November 12

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

New-York Journal (November 12, 1772).

“SABLE Muffs and Tippets.”

When John Siemon, a furrier from London, first arrived in New York in December 1771, he took to the pages of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Journal to alert prospective customers that he “he intends to stay a month only in this city,” encouraging them to acquire “the newest fashion’d MUFFS, TIPPETS, ERMINE and lining for CLOAKS … now worn by the LADIES at the Court of Great-Britain” before he departed.  Siemon advised that any milliners and shopkeepers “who intend to purchase after his departure” could direct their orders to “FROMBERGER and SIEMON, in Second Street, Philadelphia.”  Rather than arriving in New York directly from London, the furrier had first visited the Quaker City, established a partnership, and set up shop there.

Siemon returned to New York in November 1772.  In an advertisement in the New-York Journal, he once again described himself as “from London,” but this time added “but last from Philadelphia.”  He reminded readers that he “resided in this city last winter,” but this time he “intends settling here.”  He brought with him “to this Metropolis” a “General Assortment of FURS.”  Siemon hoped to resume relationships with his clients “who were pleased to favour him with their custom last winter,” pledging that new and returning clients “may depend on” him producing muffs, tippets, and other items “agreeable to fashion and beauty, on reasonable terms.”  He did not mention an ongoing partnership with Fromberger; instead, the headline promoted “JOHN SIEMON, and Co.”

Some readers may have remembered Siemon, his furs, and his advertisements.  They may have also remembered that an image adorned some of his advertisements.  When Siemon ventured to New York, he took with him a woodcut depicting a muff and tippet that previously appeared in advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal.  Siemon’s new advertisement included an image of the muff, but the woodcut appears to have been modified to remove the tippet.  Eliminating the long scarf significantly reduced the size of the woodcut.  Since advertisers paid by the amount of space their notices occupied rather than the number of words, that reduced how much Siemon spent to publish his new advertisement.  Reducing costs, however, may not have been the reason for reworking the image.  Upon dissolving his partnership with Fromberger, he may have considered the updated image an appropriate representation of his new enterprise.  On the other hand, Siemon may not have put that much thought into the image if the woodcut simply broke and he could salvage only the portion depicting the muff.

Whatever the explanation, the woodcut experienced greater mobility than others created for advertisers, transported back and forth between two cities and delivered to three different printing offices.  Including the image in his advertisements required some effort by Siemon, suggesting that he considered it effective in attracting clients.

November 5

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

New-York Journal (November 5, 1772).

At the Sign of the Three Sugar Loaves.”

In the fall of 1772, George Webster joined the ranks of advertisers who attempted to draw more attention to their newspaper notices by adorning them with images related to their businesses.  Webster, a grocer, kept shop “at the Sign of the Three Sugar Loaves” on Leary Street in New York.  A woodcut at the top of his advertisement depicted three sugar loaves, a tall one flanked by two shorter ones.  The border that surrounded the sugar loaves suggested that the image replicated the sign that marked Webster’s location.

Throughout the colonies, entrepreneurs who placed notices in the public prints sometimes incorporated such images, but the use of images in advertising was not a standard practice in the eighteenth century.  When Webster first used his woodcut in the October 22, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, it was one of only three images in the entire issue.  As usual, the lion and unicorn appeared on either side of a crown and shield in the masthead on the front page.  Elsewhere in the issue, Nesbitt Deane’s image of a tricorn hat and a banner bearing his name once again took up as much space as the copy it introduced.  The remainder of the advertisements, dozens of them filling fourteen of the eighteen columns in the six-page edition, did not have images.  That made Webster’s new woodcut depicting the Sign of the Three Sugar Loaves all the more noteworthy.  The following week, his image appeared once again, this time alongside two advertisements that featured stock images provided by the printer, a ship and a horse.  Neither of those familiar images had been crested for the exclusive use of any particular advertisers.  Webster, like Deane, made an additional investment in commissioning a woodcut so closely associated with some aspect of his own business.

