April 24

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

Providence Gazette (April 24, 1773).

“He has had long Experience in the Practice of Physic and Surgery.”

Shortly after Ebenezer Richmond informed readers of the Providence Gazette that he “proposes to attend to the Practice of Physic and Surgery in this Town” and Thomas Truman renewed his call for “all those who have hitherto neglected to bring in their Accounts against the Estate of Doctor SAMUEL CAREW” and reminded the public that he sold “an Assortment of choice Medicines,” another physician placed an advertisement offering his services.  Daniel Hewes went into much more detail about his “long Experience in the Practice of Physic and Surgery.”

First, he declared that he had a “long Acquaintance with the best of Books, and with the most renowned and worthy People of the same Business.”  Hewes claimed that those colleagues bestowed on him “public Recommendations, and Testimony of Esteem.”  He had the most experience with “curing of Cancers, Falling Sickness, all Kinds of Convulsion, Hysteric and Hypochondriacal Fits, setting of Bones, [and] Midwifery.”  Furthermore, he stated that his “highest Ambition … is to do all the Good he can to his fellow Creatures, and on the most reasonable Terms.”  In other words, he offered medical care at the lowest prices.

Although he claimed extensive experience with midwifery, Hewes stated that he “does not advertise any Design of practising that Branch of Business” because so many “male and female Midwives” already provided those services in the area.  That did not prevent him, however, from offering “to assist all that are engaged therein, who demand his Assistance,” and inserting commentary that promoted his own skill and experience while simultaneously critiquing the practitioners he offered to assist.  Hewes proclaimed that he “has the Vanity to think he can save Multitudes of Lives, by unfolding some plain, safe and easy Methods, which will make the most the most dangerous Case free from all Danger, and prevent almost any Case from becoming dangerous, if seasonably used.”  He asserted that the “Want of Acquaintance with” or ignorance of “the Methods, he fears has occasioned those Deaths and Desolations that have attended Midwifery of late.”  Immediately after alleging that he did not wish to compete with the many practitioners of midwifery in Providence and nearby towns, Hewes presented himself as possessing superior skill and knowledge while playing on anxieties about “Deaths and Desolations” potentially caused by others.

Hewes also shared a gruesome tale from the “early Day of his Practice” when the colonial government in Massachusetts “present[ed] him with the Body of a Negro Malefactor, who was executed for murdering the Wife of Deacon Sanford of Mendon.”  Hewes wired together the bones, “vulgarly called an Anatomy,” and then, he boasted, had a “superior Advantage” in providing medical care, especially “in Bone-setting.”  He advised others “who pretend to set Bones” as well as prospective patients “to learn, by a proper Frame of Bones, how each bone ought to be.”  As an ancillary service, Hewes invited “all those concerned, who have not a Frame of Bones handier, to take a View of his, from Time to Time, Cost-free, except a small Gratuity, to pay the Trouble of Attendance.”  Both his medical practice and this means of generating additional revenue benefited from scrutinizing the remains of a Black man who almost certainly did not consent to having his body put to such use.

As Richmond and Truman competed for patients with their advertisements in the Providence Gazette in the spring of 1773, Hewes placed his own notice that went into even greater detail about his knowledge, skill, and experience “in the Practice of Physic and Surgery.”  The level of detail suggested that he believed prospective patients would be more likely to choose a practitioner who included a significant amount of information in the public prints, not unlike the merchants and shopkeepers who placed lengthy advertisements in their efforts to demonstrate all the different kinds of merchandise and bargains at their stores and shops.  This also gave him an opportunity to undermine his competitors, critiquing both midwives and surgeons “who pretend to set bones,” as well as boast about “the best of Books” and the “Frame of Bones” he consulted to learn how to care for patients.

June 20

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

Jun 20 - 6:18:1770 New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (June 18, 1770).

“She has been approved of by several Gentlemen of the Profession.”

When Mrs. Fisher, a midwife, moved to a new residence in the summer of 1770, she place an advertisement in the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy to let the public know where to find her.  She advised that she “is removed from the House at White-hall, to a House in Broad-Street, two Doors above Mr. Deane’s, Coach-Maker, and right opposite to Mr. Charles Philips’s.”  Although that information was important, Fisher may not have considered her location the most significant detail she included in her advertisement.  After all, she concluded her notice with a description of where to find her, but she first established her experience and other credentials.

Fisher commenced her advertisement by noting that she “has practiced MIDWIFERY in this City for several Years,” a reminder to “former Friends” who availed themselves of her services as well as an introduction to any readers not yet familiar with her reputation.  Yet Fisher realized that her extensive experience might not have been sufficient to convince prospective clients to hire her.  To enhance her standing, especially in the eyes of readers skeptical of women practicing any sort of medicine, even midwifery, Fisher declared that “she has been approved of by several Gentlemen of the Profession.”  Medicine became increasingly professionalized throughout the eighteenth century; in the process, women who had traditionally prepared and administered remedies for various ailments and provided other services, including midwifery, found themselves pushed to the margins, displaced by men who claimed greater expertise based on formal training.  Fisher may not have considered any of those “Gentlemen of the Profession” more capable of delivering children and caring for mothers throughout the process, but her advertisement suggests that she suspected prospective clients would at least feel reassured by an imprint of masculine authority.  In presenting her services to the public for consideration, Fisher conformed to some of the expectations she believed would yield more clients as she faced greater competition from the “Gentlemen of the Profession.”

September 9

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

Sep 9 - 9:9:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (September 9, 1769).

Recommended by the most noted and skilful Professors of Physic and Chirurgery in America.”

