What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Shall have their Money return’d if the Work he does shall not be found upon Tryal to answer their End.”
In the fall of 1773, Enos Doolittle, a silversmith, took to the pages of the Connecticut Courant to advise prospective clients that he also offered services as a “CLOCK and WATCH-MAKER.” To that end, he “lately furnished himself with a universal Assortment of WATCH FURNITURE” or parts, including springs, glasses, dial plates, keys, and seals. Doolittle assured “Any Gentlemen that please to Favour him with their Custom” that he possessed the skills necessary both to repair damaged clocks and watches or make new ones.
To entice prospective customers, Doolittle presented a return policy. He pledged that customers “shall have their Money return’d if the Work he does shall not be found upon Tryal to answer their End.” That put him in company with other watchmakers who issued similar guarantees. For instance, Thomas Hilldrup, a “WATCH MAKER from LONDON” who advertised extensively in newspapers published in Connecticut during the previous year, asserted that he “restored [watches] to their pristine vigour, and warranted [them] to perform well, free of any expence for one year.” Similarly, Issac Heron in New York noted, “As usual, he warrants their performance – not for ever, but one year,” while Thomas Morgan in Baltimore “proposes to engage his performance for one year, provided the owners do not abuse the same, nor apply to unskilful hands, where many good watches are greatly abused for want of experience.” Watchmakers set some conditions along with their guarantees.
Doolittle paired his warranty with a promise of low prices that matched those set by his competitors. He may have been making a jab at the “WATCH MAKER from LONDON” who so often advertised his own shop in Hartford when he declared that “his Motives are barely to obtain such a Support as one of his Profession has a right to expect.” Accordingly, Doolittle “is determined to Work as Cheap as any one in the Colony.” Eschewing the pretensions that played such a significant role in advertisements placed by some of his competitors, Doolittle promised quality work for reasonable prices. In contrast to watchmakers who sought acclaim for themselves and their work, Doolittle suggested that he labored industriously on behalf of his clients and focused on customer satisfaction.