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.

August 14

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

Aug 14 - 8:11:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Postscript to the Pennsylvania Gazette (August 11, 1768).

“He has of late stamped his name on his brushes.”

John Hanna made and sold all sorts of brushes “At the corner of Chestnut and Second-streets” in Philadelphia in the late 1760s. He produced brushes intended for every sort of purpose, from “sweeping, scrubbing, hearth and white-wash brushes” to “weavers, tanners, hatters, painters and furniture brushes of all kinds.” In his advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette he emphasized price and, especially, customer satisfaction. In making an appeal to price, the brushmaker proclaimed that he “sells by wholesale or retail, as low, if not lower, than any in this city.”

He expended much more effort on convincing potential customers that they would be satisfied if they purchased their brushes from him. He began with standardized language about quality, noting that he made brushes “in the neatest and best manner.” Hanna then backed up this pronouncement by offering a return policy should any of his brushes not meet the expectations of his customers. To that end, he asserted “that if the bristles come out in any reasonable time, with fair usage, he will give new ones for nothing.” This guarantee depended in part on the honesty of customers, but it did offer some sort of recourse should any of Hanna’s brushes fall short of the quality he promised.

The return policy likely extended to consumers who obtained Hanna’s brushes from other retailers. In a nota bene he explained that he “has of late stamped his name on his brushes, so that if they should fail, people may know where to bring them to be exchanged.” This removed retailers from having to address potential complaints about customer satisfaction. Instead, they could point out Hanna’s name on the brushes at the time of sale and instruct their own customers to contact the manufacturer directly with any concerns, anticipating a policy widely adopted in the twenty-first century.

Like many other artisans and shopkeepers, Hanna pledged that “Those who are pleased to favour him with their custom, may depend on being supplied to their satisfaction.” He enhanced his advertisement, however, with a mechanism for following through on those assurances. Stamping his name on his brushes not only branded them to encourage additional sales; it also marked them as eligible for the return policy he devised to cultivate customer satisfaction.

September 17

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

Sep 17 - 9:17:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 17, 1767).

“The Coach-making Trade is carried on in all its different Branches.”

Elkanah and William Deane incorporated multiple marketing appeals into their advertisement for carriages slated for sale at auction the following week. Just as modern car dealerships do today, the coachmakers stocked several models so potential customers could choose the one that best fit their needs, tastes, and budgets. They may have also offered choices between new and used carriages. Other coachmakers, including Adino Paddock in Boston, advertised used carriages in the 1760s. The Deanes explicitly described both their “Post-Chariot, and Harness” and “one Horse-Chaise, with Steel-Springs and Iron Axeltree neatly finished with Harness complete” as “new,” but not their “Curricle and Harness.” That they instead described as “good.” If the curricle did indeed have a previous owner, it made sense to focus on its condition to reassure skeptical customers.

The Deanes also proclaimed that they pursued their trade “in all its different Branches” to the same standards as in London and Dublin. They had previously advertised that they “made and finished” coaches, harnesses, saddles and accessories “in the genteelest taste” and that employees in their workshop had been “regularly brought up to the different Branches of Trade.” Establishing connections to London and Dublin elaborated on that appeal. Consumers did not need to import carriages from workshops across the Atlantic. Instead, local artisans possessed the same skills and expertise and followed the same styles as in the most cosmopolitan cities in Britain and Ireland. Their coaches rivaled any built elsewhere in the empire.

Finally, the Deanes inserted a nota bene that informed prospective customers that they “warrant their Work for Twelve Months.” The coachmakers regularly included this guarantee in their advertisements, having previously stated in an earlier notice that the items they sold were “warranted for Twelve Months. They did not offer false promises about the craftsmanship of their carriages; instead, they were so confident that they backed up their appeals to quality with guarantees valid for an entire year after purchase.

Buying a carriage was a major purchase for any customer, even the most affluent. Some colonists spared no expense when they imported carriages from workshops in London, yet local coachmakers sought their own place in the market. Elkanah and William Deane underscored the virtues associated with the carriages they made and sold, promising customers the same cachet as well as services, including repair work during the first year, that faraway competitors could not provide.

