April 28

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

Connecticut Courant (April 28, 1772).

“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.

September 13

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

Connecticut Journal (September 13, 1771).

“STAGE-COACH … to pass thro’ this Coolony.”

Nicholas Brown aimed to improve the infrastructure that connected the major towns in New England in the early 1770s, establishing his own stagecoach service between Hartford and New Haven to supplement other routes already in existence.  In the summer of 1771, for instance, John Stavers placed advertisements in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and the New-Hampshire Gazette to promote “Stage-Coach, Number One” that ran between Boston and Portsmouth.  Stavers sought to ward off competition from a competitor who had only recently established service along the same route.

Brown, on the other hand, added a new route in hopes of better connecting the region.  To that end, he acquired “an elegant, and convenient Stage Coach and four Horses” to cover a route between Hartford and New Haven once a week. He anticipated that another operator would soon set up service from Hartford to Boston, allowing “Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces” to pass through Connecticut on their way to Boston rather than “go by Water from New-York to Providence” and then continue overland to Boston.  New routes meant more options for transporting passengers and freight.

In an advertisement in the September 13, 1771, edition of the Connecticut Journal, Brown framed his endeavor as an investment opportunity and a service that merited the support of local benefactors.  He mentioned “a low and moderate Price,” but did not specify which days his stagecoach ran between Hartford and New Haven or where to meet it in either town.  Instead, he focused primarily on the “great Expence” he already incurred, requesting that “all Gentlemen disposed to countenance the Undertaking” would leave their names and “such Sum … as their Generosity shall dictate” at the printing office.  In addition to accepting donations to make stagecoach service between Hartford and New Haven viable, Brown also invited “any Gentleman … disposed to share with him the Loss or Gain of the Undertaking” to join him as partners.  That first advertisement alerted prospective customers to a new “STAGE-COACH” route, but the proprietor also used it as a prospectus for gaining other kinds of support for his new enterprise.