June 12

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

Jun 12 - 6:12:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (June 12, 1770).

“A large convenient House … finely situated on the main Street.”

Location!  Location!  Location!  Francis Symonds highlighted the location of the “front Part of a large convenient House” that he offered for sale or rent in the June 12, 1770, edition of the Essex Gazette.  He noted that the property was “finely situated on the main Street in Danvers, within about a Quarter of a Mile of the Rev. Mr. Holt’s Meeting-House.”  Symonds also reported an array of goods and services available in close proximity to the house, inserting a census that was not a standard feature of eighteenth-century real estate notices.  Within a quarter mile, buyers or renters would be “accommodated with a very capable Schoolmistress, a Victualler, a Baker, 2 Merchants, 4 Shopkeepers, 2 Doctors, 1 Surgeon, 3 Carpenters, 2 Masons, 3 Blacksmiths, 3 Potters, 2 Tanners, 2 Curriers, 1 Saw-Mill, 1 Weaver, 2 Tailors, 1 Barber, 1 Chaisemaker, 2 Saddlers, 2 Joiners, 1 Glazier, and 8 Cordwainers.”  In addition, they had access to “a good Grist-Mill within half a Mile.”  Although not nearly as bustling as nearby Boston, the town of Danvers was “so growing, that most of the said Tradesmen have lately set up their Businesses.”  Symonds suggested that buyers or renters would reside in an up-and-coming neighborhood.

While that made daily life more comfortable, it also contributed to the prospects of earning a livelihood in the area, especially for anyone interested in the “Shop on the lower Floor” of the house.  In addition to prospective customers who lived nearby, Symonds declared, “It is thought about three Quarters of the Marketing that goes into the two great Towns of Salem and Marblehead passes by said House.”  Furthermore, the house was “situated within a Mile and an half of Salem Court-House” as well as “near the Bell Inn.”  Anyone who intended to operate a business in the shop would not lack for foot traffic.  Prospective customers passed by on their way to market, court, and a popular tavern.

Unlike others who advertised real estate, Symonds offered only a brief description of the house and land.  He focused primarily on the location and the businesses located nearby, his extensive account of the area conjuring images of a lively neighborhood where residents could readily access services and entrepreneurs could easily engage customers.  Considering that many of the local “Tradesmen have lately set up their Businesses,” he may have considered this necessary to attract buyers or renters unaware of the recent growth in the town of Danvers.

April 13

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

Apr 13 - 4:13:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 13, 1770).

At his Shop next to the Printing Office.”

Throughout the eighteenth century, most residences and businesses did not have standardized street addresses.  City directories as well as trade cards and billheads and other advertising ephemera reveal that some of the largest cities did adopt street numbers in the late 1780s and 1790s, but that practice did not arrive in other cities and towns until the nineteenth century.

Newspaper advertisements featured a variety of means of identifying locations of businesses in eighteenth-century America.  Some simply listed the street, as was the case in the advertisement for garden seeds that John Adams placed in the April 13, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Adams indicated that he sold his wares “In Queen Street, Portsmouth.”  The port town was small enough that Adams may not have needed to list an address of any sort for residents.  However, since the New-Hampshire Gazette was the only newspaper published in the colony and circulated far beyond Portsmouth, Adams may have included his street to aid prospective customers from the countryside who traveled to town or sent orders.

In the same issue, Gillam Butler advertised an assortment of textiles that he sold “At his Shop next to the Printing Office, in the Street that leads from the Parade to the Market and Ferry.”  He deployed two strategies for identifying his location.  Given that he did not frequently place advertisements, Butler may have thought it necessary to give as much information as possible to aid consumers who wished to visit his shop.  He named a landmark and described his location in relation to that landmark: “next to the Printing Office.”  He also provided more extensive information about the street.  In some cases, advertisers named intersecting streets to help readers get their bearings.  In this instance, Butler invoked other aspects of the street by describing other landmarks that it connected: “the Street that leads from the Parade to the Market and Ferry.”  He made it possible for prospective customers to imagine a map of his neighborhood to navigate to his shop.