July 7

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

Jul 7 - 7:7:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 7, 1767).

“If any such Piece should break, he will mend the same Gratis.”

For many eighteenth-century artisans, making a living depended in part on establishing a creditable reputation, both for fair dealing and for skilled craftsmanship. Thomas You, a goldsmith in Charleston, devoted most of his advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to cultivating and maintaining his reputation, hoping to gain new clients as well as repeat business from previous patrons.

He reminded those who had employed him in the past of their “general Satisfaction” with his work, but he also suggested that this merited passing along “their kind Recommendation to others.” You did not believe that he could rely on word of mouth alone to promote his services to new clients; he apparently supposed that newspaper advertising could provoke word-of-mouth endorsements that would supplement notices in the public prints.

You also pursued another means of cultivating his reputation: he was so confident in the quality of his work that he offered a guarantee. “Any Piece of Plate worked up in his Shop,” the goldsmith pledged, “he will warrant as good as Sterling; and if any such Piece should break, he will mend the same Gratis.” In making this promise to fix defective work for free, You offered a blanket guarantee that covered not only the work done by his own hand but also any tasks undertaken by others who labored in his shop, whether journeymen, apprentices, or enslaved artisans.

You incorporated other appeals into his advertisement, including low prices and punctual service on orders sent by mail, but he saved those for after his endeavors to secure his reputation. He revealed what he thought was most important to his customers. Low prices or quick responses hardly mattered if they accompanied inferior work. The goldsmith first needed to establish the quality of his work, reflected in both his existing reputation and a guarantee on future jobs, in order to convince potential customers of the value of the other appeals he advanced.

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.

May 21

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

May 21 - 5:21:1767 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (May 21, 1767).

“Such Work as is not executed in the best Manner, he does not expect to be taken.”

Joseph Beck made “all Kinds of Stays for Ladies and Misses” at his shop on Queen Street in New York. In marketing his corsets one of the city’s newspapers, he utilized several of the most common appeals in eighteenth-century advertisements for consumer goods and services. He claimed that his stays were fashionable (“in the newest Taste”) and that potential customers could not find a better deal (“at the lowest Prices”). Like many others in the clothing trades, he also underscored that he had migrated “from LONDON,” establishing a connection to the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the empire.

To distinguish his advertisements from others, Beck added one more element: a guarantee, of sorts, concerning the quality of the stays he made. This testified to the staymaker’s confidence in his own skills and the value of the goods he produced for the market. In a separate nota bene, he advised prospective clients that “Such Work as is not executed in the best Manner, he does not expect to be taken.” Customers not satisfied with the quality of his work had the option from the very start to reject it. Refusing to accept work deemed inferior may not have seemed especially novel to most readers. After all, customers and those who provided services haggled all the time in the regular course of their interactions and transactions. Yet this sort of guarantee was not yet widely stated in advertisements. By including it, Beck further transformed what some might consider a mere announcement into a notice that actively marketed Beck’s services. This advertisement did not simply inform the residents of New York that Beck made and sold women’s stays. Instead, it worked to incite demand along multiple trajectories: fashion, price, connections to London, and, especially, an explicit promise about the quality of the work. Like many other eighteenth-century advertisers, Beck sought to incite demand rather than just reacting to pre-existing consumer desires.

April 1

GUEST CURATOR: Evan Sutherland

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

Apr 1 - 4:1:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (April 1, 1767).

“The CLOCK and WATCH MAKING BUSINESS in all its branches.”

Adrian Loyer announced that he “carr[ied] on the CLOCK and WATCH MAKING BUSINESS in all its branches.” However, watchmaking was not as common as making clocks in colonial America, despite some colonists from England with the necessary skills and tools. Many colonists with watchmaking skills usually repaired watches, rather than creating them. Many of the watches used in colonial America were imported from England instead.

Clockmaking was much more common during the eighteenth century. Clocks were typically made of brass for the dial and wood for the case, including oak, walnut, and mahogany. Some clocks were made with expensive satinwood for inlays. Tall-case clocks made during the eighteenth century were typically expensive; their owners were usually wealthy. As a result, tall-case clocks were usually handed down through generations.

