What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Said HILLER has to sell, a Variety of Watch Chains, Strings, Keyes, Seals.”
When Joseph Hiller, a clock- and watchmaker, set up shop in a new location, he inserted an advertisement in the Essex Gazette to alert “the Public and his Customers in general, and those of them in the County of ESSEX in particular.” Hiller had not only moved to a new location, he also moved to a new town. He explained that he formerly operated a shop on King Street in Boston, but now customers could find him at “a Shop opposite the Court-House, on the Exchange, in SALEM.” He hoped to retain those customers that he could, especially those who resided close to his new location, but he also aimed to attract new clients in Salem and its environs who may not have been previously inclined to seek out his services in Boston but would now consider his shop a viable option given its proximity.
To that end, he proclaimed that he would “execute all Sorts of CLOCK and WATCH WORK with such Accuracy, Fidelity and Dispatch, as to merit the Approbation of his Employers.” Previous customers were already familiar with Hiller’s skill and service, so that portion of the advertisement served as an introduction to those who had not previously hired him. He deployed appeals that artisans commonly incorporated into their advertisements, “Accuracy” testifying to the quality of his work and “Fidelity and Dispatch” applying to the customer service he provided. While Hiller’s advertisement was not particularly innovative, it did demonstrate that he was competent, at least in how he represented his business in print. Prospective clients could test those claims for themselves.
In an additional effort to entice customers into his new shop, Hiller appended a nota bene advising that he did more than make and repair clocks and watches. He also carried a variety of accessories associated with his business: “Watch Chains, Strings, Keys, Seals.” Selling these items supplemented the revenues that Hiller earned from his primary occupation; purchasing them allowed consumers to express their own tastes in embellishing their clocks and watches. That Hiller made them available at all may have aroused the curiosity of prospective customers, encouraging them to visit his new shop to examine the accessories even if they did not wish to purchase a clock or watch or arrange for repairs. As a newcomer in Salem, Hiller offered various reasons for consumers to make a call at his shop.