October 22

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

Oct 22 - 10:22:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (October 22, 1768).

“The Snow TRISTRAM … WILL be ready to sail in 14 Days.”

In the late 1760s Joseph Russell and William Russell advertised frequently in the Providence Gazette. Unlike most advertisers throughout the colonies, they sometimes ran multiple advertisements in a single issue, a tactic that enhanced their prominence as local merchants and gave their enterprises even greater visibility. Such was the case in October 1768. On October 1 they placed a new advertisement for “a neat and fresh Assortment of GOODS” that they had just imported “in the Ship Cleopatra.” It appeared in all five issues published in October. On October 15 they inserted a new advertisement that solicited passengers and cargo for the Tristram, scheduled to sail for London in fourteen days. In the same advertisement the Russells seized the opportunity to hawk their “stout Russia DUCK, best Bohea TEA, [and] an neat Assortment of Irish LINENS.”

That advertisement appeared in the Providence Gazette on two more occasions, but never with updated copy. It ran in the October 22 edition, still proclaiming that the Tristram “WILL be ready to sail in 14 Days.” Anyone interested in arranging “Freight or Passage” needed to pay attention to the date listed at the end of the advertisement: “October 15, 1768.” The advertisement made one final appearance on October 29 – the day the Tristram was supposed to set sail – still stating that the ship would depart in fourteen days. It may have still been possible to book passage, but unlikely that Captain David Shand took on additional cargo at that time. The Russells, however, continued to peddle textiles and tea along with the assortment of other merchandise promoted in the companion advertisement published elsewhere in the issue.

The Russells provided enough information for prospective clients to determine the sailing date of the Tristram even though they did not revise the copy as the date approached. Listing the date they submitted the advertisement to the printing office was an imperative component because once the type had been set the notice would run without changes until it was discontinued. Very rarely did advertisements undergo any sort of revision in colonial America. Instead, they were eventually replaced with new advertisements comprised of completely different copy, if advertisers wished to continue at all. This meant that advertisements that ran for any length of time might include outdated portions, an aspect that likely contributed to skepticism of marketing efforts by readers.

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.

July 13

What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Jul 13 - 7:11:1766 Advert 2 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (July 11, 1766).

“The Portsmouth PACKET sails for Boston next Monday.”

This advertisement caught my eye thanks to its fairly unique format. It ran across the bottom of the three columns on the second page of the July 11, 1766, issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette. It briefly announced that “The Portsmouth PACKET sails for Boston next Monday. Those who incline to go to Commencement may have a Passage, &c.” While it was short on details, the advertisers assumed that readers had sufficient background knowledge to fill in the gaps on their own.

For readers who read or examined this newspaper long after it was published, another advertisement at the bottom of the third column on the facing page told more of the story.

Jul 13 - 7:11:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (July 11, 1766).

(As an aside, I note that the third page is not the facing page when accessing this issue digitally since only one page at a time can be accessed and viewed. This creates yet another distinction between the manner in which eighteenth-century readers consumed newspapers and modern readers experience their digital surrogates. Researchers working with original newspapers, however, benefit from a better impression of the visual composition of multiple pages in relation to each other.)

This second advertisement revised the schedule for the stagecoach that regularly traveled between Portsmouth and Boston. Instead of leaving on the following Tuesday, it was instead scheduled to depart on Monday “for the better Convenience of those who may incline to go to the ensuing Commencement at Cambridge, on Wednesday next.”

The Commencement ceremony at Harvard College was a significant enough event that the providers of multiple forms of transportation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, placed advertisements intended to facilitate travel to it and attract passengers. Their advertisements on facing pages created competition between two modes of transportation, a stagecoach by land or a ship by sea.