What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“His Stay in this City will be but a few Weeks.”
Michael Poree, a surgeon dentist, occasionally placed newspaper advertisements in New York in the late 1760s and early 1770s. He offered a variety of services, including “cleaning the Teeth,” “supplying New Ones,” and providing patent medicines related to dental care. Poree did not, however, make the busy port his permanent residence. Instead, he moved back and forth between New York and Philadelphia, serving patients in both cities.
In the spring of 1771, he published advertisements simultaneously in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Journal upon arriving in the city. He began by renewing his acquaintance with former clients, extending “his hearty Thanks to the Gentlemen and Ladies of this City, for the Encouragement they have given him in his Profession.” He then informed them “and others,” prospective new clients who needed dental care, that his stay in New York would be short, “but a few Weeks.” He planned to return to Philadelphia and would not be back for nearly six months, not until “October next.” Not unlike itinerant performers and peddlers, the surgeon dentists proclaimed that he would be in town for a limited time only as he persuaded customers to engage his services promptly or else miss their opportunity.
According to the colophon for the New-York Journal, Poree paid five shillings to insert his advertisement for four weeks. He likely paid a similar amount to run the same notice in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury. That he advertised in two newspapers indicated that he considered the cost well worth the investment in terms of attracting a sufficient number of clients to make his stay in New York profitable. Experience may have taught him that he served a greater number of patients, new and returning, when he placed newspaper notices. Documenting the reception of advertisements remains an elusive endeavor. That an itinerant surgeon dentist like Poree repeatedly paid to inform the public of his services and his schedule, however, suggests that he considered advertising an effective means of promoting his business.