June 30

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

Jun 30 - 6:30:1769 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (June 30, 1769).

“A neat BOAT, suitable for the reception of passengers.”

Readers encountered four advertisements for transportation via “Passage Boat” in the June 30, 1769, edition of the New-London Gazette. Ebenezer Webb sailed between New London and Sterling on Long Island “as usual,” though he advised prospective passengers that they “may be landed on any Part of the East End of the Island.” Peter Griffing charted a similar course across Long Island Sound, but kept a different schedule than his direct competitor, Webb. A brief advertisement reminded readers that “Truman’s Passage-Boat plies between Sagharbour and Norwich Landing, as usual.”

Samuel Stockwell inserted a much more extensive advertisement to address prospective passengers; it occupied as much space on the page as the other three advertisements combined. Unlike the others, Stockwell did not transport passengers and freight across Long Island Sound. Instead, he sailed up and down the Thames River between New London and Norwich. In order to pursue that enterprise, he had “lately built and has now fitted out a neat BOAT, suitable for the reception of passengers.” In a nota bene, he added that he provided food and wine “at a very reasonable rate.”

Griffing, Truman, and Webb did not comment on why readers of the New-London Gazette might wish to travel aboard their passage boats except to move freight and passengers from one place to another. Each implied that crossing Long Island Sound was much more efficient than making a journey by land. Stockwell, on the other hand, suggested that “Gentlemen or Ladies” might wish to make a voyage aboard his boat “for their health or pleasure,” presenting his business as part of a nascent tourism and hospitality industry that began to emerge in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Realizing that passengers seeking leisure activities likely would not sustain his new endeavor by themselves, he also made a practical appeal to “Gentlemen that have occasion to attend the courts” when they were in session in New London and Norwich. Stockwell set a regular schedule, but he adapted during those weeks that prospective passengers needed to attend “the sitting of the courts.” Hiring passage on his boat, he proposed, would “lessen the vast expence of the law” by eliminating the “great expense of horse hire and keeping.” Even though less than fifteen miles separated New London and Norwich, those who traveled between the two incurred significant expenses if they made the journey on land. Stockwell provided an attractive and more comfortable alternative, one that made the journey a “pleasure” even for those who traveled to attend to business at the courts.

July 3

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

Jul 3 - 7:3:1767 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (July 3, 1767).

A Passage-Boat fitted in the best Manner for the Reception of Passengers.”

Samuel Beebe and Ebenezer Webb were competitors. Both operated a ferry service, or “Passage-Boat,” between New London, Connecticut, and Long Island, New York, but they did not follow the same route. In his advertisement, which appeared immediately above Beebe’s notice, Webb allowed that “Passengers may be landed on any Part of the East End of the Island,” but then claimed that “Sterling is preferable for a Landing Place.” Beebe, who delivered passengers to Oyster Point Pond at the easternmost tip of Long Island, disagreed. “Passengers, by being landed on the East End,” he argued, “saves more Time than the Distance between there and Sterling.” Beebe admitted that his passengers disembarked at a location farther from New York than if they sailed to Sterling with Webb, but there were other factors that they needed to take into account. “[F]or while a Boat is beating Seven Miles to windward,” Beebe explained, “a Traveler may go Twenty Miles on Shore.” Travelers needed to be well-informed and discerning about the relative advantages of transport via land versus over sea. Webb pointed out that by taking his ferry passengers “must save 50 Miles” compared to traveling only by land around Long Island Sound, but Beebe countered that sometimes traveling by land might be the faster option, especially since “a level plain Road” ran the 120 miles between Oyster Point Pond and New York.

Although Beebe and Webb focused primarily the advantages of their route, both enhanced their advertisements by mentioning other amenities to attract potential clients. In so doing, they marketed transportation services as a travel experience. They invited customers to consider the overall package, not just the route. Webb, for example, delivered copies of the New-London Gazette to subscribers on Long Island. When Beebe began advertising that “he keeps a House of Entertainment for Man and Horse” at Oyster Point Pond, an establishment where “Gentleman Travellers may be well used,” Webb updated his advertisement with a final note that “Good Entertainment for Travellers may be had at the Subscriber’s House.” Both indicated that their ferries operated “Wind and Weather permitting.” Should acts of nature delay departures, passengers could depend on comfortable lodgings while they waited. Time, distance, and comfort all played a role in convincing travelers which “Passage-Boat” to sail.