September 14

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 14, 1770).

Cash given for POT-ASH … at which Place is sold various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS.”

James McMasters did not have a single purpose for the advertisement he placed in the September 14, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Instead, he sought to accomplish multiple goals.  His advertisement commenced and concluded with short messages calling on readers to supply commodities that McMasters was interested in acquiring.  “Cash given for POT-ASH” read the headline.  A nota bene also promised “The highest Price for good FLAX SEED” at McMasters’s store.  Nestled between the headline calling for potash and the nota bene seeking flax seed, the middle portion of the advertisement offered goods for sale.  McMasters declared that he sold “various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS” at his store on Wallingford’s Wharf.  He was especially interested in dealing with retailers who would buy in bulk, promising prices “at so low a Rate as may induce Shopkeepers and Country Traders to purchase.”  McMasters anticipated that others would distribute those goods to consumers in Portsmouth and throughout the colony.

Advertisements with multiple purposes frequently appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette and other eighteenth-century newspapers.  Sometimes the various goals were more closely aligned than others.  Advertisers on occasion, for instance, inserted real estate notices that described buildings, land, and other amenities in great detail before concluding with a brief nota bene about consumer goods for sale or services offered.  In McMasters’s case, the entire advertisement focused on buying and selling.  By alternating between the two, his advertisement conjured images of items moving in and out of his store.  This gave the impression that the store was a busy site for commercial transactions while simultaneously testifying to McMasters’s skills as an entrepreneur who balanced the acquisition of commodities and sales of consumer goods.  McMasters could have placed more than one advertisement, each with its own purpose, but combining them together into one notice better represented the scope of his business interests and commercial savvy.

September 7

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

Sep 7 - 9:7:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (September 7, 1770).

“MANTU-MAKER, FROM BOSTON.”

Over the past few days the Adverts 250 Project has examined the manner in which purveyors of goods and services in the colonies incorporated their origins into their advertisements as part of their marketing campaigns.  We began with James Yeoman, a clock- and watchmaker “FROM LONDON,” who sought to convince readers of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury that his skills eclipsed those of competitors who had not trained or worked in the largest city in the empire.  Next we looked at George Lafong, a “French HAIR-DRESSER,” who informed the ladies and gentlemen of Williamsburg, Virginia, that he styled hair “in the cheapest manner, & TOUT A LA MODE” (all in fashion).  Injecting a few words of French into his advertisement in William Rind’s Virginia Gazette underscored the gentility and cachet associated with hiring a hairdresser from France.

Today we consider the advertisement that Lucy Fessenden inserted into the September 7, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  She introduced herself as a mantuamaker “FROM BOSTON,” asserting that she pursued her craft “in the newest and most genteel Mode.”  While Yeoman and Lafong’s advertisements testified to migration across the Atlantic, Fessenden’s notice indicated migration within the colonies.  In both instances, advertisers sought to use their origins to their advantage.  Artisans as well as tailors, milliners, and others in the garments trade, including mantuamakers like Fessenden, frequently noted that they formerly lived and worked in some of the largest port cities when they relocated to smaller towns and advertised their services.  Perceptions of skill and associations with gentility seemed to operate on a sliding scale.  Residents of Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia looked to London and other places on the far side of the Atlantic as models.  Residents of smaller towns did as well, but they also recognized the major ports in the colonies as locations that merited notice.  Unable to make a direct connection to London, Fessenden instead leveraged her time in Boston to suggest her familiarity with “the newest and most genteel Mode” and her ability to deliver on it “with Fidelity and Dispatch.”

August 31

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

Aug 31 - 8:31:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 31, 1770).

“Watches will be well repaired, Clocks put in good Order.”

It was the first advertisement that watchmaker Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith placed in the New-Hampshire Gazette in more than two months.  On the last day of August 1770, he inserted a brief notice stating that he “HEREBY informs the Public, that he has removed to s Shop between the two Taverns, Foss and Tiltons, where Watches will be well repaired, Clocks put in good Order, in the best Manner.”  Griffith struck a different tone in this advertisement than the last one he published.  Previously, he devoted a much longer advertisement to insulting competitor and rival watchmaker John Simnet, who was “as great a Watch-Maker as he is a Mountebank,” according to Griffith.  In turn, Simnet placed a trio of advertisements that pilloried Griffith.  Those notices went unanswered.

