June 20

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

Jun 20 - 6:20:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (June 20, 1768).

“The commodious Inn, in Princeton, long known by the name of the Hudibras.”

As spring turned to summer in 1768, the number of advertisements aimed at travelers and others seeking entertainment during moments of leisure increased compared to the frequency of their appearance throughout the winter. Josiah Davenport placed advertisements in newspapers published in both Philadelphia and New York when he opened the Bunch of Grapes inn and tavern in Philadelphia, extending an invitation to locals and travelers alike. The proprietors of Ranelagh Gardens advertised a series of fireworks exhibitions in newspapers printed in New York. Samuel Fraunces simultaneously promoted food, lodgings, and entertainment at Vauxhall Garden, an alternative destination on the outskirts of New York City. An advertisement in the June 20 supplement to the Boston Evening-Post announced that the “Waters of Jackson’s Spaw are now in a good Degree of Perfection,” the first notice concerning “Jackson’s Mineral Well” that appeared in Boston’s newspapers since the previous summer. On the same day, Jacob Hyer inserted an advertisement for the “commodious Inn” he recently opened in Princeton, New Jersey, in the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy. Especially in northern colonies, readers encountered seasonal advertisements from an emerging hospitality and tourism industry in the late colonial period.

Hyer had a particular advantage working in his favor when it came to attracting guests to his tavern and inn, the Hudibras. Like many of his counterparts, he had “furnished the House with the best of Liquors” as well as “the best Provisions he can Procure.” Unlike his competitors, however, “the Stage-Waggons from New-York to Philadelphia and back, put up at his House.” This likely increased his clientele since passengers became guests, making it less necessary to advertise. On the other hand, Hyer may have believed that alerting residents of New York to the various amenities at the Hudibras could influence their decisions about taking a trip to Philadelphia. Even before commencing the journey they could plan for comfortable accommodations along the way rather than leave to chance any arrangements for food and lodging. Hyer’s desire “to entertain Travellers … in the best Manner” made the journey sound as appealing as the destination, encouraging readers to consider traveling between New York and Philadelphia for business or for pleasure.

June 6

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

Jun 6 - 6:6:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post- Boy (June 6, 1768).

“His House is very well calculated for an Inn.”

When Josiah F. Davenport opened an inn on Third Street in Philadelphia, he advertised in newspapers published in both Philadelphia and New York. Doing so made sense since he billed “the Bunch of Grapes” as “a genteel House of Entertainment, for Travellers and others, who may depend on the best Fare and civilest Treatment.” Davenport positioned his tavern and inn as a destination not only for visitors to the city but also for local residents “who may have Occasion to meet on Business or Recreation.” In addition to the “best Liquors” and the “elegant and spacious” accommodations for guests, Davenport also promoted the location. He proclaimed that Third Street “is becoming one of the grandest Avenues into this City.” The Bunch of Grapes “stands in the Neighbourhood of many principal Merchants and capital Stores.” Furthermore, it was also located “very near the Market.” Visitors traveling to Philadelphia on business could lodge in an establishment close to their associates, one that also happened to be in a swank neighborhood. Local patrons could also take advantage of the convenient location for conducting business or enjoying the various entertainments at the Bunch of Grapes.

Jun 6 - 6:6:1768 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (June 6, 1768).

Davenport submitted identical copy to the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy and the Pennsylvania Chronicle (but the compositors for each made their own decisions about capitalization and italics throughout the advertisement). He also adorned the notice in the Chronicle with a woodcut depicting the sign that marked his establishment, a bunch of grapes suspended from a signpost. He acknowledged that the “large and commodious Inn” he now operated had been “for some time known by the Name of the Bull’s Head.” However, it was now known as the Bunch of Grapes under the management of the new proprietor. The new sign and an image in one of the city’s newspapers helped to cement the switch in branding for the inn. This was especially important considering that the Bull’s Head had established its own reputation for operating at that location.

Davenport realized that the success of the Bunch of Grapes depended on attracting a mixture of customers, both residents of Philadelphia who patronized his “House of Entertainment” for an afternoon or evening and visitors from other places who spent one or more nights. Accordingly, he highlighted a variety of amenities and, especially, the location of the inn in newspapers published in more than one city. Through his marketing efforts, he encouraged travelers to think of the Bunch of Grapes, rather than Philadelphia, as their destination.

April 18

GUEST CURATOR:  Anna MacLean

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

Apr 18 - 4:18:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (April 18, 1768).

“TO BE SOLD … BEST HYSON TEA.”

