat as can be Imported.”  Sharwin assured prospective customers that when they shopped locally, they still acquired goods of the same quality as those that arrived from London.

Sharwin also tended to price in his advertisement, pledging that he sold his wares “upon lower Terms than can be at any Shop or Store in the Province.”  Advertisers commonly asserted their low prices, but not nearly as often did they encourage consumers to compare their prices to those of their competitors.  Sharwin not only did so but also listed prices for welted saddles (“from 8 to 10 Dollars”) and plain saddles (“from 6 to 8 Dollars”), allowing readers to do some comparison shopping without even visiting his shop on King Street.  They could judge for themselves whether he offered bargains.  Merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans provided prices in their advertisements only occasionally, making Sharwin’s invitation to compare prices all the more notable.  Prospective customers could use the prices for welted saddles and plain saddles as a barometer for how much he charged for the dozens of other items listed in his advertisement since Sharwin set prices for “every Article in proportion.”

All in all, Sharwin incorporated several standard elements of eighteenth-century advertising into his own advertisement while also experimenting with less common marketing strategies.  Like many other advertisers, he emphasized consumer choice by listing an assortment of goods, touted his connections to London, and underscored quality and price.  He enhanced his advertisement with a mononym for a headline, stating the prices for some items, and trumpeting that his competitors could not beat those prices.  Sharwin crafted an advertisement that was not merely a rote recitation of the usual appeals made to consumers.