Griffith did not return to the public prints while Simnet remained in New Hampshire.  Perhaps he knew that his cantankerous rival planned to call it quits in Portsmouth and relocate to New York.  If that was the case, Griffith may not have considered it worth his effort to prolong a feud with a competitor who was headed out of town, even one who had been as abusive as Simnet had been during the eighteen months that he worked in New Hampshire and placed advertisements in the local newspaper.  Indeed, Simnet began advertising in the New-York Journal a week before Griffith once again placed a notice in the New-Hampshire Gazette.

For Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, this meant less revenue generated from advertisements related to the conflict between Griffith and Simnet.  It also meant that they lost content that previously helped fill the pages and quite likely entertained readers who enjoyed watching the altercation between the watchmakers.  The last time Griffith and Simnet placed advertisements in the same edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, they conveniently appeared one after the other in order to better craft a narrative for readers.  Anyone who regularly read that newspaper would have already been familiar with the ongoing squabble that played itself in the public prints.  Life may have become more placid for Griffith after Simnet’s departure, but reading the New-Hampshire Gazette also became a little less interesting for anyone who enjoyed witnessing the bickering and creative taunts between the watchmakers.

August 17

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

Aug 17 - 8:17:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 17, 1770).

“To Ride as Carrier … in order to carry News Papers.”

The first two advertisements in the August 17, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette concerned the operations of the newspaper.  Quite likely, the printers exercised their control of the press to give those notices a privileged place.  The first advertisement, repeated from the previous issue, acknowledged the upcoming fourteenth anniversary of the newspaper and contained Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle’s call on subscribers, advertisers, and others who owed debts to settle accounts or face legal action.

James Templeton addressed the residents of Amherst, Wilton, Temple, Petersborough, New Dublin, Marlborough, Keen, Walpole, Charlestown, Chesterfield, Westmoreland, Hinsdale, Winchester, Swansey, and other town in “the extreme Parts of the Province” to offer his services to “Ride as Carrier or Post … in order to carry News Papers.”  He promised to be “punctual and faithful” in his delivery even as he endeavored to get the newspapers to subscribers “as cheap as possible at that great Distance.”

While not overseen directly by the Fowles, Templeton’s enterprise stood to benefit them as proprietors of the New-Hampshire Gazette through maintaining or even increasing readership.  Templeton also revealed how quickly readers in “the extreme Parts of the Province” received their newspapers.  He proposed meeting the rider from Portsmouth who carried the newspapers as far as Amherst on Mondays.  The Fowles published the New-Hampshire Gazette on Fridays.  That meant that half a week elapsed before each new edition made it to the carrier who delivered the newspaper to the more remote towns in the colony.  Even more time passed as Templeton rode his circuit through the various towns.

Printers and their associates frequently commented on the production and distribution of the news in the advertisements they inserted in eighteenth-century newspapers.  It seems unlikely that it was a coincidence that Templeton’s advertisement immediately followed the Fowles’s advertisement.  The printers sought to facilitate distribution of their publication even as they also attempted to collect on debts owed to the printing office.

August 10

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

Aug 10 1770 - 8:10:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 10, 1770).

“A Settlement with the Customers is become necessary.”

In eighteenth-century America, printers, like other entrepreneurs, sometimes had to resort to publishing advertisements calling on customers to settle accounts or else face legal action.  For those who published newspapers, the anniversary of the first issue provided a convenient milestone for attempting to collect debts.  Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, inserted such notices on various occasions, not only the anniversary of their newspaper’s first edition, though that event did often prompt them to remind customers to send payment.