An advertisement in the April 18, 1768, issue of the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy announced “BEST HYSON TEA” in addition to “Mustard, Raisins, Currants, Figs, Chocolate, with other Kinds of Grocery.” I felt compelled to select this advertisement because it sounds absurd to conceptualize a time when America didn’t “run on Dunkin’” coffee (a testament to marketing in modern America). However, by similar means, tea drinkers in colonial America looked forward to the caffeine buzz found in their kettles and teacups.

Hyson tea, characterized by Oliver Pluff & Co. as having a long twisted appearance, was a favorite among American colonists. According to the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, during the first half of the eighteenth-century tea was a costly luxury that only a small percentage of the colonies’ population could afford. By the middle of the century, tea was in high demand throughout the colonies and costs decreased making it an everyday beverage for the vast majority. Over time, the American colonies had evolved into a province of tea drinkers.

Yet drinking tea was far more than a hobby in colonial America but rather an “instrument of sociability,” according to the review of Rodris Roth’s “Tea Drinking in 18th-Century America” on Colonial Quills. An invitation to drink tea was an invitation to a social event, perhaps a small, informal gathering or maybe an elegant dinner party.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

In addition to the “other Kinds of Grocery” that he sold at his shop on Beaver Street in New York, Isaac Noble also advertised “all Kinds of French Liquors” and listed eight varieties.  Since Anna chose to examine one of Noble’s wares that remains popular today (even if it has not retained the cultural currency it enjoyed in eighteenth-century America), I decided to take a closer look at some of these other beverages that colonial Americans drank but that might be less familiar to consumers today.

The Oxford English Dictionarydescribes “Parfaite Amour” as “a sweet liqueur of Dutch origin, flavoured with lemon, cloves, cinnamon, and coriander, and coloured red or purple.”  In addition to the taste, colonists may have been entertained by the color!  Several other items on Noble’s list appear to have been liqueurs as well, including “Anise,” “Essence of Tea,” “Essence of Coffee,” and “Oil of Hazle Nuts.”  While it may be fairly easy to imagine the flavor and composition of each of those “French Liquors,” the “Oil of Venus” presents more of a challenge.  One Household Encyclopedia published in the middle of the nineteenth century includes recipes for both Oil of Jupiter and Oil of Venus.  It describes Oil of Venus as brandy infused with caraway, anise, mace, and orange rinds and mixed with sugar.  Published nearly a century after Noble’s advertisement appeared in the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy, that recipe may not have been the same as the “Oil of Venus” colonists drank, but the mixture of spices does appear consistent with methods for distilling the “Parfaite Amour” listed immediately before it.  The nature of the “Free Mason’s Cordial” remains more elusive, but it turns out that the “Usquebaugh” was not as exotic as the name might suggest. The Oxford English Dictionary indicates “usquebaugh” is an Irish and Scottis Gaelic word for whisky.  Like tea, usquebaugh/whisky remains a popular beverage today, even if the average person does not consume either in the same quantities as colonists did in the eighteenth century.

The various “Kinds of French Liquors” advertised by Noble may not seem readily identifiable to twenty-first-century consumers, at least not by the names used to describe them in the eighteenth century, but several continue to be sold and consumed today. As a result of advances in marketing practices, some are now better known by specific brand names rather than the general descriptions deployed in the colonial era.

April 4

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

Apr 4 - 4:4:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (April 4, 1768).

“M’QUEEN continues as usual, to make all Sorts of Stays for Ladies, in the newest Fashions, worn in London.”

How effective were the advertisements for consumer goods and services that appeared in eighteenth-century newspapers?  This is a difficult question to answer, especially from the perspective of consumers. From the perspective of the advertisers, however, their persistence in running newspaper advertisements suggests that they believed those advertisements effectively generated more business than if they had instead chosen not to advertise.  This speaks to attitudes about advertising in eighteenth-century America.

John McQueen sold made and sold stays (or corsets) in New York in the 1760s.  He repeatedly placed advertisements in the local newspapers (including advertisements in March 1766 and February 1767), an indication that he considered them effective for stimulating demand among prospective customers. At the very least, he saw advertising as a necessity for informing readers of the various kinds of stays he stocked.  Neglecting to advertise might have resulted in surrendering his share of the market to competitors.  Such an interpretation implies that McQueen merely attempted to direct existing demand to his establishment.  The contents of the advertisements, however, suggest that he considered advertising more powerful than that.  After all, he did not merely announce that he sold stays; the staymaker also formulated appeals to fashion that he expected would resonate with potential customers.

