August 2

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

New-York Journal (July 30, 1772).

“If any person will take the trouble to call upon me … I shall fully satisfy him of what I have here asserted.”

Among the many advertisements in the July 30, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, one consisted entirely of a testimonial submitted to the printing office by Bartly Clarke.  He lauded a cure for “that terrible distemper the cancer” he experienced under the care of “that famous doctor Kemmena, now living in Maiden-Lane, in the city of New-York.”  Clarke explained that he had suffered with cancer “in my lip” for fifteen years.  He spent “a large sum of money” in seeking treatment from “several eminent physicians,” but none restored him to health.  Clarke sought out Kemmena upon the recommendation of “Capt. Charles Chadwick, of New-London, who was cured of the like distemper by him, almost three years ago.”

According to Clarke, Kemmena “effectually cured” him “in the space of four weeks, by the application of his famous plaster.”  During that time, Clare observed “three different persons cured of the cancer” by Kemmena.  He provided their names, enlisted them in bolstering his testimonial.  Daniel Davis, for instance, “had his whole under lip taken away, and in the space of a fortnight closed it up with sound flesh, so that it scarcely left a scar.”  Davis resided on Long Island, as did Nancy Curshow.  The third patient, Captain Rite, hailed from Bermuda, making it difficult for readers to consult any of the “three different persons” that Clarke claimed Kemmena also cured.

They could, however, speak to Clarke to learn more and assess his trustworthiness in person … but only for a limited time.  He offered that “if any person will take the trouble to call upon me at the house of doctor Kemmena, (during my stay, which will be until Sunday the second day of August) I shall fully satisfy him of what I have here asserted.”  Clarke intended to depart for his plantation in South Carolina just days after inserting the testimonial, dated July 30, in the newspaper.  That did not give other colonizers much time to consult him.  The notations at the end, however, alerted the compositor that the advertisement should run for four weeks from issue 1543 to issue 1546, circulating for some time after Clarke left the city.

Whether or not Clarke worked with Kemmena in composing and publishing this testimonial, he likely believed that its appearance independent of additional advertising by the doctor would enhance its veracity.  On occasion, other doctors ran advertisements that incorporated testimonials after they described their services, so a testimonial appearing alone amounted to a novel approach.  Clarke framed his missive as so important that he needed to share his good fortune before leaving town.  Savvy readers, on the other hand, would have questioned the timing as well as the other claims, especially since Clarke indicated that “some malicious person” spread false rumors that the doctor’s cures were not effective.  For some, none of the particulars in the testimonial may have mattered.  This advertisement, like so many others for medicines and medical treatment, leveraged hope as its primary marketing strategy.

July 19

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

New-York Journal (July 16, 1772).

“WATCHES, HORIZONTAL, REPEATING, or PLAIN.”

By coincidence or by design, the compositor made the feud between rival watchmakers James Yeoman and John Simnet difficult to overlook in the July 16, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, placing their advertisements next to each other.  The two had been sparring in the public prints for months, but their advertisements did not previously appear in such close proximity.

Yeoman devised a distinctive headline for his advertisement: “WATCHES, / HORIZONTAL, REPEATING, or PLAIN; / CLOCKS, / ASTRONOMICAL, Musical or / Plain.”  He then asserted that “he can with Propriety declare himself a realManufacturer, having had the Government of a large Manufactory from its Infancy to its Maturity, one Hundred Miles from London.”  In so doing, he answered allegations that Simnet made about Yeoman’s lack of skill and experience.  Yeoman also proclaimed that he could supply “proper Testimonials … to prove the Assertion” that he managed a “large Manufactory” in England.  A notation on the final line, “27,” indicated that the advertisement first appeared in issue 1527 on April 9.

For his part, Simnet had a history of mocking his competitors.  In this instance, he appropriated Yeoman’s headline for his own advertisement: “WATCHES, / HORIZONTAL, REPEATING, or PLAIN; CLOCKS, / ASTRONOMICAL, MUSICAL.”  He then insinuated that Yeoman greatly exaggerated his abilities, asking “IS any ingenious Artificer (or Spirit) within 100 Miles, capable of making either, or a Thing in Imitation of either?”  The reference to “100 Miles” underscored that Simnet sought to twist the contents of Yeoman’s advertisement against his competitor.

