September 16

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

Pennsylvania Journal (September 16, 1772).

“A sample of the TOBACCO may be seen at the Bar of the London Coffee-House.”

In a series of newspaper advertisements, Hamilton and Leiper informed readers that they sold “the various kinds of manufactured TOBACCO and SNUFF (of the best quality)” at their store on Second Street in Philadelphia.  In addition, they “established a MANUFACTORY” in Baltimore “for the conveniency of their customers in Maryland.”  Over time, the partners became the most successful tobacconists in the region.  Their advertisements and other marketing efforts likely played a role in their success.

As fall approached in 1772, the partners promoted their “KITE-FOOT TOBACCO” in an advertisement in the September 16 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  As usual, they lauded their tobacco’s “excellent quality.”  Like other entrepreneurs who hawked “domestic manufactures,” goods produced in the colonies, Hamilton and Leiper proclaimed their product “equal to any imported from Europe.”  Consumers were familiar with tobacco exported to England and Scotland as raw materials, processed in those places, and then imported into the colonies.  Hamilton and Leiper, however, asserted that quality tobacco did not need to cross the Atlantic twice.

Prospective customers could decide for themselves.  In addition to visiting Hamilton and Leiper’s shop, consumers had the option of examining a sample “at the Bar of the London Coffee-House.”  That almost certainly enhanced the visibility of Hamilton and Leiper’s product, exposing patrons of an establishment already popular with merchants and other colonizers to their brand of tobacco.  Patrons did not need to enter the London Coffee House with the intention of scrutinizing Hamilton and Leiper’s “KITE-FOOT TOBACCO” to determine if they wished to make a purchase.  Instead, they could be incidentally exposed to the product as others examined and discussed it.  Making samples available had the potential to incite interest and enthusiasm among multiple prospective customers engaging with each other and the product simultaneously.  That marketing strategy had the potential to create a very different kind of experience among consumers than reading newspaper notices.

May 5

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (May 2, 1771).

“They manufacture and sell as usual at Frederick-Town.”

According to their advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, Hamilton and Leiper sold tobacco and snuff at several locations.  For consumers in Philadelphia, they listed their location as “Second-street, between Market and Arch-streets.”  The primary purpose of their advertisement in the May 2, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, however, was to inform customers in Maryland that they had “established a MANUFACTORY in Market-street, Baltimore.”  At that location, they sold “the various kinds of manufactured TOBACCO and SNUFF (of the best quality) on the most reasonable terms.”  In addition, the tobacconists declared that they “manufacture and sell as usual at Frederick-Town” in western Maryland.  Altogether, Hamilton and Leiper sold tobacco and snuff in three towns in two colonies, their multiple locations providing for “the conveniency of their customers.”

Their advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette also testified to the reach of that newspaper in the early 1770s.  Baltimore would not have its own newspaper until August 1773.  Fredericktown (now Frederick) did not have a newspaper until after the American Revolution.  For half a century, the Pennsylvania Gazette served as a regional newspaper for readers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey.  Although most of the advertisers who promoted consumers goods and services in its pages were located in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Gazette also carried notices from Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; Baltimore and Frederick, Maryland; Burlington and Trenton, New Jersey; and several other towns in those colonies.  Similarly, the Pennsylvania Gazette carried legal notices and advertisements about runaway apprentices and indentured servants and enslaved people who liberated themselves submitted by colonists throughout the region.  In the same column as Hamilton and Leiper’s advertisement, Henry Wells, a jailer, described a runaway servant who made his escape from William Anders or Andrews in Joppa, Maryland, but had been taken into custody and confined in Dover, Delaware.

Several colonies constituted a single media market for the Pennsylvania Gazette and other newspapers published in Philadelphia before the revolution.  Enterprising entrepreneurs like Hamilton and Leiper also recognized the potential to create larger markets for their wares rather than serve only a single town and its hinterlands.  In the early 1770s, they branched out from locations in Philadelphia and Frederick to a third location in Baltimore.  Advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette alerted consumers in and near all three places about the tobacco and snuff that Hamilton and Leiper sold at their several convenient locations.