To some extent, we have reverted to eighteenth-century means of thinking about where businesses are located as GPS systems become more advanced.  The algorithms that produce directions still rely on standardized street addresses, but users do not need to supply them or even be aware of them.  It is now possible to simply enter the name of a business and let the GPS take care of street numbers, landmarks, intersections, and a variety of other data.

March 17

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

Mar 17 - 3:17:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (March 17, 1770).

“Dwelling-House (improved last by Messieurs Jackson and Updike).”

Location!  Location!!  Location!!!  An advertisement in the March 17, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette offered a “House, Lot, and Dwelling-House thereon” for sale.  That real estate notice focused primarily on location and amenities lending themselves to commerce as the means of marketing the lot and buildings.  Currently “in the Occupation of Mr. James Green,” the premises, described as “the best Situation for Trade of any in the Place,” were on “the main Street” of Providence, “opposite Messieurs Joseph and William Russell’s Shop” at the Sign of the Golden Eagle.  With some renovation, the “lower front Part” of the could be “wholly made into a Shop” of generous proportions.  That same advertisement offered another “commodious Shop and Store” for sale “at a small Distance from said Dwelling-House.”  Green had “built and improved” the shop and adjoining warehouse, ultimately constructing “the most convenient Shop for a large Trader of any in the Town.”

The advertisement did not offer further description of the houses and shops offered for sale.  Although the “commodious Shop and Store” may have been the best option for “a large Trader” in 1770, the Russells had their own ideas for erecting a dwelling that testified to their stature among the city’s mercantile elite.  In 1772, Joseph Russell and William Russell built what the Providence Preservation Society now describes as the “earliest extant and most impressive of the cubical, three-story houses that symbolized wealth and social standing for several generations beginning at the eve of the American Revolution.”  The principal entrance, a segmented-arch portico with Corinthian pilasters, came from an English architectural pattern book, the Builder’s Compleat Assistant published in London in 1750.  Nearly two centuries after it was constructed, the Joseph and William Russell House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, but only after its interiors had been removed in the 1920s and installed in museums in Brooklyn, Denver, and Milwaukee.

July 22

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

Jul 22 - 7:22:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (July 22, 1769).

“Private LODGINGS … very convenient for those who use the Stage-Boats.”

Location! Location! Location!!! In the summer of 1769, Mary Westrand took to the pages of the Providence Gazette to announce that she provided “Private LODGINGS” at the Sign of the Green Ball. Westrand did not elaborate on the accommodations or the amenities guests could expect to enjoy while in residence. Instead, she made location the primary selling point for choosing her establishment. She advised prospective guests that the lodgings were “very convenient for those who use the Stage-Boats.” In so doing, she linked her business to services provided by others, the stageboats that regularly sailed between Providence and Newport.

Those stageboats transported both passengers and freight. Stageboat operators advertised that they maintained convenient store[s] for depositing such Goods as may be sent … for Transportation,” but lodgings for passengers were beyond their purview. Westrand sought to take advantage of the fact that the gentlemen and ladies who sailed between Providence and Newport likely needed lodgings at some point in their journey. She attempted to tap into an established clientele that required additional services.

Westrand suggested that her location near the stageboat wharfs made her lodgings ideal for passengers. Merchants and others who traveled with goods could remain in close proximity to the storehouses, allowing relatively easy access after overseeing loading or unloading. No passenger needed to wander too far into the city in search of lodgings when they arrived, nor worry about staying so far away that they might miss their stageboat when it departed. Gentlemen and ladies did not have to transport personal baggage very far between the stageboat wharfs and their “Private LODGINGS” at the Sign of the Green Ball.

Westrand identified passengers who sailed on stageboats between Providence and Newport as a constituency who likely had particular need of her services. To that end, she emphasized her “very convenient” location in her advertisement, but did not offer further description of the accommodations she provided for travelers beyond noting that they were “Private.” She opted for a different marketing strategy than most advertisers who provided lodgings for travelers in the 1760s. Their advertisements often described the amenities in great detail as a means of enticing prospective guests to stay with them. Westrand gambled that emphasizing her location would attract guests and provide sufficient return on the investment she made in placing an advertisement in the Providence Gazette.

January 27

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

New-London Gazette (January 27, 1769).