By the time Simnet’s advertisement first appeared in the New-York Journal on July 2, readers were familiar with Yeoman’s notice, making it difficult to overlook the derision of the intentional replication and alteration of the original.  Positioning the notices next to each other served Simnet’s purposes, even for readers who quickly scanned the advertisements and missed the interplay between notices when they previously appeared on different pages.

July 12

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

New-York Journal (July 9, 1772).

“A NEW and CONVENIENT BATH.”

Readers of the New-York Journal encountered an advertisement for “DOCTOR HILL’s GENUINE AMERICAN BALSAM” in the June 9, 1772, edition.  Michael Hoffman informed them that he received a “fresh Supply” of the “truly excellent medicine” responsible for “great numbers of cures” of all sorts of maladies.  In another advertisement, however, readers learned of an alternative to the patent medicines hawked by so many apothecaries, merchants, and shopkeepers.  That notice announced that a “NEW and CONVENIENT BATH” had been “LATELY ERECTED, And now opened” in nearby Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

The advertisement described what visitors could expect to experience if they visited the bath.  They had access to a “Room properly constructed to undress and dress in, with a Stair-Case leading into the Bathing Room, where Persons of wither Sex may bathe in Salt-Water, in the Salt-Water, in the greatest Privacy.”  In addition, “a Door is so placed in the Bath” that “those that choose to swim off into deeper Water … can conveniently go out and return.”  The notice suggested that visitors also take advantage of a “Mineral Water, similar to the German Spaw” about two miles from the bath, declaring that “its proper Distance procuring moderate Exercise after bathing, has proved in many Instances very assistant to the Medicinal Quality of the Waters.”  Furthermore, “bathing in Sea Water” enhanced the efficacy of the mineral waters at the spa.  In case that description did not entice prospective visitors, the advertisement also reported that “several Physicians of Ability” examined the “Qualities of this Spaw” and “frequently recommended” partaking in the experience.  A nota bene indicated that visitors from New York and other places could procure “Genteel Lodgings” from any of “several private Families” in Perth Amboy.”

A nascent tourism industry emerged in the second half of the eighteenth century, sometimes connected to the medicinal benefits of visiting baths and spas.  In the decade before the American Revolution, the proprietors of “JACKSON’S Mineral-Well in Boston,”  the “Bath and House” at Chalybeat Springs in Bristol, Pennsylvania, and the “BATH” near the “Mineral Water, similar to the German Spaw” in Perth Amboy all placed newspapers advertisements to encourage colonizers to visit their facilities and partake in the amenities they provided.

July 9

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

New-York Journal (July 9, 1772).

“Promote the interest of America.”

John Keating operated “PAPER MANUFACTORIES, At and near New-York” in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  He regularly advertised “ALL sorts of paper and paste board,” usually enhancing his newspaper notices with commentary intended to convince consumers to purchase goods produced in the colonies.  In an advertisement in the July 9, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, for instance, he asserted that his paper “and other articles manufactured here, make a clear saving to this country of all the money that would have been sent out to purchase them from abroad.”  A greater number of advertisers promoted domestic manufactures when nonimportation agreements remained in effect, providing alternatives for consumers who wished for their shopping habits to match their politics, but such appeals tapered off when trade resumed.  Keating, on the other hand, remained adamant in calling on “all those who really wish to promote the interest of America” to “contribute their aid to the success of this undertaking.”

Keating imagined readers as more than consumers who would purchase his paper.  He also envisioned them as partners in producing it.  He needed resources, especially linen rags, “which are generally destroyed or thrown away as useless, tho’ they are absolutely necessary to a paper manufactory, which cannot be carried on without them.”  Colonizers played a vital role in supporting the production of paper in New York, “with which their own interest is closely connected.”  Some colonizers discarded rags that could have been transformed into paper at one of Keating’s “MANUFACTORIES.”  Others sent “considerable quantities … to other colonies,” prompting Keating to lament that the “the legislature have not yet thought proper to prohibit the exportation” of rags.  Even though the colonial assembly refused to act on that matter, colonizers in New York could choose to collect and send rags to Keating on their own.  He expressed his desire that “a due regard to their own interest will incline the inhabitants of this country to supply a manufactory among themselves.”

Keating invited colonizers to participate in both the production and consumption of paper made at his “MANUFACTORIES” in and near New York.  He reiterated that in doing so they not only supported a local business but also attended to “their own interest” in making goods produced in the colonies more widely available at lower prices than imported alternatives.  Doing so corrected trade imbalance that resulted from the colonies exporting resources and importing finished goods.  Keating advocated for the colonies producing more of the goods they consumed, but doing so required widespread cooperation.

