November 4

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

Pennsylvania Journal (November 1, 1770).

“His house is extremely well calculated for the accommodation of GRAND and SHERIFF’S JURIES.”

Josiah F. Davenport operated an inn and tavern, the Bunch of Grapes, in Philadelphia in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  He occasionally placed newspaper advertisements, both in that in city and in New York to attract the attention of travelers who planned to visit for business or pleasure.  When he commenced operations, Davenport focused on the amenities in his marketing efforts.  He promoted the quality of the neighborhood, the food and drink served at the inn, the convenient stables, and the customer service extended to all guests.  His advertisements often included a woodcut depicting a bunch of grapes, a logo that supplemented his branding efforts.

In an advertisement in the November 1, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal, Davenport deployed another marketing strategy.  Rather than entice individual visitors, he invited groups to make use of his facilities.  The innkeeper proclaimed that “his house is extremely well calculated for the accommodation of GRAND and SHERIFF’S JURIES.”  Davenport suggested that he had already established a foothold in that market, asserting that such juries had “honoured him with their commands for two years past.”  Based on when his advertisements indicate he began operations, Davenport had been serving those patrons almost from the start even if he did not incorporate that part of his business model into his advertisements until the fall of 1770.

For all of his customers, the innkeeper pledged “his constant and unwearied attention to give them satisfaction” and promised that he “furnish[ed] himself with everything necessary for that purpose.”  He hoped that such hospitality would attract the attention of colonists planning meetings, realizing that providing accommodations for groups generated greater revenues than working solely with individual patrons.  Davenport likely figured that guests who stayed there on business would choose his house of entertainment over competitors on other occasions.  That juries would select the Bunch of Grapes also enhanced the establishment’s reputation.  Before the hospitality industry became the distinct segment of the economy that it is today, Davenport identified the benefits of promoting his inn and tavern as an attractive location for meetings and events.

November 21

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

Nov 21 - 11:21:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (November 21, 1769).

“Meet at the King’s-Arms Tavern in Salem.”

The King’s Arms Tavern in Salem was more than just a place for colonists to eat, drink, and socialize. It was also a place for men to gather to conduct business of various sorts, sometimes mercantile but other times political.   Two advertisements in the November 21, 1769, edition of the Essex Gazette called on colonists to attend meetings at the King’s Arms Tavern.

The first concerned a meeting to be held that day. Dated November 13, it originally ran in the previous issue, giving a week’s notice about a meeting for the “Gentlemen of the Committees, chosen by the Towns of Salem, Marblehead and Gloucester, on the Affair of the Fishermen, paying to Greenwich Hospital.” This matter concerned “allowances” of six pence a month that according to laws passed by Parliament in the early eighteenth century seamen were expected to pay to support the Greenwich Hospital in England. Since that institution provided for the widows and children of seamen, Parliament deemed it only fair that seamen should provide the funds for its operation. It was sometimes possible, however, to receive exemptions.[1] For the maritime communities of Salem, Marblehead, and Gloucester, this represented an important political issue, one that predated the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts, and other legislation passed by Parliament after the Seven Years War,

The second advertisement announcing a meeting at the King’s Arms Tavern gave only one day’s notice. It informed the “Merchants and Traders of this Town, who are Importers of British Manufactures, &c. from Great Britain” of a gathering at the tavern in the evening of the following day. Presumably this meeting concerned nonimportation agreements enacted in protest of the duties imposed on paper, glass, tea, and other goods imported from Britain.

Both of these meetings had political overtones, indicating that colonists gathered at the King’s Arms Tavern, like so many other taverns in colonial America, to practice politics. Taverns were not establishments devoted solely to entertainment. Instead, they were places for exchanging information and formulating plans to take political action. As the events that led to the American Revolution unfolded, meetings in taverns played a significant role, rivaling those gatherings held in colonial assemblies. Power emanated from both venues, not just the one with elected representatives.

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[1] Allyn B. Forbes, “Greenwich Hospital Money,” New England Quarterly 3, no. 3 (July 1930): 519-526.