By the time that the image appeared in Webster’s advertisement on November 5, regular readers would have recognized it, but that does not necessarily mean that the novelty had dissipated.  The woodcut continued to distinguish the grocer’s notice from the dozens of others in that issue.  Its mere presence demanded attention on a page that lacked other images in a newspaper with only four other images distributed across all six pages.  It likely also helped to encourage brand recognition as both image and text in Webster’s newspaper advertisement corresponded to the sign that colonizers glimpsed when they visited or passed his shop.

November 1

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

New-York Journal (October 29, 1772).

“The Particular Day for Sale will be made known by Advertisements being put up at the Merchant’s Coffee-House.”

An announcement about an upcoming auction of “ONE of the best half Blood Horses in America” began running in the New-York Journal in October 1772.  The advertisement provided a variety of details about the horse, stating that it was “4 Years old, and upwards of 15 Hands high.”  In addition, the horse was “an exceeding fine bay, trots well, and is warranted sound, [and] he is sufficiently broke, both for Saddle and Carriage.”  The notice also proclaimed that the horse “was got by Capt. De Laney’s famous Horse Wildair, out of one of the best Esopus Breeding Mares, whose Size, Strength and Courage are equal to any in the Country.”

The advertisement gave a location for the auction, the Merchant’s Coffee House, and even a time, “12 o’Clock,” but not a day.  Instead, it indicated that the auction would take place either “the latter End of this or the beginning of next Month.”  A nota bene explained why a date had not yet been set.  The horse had not yet been “brought down” to the city.  It also specified that the “Particular Day for Sale will be made known by Advertisements being put up at the Merchant’s Coffee-House.”  The notice in the newspaper encouraged interested parties to visit a local business to look for other advertisements with more information posted there.  Those additional advertisements may have been broadsides produced in the printing office of the New-York Journal or may have been handwritten notices.  Either way, the newspaper notice testified to a broader scope of advertising that colonizers encountered as they conducted business and went about their daily lives.

The newspaper advertisement also included a notation intended solely for the compositor and others working in the printing office: “54—.”  That number referred to the issue in which the notice first appeared, “NUMB. 1554” on October 15.  Many other advertisements included a second number that corresponded to the final issue in which they should appear, alerting the compositor when to discontinue them.  The dash in this advertisement indicated that it should run indefinitely until the advertiser requested its removal, a decision that made sense considered that a date for the auction had not been set.  It ended up running for four consecutive weeks, from October 15 through November 5, costing five shilling according to the rates published in the colophon of the New-York Journal.  By then, the advertiser posted some sort of notice at the Merchant’s Coffee House, at least according to the pledge made in the newspaper notice.

October 4

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

New-York Journal (October 1, 1772).

“The surest Means to acquire a speedy Sale … is to make them of full Quality, at a moderate Charge, and good Attendance.”

Richard Deane, “DISTILLER, from “LONG-ISLAND,” considered experience one of the best markers of quality for the spirits that he sold in New York.  He stocked “a Quantity of neat Brandy, Geneva, Spirits of Wine, and Cordials of different Sorts” as well as “the very best Quality” shrub and New York rum.  In an advertisement in the October 1, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, he attempted to leverage a precursor to name recognition or brand recognition, stating that the “good Quality of said DEANE’s Brandy, Geneva, and Cordials, has for several Years past been well experienced” by satisfied customers.  In turn, he redoubled his efforts “to excel in that particular Branch of Business” to further enhance his distillery’s reputation.

Deane elaborated on his business philosophy in a note that concluded his advertisement, confiding that he was “fully convinced by long Experience, that the surest Means to acquire a speedy Sale of the above Articles, is to make them of full Quality, at a moderate Charge, and good Attendance, which, with every other Endeavour to give Satisfaction, will be the constant Study, of the Public’s very obliged humble Servant.”  A manicule drew attention to the distiller’s promise to combine high quality, reasonable prices, and excellent customer service.  In many ways, Deane’s marketing strategy anticipated those deployed by breweries and distilleries today.  Many modern companies link their beers and spirits to traditions that date back to previous centuries, invoking a heritage their founders passed down through generations.  They invoke “long Experience” to encourage consumers to feel as though they participate in customs of significance when they imbibe beverages from their breweries or distilleries.  That “long Experience” also testifies to quality.  After all, breweries and distilleries would not remain in business so long if generations of customers did not appreciate their beers and spirits.  The philosophy that Dean expounded at the conclusion of his advertisement in the New-York Journal is the type of historical record that modern advertising executives would love to exploit in connection to the products they market.

