July 6

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

Jul 6 - 7:6:1769 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (July 6, 1769).

“DANIEL GRANT … HAS now opened a HOUSE of ENTERTAINMENT.”

A nascent hospitality and tourism industry emerged in America in the late eighteenth century. Its expansion occurred, in part, as a result of advertisements that encouraged consumers to partake in a variety of leisure activities at venues in their own towns and in places located some distance away. On July 6, 1769, Samuel Francis (better known today as Samuel Fraunces) inserted advertisements in the New-York Chronicle and the New-York Journal to invite visitors to Vauxhall Gardens to enjoy coffee, tea, and pastries “at any Hour in the Day,” evening concerts, a ballroom for parties, “Dinners or Suppers dressed in the most elegant Manner,” and, of course, the gardens “fitted up in a very genteel, pleasing Manner.” Advertisements for Vauxhall Gardens became a familiar sight in New York’s newspapers in the late 1760s.

On the same day, Daniel Grant advertised his own “HOUSE of ENTERTAINMENT, at the Sign of the Buck” in Moyamensing on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Grant first presented his credentials for opening his own establishment, asserting that he worked for seven years as “a Bar-keeper to Mr. John Biddle, at the Indian King.” He had gained the requisite experience to launch his own enterprise. Grant offered many of the same amenities at the Buck as Francis did at Vauxhall Gardens. The spacious house had three rooms on each floor as well as “a large hall in each story.” In addition to those accommodations, guests could also enjoy the gardens and “summer-houses” that, in particular, made the Buck “an agreeable place to resort in the summer season.” Grant served “the best tea, chocolate, [and] coffee” for breakfast and in the afternoon, but he also had on hand “the best liquors of all kinds.” He invited prospective customers to plan parties or “large entertainments” at his venue, assuring them that events could be arranged “by giving short notice.” As was the case for anyone working in hospitality, service was a cornerstone for Grant’s business. He pledged to “make it his constant endeavour to give the best attendance to those who please to favour him with their company.” Accommodations, amenities, and service: Grant offered a complete experience to guests at his “HOUSE of ENTERTAINMENT.”

Today, many Americans are celebrating the Independence Day weekend with excursions to all sorts of venues that are part of the modern hospitality and tourism industry. Advertising plays a significant role in enticing guests to partake in leisure activities, encouraging them to purchase experiences rather than things. That strategy has origins that date back to a time before Americans declared independence. Entrepreneurs like Grant and Francis promoted themselves as purveyors of entertainment and leisure activities as they welcomed guests to venues like the Buck and Vauxhall Gardens in the eighteenth century.

August 5

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

Aug 5 - 8:5:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (August 5, 1767).

“THE subscriber intends opening a COFFEE ROOM.”

Mary Hepburn placed an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette in the summer of 1767 to announce that she had entered the service and hospitality industry. She operated two related enterprises from her house, a coffee room and an ordinary. For each, she offered comparisons to similar establishments in larger cities – London and Charleston, respectively – to give readers and potential clients a frame of reference, yet also imbue her business with cosmopolitan flair.

The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that an eighteenth-century coffee room had a slightly different function than the more familiar coffeehouse. It describes a coffee room as “a public room where coffee and similar refreshments are served; now, generally, the name of the public dining-room in a hotel.” On the other hand, a coffeehouse was “a house of entertainment where coffee and other refreshments are supplied. (Much frequented in 17th and 18th c. for the purpose of political and literary conversation, circulation of news, etc.)” The OED adds an additional note that “[t]he places now so called have lost this character, and are simply refreshment-houses.” Coffeehouses had distinctive cultural functions in the early modern Atlantic world, but it does not appear that Hepburn attempted to operate that sort of establishment, at least not initially. Perhaps once she successfully established her coffee room she hoped to expand its offerings. At its initial launch, however, she limited it to breakfast alone. She did not advertise a gathering place for merchants and others to meet at all times throughout the day.

The OED also sheds light on what Hepburn and potential customers imagined when they thought of an ordinary: “an inn, public house, tavern, etc., where meals are provided at a fixed price; the room in such a building where this type of meal is provided.” (This meaning is now considered historical and archaic.) Hepburn did not, however, extend an open invitation to residents and visitors to Savannah to visit her ordinary to purchase meals. She restricted it to “eight Gentlemen” who would also board at her house for an extended period. She planned to open her coffee room immediately, but the ordinary was delayed until “the number of her boarders is compleated.”

Hepburn sold food and drink and provided lodging, yet she did not operate a tavern, an inn, or a coffeehouse. She sought to establish a different, yet related, kind of service in Savannah for select clientele, “the first attempt of this kind” in the city. If her efforts met with success, perhaps she considered expanding the scope of her enterprise, but she started on a smaller scale while she established her footing in the local marketplace.

August 1

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

Aug 1 - 8:1:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (August 1, 1767).

“She takes in Boarders at a reasonable Rate.”

Mary Bass of Boston placed an advertisement in the Providence Gazette to inform its readers that she had “removed into a very commodious House … where she takes in Boarders at a reasonable Rate.” In the 1760s, most advertisers who offered boarding usually offered their services to local residents or, at the very least, confined their notices to newspapers published in their town. Bass’s decision to advertise in the Providence Gazette rather than any of the four newspapers printed in Boston was out of the ordinary, but she had a particular kind of client in mind: “Gentlemen and Ladies who resort to this Town, both on Business and Recreation.”

Bass believed that she had identified a market for her services. Many travelers, she explained, “had much rather be entertained at private Houses, than at Taverns.” Part of this was due to the patrons and atmosphere often associated with taverns, which some travelers might not find “so agreeable.” Bass offered an alternative, a place where travelers could “enjoy themselves in a quiet and retired Manner.” She marketed the ambiance of her boarding house, which she also noted had been “improved” by a previous resident. To further encourage visitors to stay with her, Bass also let them know that they could stable their horses nearby.

In addition, Bass made sure that out-of-town visitors could find her residence easily. By way of directions, she indicated it was “opposite the Heart and Crown … and next Door to Mr. Jolly Allen’s.” Visitors unfamiliar with Boston would have had no difficulty finding Bass’s house once they asked any local resident to point them in the direction of the Heart and Crown, the printing shop where T. and J. Fleet printed the Boston Evening-Post. Alternately, locals also would have known where to find Jolley Allen, a prominent shopkeeper and prolific advertiser.

Men and women who made some or all of their living by taking in boarders frequently placed advertisements in the 1760s, but most of them did not identify a specialized market for their services. Mary Bass, on the other hand, intentionally promoted her boarding house to out-of-town visitors who would find her residence more comfortable than lodging at a loud and busy tavern. In an effort to attract travelers before they arrived in Boston, she placed advertisements in newspapers published in other places, anticipating the broad dissemination of advertising undertaken by the modern hospitality and tourism industries.