July 3

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

Providence Gazette (July 3, 1773).

“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.

January 29

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

Jan 29 - 1:29:1770 Connecticut Courant
Connecticut Courant (January 29, 1770).

“Any gentlemen … may depend upon being served as well as in Boston.”

Cotton Murray, “Taylor from BOSTON,” inserted a brief advertisement in the January 29, 1770, edition of the Connecticut Courant “to inform the PUBLIC” that he recently began serving clients in Hartford, though he had not opened his own shop. Instead, he “set up his Business at the Printing-Office, where he makes all sorts of Men’s CLOATHS.” Though an unusual location for a tailor, he pledged that “Any gentleman that please to favour him with their Custom, may depend upon being served as well as in Boston.”

In making that promise, Murray played on anxieties common among colonial consumers. Those in the largest cities looked to London and other major cities on the other side of the Atlantic, comparing the goods and services available in the two locales. Similarly, consumers in smaller cities and towns in the American colonies looked to Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia as centers of fashion and refinement. Yet artisans like Murray assured prospective customers in places like Hartford that their cities and towns need not have the advantage of size in order for consumers to benefit from the same services available in the larger port cities.

Murray exerted some authority in making that claim. After all, he had formerly resided and worked in Boston. He knew the quality of service customers received there and stood ready to transfer the experience to his new clientele in Hartford and the surrounding towns. He may have also expected that his origins, “from BOSTON,” gave his enterprise additional cachet among prospective customers, just as artisans in urban ports frequently proclaimed in their newspapers advertisements that they were “from London.” Doing so simultaneously introduced and promoted artisans by associating them with places considered more cosmopolitan than their new homes. That was the primary appeal to prospective customers Murray made in his advertisement. He presented his case implicitly at the beginning of his notice, stating he was “from BOSTON,” and explicitly at the conclusion to aid readers in making the connection that if they became clients they could “depend upon being served as well” as in the largest city in New England.