What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“He can fix them as well as any Surgeon-Dentist who ever came from London.”
Silversmith Paul Revere placed several advertisements in 1770, but not for his primary occupation. Instead, he ran advertisements for other purposes. In March, just three weeks after the Boston Massacre, Revere advertised “A PRINT containing a Representation of the late horrid Massacre in King-Street,” though his name did not appear in the advertisement. Instead, it announced that Edes and Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, sold the print. Still, Revere engraved the print and rushed it to market to beat a competing print by Henry Pelham (from whom Revere pirated the image). A few weeks later, Revere advertised another print, this time with his name prominently displayed in the advertisement. That print depicted “a View of the Town of Boston in New-England, and British Ships of War landing their Troops in the Year 1768.” Revere likely considered this a companion piece to his Boston Massacre print. Both of them operated as propaganda supporting the American cause.
By late July, Revere shifted the focus of his advertising efforts to “ARTIFICIAL-TEETH.” He expressed gratitude to “the Gentlemen and Ladies who have employed him in the care of their Teeth” while simultaneously “inform[ing] them and all others … that he still conti[n]ues the Business of a Dentist.” In the two years that he had followed that occupation, Revere claimed to have “fixt some Hundreds of Teeth.” He made his own version of a “Buy American” appeal by proclaiming that he fixed teeth “as well as any Surgeon-Dentist who ever came from London.” Advertisers who offered medical services often noted their origins or training in London as a means of establishing their credentials and even suggesting that they were more qualified than their counterparts from the colonies. Revere had little patience for such claims, especially in comparison to the quality of the services he provided as a dentist.
Whether advertising prints of British troops arriving in Boston or firing on the residents of the city or promoting artificial teeth, Revere injected pro-American sentiments into the notices for goods and services he placed in the public prints in 1770. Running advertisements in the Boston-Gazette allowed him to simultaneously seek advance his business interests and disseminate pro-American ideology.