July 2

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

New-York Journal (July 2, 1772).

“Mr. SIMNET boasts with Gratitude the abundant Favours of the Gentry.”

The cantankerous John Simnet, “WATCH-FINISHER, and Manufacturer, of London,” inserted a colorful new advertisement in the July 2, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal.  He simultaneously promoted his own business, mending watches, while mocking James Yeoman, a competitor.  The two traded insults back and forth in a series of advertisements in the New-York Journal and the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury in 1772.  For many weeks, Yeoman advertised that he made and repaired “WATCHES, HORIZONTAL, REPEATING, or PLAIN; CLOCKS, ASTRONOMICAL, Musical or Plain,” prompting Simnet to replicate that headline in the headline of his own notice.  He then posed a question: “IS any ingenious Artificer (of Spirit) within 100 Miles, capable of making either, or a Thing in Imitation of either?”  The question alone carried the implication that Yeoman did not possess the skill or expertise to deliver on his promises.  Not satisfied to leave it at that, Simnet provided a snide answer to the question, suggesting that Yeoman might be able to make something that looked like and astronomical or musical clock, but of such poor quality that “‘tis not worth a Dollar.”  Even that would constitute “a wonderful Rarity.”

Simnet then shifted to discussing his own business, “boast[ing] with Gratitude the abundant Favours of the Gentry, &c. in Town and Country, which surpass Expectation.”  In other words, he claimed that discerning customers from near and far entrusted their watches to him for repairs.  He expressed just a little bit of surprise at how many hired him, while also explaining that serving so many customers “enable[d] him to continue to reduce the Price of mending Work.”  More customers meant that he could afford to lower his rates.  He made another dig at Yeoman and other competitors, describing prices as “very—very high.”  In contrast, he did repairs “at HALF Price.”  Simnet eventually made appeals related to his own business, but only after denigrating another watchmaker.  Most advertisers did not resort to such tactics.  Did Simnet have a difficult personality?  Or did he believe that he ultimately benefited from any sort of attention that he could draw to his business?

June 25

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

New-York Journal (June 25, 1772).

“STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YOK AND BOSTON.”

Two months after they placed an advertisement seeking investors in their stagecoach service in the Connecticut Courant, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown informed readers of the New-York Journal that the “STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YORK AND BOSTON … for the first Time sets out this Day.”  The route took passengers through Connecticut “by Way of Hartford.”  In an advertisement that ran in the Connecticut Journal nine months earlier, Nicholas Brown lamented that “Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces, travelling to Boston … generally go by Water from New-York to Providence,” never passing through towns in Connecticut.  He hoped that reliable stagecoach service would “increase the Intercourse between the two Towns of Hartford and New-Haven as well as connect them to major urban ports.

The Browns did not mention that objective when they sought passengers in New York, though they did note that when the stagecoaches that simultaneously departed from Boston and New York met in Hartford they continued the journey “after staying a Week.”  That meant that travelers had time to conduct business in Connecticut.  As they passed through the colony, the stagecoaches “always put up at Houses on the Road where the best Entertainment is provided.”  The Browns assured prospective passengers that they could expect good food and lodging while traveling between New York and Boston.  They could also “depend on good Usage” by drivers and a “reasonable Rate” for their baggage.

In their efforts to convince prospective passengers to choose their service over alternate routes, the Browns asked “Gentlemen and Ladies … to encourage this useful, new, and expensive Undertaking.”  They did not mean that customers paid high prices, but instead that the enterprise was expensive for the Browns to operate.  They made that clear in previous advertisements seeking investors.  They intended to communicate that their passengers actually got quite a bargain when they chose to travel via stagecoach between New York and Boston.  The Browns hoped customers would agree, stating that they would schedule weekly departures if they “find Encouragement” after the inaugural journey.  After months of planning, they managed a “Trial.”  The success of that trial depended in part on passengers responding to their advertisements.

June 21

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

New-York Journal (June 18, 1772).

Those advantages cannot be obtained on carriages imported.”

Advertisers began encouraging consumers to “Buy American” before the American Revolution.  Such was the case in an advertisement that coachmaker William Deane placed in the New-York Journal for several weeks in May and June 1772.  He advised “the public in general and his customers in particular” that he made all sorts of carriages and did all of the painting, gilding, and japanning.  With an attention to detail, Deane “finishes all carriages whatever in his own shop without applying to any other,” utilizing his “considerable stock of the best of all materials fit for making carriages.”  Furthermore, the coachmaker declared his determination “to make them as good, sell them as cheap, and be as expeditious as there is a possibility.”

