What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Those who live remote shall have their Orders as faithfully complied with as if present themselves.”
Apothecaries Nathanael Dabney and Philip Godfrid Kast competed for customers. Each placed an advertisement in the June 18, 1771, edition of the Essex Gazette, inviting prospective customers to their shops in Salem. Making the choice between the two apothecaries even more visible to readers, their advertisements appeared one after the other. Kast, the more experienced advertiser, placed the longer notice. It extended more than a column, extensively listing the items in stock at the Sign of the Lion and Mortar. Kast also included blurbs about patent medicines, some of them more familiar to consumers than others, such as “Dr. Hill’s Pectoral Balsam of Honey,” “Dr. Robert James’s Powder for Fevers,” “Dr Stoughton’s great Cordial Elixir for the Stomach,” and “Dr. Scott’s Powder for the Teeth.” Dabney, on the other hand, provided a shorter list of his inventory, but also promising “every Article in the Apothecary’s Way.” He aimed to make himself competitive with Kast.
Both apothecaries sought clients in Salem and beyond, inviting readers unable to visit their shops to submit orders. Dabney and Kast each pledged not to favor customers who visited their shops over those who did not. “Those who live remote,” Dabney proclaimed, “shall have their Orders as faithfully complied with as if present themselves.” Kast deployed similar language in a nota bene that concluded his advertisement: “Those who will send their Orders shall be as well used as if present themselves.” That included both consumers and “Practitioners … in Town and Country.” The apothecaries described an eighteenth-century version of mail order for “DRUGS and MEDICINES,” an effort to enhance their sales and increase their revenues by offering a convenience to their customers. Some prospective clients may have found Kast’s advertisement the more alluring of the two. In addition to a longer list of merchandise, the blurbs about various patent medicines served as suggestions for distant customers unable to consult with the apothecary in person. Furthermore, Kast trumpeted that he sold his wares “as reasonable, and on as good Credit, as can be purchased in Boston.” The apothecary no doubt sought to engage every reader, but especially prospective customers outside of Salem who might have been likely to look to Boston, the larger port, for better bargains when resorting to sending orders from a distance.
Dabney and Kast promoted the assortment of medicines they carried and pledged good customer service, but Kast further embellished his marketing efforts by comparing his prices to those in Boston and by providing descriptions of certain patent medicines to help prospective customers make their choices. For instance, Kast declared that Stoughton’s Cordial “is as necessary for all Seamen or Travellers, and others, to take with them as their daily Food.” That level of detail required purchasing additional space in the Essex Gazette, but Kast may have determined it was well worth the expense if it drummed up additional business.