“At the Shop in Beach-Street, (lately improved by Winthrop and Roswell Saltonstall.)”

Like many other merchants and shopkeepers throughout the colonies, Winthrop Saltonstall made an appeal to consumer choice when he composed an advertisement for a “General Assortment of Ship Chandlery and Iron Monger’s Ware.” He did not merely state that he had an extensive inventory, but instead supplied a list that enumerated dozens of items. Among his wares, customers could purchase “Nails of all Sizes,” “Carpenter’s and Cooper’s Compasses,” and “long and short handled Frying Pans and Iron Tea Kettles.” For some categories of merchandise, he further underscored the range of choice: “Variety of Time and other Glasses,” “Augers various Sizes,” and “Variety Chest, Door, Cupboards and Padlocks.” He concluded with both “&c. &c. &c.” (the eighteenth-century rendition of “etc. etc. etc.) and “With a Variety of Goods,” combining two standard turns of phrase that customarily appeared separately in newspaper advertisements. Saltonstall encouraged prospective customers to image a vast array of goods available ay his shop; in so doing, he suggested that he could cater to their specific needs and tastes.

Yet consumer choice was not the only marketing strategy that Saltonstall deployed. He also made appeals to price and location, though more briefly. He asserted that he sold his wares “on the most reasonable Terms.” He also informed readers of the New-London Gazette that his “Shop in Beach-Street” had been “lately improved by Winthrop and Roswell Saltonstall.” He did not elaborate on what kinds of upgrades he and a partner had undertaken, but merely mentioning that they had made changes to the venue served multiple purposes. It alerted prospective customers that Saltonstall attended to their comfort and convenience while shopping. It also enticed readers, especially former customers, to visit the store out of curiosity, to see the improvements even if they did not intend to make any purchases. Such excursions could yield unanticipated sales or prime future purchases. Although Saltonstall’s comments about his venue were brief, they demonstrated a rudimentary understanding of shopping as an experience rather than a chore and the significance customers placed on location.

June 17

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

Jun 17 - 6:17:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 17, 1768).

“A new Shop … near Swing or Liberty Bridge.”

When Zechariah Beal, a cobbler, set up shop in a new location he placed an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform “his Customers and others, that he has Removed from Queen Street, to a new Shop, almost adjoining to that of Mr. John Noble’s Barber, near Swing or Liberty Bridge, not far from the Long-Wharfe in Portsmouth.” Beal advertised in an era before American cities and towns adopted standardized street numbers, though some of the largest American cities would do so in the final decade of the eighteenth century.

In the absence of street numbers, Beal and other colonists relied on a variety of landmarks to establish locations and give directions. Sometimes these instructions were short, simply referencing the name of the street. In other cases, they were quite lengthy (and even rather convoluted from the perspective of modern readers accustomed to precise street numbers designating the locations of homes and businesses), as was the case when Beal listed his new location in his advertisement.

Among the landmarks he invoked, Beal noted that his new shop was “near Swing or Liberty Bridge.” This description reveals that colonists in Portsmouth were in the midst of reconceptualizing the meaning they attributed to a local landmark. On January 6, 1766, the Sons of Liberty had paraded an effigy of George Grenville around Portsmouth in protest of the Stamp Act. They burned the effigy of the prime minister and, like several other cities and towns in the colonies, erected a liberty pole that flew a flag that read “LIBERTY, PROPERTY, and NO STAMPS,” according to an account that appeared in the January 20, 1766, edition of the Boston Evening-Post. That same account reported that the pole and flag were “now fixed near LIBERTY-BRIDGE.”

Some advertisers in Portsmouth quickly adopted the name, indicating that they and other colonists continued to commemorate the protest by associating new significance with the Swing Bridge that predated the protest. Yet this process was not universal among those who resided in the area. The bridge now had two names, “Swing or Liberty Bridge,” among the inhabitants of Portsmouth. An older way of describing the urban landscape did not disappear just because some colonists now preferred a new designation for one landmark. Even those who supported protests against the Stamp Act and, more recently in the summer of 1768, the Townshend Act likely discovered that they sometimes had to consciously correct themselves when it came to associating names with political significance with landmarks previously known as something else. In Portsmouth, that meant that one landmark simultaneously had two names, “Swing or Liberty Bridge,” as colonists collectively reconceptualized their descriptions of their environs.

