July 31

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 31, 1772).

“Allowing each passenger a small Bundle in their own Care.”

Advertisements in colonial newspapers aid in reconstructing transportation networks in early America.  A series of advertisements by Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown, for instance, gave details of a new stagecoach route between New York and Boston that they established in the summer of 1772.  They initially declared that they would undertake a “Trial” and if they “find Encouragement, they will perform the Stage once a Week.”  That trial apparently achieved sufficient success for them to continue the venture.  They continued to advertise in the July 30, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal.

By that time, John Stavers and Benjamin Hart had much more experience operating their own stagecoach service between Boston and Portsmouth.  In an advertisement in the August 8, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, Stavers stated that he had been in business “for Ten Years past.”  Stavers and Hart placed an advertisement in the July 31, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette to “Inform the Public, That their Carriages still continue to ply,” having survived a challenge posed by a newcomer who set up a competing service the previous summer.  Thanks to Stavers and Hart and the Browns, colonizers could travel via stage between Portsmouth and New York, if they desired an alternative to sailing between the two ports.

In addition to providing their schedule, Stavers and Hart used their advertisement to promote various aspects of their service.  They charged “the customary price of Three Dollars,” asserting it was a good bargain and “as low as the Fare for the same Distance in any Stage Coach in America.”  They also advised prospective passengers that they needed to pay “half on engaging a passage, the other half at the last Stage, or on leaving the Carriage.”  They claimed they asked for half in advance “to prevent Disappointment.”  Such a means of securing a reservation worked in favor of both travelers and the stagecoach operators.  Passengers paid for “All Baggage, Bundles, [and] Trunks … according to their Weight and size.”  Stavers and Hart did not allow for any complimentary “checked items,” but they did permit “carryon items.”  Each passenger could board the coach with “a small Bundle in their own Care.”

Stavers and Hart, like other stagecoach operators, sought to make travel appear attractive to prospective customers.  They promised good customer service for passengers, pledging “all Favours acknowledged by their very humble Service.”  In giving their schedule, they promoted the convenience of traveling via their stagecoaches.  They also incorporated other appeals, proclaiming that they offered bargain prices and inviting passengers to board with personal items that did not require additional fees.  Over time, the travel industry refined marketing strategies already in use during the era of the American Revolution.

August 11

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (August 8, 1771).

“The first Person that ever set up, and regularly maintain’d a Stage Carriage in New-England.”

John Stavers was not pleased when a competitor set up stagecoach service between Boston and Portsmouth in 1771.  In July, he placed an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette to promote his “Stage-Coach, Number One,” proclaiming that “several Years” experience of transporting passengers, mail, and newspapers meant that his drivers provided superior service.  Stavers also suggested that the “Difficulty, Expence, Discouragements, and very little, if any profit” associated with operating the stagecoach for so many years meant that the public should “give his Coach the Preference” over a newcomer “big with Importance” yet lacking experience.

He placed a similar advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, hoping to draw the attention of prospective passengers at the other end of the line.  Stavers declared that he “was the first Person that ever set up, and regularly maintain’d a Stage Carriage in New-England.”  Regardless of the weather and other conditions, operations continued “at all Seasons” for a decade.  In recognition of both the “Marks of Approbation” he received from prior clients and the “Utility” of the service he provided, he stated that he “therefore humbly hopes that his Carriages will still continue to be prefer’d to any other, that may set up in Opposition to them.”  For those who needed more convincing, Stavers asserted that “his Carriages are universally allow’d to be as convenient, genteel, and easy, and his Horses as good (if not better) than any that have as yet travelled the Road.”  In addition, he promised that “the greatest Care will be taken of all Bundles and Packages.”  For passengers who needed food and lodging upon arriving in Portsmouth, Stavers offered “Good Entertainment at the Earl of Halifax Tavern … equal to any on the Continent,” including any in Boston.  Stavers also listed prices for transporting passengers “in the most genteel and expeditious Manner” from Boston to Portsmouth and Boston to Newburyport so prospective customers could compare rates if they wished.

Stavers never named his competitor in either advertisement, but he did make it clear that he believed his experience resulted in better service for passengers traveling between Boston and Portsmouth.  In addition, he apparently felt that the investment he made operating a stagecoach along that route entitled him to the patronage of travelers who might otherwise choose his rival.  He deployed a carrot-and-stick approach in his marketing efforts, alternating between the describing the benefits associated with his coaches and constructing a sense of obligation for selecting his services.

