May 15

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

May 15 - 5:15:1770 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (May 15, 1770).

“Said HILLER has to sell, a Variety of Watch Chains, Strings, Keyes, Seals.”

When Joseph Hiller, a clock- and watchmaker, set up shop in a new location, he inserted an advertisement in the Essex Gazette to alert “the Public and his Customers in general, and those of them in the County of ESSEX in particular.”  Hiller had not only moved to a new location, he also moved to a new town.  He explained that he formerly operated a shop on King Street in Boston, but now customers could find him at “a Shop opposite the Court-House, on the Exchange, in SALEM.”  He hoped to retain those customers that he could, especially those who resided close to his new location, but he also aimed to attract new clients in Salem and its environs who may not have been previously inclined to seek out his services in Boston but would now consider his shop a viable option given its proximity.

To that end, he proclaimed that he would “execute all Sorts of CLOCK and WATCH WORK with such Accuracy, Fidelity and Dispatch, as to merit the Approbation of his Employers.”  Previous customers were already familiar with Hiller’s skill and service, so that portion of the advertisement served as an introduction to those who had not previously hired him.  He deployed appeals that artisans commonly incorporated into their advertisements, “Accuracy” testifying to the quality of his work and “Fidelity and Dispatch” applying to the customer service he provided.  While Hiller’s advertisement was not particularly innovative, it did demonstrate that he was competent, at least in how he represented his business in print.  Prospective clients could test those claims for themselves.

In an additional effort to entice customers into his new shop, Hiller appended a nota bene advising that he did more than make and repair clocks and watches.  He also carried a variety of accessories associated with his business: “Watch Chains, Strings, Keys, Seals.”  Selling these items supplemented the revenues that Hiller earned from his primary occupation; purchasing them allowed consumers to express their own tastes in embellishing their clocks and watches.  That Hiller made them available at all may have aroused the curiosity of prospective customers, encouraging them to visit his new shop to examine the accessories even if they did not wish to purchase a clock or watch or arrange for repairs.  As a newcomer in Salem, Hiller offered various reasons for consumers to make a call at his shop.

May 14

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

May 14 - 5:14:1770 New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 14, 1770).

“She has had the honour of being employed by several ladies in this city.”

Mary Morcomb did not indicate how recently she had arrived in New York in her advertisement, but it was recently enough that she described herself as a “Mantua-Maker, from London.”  After migrating to the colonies, she hoped to establish a new clientele.  To that end, she informed readers of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury that she made “all sorts of negligees, Brunswick dresses, gowns, and every other sort of lady’s apparel.”  In addition, she extended her skills working with textiles to “cover[ing] UMBRELLOES in the neatest and most fashionable manner.”  Invoking her London origins testified to her access to the latest styles and taste, reassuring prospective customers that she did indeed produce both garments and umbrellas, a new and exotic accessory in the early 1770s, in the “most fashionable manner.”

As a newcomer who could not depend on a reputation established through interacting with clients and acquaintances over time, Morcomb instead attempted to accelerate the process.  She claimed that she already “had the honour of being employed by several ladies in this city.”  Those ladies, Morcomb reported, were satisfied with the garments she made for them and had “declared their approbation of her work.”  This was a secondhand testimonial, delivered by the provider of the goods and services, yet Morcomb hoped it would be sufficient to garner “encouragement from the ladies, in her business.”  She concluded by pledging that if prospective clients put their trust in her that they “May depend upon having their work done with all possible care and dispatch.”

In her effort to attract new customers, Morcomb deployed strategies often used by artisans, especially those in the garment trades, who only recently arrived in the colonies.  Many emphasized their connections to cosmopolitan cities where they had access to the latest fashions and then suggested that this already translated to serving select clients in their new location.  Although unfamiliar to many residents in their communities, Morcomb and other artisans attempted to incite demand by asserting that their services were already in demand.  Prospective customers should be eager to hire them, they proposed, because they had already successfully demonstrated their proficiency at their trades.

December 22

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

Dec 22 - 12:22:1769 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (December 22, 1769).

“The said Watson being a stranger, the said John Champlin doth strongly recommend him.”

James Watson, a clock- and watchmaker “Late from London,” inserted am advertisement in the December 22, 1769, edition of the New-London Gazette to inform prospective clients that he “hath lately removed from Mr. Robert Douglass, silver smith’s shop, to Mr. John Champlin, silver smith’s shop, near the new court house in New-London.” This was not the first time that Watson and his services appeared in the public prints. Just four months earlier Douglass ran another notice, also in the New-London Gazette, announcing that he “employs Mr. James Watson, Clock and Watch Maker, just from London.” Apparently Douglass and Watson quickly discovered some reason to go their separate ways. In the process, Watson pursued the same strategy for integrating into the local marketplace. Rather than open his own shop, he established an affiliation with another artisan already known to local consumers.

