What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He Desires all Persons indebted to him, to make Immediate Payment.”
In a short advertisement in the June 16, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Courant, John Cable, a “BAKER from GERMANY,” informed the public “that he is (in a short Time) going to New York where he intends to Purchase a considerable Quantity of Flower for the Purpose of supplying his Customers as usual.” He did not merely intend to incite demand for the bread he would bake upon his return; instead, he also aimed to raise the funds necessary to acquire the supplies he needed to continue operating his business. Cable declared that since “his undertaking requires CASH, he Desires all Persons indebted to him, to make Immediate Payment.” Unlike many others who published similar messages, he did not threaten legal action against those who did not heed his request.
Graphic design likely played a significant role in drawing attention to Cable’s advertisement. A border comprised of decorative type, leafy flourishes, surrounded his notice. No other advertisement in that issue or any recent issue of the Connecticut Courant had a border. Only two images appeared in that edition, a crown and seal flanked by a lion and unicorn in the masthead and a much less elaborate woodcut depicting a horse in an advertisement about a strayed or stolen mare. Compared to newspapers published in larger cities, the Connecticut Courant generally featured fewer images and fewer experiments with graphic design, though Caleb Bull’s advertisement for “New, New, New GOODS!” that ran once again demonstrated an interest in innovative marketing strategies. Given Hartford’s proximity to Boston, Cable may have spotted Jolley Allen’s or Andrew Dexter’s advertisements with borders in one of the newspapers published there, prompting him to request similar treatment for his advertisement when he submitted the copy to the printing office. Alternately, he may have envisioned the format on his own, searching for a means of distinguishing his notice from others in hopes of increasing the chances that “Persons indebted to him” would see it and settle accounts before he ventured to New York.