In August 1770, the Fowles noted that it would be “Fourteen Years, next Month, since this Paper was first publish’d.”  That being the case, they reasoned that “a Settlement with the Customers is become necessary, as soon as possible.”  Those who did not comply “with so reasonable a Request” could expect to face the consequences.  The Fowles would put their subscriptions on hold instead of sending new editions, plus they would initiate legal action.  The printers argued that they provided sufficient notice for everyone who intended to pay, whether they lived in “Town or Country,” to visit the printing office or send a note.  At the very least, they requested that subscribers pay for “at least half a Year.”

Yet it was not only subscribers who were delinquent in paying.  Advertisers apparently submitted notices to the printing office and then did not pay for them in a timely manner.  For many printers who published newspapers, advertisements generated far greater revenue than subscriptions.  The Fowles asked “Those who are Indebted for Advertisements” to pay immediately.  They simultaneously informed all readers that in the future “those who send Advertisements for this Paper” must “send the Pay for them at the same time.”  Those who did not do so “must not take it amiss, if they are not publish’d.”  The printers may or may not have intended to follow through on this threat.  At one point they warned that they would publish a list of customers who owed money if they did not settle accounts in the next couple of weeks.  That list never appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  It seems unlikely that everyone paid, but perhaps cajoling by the printers yielded sufficient results that they did not take the most extreme measures.

Advertisements calling on subscribers, advertisers, and other customers to settle accounts provide insights into the business practices of printers in eighteenth-century America.  They reveal that printers, like others who provided goods and services during the period, extended credit to their customers, sometimes finding themselves in difficult positions as a result.

August 3

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

Aug 3 - 8:3:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 3, 1770).

At his SHOP in PITT-STREET.”

Advertisements for consumer goods and services in the August 3, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette included addresses of various sorts.  James McMasters sold English good at his store “on Spring Hill.”  Stephen Hardy stocked a similar inventory at his shop “in PITT STREET.”  Breeches makers James Haslett and Mathew Haslett pursued their trade “in King Street,” while Samuel Foster made boots and shoes at his shop “in Queen-street.” Thomas Achincloss sold textiles and hardware at his shop “at the Sign of the Marquis of Rockingham, King street.”

With the exception of Spring Hill, each of these landmarks invoked political figures in England.  King Street and Queen Street made general reference to the monarchy, but also evoked images of George III and Queen Charlotte.  Residents of Portsmouth named Pitt Street for William Pitt the Elder, the prime minister from July 30, 1766, through October 14, 1768.  Pitt was a popular figure among American colonists as a result of his leadership during the Seven Years War and his opposition to the Stamp Act.  Similarly, Charles Watson-Wentworth, the second Marquess of Rockingham and former prime minister, earned acclaim in America due to his support for constitutional rights for the colonies.  He immediately preceded Pitt as prime minister, serving from July 13, 1765, through July 30, 1766.  During his brief time in office, he oversaw the repeal of the Stamp Act.

These street names and shop signs testify to the expectations that many colonists had of their relationship to Great Britain throughout much of the imperial crisis that eventually culminated in the American Revolution.  Many colonists, most even, did not originally conceive of separating from the British Empire and the many advantages it bestowed upon them.  Instead, they sought redress of grievances, hoping to exercise traditional English rights on the other side of the Atlantic.  Many simultaneously asserted their allegiance to the monarchy and revered members of Parliament who defended American interests.  The location of Achincloss’s shop “at the Sign of the Marquis of Rockingham, King street” encapsulated the sentiments of those coloniosts.

July 27

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

Jul 27 - 7:27:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (July 27, 1770).

“TEA … West-India and New-England RUM … handsome colour’d WILTONS.”

Thomas Martin advertised an assortment of goods available at his store in Portsmouth in the July 27, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  He listed everything from coffee, tea, and sugar to hammers, nails, and files to handkerchiefs, stockings, and shoes.  His inventory was so extensive that his advertisement filled half a column and still concluded with “&c. &c.” to indicate that he did not have space to include everything consumers could find at his store.  (Colonists used “&c.” as an abbreviation for et cetera.)