June 6

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

Jun 6 - 6:6:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post- Boy (June 6, 1768).

“His House is very well calculated for an Inn.”

When Josiah F. Davenport opened an inn on Third Street in Philadelphia, he advertised in newspapers published in both Philadelphia and New York. Doing so made sense since he billed “the Bunch of Grapes” as “a genteel House of Entertainment, for Travellers and others, who may depend on the best Fare and civilest Treatment.” Davenport positioned his tavern and inn as a destination not only for visitors to the city but also for local residents “who may have Occasion to meet on Business or Recreation.” In addition to the “best Liquors” and the “elegant and spacious” accommodations for guests, Davenport also promoted the location. He proclaimed that Third Street “is becoming one of the grandest Avenues into this City.” The Bunch of Grapes “stands in the Neighbourhood of many principal Merchants and capital Stores.” Furthermore, it was also located “very near the Market.” Visitors traveling to Philadelphia on business could lodge in an establishment close to their associates, one that also happened to be in a swank neighborhood. Local patrons could also take advantage of the convenient location for conducting business or enjoying the various entertainments at the Bunch of Grapes.

Jun 6 - 6:6:1768 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (June 6, 1768).

Davenport submitted identical copy to the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy and the Pennsylvania Chronicle (but the compositors for each made their own decisions about capitalization and italics throughout the advertisement). He also adorned the notice in the Chronicle with a woodcut depicting the sign that marked his establishment, a bunch of grapes suspended from a signpost. He acknowledged that the “large and commodious Inn” he now operated had been “for some time known by the Name of the Bull’s Head.” However, it was now known as the Bunch of Grapes under the management of the new proprietor. The new sign and an image in one of the city’s newspapers helped to cement the switch in branding for the inn. This was especially important considering that the Bull’s Head had established its own reputation for operating at that location.

Davenport realized that the success of the Bunch of Grapes depended on attracting a mixture of customers, both residents of Philadelphia who patronized his “House of Entertainment” for an afternoon or evening and visitors from other places who spent one or more nights. Accordingly, he highlighted a variety of amenities and, especially, the location of the inn in newspapers published in more than one city. Through his marketing efforts, he encouraged travelers to think of the Bunch of Grapes, rather than Philadelphia, as their destination.

March 24

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

Mar 24 - 3:24:1768 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (March 24, 1768).

“Work will be taken in either at said Shop, or by Edward Wentworth, at Milton Bridge.”

In the early spring on 1768, Theophilus Chamberlain, a clothier, turned to the public prints to announce that he “HAS opened Shop near the Sign of the White-Horse in BOSTON.” Like many other artisans in the garment trades, he promoted both his skill and his prices, pledging that he did “the Clothier’s Business in the best and cheapest Manner.” Perhaps realizing that this did not sufficiently distinguish him from his competitors, Chamberlain supplemented those appeals by offering prospective customers a choice for dropping off and picking up textiles and garments. In a nota bene, he advised that “Work will be taken in either at said Shop, or by Edward Wentworth, at Milton Bridge; and may be had again at either Place as the Owner may choose.” By extending these options, the clothier marketed convenience to his clients. He acknowledged that his location might be attractive to some, but out of the way for others. In an effort to increase his clientele he made arrangements to serve them at two locations.

The typography of the advertisement highlighted the additional appeal made in the nota bene, placing special emphasis on the convenience that Chamberlain provided that his competitors did not. While the graphic design of the advertisement – indenting the entire nota bene so the additional white space on a page of dense text drew more attention to it – likely drew more eyes, it does not appear that Chamberlain made particular arrangements concerning the format of the advertisement. The advertisement immediately below it also featured a short nota bene and identical decisions concerning the layout.

Chamberlain carefully crafted the copy for his advertisement to entice readers of the Massachusetts Gazette to hire him to dress their textiles and garments, finishing them so as to give a nap, smooth surface, or gloss, depending on the fabric. He underscored price, his skill, and, especially, the convenience of multiple locations. Fortuitously for Chamberlain, the typography of the advertisement amplified the most unique of his appeals. Some of the innovation of his advertisement was intentional, but other aspects that also worked to his benefit seem to have been merely circumstantial since they depended on decisions made by the compositor independently of the advertiser.