For instance, McQueen underscored that he sold “all Sorts of Stays for Ladies, in the newest Fashions, worn in London.”  This echoed appeals that he made in previous advertisements:  “all sort of Stays for Ladies in the newest Fashions that is wore in London” and “all Sorts of Stays, in the newest Fashion that is wore by the Ladies of Great-Britain or France.”  In addition to invoking current tastes, McQueen linked his stays to European fashions, especially those in the metropolitan center of the empire.  New York was a relatively small city compared to London, but “Ladies” who purchased McQueen’s stays could trust that they were not less cosmopolitan than their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic. McQueen reinforced this appeal when he also applied it “neat polished Steel back Shapes, and Collars, much used in London.”  He continued by asserting that these items were “necessary for young Ladies, at Boarding and Dancing Schools.”  He bound fashion and gentility together, seeking to convince prospective customers that they needed the stays he made and sold, especially if they intended to comport themselves appropriately at certain venues where the better sorts gathered.

McQueen considered these appeals effective enough that he consistently incorporated them into newspaper advertisements over the course of several years.  He did more than announce that he made and sold stays.  He offered reasons why readers should purchase his wares, attempting to stimulate demand.  Had he not believed that this would yield a return on his investment then he likely would have scaled back or discontinued his advertisements rather than continue to pay for notices that had no effect on consumers.

February 4

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

Feb 4 - 2:4:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy Extraordinary
New-York Gazette Extraordinary [New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy] (February 4, 1768).

“HENDRICK OUDERNAARDE, BROKER, HAS to sell all Sorts of European and West-India Goods.”

Hendrick Oudenaaerde’s advertisement appeared in an Extraordinary issue that supplemented James Parker’s New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy. Parker published his Gazette (not to be confused with Hugh Gaine’s New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury) on Mondays, but explained that circumstances warranted distributing an Extraordinary on Thursday, February 4, 1768. “Letter IX” from the series of “Letters from a FARMER in Pennsylvania, to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies” filled nearly four of the six columns in the Extraordinary; news and advertising filled the remainder. According to Parker, “As the Farmer’s Letters came too late for our Paper on Monday last, in order to oblige our Customers, we have given this additional Gazette, and thereby prevent the room being encroached on, in next Monday’s Paper.” This decision resulted in disseminating a greater amount of advertising – for consumer goods, for runaway slaves, for real estate – to readers of Parker’s Gazette alongside “Letter IX.”

Like many other printers throughout the colonies, Parker reprinted a series of essays, twelve in total, written by John Dickinson in 1767 and 1768. Dickinson, a lawyer and legislator rather than a farmer, argued that Parliament did not have the authority to raise revenues by imposing taxes on the American colonies. He conceded that Parliament could regulate trade, yet stressed that the colonies retained sovereignty over their internal affairs, including taxation. In “Letter IX,” Dickinson addressed the necessity for local representation in established assemblies. Published far and wide, the “Letters” helped to unify colonists in opposition to the Townshend Acts.

Readers of Parker’s Gazette could not consume “Letter IX” without being exposed to the advertisements that accompanied it. Public discourse concerning the political ramifications of Parliament’s policies concerning commerce and other matters contributed to an even wider and more frequent distribution of advertising in the late colonial period. In general, the revenues generated by advertisements made it possible for printers to publish and disseminate the news and editorial items that informed debates and shaped sentiments in the colonies. Broadly speaking, that was the case here: the revenues from the advertisements that regularly appeared in the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy allowed Parker to issue the extraordinary issue. However, the printer may not have generated additional revenues from the particular advertisements that appeared in the extraordinary. Advertisers usually paid to have their notices inserted for a certain numbers of weeks. The compositor may have chosen half a dozen advertisements that served as filler to complete the issue, but the printer may have run them gratis for the sake of filling the final page. Advertisers who paid to have their notices inserted for a specified number of weeks would have expected to see them in the regular issues of Parker’s Gazette for that many weeks.

In other words, the revenues from advertising generally supported the publication of news and editorials that shaped colonial discourse during the imperial crisis, yet the imperatives of distributing political content also bolstered an expanded dissemination of advertising.

January 20

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

Jan 20 - 1:20:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette Extraordinary (January 20, 1768).

“FOUR Years of a Mulatto Girl’s Time to be Sold.”

James Parker issued an Extraordinary issue of the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy on January 20, 1768, just two days after publishing the regular issue for the week. The printer explained that “Matters of Amusement and Speculation, as well as News by the Packet, crowding in upon us at this Juncture, we think it necessary to give this Second extra Gazette, in Order to be upon a Par with our Neighbours.” The Extraordinary consisted of two pages, compared to the four of the regular Gazette. In addition to the “Matters of Amusement and Speculation” and “News” received via recent arrivals in the port city, the Extraordinary also featured a list of the “PRICE CURRENT in NEW-YORK” and three short advertisements.