Like many other advertisements of the era, Martin’s notice looked like a dense block of text.  To modern readers, this has little visual appeal, but Martin likely focused on other aspects of the advertisement in his efforts to market his wares.  In particular, he may have expected the length to attract the attention of prospective customers.  Few advertisements for consumer goods and services in the New-Hampshire Gazette occupied so much space.  Martin borrowed a strategy from advertisers in larger port cities where newspapers much more often ran such lengthy advertisements for consumer goods.  The long list of goods communicated the variety and consumer choice that Martin offered his customers.  They could acquire all sorts of grocery items, hardware, housewares, clothing, and accessories during a single visit to Martin’s store, combining choice and convenience.

Despite the density of the prose, Martin did deploy a couple of visual elements to aid readers in navigating his advertisement.  At various points he inserted lengthy dashes to break what otherwise would have been an undifferentiated paragraph into smaller pieces.  He also capitalized two words to draw attention to those products:  “West-India and New-England RUM” and “handsome colour’d WILTONS,” a popular kind of carpet.  (“TEA” was also capitalized, but that was standard for the first item listed in advertisements of this sort.)  While Martin did not make elaborate use of typography to lend visual appeal to his advertisement, he did not overlook using it entirely.  His advertisement incorporated more variation than the news articles that appeared elsewhere in the same issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  The effectiveness of Martin’s advertisement should be considered in relation to other items, both advertisements and news items, that it ran alongside.

July 13

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

Jul 13 - 7:13:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (July 13, 1770).

“WATCHES KEPT in REPAIR for Two Shillings and six pence Sterling per YEAR.”

John Simnet’s advertisement in the July 13, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette was uncharacteristically muted compared to others he had recently published.  The brief notice looked much like any other that an eighteenth-century watchmaker would insert in the local newspaper:  “WATCHES KEPT in REPAIR for Two Shillings and six pence Sterling per YEAR; Clean’d for those who desire them done cheap, for a Pistereen, and Repairs in Proportion.  By J. SIMNET:  Parade.”  Yet it differed in tone significantly from most of Simnet’s advertisements.  He arrived in the Portsmouth area in late 1768 or early 1769.  Over the past year and a half he engaged in a very public feud with Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith.  The rival watchmakers both advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette, sometimes making only oblique references to each other but on other occasions leveling accusations of fraud, incompetence, and lack of character.  Most recently, Simnet ran advertisements that compared Griffith to a rat or denigrated his character and skills in verse.  Even after several weeks passed, Griffith did not respond to those attacks, at least not in the New-Hampshire Gazette.

Had it not been for this rivalry, I likely would not have selected Simnet’s advertisement to feature on the Adverts 250 Project today.  Uriah Hide of Lyme, Connecticut, placed a notice for “Clothiers Shears” made in the colonies in the New-London Gazette.  In that advertisement, he developed an argument in favor of giving preference to “the Manufactures of the Colony” over imported “European Manufactures.”  I often select advertisements that demonstrate the convergence of politics and consumer culture in the era of the American Revolution, but after spending eighteenth months following the feud between Griffith and Simnet I decided to include the next installment in their story in order to document each volley regardless of whether it was as explosive as the last.  It is also worth noting that Simnet’s advertisement appears deceptively simple, especially when compared to his other notices in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Although brief, his advertisement included an appeal to price and even listed how much he charged for routine maintenance for a year.  Relatively few eighteenth-century advertisers included specific prices in their notices, making Simnet’s attempt to entice customers with a guaranteed price notable.  Not as lively as most of his advertisements, this one engaged with prospective customers in different ways.

June 29

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

Jun 29 - 6:29:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 29, 1770).

“A SQUIB—-To the Tune of Miss Dawson’s Hornpipe.”

In June 1770, watchmaker John Simnet was unrelenting in the criticism of rival Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith.  For three consecutive weeks, he published advertisements featuring new insults in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  For nearly a year and a half the two watchmakers traded barbs in the public prints, beginning almost as soon as Simnet set up shop in the colony, but their exchanges had previously been intermittent.  Neither had previously directed so many advertisements at the other so quickly.  Simnet likely incurred additional fees in choosing this manner of pursuing his vendetta against Griffith.  Advertisers usually paid a flat fee for setting type and running notices for several weeks; inserting a notice once and replacing it with a different advertisement the following week created more work in the printing office.  Auctioneers tended to run new advertisements with details about upcoming sales every week, but other purveyors of goods and services usually ran their advertisements for multiple weeks.

