March 17

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

Pennsylvania Journal (March 17, 1773).


Nicholas Brooks frequently promoted maps, prints, and other products in the pages of Philadelphia’s newspapers in the early 1770s.  In an advertisement in the March 17, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal, he peddled “NOVELTIES” for the amusement of consumers.  Today, a headline for the same items might instead say “CARDS and GAMES” to attract the attention of prospective customers seeking leisure activities.

Brooks listed three games his notice, one board game and two card games.  In “THE Royal Geographical Amusement, or the European Traveller, designed for the Grand Tour,” players learned about geography as they moved their tokens around a map of Europe.  Brooks indicated that he sold the version of the game “by Doctor Nugent,” suggesting that he stocked a copy produced in 1770 by Carington Bowles in London rather than the original published by Thomas Jefferys in London in 1768.  This board game became the first known case involving maps and copyright infringement.  Copyright and Cartography provides an overview of the case as well as images of both maps/gameboards.  Robert Sayer produced another version, attributed to “Dr. Journey,” in 1774.  The game became popular enough that R.H. Laurie continued to produce it in 1823.  The Victoria and Albert Museum provides both the rules and an image of the map/gameboard. Players apparently read descriptions of each location as they moved their tokens around Europe.

In addition, Brooks sold “Geographical Cards, or a View of the principal Cities of the known World, designed for the recreation of young Gentlemen and Ladies” and “Cards of Antient History.”  John Ryland, who ran a boarding school in Northampton, created both games.  In the full title for the “Geographical Cards,” Ryland recommended their use in boarding schools.  Bowles printed the fifty-two “Geographical Cards” in 1770.  He presumably supplied Brooks with the “Cards of Antient History” as well, sending him several “NOVELTIES” to sell to colonizers in Pennsylvania.

Shopkeepers often included playing cards among the merchandise they listed in their advertisements.  Brooks attempted to distinguish these games from “the depredations daily committed upon all the finest feelings of humanity by the common gambling Cards.”  He presented the history and geography games as an “elegant and chaste invention” that would preserve the “innocence” of those who played them.  As an added bonus, these games educated players as they entertained them.  Given the critiques of luxury and leisure aimed at those who too enthusiastically participated in the transatlantic consumer revolution, Brooks sought to help prospective customers justify purchasing and playing these games.

March 12

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (March 12, 1772).

The case and cure of Thomas Hewitt, sent to the Proprietor.”

An advertisement for Maredant’s Drops, a patent medicine, in the March 12, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazetteconsisted almost entirely of testimonials from patients who claimed that it cured impurities of the blood, scurvy, ulcers, “long continued inflammations of the eyes,” and a variety of other maladies.  Nicholas Brooks sold Maredant’s Drops at his shop on Market Street in Philadelphia.  In his advertisement, he directed prospective customers to visit in order to examine “the cases of the following persons, and many others, cured by Maredant’s drops.”  He listed several individuals, including “Joseph Feyrac, Esq; lately Lieutenant-Colonel in the 18th regiment of foot,” “Mr. Stoddard, brewer, Mr. Thomas Forrest, Attorney,” and “John Good, late surgeon to his Majesty’s sloop Ferrit.”  Brooks anticipated that the volume of testimonials would convince colonizers to take a chance on the patent medicines to see if they would benefit from similar results.

The shopkeeper noted that the patent medicine “may be taken in any season, without the least inconvenience or hindrance from business.”  In addition, this nostrum would “perfect digestion, and amazingly create an appetite.”  He did not say much else about Maredant’s Drops, but instead relied on two testimonials inserted in the advertisement.  In the first, dated “Kilkenny, June 25, 1771,” Thomas Hewitt explained that twenty years earlier he “was afflicted with a most violent scurvy” in his arms that eventually led to “large ulcers and blotches” on his face.  He consulted “several eminent physicians, and tried various medicines, prescribed by them, to little or no effect.”  Other residents of Kilkenny, where Hewitt lived for more than thirty years, could confirm that was the case.  Eventually, Hewitt saw Maredant’s Drops advertised by a printer in Kilkenny.  He purchased four bottles.  The medicine “quite restored” his appetite and the scurvy “gradually left [his] face, and all parts of [his] body.”  Hewitt declared himself “perfectly cured.”  The mayor of Kilkenny co-signed Hewitt’s testimonial to “certify the above case to be a fact.”

In another testimonial, Charles Ashley, an innkeeper, described the misfortunes of his son, afflicted with “the King’s evil” (scrofula, a form of tuberculosis) after surviving smallpox.  His son “was in so much misery, and without hopes of recovery” that Ashley “despaired of his life.”  When Ashley’s son recovered upon taking the “most excellent drops,” the innkeeper felt such “gratitude for so extraordinary a cure” that he “desired this to be made public.”  Furthermore, he invited readers to call at his house, “the Talbot inn, in the Strand,” to learn more and “see the child” for themselves.  Brooks apparently believed that he did not need to say more about Maredant’s Drops.  He depended on the testimonials to do all the necessary marketing.

July 5

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

Jul 5 - 7:5:1770 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (July 5, 1770).

“Manufactured at the MANHEIM GLASS WORKS, in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania.”

The partnership of Brooks and Sharp injected patriotism into an advertisement for “AMERICAN GLASS WARE” they published in the Pennsylvania Journal for eight weeks in July and August 1770.  When colonists boycotted imported goods of all sorts in response to duties levied on imported glass, paper, lead, paint, and tea by the Townshend Acts, American entrepreneurs set about producing “domestic manufactures” to provide an alternative.  In their advertisements, they stressed the political benefits of acquiring goods made in the colonies, framing such consumption as patriotic duty.  Brooks and Sharp provided an overview of that argument, stating that during “this crisis it is the indispensable duty, as well as interest of every well wisher of America, to promote and encourage manufactures amongst ourselves.”  They were confident that consumers would do their part by purchasing products made at the Manheim Glass Works in Lancaster County, motivated by “the glorious spirit of patriotism at present voluntarily and virtuously existing here.”

Yet they realized that patriotism might not have been sufficient to convince some consumers to buy their wares, especially with the fate of the nonimportation agreement in doubt after the repeal of most of the Townshend duties a few months earlier.  Brooks and Sharp needed to make their glassware as attractive to consumers as imported alternatives now that political justifications for purchasing American manufactures did not have the same urgency.  To that end, they offered bargain prices, proclaiming that they sold their goods “on much lower terms, than such imported from Europe are usually sold.”  They also made an appeal to quality, assuring prospective customers that their glassware was not inferior to items imported from England.  The proprietors had engaged “some of the most ingenious artists in said manufacture, which is now arrived at great perfection.”  Consumers as well as “retailers in Philadelphia” and “country storekeepers” could have it all when buying and selling glassware from the Manheim Glass Works:  high quality, low prices, and the satisfaction of expressing a “glorious spirit of patriotism” in the marketplace.