July 24

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

Jul 24 - 7:24:1769 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (July 24, 1769).

“This valuable tincture … sold … at Mrs. CROSSWALL’S in Thames-street[,] Newport.”

In the summer of 1769, Mr. Hamilton, a “Surgeon Dentist and Operator for the teeth, from LONDON,” offered his services to residents of New York. He also advertised a tincture for curing toothaches that he made available beyond New York and its hinterlands. In marketing that remedy, Hamilton placed advertisements in multiple newspapers in New York as well as newspapers published in other cities. In those other locations, the advertisements specified local agents who distributed the tincture on Hamilton’s behalf. The Pennsylvania Gazette, for instance, ran an advertisement identical to those that appeared in newspapers in New York except for the addition of local agents in Lancaster and Philadelphia. It made sense for Hamilton to commence his attempt to enlarge his market with the Pennsylvania Gazette. Printed in Philadelphia, the largest city in the colonies, the Pennsylvania Gazette had an extensive circulation as a regional newspaper whose “local” readers included colonists throughout Pennsylvania as well as Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and beyond.

Hamilton, however, did not confine his efforts to newspapers published in New York and Pennsylvania. He also inserted his advertisement in the Newport Mercury, hoping to attract customers in Rhode Island and other parts of New England. That advertisement featured identical copy except for the inclusion of a local agent who sold Hamilton’s tincture for curing toothaches. Hamilton instructed interested parties to acquire it “at Mrs. CROSSWALL’S in Thames-street[,] Newport.” The advertisement did not specify whether Crosswall or one of her boarders served as Hamilton’s local agent, nor did the advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette specify whether it named local agents in Lancaster and Philadelphia or their landlords.

If these advertisements did name the local agents, Hamilton worked with women in Newport and Philadelphia. Although lacking titles like “Surgeon Dentists and Operator for the teeth,” these women exercised medical authority as they consulted with clients in the process of distributing the tincture and, especially, in making determinations about the “No CURE No PAY” guarantee that Hamilton included in every advertisement. He did not limit that guarantee to customers in New York who purchased the tincture directly from him. Instead, he extended it to customers who acquired the tincture in Lancaster, Newport, and Philadelphia, transferring responsibility to local agents for making assessments about the veracity of claims made by anyone who claimed that the tincture had not alleviated their pain.

Hamilton’s endeavor to enlarge the market for his tincture demanded attention to detail in distributing the product and “particular directions for using it.” He also had to cultivate relationships of trust with his local agents who represented him to distant customers. This was especially important since he depended on them exercising medical authority in their interactions with local clients. Hamilton sought to create a widely recognized brand, not unlike many patent medicines familiar to consumers throughout the British Atlantic world, but doing so required cooperation with associates and agents in faraway places.

July 14

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

Jul 14 - New-Hampshire Gazette Jul 14
New-Hampshire Gazette (July 14, 1769).

“Finisher to Mr. GRAY and Mr. ELLICOT, WATCH-MAKERS to his late and present MAJESTY.”

John Simnet was an industrious advertiser, perhaps in part due to competition with a rival watchmaker in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Their competition descended into a feud that took place via their advertisements in the public prints in 1769. Simnet regularly published new advertisements rather than instructing the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette to once again insert notices that previously appeared in the pages of their newspaper. As a result, the copy in Simnet’s advertisements featured greater variation than readers encountered in notices placed by others who regularly advertised consumer goods and services. His new advertisements often contained variations on appeals he previously presented to prospective clients and new information intended to entice those not yet convinced by what they already knew about the watchmaker and his business.

