September 17

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

Sep 17 - 9:17:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 17, 1767).

“The Coach-making Trade is carried on in all its different Branches.”

Elkanah and William Deane incorporated multiple marketing appeals into their advertisement for carriages slated for sale at auction the following week. Just as modern car dealerships do today, the coachmakers stocked several models so potential customers could choose the one that best fit their needs, tastes, and budgets. They may have also offered choices between new and used carriages. Other coachmakers, including Adino Paddock in Boston, advertised used carriages in the 1760s. The Deanes explicitly described both their “Post-Chariot, and Harness” and “one Horse-Chaise, with Steel-Springs and Iron Axeltree neatly finished with Harness complete” as “new,” but not their “Curricle and Harness.” That they instead described as “good.” If the curricle did indeed have a previous owner, it made sense to focus on its condition to reassure skeptical customers.

The Deanes also proclaimed that they pursued their trade “in all its different Branches” to the same standards as in London and Dublin. They had previously advertised that they “made and finished” coaches, harnesses, saddles and accessories “in the genteelest taste” and that employees in their workshop had been “regularly brought up to the different Branches of Trade.” Establishing connections to London and Dublin elaborated on that appeal. Consumers did not need to import carriages from workshops across the Atlantic. Instead, local artisans possessed the same skills and expertise and followed the same styles as in the most cosmopolitan cities in Britain and Ireland. Their coaches rivaled any built elsewhere in the empire.

Finally, the Deanes inserted a nota bene that informed prospective customers that they “warrant their Work for Twelve Months.” The coachmakers regularly included this guarantee in their advertisements, having previously stated in an earlier notice that the items they sold were “warranted for Twelve Months. They did not offer false promises about the craftsmanship of their carriages; instead, they were so confident that they backed up their appeals to quality with guarantees valid for an entire year after purchase.

Buying a carriage was a major purchase for any customer, even the most affluent. Some colonists spared no expense when they imported carriages from workshops in London, yet local coachmakers sought their own place in the market. Elkanah and William Deane underscored the virtues associated with the carriages they made and sold, promising customers the same cachet as well as services, including repair work during the first year, that faraway competitors could not provide.

September 13

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

Sep 13 - 9:10:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 10, 1767).

“Hughes’s Night School, Commences on the 14th Instant.”

In early September 1767, Hughes turned to the New-York Journal to advertise the opening of his night school in the middle of the month. His entire notice consisted of only eight words: “Hughes’s Night School, Commences on the 14th Instant.” Given the brevity of this advertisement, especially in comparison to those placed by other schoolmasters throughout the colonies, Hughes must have assumed that the general public was already aware of all the important details, everything from the curriculum to the hours of instruction to the location.

What Hughes’s advertisement lacked in relaying information it made up for in experimenting with layout designed to attract the attention of potential students. John Holt, the printer of the New-York Journal, and the compositor had developed a fairly standard visual appearance for advertisements inserted in that newspaper. They used a single font size for news items and most of the text included in advertisements, but headlines for advertisements (most often an advertiser’s name) appeared in a significantly larger font, regardless of the length of the advertisement. The first line of the body of the advertisement often featured a font only slightly larger than that used for the remainder. Advertisements by Philip Livingston and Peter Remsen that appeared in the same column as Hughes’s advertisement fit the general pattern when it came to the graphic design of paid notices in the New-York Journal.

Sep 13 - Extra Adverts from New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 10, 1767).

Every word and every line of Hughes’s advertisement appeared in larger font sizes. The size of “Commences on the 14th instant,” the smallest in this advertisement, paralleled that of headlines in other advertisements throughout the standard issue and the supplement. The size of “Night School” rivaled the size of the newspaper’s title in the masthead. The size of the schoolmaster’s name far exceeded anything else printed in the issue or the supplement. Hughes’s message to potential students was short and straightforward, but the visual aspects had been designed to distinguish it from everything else on the page.

Newspapers published in colonial America’s largest cities in the 1760s often had a surplus of advertising, so much that they often had to print supplements to accommodate all of them. Space was limited, causing printers and compositors to standardize some of the visual aspects, including limiting the size of most text in advertisements. On occasion, however, they experimented with other formats that would have had a much different effect on readers accustomed to a particular style. Hughes’s relatively short advertisement for his “Night School” certainly stood out on the page.

September 6

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

Sep 6 - 9:3:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 3, 1767).

“BLANCH WHITE, UPHOLSTERER FROM LONDON.”

Colonists lived in an era of intense geographic mobility. In the decade before the Revolution, the flow of immigrants from across the Atlantic accelerated. Even colonists born in North America moved from place to place as they searched for economic opportunities. Many residents of cities and towns up and down the Atlantic coast could not claim to be from the place they now lived. For various reasons, some continued to emphasize their origins even as they became members of new communities.