A curious advertisement, a testimonial of sorts, appeared in the Providence Gazette in the middle of August 1769 and then continued running for several weeks. In it, Nathaniel Ware of Wrentham, Massachusetts, informed the public had come into possession of “the celebrated Doctor Hugh Bolton’s Method of curing he most inveterate Cancers.” Yet Ware did not promote medical services that he provided. Instead, he reported that his “intimate Acquaintance with Doctor Daniel Hewes, of Mendon, Justice to the Public” had prompted him to pass along Bolton’s “efficacious” cure for cancers as well as “Doctor Bolton’s Specific for curing the Falling Sickness, and other Fits.” Ware also sang Hewes’s praises, proclaiming that he had established a remarkable reputation among his peers. “He is a Gentleman that may be safely confided in,” Ware gushed, “being recommended by the most noted and skilful Professors of Physic and Chirurgery in America, as an ingenious, skilful and successful Physician and Chirurgeon.” In addition to his abilities as physician and surgeon, Hewes was a competent midwife called to attend a “great Number of difficult Cases.” According to Ware, Hewes “has never failed of saving the Womens Lives” and, when summoned in a timely fashion, “the Childrens.” Ware expounded on Hewes’s expertise and experience at great length. Such a notable career spurred Ware to pass along Bolton’s cures “In order that [Hewes] might become universally serviceable to Mankind.”

Ware did not note that he had ever been the beneficiary of Hewes’s care, but he did testify to the reputation that the “skilful and successful Physician and Chirurgeon” had earned among patients and other doctors alike. Although Ware’s endorsement appeared to have been unsolicited by Hewes, the two men most likely coordinated its appearance in the Providence Gazette as a means of directing prospective patients to the physician in Mendon. The printer certainly did not treat Ware’s missive as a public service announcement or general interest story to insert among news items. Instead, it ran with the paid notices, funded by either Ware or Hewes or the two in combination. Hewes could have inserted an advertisement under his own name but may have opted for a testament from a third party as a better means of encouraging trust.

December 27

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 27, 1768).

“Certificates of which, she can produce from the Gentleman whose Lectures she attended.”

When Mrs. Grant arrived in South Carolina in late 1768, she placed an advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to inform colonists in her new home that “she proposed to practise MIDWIFERY.” In introducing herself to the public, she deployed many of the same strategies as her male counterparts, though she also expanded on some of them.

As a newcomer, Grant did not benefit from having a reputation gained from building a clientele over the years. Instead, she needed to offer assurances that she was indeed capable of providing the services she claimed. To that end, she first emphasized her credentials, formal training, and experience. She was qualified to practice midwifery, “having studied that Art regularly, and practised it afterwards with success at EDINBURGH.” When men who provided medical services moved to a new town or city in the colonies and placed advertisements, they usually provided a similar overview. Grant, however, did not expect her prospective clients to trust the word of a stranger when it came to such an important service. In addition to noting her training and experience, she stated that she could produce “Certificates … from the Gentleman whose Lectures she attended, and likewise from the Professors of Anatomy and Practice of Physic” in Edinburgh. Male practitioners rarely offered documentation to confirm their narratives. In an era during which medicine increasingly became professionalized (and, as part of that process, masculine), Grant may have believed that she need to do more in order to level the playing field when competing with male counterparts for clients.

To help establish her reputation, Grant also indicated in a nota bene that she would “assist the Poor, gratis.” Doing so allowed her to demonstrate her skills while simultaneously testifying to her good character and commitment to her new community. She was not alone in offering free services to the poor as a means of introducing herself. Men sometimes did so as well. Still, Grant may have considered it especially imperative as a way of breaking into the market upon arriving as a stranger in Charleston.

November 1

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

Nov 1 - 11:1:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 1, 1768).

“Offers his Attendance gratis, to every Person in Charles-Town, whose Circumstances or Situation demand it.”

When T. Lowder arrived in Charleston and established his own medical practice in 1768, he placed an advertisement to introduce himself to the residents of the city and its environs. Like many other physicians who placed newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century, Lowder first provided his credentials to potential clients who might avail themselves of his services. He indicated that he had worked as “MIDWIFE and APOTHECARY, to St. Peter’s Hospital” in Bristol. Furthermore, he reported that “he has for some Years been largely engaged in” the “Practice of Midwifery.” Although he did not provide the particulars, Lowder stated that he had received “a regular, physical Education.” He hoped that prospective clients would consider it, in combination with “a considerable Degree of Experience,” as “sufficient Qualifications.” He also pledged to exert the “utmost Assiduity” in attending to his patients. As a newcomer to the city, Lowder did not enjoy a local reputation. Until he could establish that he was not “deficient” as a midwife and apothecary, he relied on his credentials to promote his services to prospective clients who otherwise knew little else about him.

To aid in establishing his reputation in the busy port, Lowder “offers his Attendance gratis, to every Person in Charles-Town, whose Circumstances or Situation demand it.” To that end, he reserved three hours each afternoon for consulting with “The Poor” at his office on Church Street. Offering “Advice in all Cases” provided an opportunity to work with local patients who could then testify to his skill and care. Lowder likely hoped that demonstrating his competence in cases that he attended without charge would yield additional clients from among the ranks of residents who could afford to pay his fees. Providing free medical advice to the poor also attested to his character, further enhancing the public relations campaign Lowder launched in an advertisement introducing himself to colonists in Charleston. In case his credentials were not enough to attract clients, his altruism might attract the attention necessary for the newcomer to sustain his practice.