Such was the case for an advertisement in the July 14, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. Simnet reiterated a promise that he had previously presented: “Such Watches as have been repaired by me, if become foul, or require Alteration, may be clean’d, &c. gratis.” In other words, Simnet offered a guarantee for his work and pledged free service and maintenance if he did not manage to completely fix the problem the first time. As for new appeals to prospective clients, the watchmaker emphasized convenience by providing a timetable for his services: “WATCHES Clean’d in thirty Minutes—Repair’d in six Hours.” Customers did not even need to part with their watches overnight. That same week he announced this timetable in an advertisement in the Essex Gazette, but he had not previously discussed the amount of time necessary to make repairs except to state that he did his work “expeditiously.” Finally, Simnet expanded on an appeal that he deployed in earlier advertisements. He had noted his twenty-five years of experience in London, but in his newest advertisement he associated himself with prominent watchmakers, declaring that he had worked as “Finisher and Manufacturer to all of NOTE” in the watchmaking trade in England and Ireland. Most significantly, Simnet proclaimed that he had previously been employed as “Finisher to Mr. GRAY and Mr. ELLICOT, WATCH-MAKERS to his late and present MAJESTY.” He had worked on watches for George II and George III. Simnet did not name his local rival in this advertisement, but the competition almost certainly could not claim to have served such eminent clients! Supplying this additional information enhanced the reputation Simnet cultivated throughout his advertising campaign.

July 13

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

Jul 13 - 7:13:1769 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (July 13, 1769).

“At Mr. JOSEPH SOLOMAN’S … in Lancaster, by the appointment of Mr. HAMILTON, Surgeon Dentist.”

At the same time that advertisements for Mr. Hamilton’s amazing tincture for curing toothaches and other maladies ran in multiple newspapers in New York in July 1769, it also appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette, a newspaper published in Philadelphia with circulation far beyond that city. The copy in the Pennsylvania Gazette matched the New York advertisements almost exactly – including the guarantee of “No CURE No PAY” – except for instructions about where customers could acquire the tincture for themselves. Readers of newspapers printed in New York were directed to “Mrs. Buskirk’s, the corner of Wall-Street, near the Coffe-house,” where they could consult directly with Mr. Hamilton, “Surgeon Dentists and Operator for the Teeth from LONDON.” The variant in the Pennsylvania Gazette, on the other hand, gave directions to local agents in Pennsylvania. Readers could purchase the tincture “at Mrs. [illegible], next door to the Indian Queen, in Fourth-street, Philadelphia; and, at Mr. JOSEPH SOLOMAN’s, in King-street, near the Court-house, in Lancaster.” Purveyors of the tincture in Pennsylvania stocked and sold it “by the appointment of Mr. HAMILTON.”

Inserting advertisements in all of the newspapers published in New York was ambitious on its own, but designating local agents and branching out to yet another newspaper in another colony was even more innovative. In eighteenth-century America, most providers of goods and services confined their marketing efforts to newspapers that served their own city or town. Printers and publishers were an important exception; they frequently placed subscription notices in newspapers throughout the colonies to gauge the market and generate sufficient interest to move forward with printing a book, magazine, or other publication. This involved designating local agents to receive subscriptions, collect payment, and distribute publications after they went to press, but those agents were usually fellow printers who already participated in networks for exchanging newspapers and information. Still, this was a model that need not work for printers exclusively. Hamilton experimented with designating local agents in Philadelphia and Lancaster as a means of enlarging the market for his tincture.

Doing so required prospective customers to place trust in the local agents in addition to Hamilton, especially when it came to the “No CURE No PAY” guarantee. Clients in New York used the tincture under the direction of Hamilton and could appeal to him directly if the medicine did not produce the desired effect. Clients in Philadelphia and Lancaster, in contrast, had to depend on fair dealing by local agents who may not have possessed Hamilton’s experience or expertise. After all, the advertisement described Hamilton as a “Surgeon Dentist,” but did not indicate the occupations of his local agents in Pennsylvania. Other portions of the advertisement may have alleviated some concerns by presenting a portrait of Hamilton’s character. In addition to describing Hamilton’s tincture, the advertisement provided an overview of the services he provided in New York. Hamilton “cleans and beautifies teeth” and “makes and sets in artificial teeth.” He served his clients “with dispatch and secrecy.” The advertisement concluded with a nota bene that depicted Hamilton as a humanitarian: “the poor, afflicted with the tooth-ach, cured gratis, every morning, from 8 to 10 o clock.” Was such information about Hamilton’s practice in New York superfluous in an advertisement placed in the Pennsylvania Gazette? Readers in Philadelphia and, especially, Lancaster were unlikely to travel to New York to have Hamilton clean their teeth or fit them with artificial teeth. The poor were even less likely to make such a journey. Hamilton could have reduced the costs of advertising in the Pennsylvania Gazette if he had eliminated that portion of the advertisement, yet that information was not superfluous. It testified to Hamilton’s competence and professional demeanor, allowing him to cultivate a reputation that might have made faraway readers more inclined to trust his description of his toothache tincture and, in turn, deal with local agents who sold it on his behalf.