October 1

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

New-York Journal (October 1, 1772).

“I think it my duty to declare, that they are a curious, expeditious and elegant contrivance.”

The October 1, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal included an advertisement for a “MACHINE to dress FLOUR.”  The inventor, John Milne, or his son explained that the king “has been pleased to grant … his royal letters patent, for all his colonies in America, &c. for the sole making and vending” of this new machine.  In turn, the Milnes declared that the “said machines are to be sold by JOHN MILNE, and Co. at their house in Manchester; or by applying to James Milne (son of the said John Milne)” in New York.  They also described how this machine “not only make[s] the flour look better, but also … will dispatch three times as much business in the same time, as the common method of bolting with cloths.”  They went into detail about the greater efficiency of the machine compared to more familiar methods that relied on bolting cloths, underscoring that the efficiency resulted in savings.  Overall, Milne’s machines “are much cheaper” than the alternative.  In addition, he produced machines for cleaning wheat, barley, and other grains that removed seeds and gave “brightness and lustre to the grain.”

Rather than ask prospective customers to trust only in the inventor’s description and the “royal letters patent,” the Milnes provided two testimonials from satisfied customers near New York.  Jacob Sebring, Jr., noted that he used the machines at his mill on Long Island, “where they are now to be seen at work.”  Based on his experience with the new machines, he considered them “a curious, expeditious and elegant contrivance” … that “will answer every purpose for which they are designed, and likewise be of great service to the publick.”  Similarly, Derick Brinckerhoff of “Fish-Kills, Dutchess County” wrote that he “found Mr. Milne’s machine answer the purposes of bolting for which they are intended; infinitely better than the old method of doing it with cloths.”  He confirmed some of the claims made by the inventor, stating that the machines “really bolt three times as quick without the least exaggeration.”  He offered his endorsement “for the good of the community, and particularly to those who are manufacturers of flour.”  Both Brinckerhoff and Sebring positioned their testimonials as a public service rather than a commercial appeal.  Sebring even invoked his “duty” to share his experience with others who would benefit from acquiring Milne’s machine.

The Milnes realized that prospective customers might doubt the veracity of their claims about the efficiency of this invention, even with the “royal letters patent” granted by the king.  To answer doubts, they enlisted others who already had experience with the machine to provide testimonials that confirmed that they accurately represented their product’s capabilities.  They hoped that such endorsements would aid in making sales in the colonies once prospective customers learned that others had positive experiences with the new machines.

September 24

Who were the subjects of advertisements in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

New-York Journal (September 24, 1772).

THE Publick are hereby requested not to trust Susannah Crane the Wife of me the Subscriber.”

THIS is to inform the Publick, that I have been compelled to leave my Husband’s House.”

For four weeks in August and September 1772, Jeremiah Crane ran a “runaway wife” advertisement in the New-York Journal to inform the public “not to trust” his wife, Susanna, “on my Account … for I am determined to pay no Debts of her contracting.”  He complained that “she has already run me very considerably in Debt,” forcing him to place the notice “to prevent my entire Ruin.”  Similar advertisements frequently appeared in newspapers throughout the colonies, often deploying formulaic language as they described marital discord in full view of the public.  Jeremiah took a harsher tone in his advertisement, not only accusing Susanna of “living and behaving herself in so scandalous and notorious a Manner” to justify a “publick Notice” but also accusing her of leading “the Life of a common Prostitute.”  Even when they made insinuations about infidelity, husbands who placed “runaway wife” advertisements rarely leveled such accusations so explicitly.  That Jeremiah took that approach testified to the tumult in the Crane household.