This was often the case with tailors, cabinetmakers, and other artisans, especially as newcomers attempting to promote their livelihoods in local newspapers. They needed customers, yet determined that maintaining some aspects of their outsider status would effectively attract patrons who were unfamiliar with them and the goods they produced. Artisans who placed advertisements frequently asserted their connections to cosmopolitan centers in Europe. This gave them a certain cachet, suggesting that they made and sold items that were particularly fashionable. In some instances connections to London and other European cities also implied specialized training superior to any undertaken in the colonies.

In the September 3, 1767, edition of the New-York Journal, Blanch White introduced himself to potential customers as an UPHOLSTERER FROM LONDON.” In the same issue, readers also learned of the services of “Charles Le Frou, From PARIS, Perriwig-maker and hair Dresser.” Recent arrivals often used such designations to identify and distinguish themselves, though many advertisements obscured precisely how much time had elapsed since the artisan had lived and worked in London or another cosmopolitan center of fashion and commerce.

White’s advertisement provided some clarification. Even though he pronounced that he was “FROM LONDON,” he also indicated that he “has followed the Business for many Years past in Philadelphia.” Apparently his connection to London was not recent, yet the upholsterer still considered it a selling point worth mentioning to prospective customers. Some advertisers would have been content not to provide additional information about any extended interim between departing London and setting up shop locally, but White sensed an opportunity in acknowledging the time he spent in Philadelphia. Given that he seemed to specialize in martial supplies, he believed that he “must be known to some Gentlemen of the Military in this City.” He extended a direct appeal to former customers and acquaintances that served as an indirect endorsement.

Years after migrating across the Atlantic, Blanch White continued to identify himself as “FROM LONDON,” at least for the purposes of promoting his business in print. Yet he also found value in underscoring the work he had done and the clients he had served for “many Years” in the largest city in the colonies.

August 27

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

Aug 27 - 8:27:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (August 27, 1767).

“The Subscribers are desired to send for ther Books as soon as possible.”

In 1767 Lambertus de Ronde, “Minister of the Protestant Dutch Church, at New-York,” inserted an advertisement in the New-York Journal to announce that he had finally published True Spiritual Religion, Or Delightful Service of the Lord. The minister had previously solicited subscriptions to gauge the market for his book, but the anticipated date of publication had been delayed due to “the Pre-engagement of the Printer in other Work.”

This actually worked to the author’s benefit – and to the benefit of subscribers, according to de Ronde. He took advantage of the extra time to “enlarge” the volume, drawing up an “alphabetical Table of the Contents.” In other words, he created an index “for the greater Usefulness and Conveniency of the Reader, who now can readily know on what Page the Words and Things are to be found.” Such a helpful addition to the original manuscript, de Ronde insinuated, certainly excused the delay in publishing the book!

The author also suggested that this must make his book more attractive to additional customers, not just the original subscribers. He indicated that he had “a few more to dispose of than were subscribed for.” In effect, his advertisement did not merely announce publication of True Spiritual Religion and call on subscribers to retrieve their copies. Instead, what masqueraded as an announcement actually marketed the book to other readers. In addition to promoting the utility of the index, de Ronde also praised the material qualities of the volume. It was “printed on a good Paper” and “also neatly bound” (as opposed to being sold in sheets for buyers to have bound on their own). In addition, the printer had set the book with “new large Letter” that readers would find “very Easy for the Eyes.” Even though these various enhancements made the book “more expensive,” de Ronde parted with it at “the lowest Rate” he could charge “without the Author’s Loss.” This was a bargain for potential customers!

Although Lambertus de Ronde addressed subscribers more than once in his advertisement, he did not merely inform them that True Spiritual Religion was ready for delivery. Instead, he used that as a pretext for marketing surplus copies to additional readers who had not participated in the first round of subscriptions. To some extent, he also marketed the book to the original subscribers, especially those who had not paid in full. For any who wavered in their commitment to acquire (and pay for) True Spiritual Religion, he provided multiple reasons for following through on their commitment.

August 16

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

Aug 16 - 8:13:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (August 13, 1767).

“At the corner store, opposite Mr. Duyckinck’s Universal Store, near the Old-slip.”

Note the final lines of this advertisement, marked by a manicule. To direct potential customers to his own workshop, the advertiser noted that it was located “opposite Mr. Duyckinck’s Universal Store.”

Gerardus Duyckinck’s “UNIVERSAL STORE; Or the MEDLEY of GOODS” was a landmark in New York in the late 1760s. Duyckinck worked carefully to brand his store with that name, frequently placing newspaper advertisements that ennumerated the “Variety of Assortments” of imported goods that he stocked and sold to consumers. His advertisement in the supplement to the August 13, 1767, issue of the New-York Journal proclaimed the name of his shop and listed everything from “Hatters Trimmings” to “Carpetting” to “Writing Paper.” Several times he invoked consumer choice and challenged potential customers to imagine the array of merchandise he carried: “a beautiful and fashionable Assortment” of some items, “Almost every Article in these Branches, too tedious to mention” for certain supplies used by artisans, and “a general Assortment” of patent medicines “as extensive” as local physicians and families needed. Some merchants and shopkeepers specialized in certain types of wares, but Duyckinck’s advertising suggested that he truly provided a “MEDLEY of GOODS” at his “UNIVERSAL STORE.”