In the earlier advertisement, Douglass communicated a guarantee on behalf of the watchmaker, declaring that “Watson will Warrant his Work for Two Years.” Champlin made an even stronger statement of support for the newcomer: “The said Watson being a stranger, the said John Champlin doth strongly recommend him to all his customers or others.” Furthermore, Champlin endorsed Watson’s skill and character, asserting that he “will warrant his ability and fidelity in any thing he shall undertake in said business.” In so doing, Champlin staked his own reputation on the work that he expected Watson to undertake in his shop and the interactions he anticipated Watson would have with the clientele he had already established.

Champlin still considered Watson a newcomer or “stranger” after four months in New London. Prospective clients likely did as well, making it all the more important that Champlin vouched for Watson. Over time the watchmaker could demonstrate his skill to local consumers, but at the start he depended in part on forging relationships with local artisans who practiced affiliated trades, hoping that their clients would also become his clients.

October 15

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

Oct 15 - 10:12:1769 New-York Chronicle
New-York Chronicle (October 12, 1769).

“They will make it their unwearied Study to serve the to the utmost of their Abilities.”

When they opened a shop in New York, bookbinders Nutter and Evans turned to the pages of the New-York Chronicle to inform “their Friends and the Public in general” of their enterprise. In most regards, their advertisement did not look much different than other newspaper advertisements placed by artisans in the eighteenth century. They emphasized both quality and price; however, they did not make reference to years of experience that served as a guarantee of their skill. Unable to make that appeal to prospective customers, they embraced they inexperience and sought to turn it into a virtue. The partnership “earnestly solicits for the Public’s Favour, particularly those who are willing to encourage new Beginners.” In exchange for taking a chance by patronizing a shop operated by these novices, Nutter and Evans offered assurances “that they will make it their unwearied Study to serve them to the utmost of their Abilities.” What they lacked in experience they made up for in enthusiasm. Nutter and Evans also understood that they had an opportunity to make good first impressions that would help them establish a reputation. They communicated to prospective customers that they understood the stakes of serving them well.

They also demonstrated that they understood the expectations prospective customers had for them, describing several of the services they provided. Nutter and Evans did “all manner of Book-binding … either in gilt or plain Covers.” They also ruled blank books “(in whatever Form required).” They enhanced these descriptions of their services with many of the appeals commonly made by bookbinders and other artisans. They made a nod to fashion, stating that they did their work “in the neatest and most elegant taste.” They also invoked the popular combination of price and quality, asserting that they practiced their trade “on reasonable Terms, and with great Accuracy.” When it came to ruling blank books, they made promises that they “performed to Satisfaction” for their clients. Even though they were “new Beginners” who knew they had to prove themselves in the marketplace, Nutter and Evans made evident their understanding of what customers expected and pledged to deliver on those expectations if “the Public in general” gave them the chance to do so.

May 5

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

May 5 - 5:5:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (May 5, 1769).

“Mends and cleans Watches, in as neat a Manner as any Watch-Finisher in Town or Country.”

John Simnet, “Watch-Finisher, and Manufacturer of London and Dublin,” continued his advertising campaign in the May 5, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. In this installment, he took a more aggressive approach than in previous notices, especially concerning his own expertise and the quality of the service he provided compared to other watchmakers in the area.  Having previously reduced the length of his advertisements, he found himself in a position of needing to elaborate in greater detail. He boldly proclaimed, “The entire Satisfaction I have given the Public, employed on numbers of imperfect Watches, after ev’ry other Workman hath either practised on them in vain, or given them up, gives me occasion to intimate to Gentlemen, that ‘tis much easier to me to repair a Watch before, than after another has with mistaken Judgment, operated on it.” Although he did not give any names, the watchmaker clearly denigrated his competition. He informed prospective customers that they might as well save themselves the time and expense and bring their watches to him first because the lack of skill of other watchmakers would ultimately cause them to seek out Simnet’s services anyway. He promoted his services in other ways as well, offering to do “Small repairs gratis” and pledging not to charge anything if he did not “do [his] Work perfect.”

