June 26

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

Connecticut Journal (June 26, 1772).

“The Hartford Stage-Coach, will be in New-Haven … on its Way to New York.”

In the early 1770s, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown envisioned a stagecoach route that connected New York and Boston.  They placed advertisements seeking investors in the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, and the Connecticut Journal, published in New Haven.  Such an enterprise, they argued, would benefit residents and entrepreneurs in a colony that travelers often bypassed when they chose to sail between New York and Providence and then continue to Boston via stage.  In the summer of 1772, the Browns inserted an advertisement in the New-York Journal to announce a trial run for their service between New York and Boston.

At the same time that they sought passengers from New York and its hinterlands, the Browns placed new notices in the Connecticut Courant and the Connecticut Journal.  For instance, Jonathan advertised that the “Hartford Stage-Coach, will be in New-Haven … on its Way to New York” in the June 26, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Journal.  He stated that “any Gentlemen or Ladies that may want a Conveyance there, or to any Place on the Road, between this Town and that City, may be accommodated in said Coach.”  In an advertisement that appeared in the Connecticut Courant on June 16, Jonathan declared that he “furnished himself with a convenient Coach and suitable horses” to provide service between Hartford and New York.”  In the same issue, Nicholas declared that he “purposes to have a Stage Coach going from this Place to Boston every Fortnight during the Summer.”  The success of the larger venture depended not only on passengers who made the journey between Boston and New York but also on other customers who paid fares to travel shorter distances.  In their efforts to attract those customers, the Browns marketed their service in several newspapers that circulated in Connecticut even as they sought passengers from beyond New England via notices in the New-York Journal.

June 25

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

New-York Journal (June 25, 1772).

“STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YOK AND BOSTON.”

Two months after they placed an advertisement seeking investors in their stagecoach service in the Connecticut Courant, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown informed readers of the New-York Journal that the “STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YORK AND BOSTON … for the first Time sets out this Day.”  The route took passengers through Connecticut “by Way of Hartford.”  In an advertisement that ran in the Connecticut Journal nine months earlier, Nicholas Brown lamented that “Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces, travelling to Boston … generally go by Water from New-York to Providence,” never passing through towns in Connecticut.  He hoped that reliable stagecoach service would “increase the Intercourse between the two Towns of Hartford and New-Haven as well as connect them to major urban ports.

The Browns did not mention that objective when they sought passengers in New York, though they did note that when the stagecoaches that simultaneously departed from Boston and New York met in Hartford they continued the journey “after staying a Week.”  That meant that travelers had time to conduct business in Connecticut.  As they passed through the colony, the stagecoaches “always put up at Houses on the Road where the best Entertainment is provided.”  The Browns assured prospective passengers that they could expect good food and lodging while traveling between New York and Boston.  They could also “depend on good Usage” by drivers and a “reasonable Rate” for their baggage.

In their efforts to convince prospective passengers to choose their service over alternate routes, the Browns asked “Gentlemen and Ladies … to encourage this useful, new, and expensive Undertaking.”  They did not mean that customers paid high prices, but instead that the enterprise was expensive for the Browns to operate.  They made that clear in previous advertisements seeking investors.  They intended to communicate that their passengers actually got quite a bargain when they chose to travel via stagecoach between New York and Boston.  The Browns hoped customers would agree, stating that they would schedule weekly departures if they “find Encouragement” after the inaugural journey.  After months of planning, they managed a “Trial.”  The success of that trial depended in part on passengers responding to their advertisements.

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.