Simnet commenced this series of advertisements on June 15 with a two-part notice that first compared Griffith to a rat and then published one of his bills for the public to determine whether Griffith charged fair prices.  In another two-part advertisement on June 22, Simnet reiterated the rat metaphor and supplemented it with a poem that denigrated both Griffith’s character and skills as a watchmaker.  The advertisement in the June 29 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazetteagain had two parts.  The first was fairly innocuous, deploying strategies that any watchmaker might have incorporated into an advertisement.  It briefly stated, “WATCHES KEPT in REPAIR for Two Shillings and six pence Sterling per YEAR: Clean’d for thos who desire them done cheap, for a Pistereen, and Repairs in Proportion.  By J. SIMNET: Parade.”  It was in the second portion, “A SQUIB—-To the Tune of Miss Dawson’s Hornpipe,” that Simnet attacked Griffith.  That poem was not nearly as clever as the one Simnet published the previous week.  It mocked Griffith’s appearance and “foolish Face,” but did not mention his character nor the quality of his work.  Yet it may have been all the more memorable as a means of repeatedly demeaning Griffith since Simnet provided instructions for setting it to music.  Reader could sing or hum a bit to themselves, intentionally to see how Simnet’s lyrics fit the tune and unintentionally if the music got stuck in their heads.  Rather than create an advertising jingle that made his own business more memorable, Simnet attempted to use music in a manner that encouraged the community of readers to repeatedly belittle his competitor.

June 22

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

Jun 22 - 6:22:1770 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 22, 1770).

“His Clocks with both Hands gives the Lye,
His Tongue ne’er speaks the Truth.”

After placing an advertisement in which he compared his rival to a rat, watchmaker John Simnet did not bother to wait for a response from Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith before escalating their feud once again.  In the June 15, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, Simnet placed an advertisement with two parts.  The first portion included the rat metaphor and the second portion a copy of a bill that Griffith issued to one of his customers.  Simnet called on “Judges” to insect the watch and assess whether the bill was reasonable before Griffith’s customer paid for the repairs and reclaimed his watch.

In the next edition, Simnet once again placed an advertisement in two parts.  The first reiterated the rat metaphor and a reference to Griffith as a “rough Clockmaker.”  The second portion was new; Simnet found new ways to denigrate Griffith in a short poem:

Near Portsmouth Stocks SHEEP G—ffi—h lives
(A Turkey legged Youth,)
His Clocks with both Hands gives the Lye,
His Tongue ne’er speaks the Truth,
Stand off, ye Pettyfogging Knaves;
This can you all out do,
Long NAT, can Filch us of our Time;
And of our Money too.

Although the poem was no great work of literature, it did include a couple of clever turns of phrase that simultaneously invoked measuring time and deficiencies in both Griffith’s character and skills as a watchmaker.  According to Simnet, Griffith’s clocks did not keep accurate time, yet another way that the supposed liar deceived his clients; nobody could expect Griffith to deliver the truth via any means, not in conversation nor on the dial of his clocks.  Simnet also accused Griffith of stealing from his clients in multiple ways.  He stole their money when demanding payment for inferior work.  He also stole their time in more than one fashion, through depriving them of knowing the correct time and also through wasting their time in dealing with him at all.

For his part, Griffith had not yet submitted a new advertisement for publication in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Instead, his notice that called Simnet a mountebank and a novice who “cruely butchered” watches ran once again.  Throughout their feud in the public prints, Griffith had been the more measured in his approach.

In the era of the imperial crisis that ultimately became the American Revolution, some colonists expressed their political views in advertisements that promoted their business endeavors.  By paying to insert their notices in newspapers, they gained some level of editorial authority.  Simnet and Griffith, however, did not leverage that authority to address current events.  Instead, they used it to engage in a dispute that repeatedly unfolded before the eyes of readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Purchasing advertising space allowed colonists to express their views and have conversations … or engage in arguments … seemingly with little editorial intervention from the printers.