July 12

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

“INN at Newbury-Port.”

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 12, 1771).

When Robert Calder became the proprietor of an inn in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in the early 1770s, he turned to the New-Hampshire Gazette to promote his new venture to travelers and other prospective patrons.  He hoped to benefit from the reputation achieved by the former proprietor, William Lambert.  Although Lambert operated a “noted INN,” Calder made improvements for the comfort of his guests, declaring that the establishment “is now further repair’d and furnish’d with convenient Accommodations for Travellers.”  In addition, the inn provided “good Stabling for Horses.”  Calder also promised “the best Entertainment” and “diligent Attendance” for patrons.

Calder did not indicate that he possessed prior experience serving “Travellers and others” at an inn, tavern, coffeehouse, or similar establishment (though he previously advertised a coffeehouse), but he prominently listed another credential intended to assure prospective patrons that he was prepared to attend to their needs.  He introduced himself as “late Servant to his Excellency GOVERNOR WENTWORTH,” suggesting that he previously earned the trust of the official who had served as governor of New Hampshire since 1767 (and would continue to do so until the colony became a state in 1775).  Having served the governor, Calder contended that he could competently run an inn.

Calder did not rely on the New-Hampshire Gazette alone when it came to promoting his inn in the public prints.  In early July 1771, he placed the same advertisement in the Essex Gazette, published in Salem, Massachusetts, and a slightly different version in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  In so doing, he pursued a regional marketing campaign, an appropriate strategy for an entrepreneur seeking to provide services to travelers.  He limited the scope to newspapers from towns nearest to the inn, figuring readers of those publications might have occasion to visit or pass through Newburyport.  Some may have already been aware of the inn formerly run by Lambert, but Calder aimed to give added incentive to eat, drink, and sleep at his place.