What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Gentlemen willing to become adventurers … in said undertaking.”
In the fall of 1771, Nicholas Brown advertised his intention to operate a stagecoach between Hartford and New Haven. He also expressed his hope that another stagecoach would connect Hartford and Boston, “encourage[ing] Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces” to pass through Connecticut on their way to Boston instead of traveling “by Water from New York to Providence.” To help turn that idea into reality, Brown attempted to recruit donors and investors. He requested that “all Gentlemen disposed to countenance the Undertaking to leave their Names at the Printing-Office in New-Haven, adding such Sum for him, as their Generosity shall dictate.” For those unwilling to bestow an outright donation, he offered “to admit … into Partnership” anyone “disposed to share with him the Loss or Gain of the Undertaking.”
Brown’s advertisement apparently did not attract as many donors or investors as he hoped. Several months later, he published a new advertisement, this one co-signed by Jonathan Brown. They noted that they had “advertised in the public papers, that they should on proper encouragement, establish a STAGE COACH for the conveyance of passengers thro’ the upper post road, to and from New York and Boston.” They planned to cover that distance in a single week, but determined that the enterprise “cannot be carried on without great expence.” They lamented that thus far they had not gained “the encouragement from the public that they hoped for,” but reiterated “the usefulness and advantage … to the public” inherent in operating a stagecoach that connected New York and Boston. Committed to making some progress on the venture, they scaled down their plans “to perform said journey once every fortnight only.” Still, they sought others who were “willing to become adventurers … in said undertaking” by “supplying horses” or providing other support.
The Browns had an idea for a service they were wished to provide but did not have the resources to launch it on their own. Harnessing an entrepreneurial spirit, they ran newspaper advertisements to generate interest in their proposal and recruit investors who also recognized its potential and the benefits to the community. On occasion, newspapers carried brief advertisements seeking investors for unnamed ventures, indicating the amounts they needed but not giving other details. The Browns offered significantly more information. When the first round of advertising did not work, they tried again, taking another chance on the power of the press to achieve results.