In most instance, frustrated husbands set the narrative, at least in the public prints.  Wives could share their version of events via conversations and gossip, but usually lacked the resources to place their own notices in newspapers.  Susanna, however, did run her own notice, declaring that she had been “compelled to leave my Husband’s House, in which I had long received the basest and most unmanly Usage.”  She described a “Disposition naturally jealous, and often inflamed with Liquor,” suggesting that the problems in the Crane household did not originate with her.  Without naming names, Susanna addressed the allegations made by her husband, stating that “he was excited by the Insinuations and base Aspersions of a Person at whose House he spends the best Part of his Time and Substance.”  Jeremiah spent so much time away from his own home that he neglected his wife and her “poor Babes” by not providing “the most scanty Maintenance at Home.”  According to Susanna, the problem was not her comportment, falsely represented by an acquaintance, but rather her husband spending too much time drinking and partaking in tales told by that acquaintance.

In those relatively few instances when wives did place their own advertisements, they almost always appeared in response to notices placed their husbands.  Susanna, however, managed to publish her notice in the same issue in which Jeremiah’s advertisement first appeared.  The compositor chose to place those notices together, perhaps to aid readers with a more complete story or perhaps in sympathy with Susanna.  Either way, readers saw her rebuttal immediately following Jeremiah’s notice.  In most instances when wives responded, their advertisements appeared separately, often on another page completely.  That increased the likelihood that some readers perused only a husband’s side of the story.  The placement of Susanna’s notice aided her in using the power of the press to defend her reputation against Jeremiah’s “churlish Disposition.”

September 20

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

New-York Journal (September 20, 1772).

“Hoping they will leave the odd Pence at the Place, / Where the Papers are left for them by CASE.”

Three newspapers printed in New York served the city and the rest of the colony in the early 1770s.  Samuel Inslee and Anthony Car printed the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, leasing it from Samuel Parker.  Hugh Gaine printed the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, while John Holt printed the New-York Journal.  In addition, Alexander Robertson and James Robertson published the Albany Gazette for a brief period in the early 1770s, establishing the newspaper on November 21, 1771, and distributing the last known issue on August 3, 1772.  Post riders distributed those newspapers to subscribers throughout the colony.

Newspaper subscribers notoriously asked for credit and fell behind in making payments, causing printers to publish frequent requests for them to settle accounts or face legal action.  Many of the subscribers to the newspapers published in New York apparently failed to pay the post riders either.  In the fall of 1772, a man who identified himself only as Case sent a request to Holt’s printing office: “Please to insert the following Lines in your next, and oblige the Albany Post Rider.”  Those lines consisted of a short poem, entitled “The Albany Post Rider’s Representation,” that pleaded with subscribers to pay for delivery of their newspapers.

Case’s poem was not great literature, but it made his case in a manner that readers likely found entertaining … or at least noticed.  “AS true as my Name is CASE, / I find Cash very scarce,” the poem began with a couplet that did not quite rhyme.  That did not deter the post rider from continuing: “Therefore take it not unkind, / If I put my Customers in mind, / I have rode Post one Year, / Which has cost me very dear.”  Case asserted that he made sacrifices to carry the news “Which make me stand in need of pay, / Without the least Delay: / From such Gentlemen indebted to me, / For bringing them their News to read and see.”  He concluded with instructions in the form of a suggestion, “Hoping they will leave the odd Pence at the Place, / Where the Papers are left for them by CASE.”

This verse did not rival the weekly entry in “POET’S CORNER” that appeared in the upper left corner of the final page of Holt’s New-York Journal, but it did distinguish Case’s advertisements from others.  Colonizers sometimes resorted to poems to enhance advertisements placed for a variety of purposes, including goods for sale and runaway indentured servants.  They experimented with advertising copy beyond writing straightforward notices that merely made announcements.

August 27

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

New-York Journal (August 27, 1772).

“May have them clean’d again immediately without expence.”

