January 22

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

Connecticut Journal (January 22, 1773).

“By Reason of an ill State of Health, and other Misfortunes, he has been for some Time unable to attend his Business.”

Joseph Hopkins, a goldsmith and jeweler in Waterbury, took to the pages of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy to raise interest in his business in January 1773. He pledged that he “will supply those who may want any Articles in either the Goldsmith or Jewelry Way, on the most reasonable Terms.”  Such appeals, however, were not the primary focus of his advertisement.

Instead, Hopkins sought to generate sympathy among prospective customers.  He reported that he reopened his shop after having been closed, stating that “by Reason of an ill State of Health, and other Misfortunes, he has been for some Time unable to attend his Business.”  The goldsmith did not go into detail about any of those “Misfortunes,” though some readers may have already been familiar with his situation.  He did declare that he “has of late, in some good Measure recovered his Health” and was ready to serve clients once again.

Hopkins offered other news to entice readers into his shop.  He announced that he “engaged an approved Workman,” presumably someone with training and experience as either a goldsmith or jeweler, to provide assistance.  He likely hoped that employing an associate would help alleviate any concerns about what kinds of service customers would experience now that his shop opened again.  Yet Hopkins did not want the public to have the mistaken impression that he merely entrusted orders to his new assistance.  He asserted that he gave “constant Attendance himself.”

In his efforts to attract customers to his shop, Hopkins balanced pleas for sympathy with assurances of competence.  He hoped that recovering from poor health and other unspecified “Misfortunes” would prompt prospective customers to give him their business, but he also realized that sympathy alone might not win them over.  Accordingly, he maintained that both he and his new assistant were qualified to produce “any Articles in either the Goldsmith or Jewelry Way” for customers who gave his shop a chance.

January 4

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

Connecticut Journal (January 4, 1770).

“Stop the Felons!”

Although colonial newspapers carried stories about a variety of events, much of the crime reporting appeared among the advertisements.  Rather than printers, editors, and others affiliated with newspapers writing those accounts or selecting them to reprint from publication to another, the victims of crimes composed the narratives and paid to insert them in the public prints.  This was especially true in instances of theft.

Consider a burglary that took place in late December in 1770.  Joseph Hopkins, a goldsmith, placed an advertisement in the January 4, 1771, edition of the Connecticut Journal.  The dramatic headline proclaimed, “Stop the Felons!”  Hopkins explained that his shop “was broke up” sometime during the night of December 27.  The “Felons” stole “sundry Pair of Stone Ear Rings, one Pair Stone Buttons, one Pair Gold [Buttons], and one Gold Ring.”  The thieves also took some cash and “likely some other Articles of Goldsmith’s Ware.”  Hopkins identified a suspect, Richard Steele, though he did not venture a guess about Steele’s partner.  The goldsmith imagined that Steele was the culprit because he had been “lately punished for breaking open Mr. Marks’s House in Derby.”  According to Hopkins, Steele bore the marks of having been punished for that crime and possibly others.  He had “both Ears crop’d” in addition to being “branded twice in the Forehead.”  The goldsmith offered a reward for apprehending either Steele or his accomplice.

The same day that Hopkins advertisement first ran in the Connecticut Journal, another advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette also reported a crime.  “THIEVES,” the headline alerted readers, before listing a variety of items stolen from Isaac Hill’s shop in Dover on December 14.  Hill did not name any suspects, but he did offer a reward to “Whoever will discover” them “so that they may be brought to Justice.”  Not every issue of every colonial newspaper carried similar advertisements, but they were so common that they did not seem out of place when readers encountered them.  The victims of crimes, especially thefts, played an important role in producing newspaper coverage.  As a result, their advertisements often reported news, supplementing the articles and editorials that appeared elsewhere in newspapers.