What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Watch and Clockmaker, from Paris, but late from New-Orleans.”
Advertisements in colonial newspapers testified to the migration of artisans from place to place in the Atlantic World in the eighteenth century. As they sought to earn their livelihoods in new locations, some artisans introduced themselves to prospective customers with newspaper notices. These newcomers had not yet established their reputations in the cities and towns where they settled, so they used advertising as a means of assuring consumers of the quality of their work if given a chance. As part of those efforts, they listed their origins in hopes that prospective customers would associate some sort of cachet with London, Paris, and other European cities. Some even continued to make reference to their origins long after they set up shop in the colonies.
Consider two advertisements that appeared in the July 3, 1773, edition of the Providence Gazette. In the first, Lambert Lescoiet pledged that he made and repaired watches and clocks “in the best Manner, and doubts not of giving entire Satisfaction to such as may please to employ him.” Having recently arrived in Providence, he had not yet established a reputation or cultivated a clientele. In the absence of the community’s familiarity with him and his work, he hoped that introducing himself as a “Watch and Clockmaker, from Paris, but late from New-Orleans,” would suggest to readers that he did indeed possess the skills to “giv[e] entire Satisfaction” to his customers. He also attempted to excite some curiosity and even bragging rights among colonizers who availed themselves of the services of the clockmaker “from Paris, but late from New-Orleans.”
In the other advertisement, John Sebring continued promoting himself as a “Saddler, Chaise and Harness-Maker, from London” who made saddles and accessories “in the newest Fashion, and in the neatest Manner.” He likely hoped that prominently displaying his origins suggested that he maintained connections to London and possessed special insight into the latest fashions in the most cosmopolitan city in the empire, even though he had been working in Providence for eight months. In that time, his previous advertisement in which he declared that he “has had the Advantage of several Years Experience in some of the principal Shops in London” may have helped in attracting clients. In his latest advertisement, he expressed “his Thanks to all those who have obliged him with their Custom, and hopes for a Continuance of their Favours.” In so doing, he signaled to prospective clients that their peers already trusted him to supply their saddles and accessories.
Like many other artisans who advertised in colonial newspapers, both Lescoiet and Sebring hoped that invoking their origins from metropolitan places, like Paris and London, would serve as recommendations to prospective customers. As newcomers who had not yet established their reputations in Providence, they made reference to their origins as one means of inciting interest among local consumers.