What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“THE STAGE-COACH Between NEW-YORK and BOSTON.”
In the early 1770s, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown placed advertisements seeking “encouragement” for stagecoach service they wished to establish between Boston and New York. In addition to calling on the public to support them by traveling on their stagecoaches, the Browns sought investors “willing to become adventurers … in said undertaking.” They outlined the various benefits of this service, including increasing commerce in the Connecticut as colonizers traveled through the province instead of bypassing it by sailing from New York to Providence and then continuing overland to Boston.
When summer arrived, the Browns launched the service on a trial basis. They initially placed an advertisement in the June 25 edition of the New-York Journal to announce that the “STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YORK AND BOSTON … for the first Time sets out this Day.” In the following days, they placed additional advertisements in the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, and the Connecticut Journal, published in New Haven. On July 6, their advertisement from the New-York Journal appeared in the Boston Evening-Post, alerting the public at that end of the line that the stagecoach paused in Hartford for a week and would arrive in Boston on July 11. The Browns planned for the next trip to depart on July 11, so prospective passengers had nearly a week to make plans if they wished to travel at that time. If demand warranted, the operators intended to “perform the Stage once a Week.”
The advertisement in the Boston Evening-Post included one element not included in the New-York Journal. A woodcut depicting horses, a driver, and a stagecoach with a passenger visible inside appeared at the top of the advertisement. That helped to draw attention to their notice by distinguishing it from others, especially since it was the only advertisement in that issue that incorporated an image (though Jolley Allen’s notice on the following page did feature his trademark border).
In hopes that their “Trial” would find sufficient “Encouragement” to establish a permanent route that ran once a week, the Browns placed advertisements in several newspapers along their route. They did not, however, advertise as extensively as possible, perhaps due to budgetary constraints. They could have flooded the market with advertising, placing notices in both newspapers printed in New York, all five in Boston, and even any in Philadelphia for prospective passengers who planned to travel north. Perhaps they wished to assess the return on their investment for their initial round of advertising before expanding to additional publications.