July 11

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

Jul 11 - 7:11:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (July 11, 1769).

“WATCHES CLEANED in 30 Minutes.”

John Simnet, a watchmaker from London, made his presence in Portsmouth known in 1769 with a series of advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette. Initially he inserted notices with the intention of cultivating his clientele, but over the course of several months he found himself engaged in a public feud with Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith, a local watchmaker who took exception to Simnet intruding in his territory. For the most part, Simnet confined his advertisements to the New-Hampshire Gazette, though shortly after his arrival in New England he had placed one notice in the Boston Weekly News-Letter in an attempt to draw on that market. To that end, he offered to “pay the Carriage to and fro” for clients in Boston who sent their watches to him in Portsmouth via “Mr. Noble’s Stage.” In the summer of 1769, Simnet made another attempt to enlarge his market by placing an advertisement in the Essex Gazette.

Simnet advanced many of the same appeals that he had consistently deployed in his previous notices, but he also supplied new information for prospective customers. To establish his credentials, he proclaimed that he previously worked as “Finisher to Mr. Tompion, Graham, Storey, Toulmin; and every other Maker (of Note) in London.” Simnet had not previously mentioned the names of his former associates, only noted that he had followed his occupation in London for some time before migrating to New England. He likely did not expect colonists to recognize all of the watchmakers he listed, but did intend to impress them with the assertion that he had worked alongside and been entrusted by the most prominent watchmakers in the most cosmopolitan city in the empire. As a newcomer in New England, Simnet was largely unfamiliar to his prospective customers, making it all the more necessary to convince them of the reputation he had previously established in London.

In addition, Simnett made several other appeals. He promised convenience and quality, pledging to clean watches in thirty minutes and “perfectly” repair them in six hours. Prospective customers would not have to part with their watches for days or weeks while he worked on them. He set prices that matched those charged in London, but also offered a guarantee. When he promised “no future Expence (Accidents excepted),” prospective customers understood that he would perform further repairs for free if he did not successfully fix watches the first time. This deal, however, applied only to recurring problems that Simnet did not manage to resolve, not to new issues caused by “Accidents” or wear and tear. Finally, Simnet declared, “Security deposited in Hand for Watches, if required.” In other words, he provided collateral of some sort when customers entrusted him with their watches. This had not been part of Simnet’s first advertisements, but after his rival Griffith accused him of stealing watches Simnet began incorporating such assurances into his marketing efforts.

In a short advertisement, Simnet advanced multiple appeals to convince prospective customers to hire him to clean and repair their watches. He underscored his own skill and experience by trumpeting the names of prominent watchmakers in London who had previously employed him. He also emphasized convenience, quality, and price while offering two types of guarantees. For the first, he made additional repairs for free if his initial efforts were not successful. For the second, he supplied collateral when accepting watches for repair. Simnet included some of the most common appeals that appeared in advertisement placed by artisans in eighteenth-century America, yet he also adapted his notice to address his own recent experiences with a rival who attempted to undermine his business.

July 10

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

Jul 10 - 7:10:1769 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (July 10, 1769).

“No CURE No PAY.”