As fall approached in 1772, watchmaker John Simnet marked the second anniversary of his arrival in New York by distributing a new advertisement in the newspapers published in that city.  Readers should have been familiar with Simnet and his feud with rival watchmaker John Yeoman.  The two exchanged barbs in their newspaper notices over the course of several months.  Before moving to New York, Simnet had similarly participated in a war of words with a competitor, Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith, in the pages of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  In both Portsmouth and New York, Simnet acquired a reputation for acerbic commentary about his competitors.

He took a different approach, however, when marking two years in New York.  His most recent advertisement opened with an imitation of Yeoman’s advertisement intended to denigrate the other watchmaker.  The new advertisement simply declared, “WATCHES COMPLETELY repair’d, in every particular article, at HALF the price charg’d by any other.”  While he made reference to the prices of his competitors in general, Simnet did not deploy any insults aimed directly at Yeoman.  Instead, he focused on his credentials, his prices, and ancillary services intended to cultivate relationships with clients.  As usual, he trumpeted his experience and origins as a “WATCH-FINISHER, and Manufacturer, of London.”  He gave a list of prices for cleaning, replacing parts, and mending watches so prospective customers could assess for themselves whether he offered bargains compared to his competitors.  He also noted that since two years passed “since the author advertised here, some of the watches he has repair’d may become dirty.”  Simnet presented a special deal to his first customers who helped him get established in the city, inviting them to have their watches “clean’d again immediately without expence.”  He likely believed that this free service would generate more business.

Despite taking a different tone in this new advertisement, Simnet did not suspend his attacks on Yeoman.  His “ingenious Artificer” advertisement and his new notice both appeared in the August 27 edition of the New-York Journal.  That may have been an oversight, either on the part of Simnet or the compositor, since only the new advertisement found its way into the newspapers the following week.  Even without both advertisements running simultaneously, readers likely remembered Simnet’s cantankerous personality and feud with Yeoman when they encountered the new advertisement that focused solely on promoting Simnet’s positive attributes.

August 13

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

New-York Journal (August 13, 1772).

“J. BAILEY, Cutler. from Sheffield.”

Several cutlers in New York competed for customers by inserting advertisements with elaborate woodcuts depicting an array of items available at their shops in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury in the summer of 1772.  James Youle, “CUTLER FROM SHEFFIELD,” adapted an image that he and former partner J. Bailey previously ran in that newspaper a year earlier.  Lucas and Shephard, “WHITESMITHS and CUTLERS, From BIRMINGHAM and SHEFFIELD,” ran their own advertisement adorned with an image of many items included among their merchandise.

Bailey apparently determined that his competitors had an advantage, so he commissioned his own woodcut that featured both text, “J. BAILEY, Cutler. from Sheffield,” and an image that included two swords among a variety of cutlery.  The advertisement stated that Bailey was located “At the Sign of the CROSS SWORDS,” indicating that he sought to increase the effectiveness of the image beyond the efforts of his competitors with their woodcuts by closely associating it with the sign that marked his shop in addition to the goods he made and sold.  He also enhanced his advertisement by incorporating another image, that one depicting shears, below a note that he “has now for sale fullers shears.”

Those did not constitute Bailey’s only innovations relative to the advertising campaigns of his competitors.  Those advertisements all ran in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  On August 13, Bailey expanded the number of colonizers who saw his advertisement by inserting it in the New-York Journal.  That advertisement featured the same two woodcuts and the same copy that appeared in the other newspaper, giving Bailey an advantage over his former partner and other competitors who invested in woodcuts for their advertisements.  Some or all of these cutlers may have also advertised in another newspaper, the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy.  Unfortunately, issues of that newspaper from 1771 through 1773 have not been digitized, so I have not been able to consult them as readily as the other two newspapers published in New York City in 1772.  Whether or not any of these cutlers advertised in the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, Bailey was the first to seek customers among the readers of the New-York Journal.  That meant arranging to have his woodcuts transferred from one printing office to another.  The available evidence suggests that Bailey put even more thought into his advertising campaign than his competitors who already made efforts to distinguish their notices from others in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.

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.