March 5

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

Mar 5 - 3:5:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (March 5, 1768).

“All persons … will not repent coming so far down town.”

Location! Location!! Location!!! Today many businesses promote the convenience associated with their location, but an awareness of the potential effect of location on the success of a business goes back to the colonial era. James Brown and Benoni Pearce, for instance, promoted their shops “On the West Side of the Great-Bridge” in Providence by advising that “their Customers coming from the Westward, may save both Time and Shoe-Leather” by visiting their establishments rather than crossing to the other side of the river to browse the wares sold by merchants and shopkeepers there.

Other entrepreneurs, however, admitted that their location might present certain disadvantages if potential customers considered them too far out of the way. In his advertisement in the March 5, 1768, edition of the Providence Gazette, Nicholas Cooke announced that he sold “a Quantity of Dry Goods” at his shop “At the lower End of the Town.” Cooke realized that being situated at the outskirts of town was not an ideal location. Attracting customers required making alternate marketing appeals, such as emphasizing consumer choice. In addition to highlighting his “Quantity of Dry Goods,” Cooke also deployed the word “assortment” to describe certain categories of merchandise: “An assortment of Irish linen, checks and stripes” and “a large and neat assortment of glass, stone and earthen ware.” He had so many of those housewares that he proclaimed his inventory was “too large to enumerate.” In addition, he also stocked “many other articles” sure to delight shoppers.

To further justify making the trip to “the lower End of the Town,” Cooke also explained that he offered prices that his competitors could not beat. He stated that because he “imported the above goods directly from England” that he “can afford them as cheap as can be sold by any in this place.” He promised customers a bargain, assuring them that they “will not repent coming so far down town.” Brown and Pearce also attempted to convince certain prospective customers to venture beyond the nearest shops. Those who resided “on the other Side” of the Great Bridge would not “save both Time and Shoe-Leather” by visiting their shops, but they would be “well paid for crossing the Pavements, and be kindly received and well used.”

Eighteenth-century shopkeepers sometimes promoted their location when doing so worked to their advantage, but they did not neglect to acknowledge when they were located in a spot that consumers might not consider ideal. In such instances, they attempted to convince prospective customers that a variety of other benefits outweighed the inconvenience of traveling farther to their shops.

July 28

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

Jul 28 - 7:28:1766 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (July 28, 1766).

“Daniel Jones INFORMS his Customers and others … that he has Removed … to a Corner Shop.”

Like many shopkeepers and other advertisers, Daniel Jones used his advertisements to communicate with different groups of readers: “his Customers and others,” those who had previously purchased his wares and those that he hoped to entice to visit his shop as new patrons.

In order for customers of all sorts to buy his merchandise, they first needed to know where to find Jones. He opened his advertisement by announcing that he had recently moved “to a Corner Shop” (a location that likely increased the foot traffic moving past his door and window). In an age before standardized street numbers, he listed his location as “the Easterly side of Newbury-Street,” sufficient directions to find the shop. To further aid former customers familiar with his previous location, however, he added that his new shop was “situated about three Rods to the Southward of that he Removed from.”

Such directions may have also been helpful to readers who had not previously made purchases from Jones. Even if they had not visited his shop, many likely knew where it was (or had been). Boston was, after all, a fairly compact city despite being a busy port. Customers who had not been to the Jones’s previous location may have also been intrigued to check out his “Corner Shop (which was lately improved by Capt. John Smith).” Even if the list of goods for sale did not draw them in, curious readers may have wanted to check out what kinds of improvements had been made to the shop itself.

In addition, Jones also addressed readers “both in Town and Country.” For former customers who lived outside Boston yet visited his shop when they came into town, an announcement about the new location and where it was located relative to his previous establishment was imperative. Jones did not want to risk disrupting his relationship with existing customers by having them arrive at a location he no longer maintained and not know how to find him. Especially if another shopkeeper set up business in Jones’ former location, he wanted former customers to know that he still kept shop in the same neighborhood.