July 19

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 19, 1771).

“Stage-Coach, Number One.”

John Stavers faced competition for clients … and he did not appreciate it.  In the late 1760s and early 1770s, Stavers operated a stagecoach between Portsmouth and Boston.  For a time, he enjoyed a monopoly on the route, but he tried to convince the public that did not necessarily amount to an unfair advantage.  Instead, Stavers contended, he provided an important service to the community “at a very great Expence” to himself when no one else did.  In an advertisement in the July 19, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, he asked prospective customers to take into account the “Difficulty, Expence, Discouragements, and very little, if any profit” he experienced “when no other Person would undertake” the route.  He did so in service not only to his passengers but also to deliver “the Mails of Letters and News Papers.”

Stavers depicted that as a heroic effort.  His stagecoach had already “surmounted every Obstruction, and through Heat and Cold, Rain and Snow Storm, push’d forward, at Times when every other Conveyance fail’d.”  Regardless of any kind of difficulty, his operation previously ran like clockwork … and would continue to do so.  The stagecoach set off from Stavers’s tavern in Portsmouth on Tuesday morning and departed Boston for the return trip on Friday mornings.  Stavers hired a “careful Driver” and kept the carriage and horses “in such Order, that Nothing bit some unforeseen Accident, shall at any Time give Hindrance, or by any Means retard the Journey.”  Through experience, Stavers was prepared for any obstacle.

Accordingly, he felt “intitled to” the patronage of travelers now that he faced an upstart who challenged him for business.  Stavers requested that the public “now give his Coach the Preference” rather than hire a competitor “whose Drivers, big with Importance, new and flaming Coaches, expect mighty Things.”  Stavers made clear that he did not believe the competition could live up to its promises, especially in the face of “the first Snow Storm” when the seasons changed. Moreover, he felt annoyed that his rival plied the same route and schedule.  Stavers feigned best wishes for the competition, but simultaneously declared his enterprise “Stage-Coach, Number One,” seeking to establish a ranking to influence prospective clients.  Simultaneously, he asked those prospective clients to take his past successes and sacrifices into consideration when choosing which stagecoach service to hire for trips between Portsmouth and Boston.

March 10

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (March 7, 1771).

Advertisements in this Paper are well circulated by this Conveyance and by the Western Rider.”

On March 7, 1771, John Stavers and Benjamin Hart inserted an advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter to inform thew public that the “POST-STAGE from and to Portsmouth in New-Hampshire” had a new location in Boston.  Formerly at the Sign of the Admiral Vernon on King Street, the stage now operated from “Mrs. Bean’s at the Sign of the Ship on Launch” on the same street.  It arrived on Wednesdays and departed on Fridays, carrying passengers, packages, and newspapers between the two towns.

Stavers and Hart’s advertisement included two notes that Richard Draper, printer of the Weekly News-Letter, likely added, perhaps after consulting with the stage operators.  Both appeared in italics, distinguishing them from the rest of the contents of the advertisement.  One note called on “Customers to this Paper, on the Eastern Road and at Portsmouth, that are indebted more than one Year … to send the Pay by the Carriers.”  In other words, Draper asked any subscribers who lived along the circuit traversed by Stavers and Hart to submit payment to them for delivery to his printing office in Boston.  The other note proclaimed that “Advertisements in this Paper are well circulated by this Conveyance and by the Western Rider.”  Colonial newspapers depended on revenues generated by advertising.  In this note, Draper sought to assure prospective advertisements that placing their notices in his newspaper would be a good investment because the Weekly News-Letter reached audiences well beyond Boston.  He also encouraged prospective advertisers who lived outside the city, both to the north and the west, to place notices in the Weekly News-Letter in order to reach readers in their own communities.

Draper seems to have piggybacked messages concerning his own business on an advertisement placed by clients who operated a stage between Boston and Portsmouth.  He likely figured that a notice about transporting passengers and packages between the two towns would attract the attention of current subscribers in arrears with their accounts.  He also seized the opportunity to tout the circulation of the newspaper in order to promote it as a vehicle for disseminating advertising.  An advertisement for the “POST-STAGE” ended up doing a lot of work in the interests of the printer.