Individual clockmakers typically did not produce more than an average of four to five clocks per year. This was most likely due to the expensiveness of the materials required to produce clocks. Large clocks with tall cases required more materials and more time to produce. Despite these drawbacks, some clockmakers still managed to make a decent living.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Adrian Loyer seemed to be expanding the business he operated in Savannah, thanks to the assistance of “some compleat workmen lately from London” that he recruited on a recent trip to Charleston in neighboring South Carolina. As Evan indicates, Loyer was set “to carry on the CLOCK and WATCH MAKING BUSINESS in all its branches” at his shop, but he offered a variety of other services as well. He and his assistants also repaired mathematical instruments and performed metalwork on weapons and other items.

Residents of Savannah were apparently familiar with Loyer’s work and his reputation: he opened his advertisement by acknowledging “his friends and customers.” Former and potential customers, however, did not know much about Loyer’s new assistants and their work beyond the brief description that appeared in the advertisement. Accordingly, Loyer offered assurances to anyone who visited his shop. He pledged that any work contracted and completed in his shop “will be warranted for a twelvemonth.” In other words, Loyer offered a guarantee that lasted for a year.

Loyer did not provide further details about how his guarantee worked. Was it a money back guarantee? Or did he not charge to repair items that failed within the specified period? Or did he offer customers a choice? Edward Spauldin, who “carries on the Business of cleaning and repairing CLOCKS AND WATCHES” in Providence, explained how his guarantee worked in an advertisement published the previous summer. “If any of his Work fails,” Spauldin stated, “he will repair the same gratis.”

Loyer seemed quite conscious that potential patrons might choose his competitors in Savannah or even send their work to workshops in Charleston. That being the case, it seems most likely that he followed Spauldin’s example and made repairs for free. Doing so gave him the opportunity to satisfy customers rather than relinquish them to other clockmakers and smiths. Whatever the mechanisms of the guarantee, Loyer underscored that he took responsibility for any work that left his shop, whether undertaken by himself or by any of the “compleat workmen” he now employed.

May 7

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

May 7 - 5:5:1766 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (May 5, 1766).

“He upholds and warrants their Performance for one Year.”

Isaac Heron made, sold, and repaired watches. He was proud of his work and stood behind, as the assurances in this advertisements demonstrate. This was not only a point of pride in a job well done, however, but also a strategy for encouraging potential clients to visit his shop.

Heron offered several guarantees in his advertisement. If he repaired a watch, he pledged that it would work correctly for at least a year (though he excluded accidents and “Mismanagement” on the part of the owner). For watches that he made and sold, he guaranteed that they would work correctly for several years. The greater the value of the watch, the longer the period before this warranty expired.

To prove that these were not hollow promises, Heron called on former customers from the past year to bring in their watches if his work had failed. Just as he expected “to receive his Money when earn’d,” he acknowledged his obligation to “Rectify” any of his work that did not live up to the promises he had made.

From start to finish, Heron stressed that his customers “may depend on their [watches] being carefully repair’d, justly charg’d for, and return’d” in a (ahem) timely manner.

January 15

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

Jan 15 - 1:13:1766 Boston- Gazette
Boston-Gazette (January 13, 1766)

“He will engage to make and mend Anvils, as good and as well as any imported.”

In the 1760s advertisers regularly indicated that they stocked and sold imported goods.  Many advertisements deployed formulaic language or structure that included references to the origins of merchandise and explicitly used the word “imported.”  Colonial artisans found themselves in competition with shopkeepers who peddled imported wares that were often superior in quality and craftsmanship to what was produced on this side of the Atlantic.

James McElroy seems to have realized that other colonists could be skeptical about such goods.  In response, he offered a variation on the first “Buy American” campaigns that emerged during the Stamp Act protests when he assured potential customers that he could “make and mend Anvils, as good and as well as any imported.”  In addition, he forged “Goldsmiths and Braziers Tools of all Sorts” and offered a guarantee (“which he will warrant”) of their quality.