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.