July 13

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

Jul 13 - 7:13:1769 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (July 13, 1769).

“At Mr. JOSEPH SOLOMAN’S … in Lancaster, by the appointment of Mr. HAMILTON, Surgeon Dentist.”

At the same time that advertisements for Mr. Hamilton’s amazing tincture for curing toothaches and other maladies ran in multiple newspapers in New York in July 1769, it also appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette, a newspaper published in Philadelphia with circulation far beyond that city. The copy in the Pennsylvania Gazette matched the New York advertisements almost exactly – including the guarantee of “No CURE No PAY” – except for instructions about where customers could acquire the tincture for themselves. Readers of newspapers printed in New York were directed to “Mrs. Buskirk’s, the corner of Wall-Street, near the Coffe-house,” where they could consult directly with Mr. Hamilton, “Surgeon Dentists and Operator for the Teeth from LONDON.” The variant in the Pennsylvania Gazette, on the other hand, gave directions to local agents in Pennsylvania. Readers could purchase the tincture “at Mrs. [illegible], next door to the Indian Queen, in Fourth-street, Philadelphia; and, at Mr. JOSEPH SOLOMAN’s, in King-street, near the Court-house, in Lancaster.” Purveyors of the tincture in Pennsylvania stocked and sold it “by the appointment of Mr. HAMILTON.”

Inserting advertisements in all of the newspapers published in New York was ambitious on its own, but designating local agents and branching out to yet another newspaper in another colony was even more innovative. In eighteenth-century America, most providers of goods and services confined their marketing efforts to newspapers that served their own city or town. Printers and publishers were an important exception; they frequently placed subscription notices in newspapers throughout the colonies to gauge the market and generate sufficient interest to move forward with printing a book, magazine, or other publication. This involved designating local agents to receive subscriptions, collect payment, and distribute publications after they went to press, but those agents were usually fellow printers who already participated in networks for exchanging newspapers and information. Still, this was a model that need not work for printers exclusively. Hamilton experimented with designating local agents in Philadelphia and Lancaster as a means of enlarging the market for his tincture.

Doing so required prospective customers to place trust in the local agents in addition to Hamilton, especially when it came to the “No CURE No PAY” guarantee. Clients in New York used the tincture under the direction of Hamilton and could appeal to him directly if the medicine did not produce the desired effect. Clients in Philadelphia and Lancaster, in contrast, had to depend on fair dealing by local agents who may not have possessed Hamilton’s experience or expertise. After all, the advertisement described Hamilton as a “Surgeon Dentist,” but did not indicate the occupations of his local agents in Pennsylvania. Other portions of the advertisement may have alleviated some concerns by presenting a portrait of Hamilton’s character. In addition to describing Hamilton’s tincture, the advertisement provided an overview of the services he provided in New York. Hamilton “cleans and beautifies teeth” and “makes and sets in artificial teeth.” He served his clients “with dispatch and secrecy.” The advertisement concluded with a nota bene that depicted Hamilton as a humanitarian: “the poor, afflicted with the tooth-ach, cured gratis, every morning, from 8 to 10 o clock.” Was such information about Hamilton’s practice in New York superfluous in an advertisement placed in the Pennsylvania Gazette? Readers in Philadelphia and, especially, Lancaster were unlikely to travel to New York to have Hamilton clean their teeth or fit them with artificial teeth. The poor were even less likely to make such a journey. Hamilton could have reduced the costs of advertising in the Pennsylvania Gazette if he had eliminated that portion of the advertisement, yet that information was not superfluous. It testified to Hamilton’s competence and professional demeanor, allowing him to cultivate a reputation that might have made faraway readers more inclined to trust his description of his toothache tincture and, in turn, deal with local agents who sold it on his behalf.

July 10

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

Jul 10 - 7:10:1769 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (July 10, 1769).

“No CURE No PAY.”

As part of his marketing efforts, Mr. Hamilton, “Surgeon Dentist and Operator for the Teeth, from LONDON,” offered prospective patients a guarantee: “No CURE No PAY.” If his tincture for toothaches did not yield the desired results by relieving the pain in just a few minutes then clients did not have to pay for Hamilton’s services. Colonial consumers were rightfully suspicious of quack doctors and remedies that seemed too good to be true, so Hamilton made a pitch intended to help prospective patients overcome their skepticism and give his tincture a chance, figuring that they did not lose anything if it did not work.

Given Hamilton’s description of his tincture and its effects, leading with the guarantee was probably a smart move. It did sound too good to be true. In addition to curing toothaches without drawing (or pulling) teeth it also “cures all disorders whatever in the mouth or gums.” For instance, after just a few applications the tincture “will fasten the teeth if ever so loose.” Hamilton also proclaimed that his tincture “will perfectly cure the scurvy in the gums” as well as prevent teeth from rotting, preserve “such as are decayed from becoming worse,” and eliminate “disagreeable smells from the breath.” But wait, there’s more! Hamilton’s amazing tincture did mote than relieve maladies of the mouth. When applied elsewhere, it had the power to “entirely remove all kinds of swellings in the cheek or pain in the ear.” It could cure violent headaches as well as “the most violent rheumatic pains in any part of the body.” Hamilton drew in patients with the promise of relieving toothaches. His guarantee covered only that service, but it opened the door for promoting his tincture for other uses. It very well could have included an ingredient that provided temporarily relief for toothaches, giving Hamilton an opportunity to make a hard sell to patients. For just “One Dollar each,” consumers could purchase Hamilton’s “valuable tincture.” If it relieved toothaches, even if only temporarily, then why not acquire a bottle to experiment with other ailments?

Hamilton went all in with this marketing strategy. In July 1769, he inserted identical advertisements trumpeting “No CURE No PAY” in all the newspapers published in New York, the New-York Chronicle, the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, and the New-York Journal. Colonists who read more than one newspaper could hardly avoid Hamilton’s advertisements. Increased exposure to his promise of “No CURE No PAY” may have also played a role in convincing some prospective patients to give his tincture a try.