What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He has engaged Two exceeding good Workmen.”
While eighteenth-century artisans frequently promoted their own training and other credentials, relatively few devoted space in their newspaper advertisements to acknowledging the skill and experience of subordinates who worked in their shops. William Faris, a clock- and watchmaker in Annapolis, however, incorporated several employees into the advertisement he placed in the February 22, 1770, edition of the Maryland Gazette. Indeed, he said little about his own contributions to the business in favor of convincing prospective customers that he hired skilled artisans capable of executing their orders.
Faris opened his advertisement by announcing that “he has engaged Two exceeding good Workmen.” He noted that one “has been a Finisher several Years to the celebrated Mr. Allen,” expecting that name to resonate with consumers familiar with clock- and watchmakers. Faris leveraged the reputation of another artisan, perhaps even a competitor, to enhance the standing of his own business. Having competent workmen in the shop allowed Faris to branch out. He informed prospective customers that he also “executes any Orders he may be favoured with for Chair Work,” an endeavor made possible by hiring “a good Workman” who has produced “several Dozens of very neat black Walnut Chairs.”
In the midst of acquainting the public with his skilled staff, Faris also noted, though briefly, that “he still carries on” activities closely aligned with making clocks and watches. He pursued the “Gold, Silversmiths and Jewellers Businesses,” doing that work “in the neatest and Best Manner.” His own skill and experience made him qualified to assess the abilities of the workmen he employed. By listing the several tradesmen who worked alongside him, Faris conjured images of a busy and bustling shop, one where customers could depend on the proprietor having sufficient assistance to see to their orders “faithfully” and “with the utmost Dispatch.” At the same time, Faris assured them that they did not have to worry about inferior work undertaken by those he employed. He vouched for their skill and experience. Many colonial artisans disguised labor done by others in their shops when they advertised, but Faris sought to mobilize his workmen to his advantage when wooing prospective customers.