Deane competed with coachmakers in England.  Many colonizers preferred to purchase carriages from artisans on the other side of the Atlantic, but Deane asserted that imported carriages were merely more expensive but not superior in quality or craftsmanship to those he constructed in New York.  He proclaimed that he could “make any piece of work that is required equal to any imported from England, and will sell it at the prime cost of that imported.”  That accrued various benefits to his customers.  Deane explained that they “will save the freight, insurance, and the expences naturally attending in putting the carriages to right after they arrive.”  Why incur those addition expenses and risk purchasing carriages that needed repairs after shipping when Deane made and sold carriages of the same quality in New York?

In addition, Deane offered a guarantee, stating he “will engage his work for a year after it is delivered.”  That meant that “if any part gives way or fails by fair usage, he will make it good at his own expence.”  What did prospective customers have to lose by purchasing one of Deane’s carriages?  They paid less for the same quality, plus they had easy access to the maker for repairs, including repairs undertaken for free if the result of some defect.  “Those advantages cannot be obtained on carriages imported,” Deane trumpeted as he concluded making his case that consumers in the market for carriages should “Buy American” by choosing his carriages over any that they would import from England.  Two centuries later, car manufacturers deployed “Buy American” marketing campaigns as they competed in an increasingly globalized economy, but that strategy did not emerge from developments in the twentieth and twenty-first century.  Coachmakers like William Deane encouraged consumers to “Buy American” long before the creation of the modern automotive industry.

June 18

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

Massachusetts Spy (June 18, 1772).

“HATS manufactured and sold by the advertiser.”

Of the five newspapers published in Boston in the summer of 1772, the Massachusetts Spy had the most elaborate masthead, but it also had featured the fewest innovations in design for the rest of the contents, including advertisements.  For instance, a decorative border enclosed Jolley Allen’s advertisement when it appeared in each of the other newspapers, but that distinctive format was not incorporated into Allen’s notice when he submitted identical copy to the Massachusetts Spy.

That did not prevent Martin Bicker from attempting to draw more attention to his advertisement with an image of his merchandise in the upper left corner.  Bicker advertised that he “manufactured and sold” hats.  A woodcut depicting a tricorne hat, a popular style at the time, alerted readers to the contents of the advertisement before they read it.  Bicker did not provide many details about his hats, but he did declare that he “hopes he has given such satisfaction to his customers as will induce them to continue their favours.”  In other words, he invited repeat business and recommendations via word of mouth.

New-York Journal (June 18, 1772).

The same day that Bicker’s advertisement ran in the Massachusetts Spy, Nesbitt Deane once again inserted his advertisement for hats in the New-York Journal.  Both the appeals he made to customers and the image that accompanied the notice were more sophisticated.  Deane trumpeted that he made hats “to exceed in Fineness, Cut, Colour and Cock.”  In addition, he devised a means “to turn rain, and prevent the Sweat of the Head damaging the crown.”  Prospective customers would not find that feature in other hats, Deane asserted, because he invented “a Method peculiar to himself. He also gave a discount to retailers who bought in volume, offering “Encouragement to those who buy to sell again.”  Like Bicker, Deane acknowledged his existing customers and asked them to promote his hats.  “Such Gentry and others, who have experienced his Ability, ’tis hoped will recommend.”  The image at the top of Deane’s advertisement included both a tricorne hat and a banner with his name.  Rococo flourishes further enhanced that image.

Bicker did not deploy as many appeals as Deane in his effort to entice consumers to purchase his hats, but including an image in his advertisement distinguished it from most others in the Massachusetts Spy.  Relatively few advertisements published in the eighteenth-century newspapers featured images of any sort.  Did including images give advertisers an advantage?  Deane apparently thought so.  By the time Bicker placed his notice, Deane had been running his advertisement for nearly a year.  He likely would not have inserted it in the New-York Journal so many times if he did not believe he received a return on his investment.

April 23

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

New-York Journal (April 23, 1772).

“‘Tis our sole Wish, that the Gent who advertises in Astronomy will favour us with a Specimen.”

John Simnet, “WATCH-FINISHER, and Manufacturer, of London,” seemed to relish nothing more than sparring with an adversary in the public prints.  For eighteenth months in 1769 and 1770, he participated in a feud with rival watchmaker Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith in the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  After relocating to New York, he initially published advertisements that did not denigrate his competitors, but eventually found himself embroiled in a war of words with James Yeoman.