Nathaniel Sheaff Griffith was not impressed with this newcomer and the competition he presented. In his own advertisement, conveniently placed next to Simnet’s notice, Griffith stated that he “mends and cleans Watches, in as neat a Manner as any Watch-Finisher in Town and Country, & much cheaper.” He invoked the term Simnet applied to himself, “Watch-Finish,” leaving little doubt that he referred to that rival in particular, even as he made a general appeal about his own skills, the quality of his work, and his low price. Griffith also played on his reputation as someone who had lived and worked in New Hampshire for quite some time. “As the said Griffith is well known in this Province,” he declared, “Gentlemen may with Safety leave their Watches in his Custody and depend upon their being seasonably returned.” Prospective customers could hardly have missed the implication that because Simnet was unfamiliar in the community that he could not be trusted. Griffith further demeaned Simnet, who had previously advertised that he planned to remain in New Hampshire for only a year, as an outsider by proposing that “Every Itenerant, or Walking-Watch-Manufacturer, especially those who carries their whole Stock upon ther Backs, should bring Credentials of their Honesty, before they can be trusted with Brass, much more Silver and Gold Watches.” According to Griffith, it was clear that Simnet was not to be trusted. He went so far as to imply that his competitor trafficked in stolen goods. “Some Men may have Watches to sell,” Griffith cautioned, “which for want of being known, may admit of a Doubt, whether they came honestly by them.” For his part, Simnet attempted to alleviate fears that he would steal watched from customers; the final line of his advertisement advised, “Security deposited in Hand, if requir’d.” In other words, he provided some sort of collateral when customers entrusted him with their watches. Just in case it was not abundantly clear that he targeted Simnet, Griffith invoked another aspect of the newcomer’s advertisements. He warned that by arranging for “mending for the low Price of a Pistereen, he may endanger the Loss of his whole Watch.”  Simnet explicitly stated that his price for mending and cleaning was “as low as a Pistereen.”

Simnet had been promoting his services in a series of advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette for several months. Griffith apparently did not appreciate the competition infringing on what he considered his market. While many eighteenth-century advertisers made general comparisons between themselves and others who pursued the same occupation, very rarely did they launch attacks at specific individuals. Griffith, however, launched a savage attack against Simnet, even though he never mentioned his rival by name. In so doing, he attempted to use the skepticism and anxiety of local consumers as a wedge to keep them away from Simnet.

February 3

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

feb-3-221767-boston-gazette
Boston-Gazette (February 2, 1767).

“David Conkie Begs Leave to acquaint the Public that he is just arrived.”

Shopkeeper David Conkie placed an advertisement in the Boston-Gazette “to acquaint the Public that he is just arrived” and that he sold “a large Assortment of Winter and Spring Goods” at a store he opened near Faneuil Hall. A newcomer to the city, advertising in one of the local newspapers served a different function for Conkie than for many of his competitors who relied on inserting notices in the public prints. Conkie needed to make potential customers aware that his shop was now an alternative to others in the city, one where they could depend on the same courteous and conscientious service and low prices that other shopkeepers promised.

In contrast, many of Conkie’s competitors were well established in Boston. They operated shops already familiar to residents of the city. Even if readers of the local newspapers had not patronized Frederick William Geyer’s shop or Jolley Allen’s shop, they had certainly encountered advertisements placed by these industrious entrepreneurs. Geyer and Allen both used advertising to gain maximum market exposure.

Geyer’s advertisement appeared immediately to the left of Conkie’s advertisement in the Boston-Gazette, but on the same day it also ran in the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston Post-Boy. Four days earlier it appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette. Geyer regularly advertised in all four of Boston’s newspapers, often choosing to run shorter advertisements (as opposed to lengthy list advertisements) in order to moderate the costs of his marketing campaign. All the same, he kept his name and his goods in the minds of local consumers.

Similarly, Allen regularly advertised in multiple newspapers. His distinctive advertisement appeared two columns to the left of Conkie’s advertisement in the Boston-Gazette, as well as in the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston Post-Boy on the same day. Allen devised a brand, of sorts, for his advertising. Each notice featured a border composed of printing ornaments, making his advertisements immediately recognizable, especially for regular readers of Boston’s newspapers. Like Geyer, he established a prominent presence through continuous and widespread advertising in the local media.

David Conkie did not publish his advertisement in multiple newspapers. He may not have had the resources to do so, yet he recognized the importance of advertising in at least one if he wished to gain a foothold in the local marketplace. He deployed the same appeals concerning price, choice, and service as his competitors as he attempted to overcome the familiarity enjoyed by established shopkeepers and draw customers to his own shop.