As part of his marketing efforts, Mr. Hamilton, “Surgeon Dentist and Operator for the Teeth, from LONDON,” offered prospective patients a guarantee: “No CURE No PAY.” If his tincture for toothaches did not yield the desired results by relieving the pain in just a few minutes then clients did not have to pay for Hamilton’s services. Colonial consumers were rightfully suspicious of quack doctors and remedies that seemed too good to be true, so Hamilton made a pitch intended to help prospective patients overcome their skepticism and give his tincture a chance, figuring that they did not lose anything if it did not work.

Given Hamilton’s description of his tincture and its effects, leading with the guarantee was probably a smart move. It did sound too good to be true. In addition to curing toothaches without drawing (or pulling) teeth it also “cures all disorders whatever in the mouth or gums.” For instance, after just a few applications the tincture “will fasten the teeth if ever so loose.” Hamilton also proclaimed that his tincture “will perfectly cure the scurvy in the gums” as well as prevent teeth from rotting, preserve “such as are decayed from becoming worse,” and eliminate “disagreeable smells from the breath.” But wait, there’s more! Hamilton’s amazing tincture did mote than relieve maladies of the mouth. When applied elsewhere, it had the power to “entirely remove all kinds of swellings in the cheek or pain in the ear.” It could cure violent headaches as well as “the most violent rheumatic pains in any part of the body.” Hamilton drew in patients with the promise of relieving toothaches. His guarantee covered only that service, but it opened the door for promoting his tincture for other uses. It very well could have included an ingredient that provided temporarily relief for toothaches, giving Hamilton an opportunity to make a hard sell to patients. For just “One Dollar each,” consumers could purchase Hamilton’s “valuable tincture.” If it relieved toothaches, even if only temporarily, then why not acquire a bottle to experiment with other ailments?

Hamilton went all in with this marketing strategy. In July 1769, he inserted identical advertisements trumpeting “No CURE No PAY” in all the newspapers published in New York, the New-York Chronicle, the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, and the New-York Journal. Colonists who read more than one newspaper could hardly avoid Hamilton’s advertisements. Increased exposure to his promise of “No CURE No PAY” may have also played a role in convincing some prospective patients to give his tincture a try.

June 2

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

Jun 2 - 6:2:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 2, 1769)

“SIMNET, Chief WATCHMAKER in AMERICA.”

It was another volley in an ongoing feud that was taking place in the advertisements published in the New-Hampshire Gazette in the spring of 1769. John Simnet proclaimed himself the “Chief WATCHMAKER in AMERICA,” the sort of hyperbole intended to promote his own skills and attract prospective customers, but also designed to taunt his rival, Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith.

Simnet was a relative newcomer in Portsmouth, having arrived earlier in the year. Griffith quickly determined that he did not appreciate Simnet intruding on his turf and competing for local customers. To protect his share of the market, he published advertisements that disparaged the upstart. In response, Simnet, who had been trained in London and pursued his occupation there for more than two decades, mocked Griffith for not having acquired the same skills. Griffith accused Simnet of being an itinerant who stole watches from his clients. Simnet claimed that Griffith further damaged watches put in his care, ultimately making it necessary for their owners to take the course of action they should have chosen from the start and deliver their watches to Simnet for more competent attention. Throughout all of this, neither watchmaker named his rival, but readers could hardly mistake the target of each allegation in the New-Hampshire Gazette, especially since the printers often positioned their advertisements side-by-side or one after the other.

In this salvo, Simnet offered a guarantee to prospective clients, pledging the “Owner [was] insur’d from future expence, (Accidents excepted).” In other words, Simnet confidently stood by his work, but he would also make additional repairs if he did not manage to completely resolve defects after an initial consultation. Simultaneously, he made a dig at Griffith, denigrating his rival once again without naming him. The unspoken contrast between Simnet as “Chief WATCHMAKER in AMERICA” and Griffith as a backwater dolt infused the advertisement for any reader who had followed the escalating feud over the past several months. As with several previous advertisements, this short notice may have looked rather bland at first glance, but when considered in the context of the advertising campaigns waged by both watchmakers it conveyed much more meaning, despite its brevity.

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.