As part of that altercation, Simnet updated an advertisement that first ran in the March 19, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal.  On April 23, he removed a lengthy paragraph that cast aspersion on Yeoman in favor of a shorter paragraph meant to do the same.  In both, he addressed insults that Yeoman delivered in his advertisements, insults that the rival watchmaker was so committed to circulating that he resubmitted the copy to run for additional weeks.  (The April 9 edition of the New-York Journal included a new version of Yeoman’s advertisement, the type reset with new line breaks and the addition of the issue number in which that iteration first appeared.)  Yeoman listed his credentials for repairing “CLOCKS, ASTRONOMICAL, Musical or Plain” before concluding his advertisement with an assertion that “it is the sole Wish of the said James Yeoman, to obtain Favours only proportioned to the Knowledge he has, and the Satisfaction he affords in his Business.”

In the updated version of his advertisement, Simnet mocked Yeoman by paraphrasing his rival’s words.  “‘Tis our sole Wish,” he declared, “that the Gent who advertises in Astronomy will favour us with a Specimen of his Qualifications in that Science, for if he can cause the Planets, Eclipses, Comets, &c. to move on the Table, ‘twill save the Charge of Telescopes.”  Simnet questioned Yeoman’s ability to repair astronomical clocks, challenging him to provide examples of his work for others to examine.  Earlier in the advertisement, he mentioned the harm done to clocks and watches by “Persons not qualified to practice in this Business.”  The new paragraph more explicitly leveled that accusation at Yeoman.  Simnet seemed to hit his stride in his advertisements when he treated competitors with condescension, a tactic rarely adopted in eighteenth-century advertising.

April 9

GUEST CURATOR: Drew Nunnemacher

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

New-York Journal (April 9, 1772).

“A Likely young Negro Girl.”

We do not know much about this “Likely young Negro Girl” advertised in the New-York Journal except that she was around 13 years old and had been “brought up in the Country” and not in New York City.  She may have been separated from her mother and other members of her family at a young age.  Even if that was not the case, being sold would separate her from family and friends.  According to Heather Andrea Williams in an article about “How Slavery Affected African American Families,” enslaved people “lived with the perpetual possibility of separation through the sale of one or more family members.”  She also states, “Young children, innocently unaware of the possibilities, learned quickly of the pain that such separations could cost.”  This advertisement was about one girl, but it helps to tell the stories of many more children and their families who were separated because of slavery and the slave trade during the era of the American Revolution.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Like his peers in my Revolutionary America class, Drew had an opportunity to select any newspaper advertisement to examine in greater detail from his week as guest curator of the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project.  That meant that he selected from hundreds of advertisements for consumer goods and services and dozens of advertisements about enslaved men, women, and children.  In total, he identified sixty advertisements about enslaved people published in newspapers from New Hampshire to South Carolina from April 3 through April 9, 1772.  The vast majority of those ran in newspapers in the Chesapeake and the Lower South, but a significant number of them, like this advertisement for a “Likely young Negro Girl,” appeared in newspapers published in Pennsylvania, New York, and New England.  Drew could have chosen any of those advertisements to research for his entry on the Adverts 250 Project.

I suspect that he decided on an advertisement about an enslaved girl published in New York in part because he and his classmates were dismayed to learn about the extent of slavery in New England and the Middle Atlantic before, during, and after the American Revolution.  They were accustomed to thinking of slavery as a southern institution in the nineteenth century, not an integral part of daily life throughout the colonies during the eighteenth century.  Working on the Slavery Adverts 250 Project, examining entire issues of approximately two dozen newspapers published in the early 1770s, allowed them to witness the reality of slavery in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania.  This advertisement about a “Likely young Negro Girl” was not some sort of exceptional example.  It appeared immediately below another advertisement for a “Likely Negro Man, about 20 years of age.”  The same day, the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal both carried advertisements about enslaved people.  Throughout the week, similar advertisements appeared in the Boston Evening-Post, the New-Hampshire Gazette, the New-London Gazette, and the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury as well as in several newspapers in the Chesapeake and the Lower South.  As an instructor, I could have gathered together examples to share with my students, but I believe that examining the primary sources themselves, seeing these advertisements in the context of the newspapers that carried them, more fully testifies to the presence of slavery and enslaved people in early America.