With the exception of taverns, most eighteenth-century businesses did not have names. They were identified simply by the name of the proprietor or the device on the shop sign that marked their location. That Duyckinck’s shop had a name made it fairly unique. This name operated in addition to “the Sign of the Looking-Glass, and Druggist Pot” that decorated the exterior; text on the sign may have further identified the location as Duyckinck’s “UNIVERSAL STORE” or promoted the MEDLEY of GOODS” available inside.

This marketing strategy enjoyed some success. The “IVORY and HARD WOOD TURNER” across the street did not give directions relative to Duyckinck’s shop or the “Sign of the Looking-Galss, and Druggist Pot.” Instead, he used the name bestowed on the store by the proprietor and widely advertised in local newspapers: “Mr. Duyckinck’s Universal Store.” This name was not merely an affectation but instead a common way of identifying the business. In convincing other colonists, including potential customers, to refer to his shop as the “Universal Store,” Duyckinck successfully encouraged them to associate certain qualities with the imported goods he sold.

July 30

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

Jul 30 - 7:30:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (July 30, 1767).

“John Hansen, Of the City of Albany, INTENDING soon for England …”

As part of his preparations in advance of his departure for England, John Hansen placed an advertisement in the New-York Journal calling on “every Person or Persons whatsoever, that have any lawful Demands against him” to visit his house “and receive immediate Payment.” He also wished to settle accounts with “all Persons, who are indebted unto him.”

Such notices were fairly common in the pages of eighteenth-century newspapers, but this one merits attention because of what it reveals about reading habits and the distribution of newspapers as well as networks of commerce in the colonial era. John Hansen did not reside in the urban port where the New-York Journal was printed. Instead, he described himself as “Of the City of Albany,” on the Hudson River approximately 150 miles to the north. Despite the distance, placing a notice in the New-York Journal was advertising in a local newspaper.

Who was the intended audience for Hansen’s advertisement? Quite possibly he did business with residents of Albany and New York as well as places in between. He needed a means of distributing his announcement to as many of them as possible. To that end, Hansen purchased space in the New-York Journal with a reasonable expectation that neighbors and business associates in Albany would see his notice nestled among so many others.

That was the case because local newspapers were not so much local as regional throughout most of the eighteenth century. Americans experienced an explosion in print after the Revolution: newspapers began publication in a far greater number of smaller cities and towns in the 1780s and 1790s. Until then, however, newspaper publication was concentrated in relatively few places, simultaneously serving local residents as well as all those in the vast hinterlands that surrounded the major settlements. John Hansen could place an advertisement in a newspaper printed in New York and expect his neighbors in Albany to read it because some were subscribers themselves or had access to newspapers from faraway places at local taverns, coffeehouses, or the post office (often the shop operated by a printer). In addition to post riders who delivered newspapers, readers encountered copies that passed from hand to hand.

Subscription lists and notices placed by post riders demonstrate the reach of colonial newspapers, but advertisements by colonists like “John Hansen, Of the City of Albany” further illustrate their broad dissemination. In addition, such advertisements suggest that colonists in faraway places read or skimmed entire issues (including advertisement), not solely foreign and domestic news.

July 23

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

Jul 23 - 7:23:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (July 23, 1767).

“PETER GOELET … Has just imported … a great Variety of other Articles.”

Peter Goelet knew that potential customers might read one of several newspapers published in New York in 1767. To increase the chances that colonists who wanted or needed any of his “Large and complete Assortment of Ironmongery, Cutlery and Brasses” would see his advertisement and visit his shop “At the Golden-Key in Hanover-Square” he inserted his notice in more than one newspaper. On a Thursday, readers encountered it in the July 23, 1767, edition of the New-York Journal, but it had also appeared in the New-York Gazette and the New-York Mercury on the previous Monday. The copy did not vary from one publication to another, but the compositors in each printing office made their own decisions about typography (though the variations were minor).

Goelet incurred expenses when he placed his advertisement in multiple newspapers. Neither William Weyman nor Hugh Gaine, the printers of the New-York Gazette and the New-York Mercury, respectively, listed the price for advertising in their publications. John Holt, on the other hand, incorporated the fee schedule into the colophon of the New-York Journal: “Advertisements of a moderate Length are inserted for Five shillings, four Weeks, and One Shilling for each Week after.” Goelet and other advertisers paid a fee to have their notices set in type, but after a month purchased only the space. Goelet, however, did not take advantage of these savings. His advertisement first appeared on July 16 and then again in the next three issues. Perhaps he had stretched the resources he was willing to commit to marketing as far as possible at the time and decided not to continue inserting this particular advertisement. Apparently, however, he believed that advertising in the New-York Journal had been worth the investment. Within three months he inserted a new, much lengthier list-style advertisement that enumerated scores of items recently imported from London and Bristol. New merchandise merited new expenditures on advertising in order to move the goods out the door and generate revenue.