Those advertisements included one that announced “FOUR Years of a Mulatto Girl’s Time to be Sold.” The unnamed “Mulatto Girl” apparently was not a slave, despite her mixed heritage. That the advertiser sold four years of her time rather than selling her outright suggests that she was an indentured servant who would eventually gain her freedom once her indenture expired. Given that so many other mulatto men, women, and children were enslaved in colonial America, how had this come to happen? How had this mulatto girl escaped enslavement for life in favor of servitude for a fixed number of years?

Perhaps her mother was a free woman. Within a cultural and legal framework that specified that the status of the child followed the condition of the mother, it did not matter if the mulatto girl’s mother was white, black, or mulatto, nor did it matter if her father was free, enslaved, or indentured. If her mother had been a free woman at the time of the mulatto girl’s birth then the child would have been free herself. Financial considerations may have contributed to the decision to indenture the girl for a portion of her childhood and youth. Alternately, her mother may have been enslaved but managed to negotiate for the eventual freedom of her offspring. Securing an indenture for her daughter may have been a means of achieving gradual emancipation. Other circumstances may have shaped the mulatto girl’s experiences. The advertisement does not provide enough information to know for certain.

The notice appeared in an interesting context. What kinds of news did James Parker consider so pressing as to warrant an Extraordinary issue? The bulk of the supplement consisted of the seventh in the series of John Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania” that critiqued the Townshend Acts. Even though Dickinson recognized the authority of Parliament to oversee the empire, he argued that the colonies possessed sovereignty over their internal affairs. In particular, he stressed that Parliament overstepped its authority by imposing taxes on the colonies intended to raise revenues rather than merely regulating trade.

As many colonists asserted their rights and printers published letters and speeches that defended the liberty of the North American colonies, they also accepted various forms of unfree labor, including enslavement and indentured servitude. Those systems extended beyond just labor; slaves and indentured servants experienced unfree status in colonial society. Advertisements that promoted and reinforced slavery and indentured servitude appeared alongside impassioned appeals to liberty like Dickinson’s “Letters.” The revenues such advertisements generated for printers helped to fund the dissemination of newspapers that made stark calls for freedom from enslavement to the abuses of Parliament. That an advertisement for “FOUR Years of a Mulatto Girl’s Time” appeared alongside Dickinson’s “LETTER VII” demonstrated complex and contradictory understanding of the nature of liberty during the revolutionary era.

January 11

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

Jan 11 - 1:11:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (January 11, 1768).

“Whatever Tobacco is sold by the Subscriber, has only the Marks B.M. on the Papers.”

Blaze Moore, a tobacconist in New York, had created a reputation for himself among consumers in the city. He had done so well that a competitor attempted to horn in on his success, passing off other tobacco as Moore’s. This prompted Moore to insert an advertisement in the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy to warn customers about the subterfuge perpetrated against him and, ultimately, against them as well.

Moore had practiced his trade in New York “for several Years past.” In that time, he had “acquired some Credit with his Tobacco,” establishing a reputation based on “his Care and Skill.” Proud of his work and not wanting it mistaken for that of any other tobacconist, he packaged it in tobacco papers marked with his initials, “B.M.” To some extent, he created a trademark intended to make it easy to identify his tobacco.

Yet that attempt to market tobacco that came from his workshop presented an opportunity for counterfeiting his product. Moore reported that other tobacconists had “manufactured and sold their Tobacco, with the Marks M.B.” and were “imposing it on the Publick” as his product. By switching the order of the initials, the counterfeiters devised nearly indistinguishable packaging that could easily confuse and fool customers who did not carefully examine it before making their purchases.

Moore suspected two possible motives. The unknown tobacconists may have been “envying his Success” and desired a boost to their sales with the fraudulent packaging. That would have been harmful enough to Moore’s business, but another explanation had the potential to be even more damaging. The counterfeiters could have been “coveting to take away his Bread and Credit.” The spurious tobacco not only deprived Moore of sales but also endangered his reputation. Acquiring an inferior product could convince duped customers not to obtain Moore’s tobacco when they made subsequent purchases. The harm to his reputation extended beyond losing out on a single sale; it imperiled his livelihood.

To combat the bogus tobacco distributed as his own, Moore used an advertisement to caution “all concerned” that his tobacco “has only the Marks B.M. on the Papers, and any other Mark with a Pretence of its being [Moore’s], is an Imposture.” He did what he could to warn customers, but depended on their care and vigilance as consumers to protect his interests while simultaneously protecting their own as they avoided unsavory competitors’ attempts to fool them.