September 13

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

Connecticut Journal (September 13, 1771).

“STAGE-COACH … to pass thro’ this Coolony.”

Nicholas Brown aimed to improve the infrastructure that connected the major towns in New England in the early 1770s, establishing his own stagecoach service between Hartford and New Haven to supplement other routes already in existence.  In the summer of 1771, for instance, John Stavers placed advertisements in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and the New-Hampshire Gazette to promote “Stage-Coach, Number One” that ran between Boston and Portsmouth.  Stavers sought to ward off competition from a competitor who had only recently established service along the same route.

Brown, on the other hand, added a new route in hopes of better connecting the region.  To that end, he acquired “an elegant, and convenient Stage Coach and four Horses” to cover a route between Hartford and New Haven once a week. He anticipated that another operator would soon set up service from Hartford to Boston, allowing “Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces” to pass through Connecticut on their way to Boston rather than “go by Water from New-York to Providence” and then continue overland to Boston.  New routes meant more options for transporting passengers and freight.

In an advertisement in the September 13, 1771, edition of the Connecticut Journal, Brown framed his endeavor as an investment opportunity and a service that merited the support of local benefactors.  He mentioned “a low and moderate Price,” but did not specify which days his stagecoach ran between Hartford and New Haven or where to meet it in either town.  Instead, he focused primarily on the “great Expence” he already incurred, requesting that “all Gentlemen disposed to countenance the Undertaking” would leave their names and “such Sum … as their Generosity shall dictate” at the printing office.  In addition to accepting donations to make stagecoach service between Hartford and New Haven viable, Brown also invited “any Gentleman … disposed to share with him the Loss or Gain of the Undertaking” to join him as partners.  That first advertisement alerted prospective customers to a new “STAGE-COACH” route, but the proprietor also used it as a prospectus for gaining other kinds of support for his new enterprise.

December 9

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

Dec 9 - 11:9:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (November 9, 1769).

“A Nail Manufactory at the Furnace Hope.”

The proprietors of the “Nail Manufactory at the Furnace Hope” placed an employment advertisement in the December 9, 1769, edition of the Providence Gazette. They sought “experienced Nail-Makers” who wished to be “usefully and advantageously employed” at the furnace in Scituate, “about 12 Miles from Providence.” The proprietors operated the furnace and aimed to establish a nail manufactory at a time that many colonists advocated for “domestic manufactures” as an alternative to goods imported from Britain. The nail manufactory had the potential to produce an important commodity for domestic consumption while simultaneously employing “A NUMBER” of colonists. The plan resonated with popular discourse of the period.

This “WANTED” advertisement appeared immediately below “A CARD” in which an unnamed “Daughter of Liberty” expressed an even more radical vision for the colonial economy. She addressed a “laudable Plan for building a Market-House,” expressing doubts about the eventual success of the venture. She suggested a different venture, making a “Proposal for … a Manufactory, for the Encouragement of Industry, and Employment of the Indigent and Indolent of both Sexes.” Rather than hiring experienced artisans, this manufactory would create jobs for vulnerable and marginalized colonists who did not necessarily possess specialized skills. The unnamed Daughter of Liberty envisioned a manufactory that would employ “both Sexes,” thus providing opportunities and income for women as well as men.

The author of this “CARD” described such a manufactory as “an Edifice which may be thought more immediately adapted to the Times,” predicting that it “would in a great Measure tend to avert the impending Ruin that threatens us.” Colonists could have thought of the “impending Ruin” in at least two ways. Given that the author identified herself (or perhaps himself) as a Daughter of Liberty, perhaps the “impending Ruin” referred to what would happen if the colonies did not develop their own industry and produce more of the goods they needed rather than rely on imports from Britain. The colonies experienced a trade deficit, a situation further exacerbated when Parliament imposed taxes on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea in the Townshend Acts. That could have gone from bad to worse if Parliament decided on further taxation and regulation of commerce in the colonies. Yet the unnamed author may have had social rather than political concerns in mind, fearing the proliferation of “Indigent and Indolent” people who consumed too many resources on their way to becoming burdens that the community could no longer support. The author may have intended for readers to reach both conclusions, giving the “CARD” a political valence as a means of dressing up the less-than-charitable aspects of the commentary about the “Indigent and Indolent” in Rhode Island.