September 12

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 10, 1770).

“Turtle, for large Companies, dressed to Perfection.”

When Edward Bardin opened the King’s Arms Tavern in New York in the summer of 1770, he did not confine his advertising to the newspapers published in that city.  Instead, he also placed a notice in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, advising “Gentlemen, Ladies and others” of the amenities available at his establishment.  He promised to entertain them “in the most complete and genteel Manner.”  To achieve that goal, he acquired “a good Stock of neat Wines and other Liquors, a professed Cook, and other proper Attendants.”  He also supplied “the public Papers” for his customers, likely including the New-York Journal, the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, and the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy.  He may have also subscribed to newspapers printed in other cities and towns in the colonies and perhaps even London as well.  Bardin also offered “convenient Lodgings” for “Gentlemen who are Strangers,” including those who saw his advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and then traveled to New York.  The tavernkeeper aimed to impress, contending that he had everything “necessary to render” the King’s Arms “as complete a House of Business as any on the Continent in America.”

Bardin emphasized one additional amenity for prospective guests: “Turtle, for large Companies, dressed to perfection.”  Tavernkeepers occasionally mentioned that they provided turtle, shorthand for turtle feasts.  By the middle of the eighteenth century, turtle feasts became popular among the elite in London and the largest cities in the colonies.  In “An Historical and Zooarchaeological Approach to the Study of Turtle-based Foods in the City of Brotherly Love, ca. 1750-1850,” Teagan Schweitzer notes that the turtles for these feasts were often “large ocean-bound green sea turtles … in the range of 50 to 300 pounds” and “imported from the West Indies.”  Due to their size, they were served at banquets, just as Bardin suggested in his advertisement.  According to Schweitzer, “Hannah Glasse’s 1751 edition of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, the earliest English cookbook to include a recipe for turtle, aside from the soup there was a dish highlighting the calipash (the back shell), one for the calipee (the belly), a dish made from the offal (entrails), and one from the fins.”  Recipes for turtle appeared in several eighteenth-century cookbooks.  In The Experienced English House-keeper (1769), Elizabeth Raffald “gave instructions for preparing seven dishes from a turtle weighing a hundred pounds.”  For one final example, Schweitzer highlights a recipe for turtle in Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery (1796), the first American cookbook.  Simmons included only thirty-nine recipes in that cookbook.

In the second half of the eighteenth-century, the turtle feast became a popular pastime for genteel diners who gathered for banquets at taverns like the King’s Arms in New York.  Bardin mentioned “Turtle, for large Companies, dressed to perfection” in his advertisement as an additional mark of distinction for his tavern, an amenity as important as the “neat Wines,” “public Papers,” and “proper Attendants” that made his establishment rival any other in the colonies.

August 27

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

Aug 27 - 8:27:1770 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 27, 1770).

“I took Dr. Weed’s Syrup for the Bloody Flux, which gave me immediate ease.”

An advertisement for “Dr. Weed’s Syrup and Powder for the Bloody Flux” in the August 27, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle consisted almost entirely of testimonials.  One after another, four patients who had taken the elixir described how it had cured them.  For instance, Margaret Lee testified, “FOR the good of those who are afflicted with the Bloody Flux, I would inform them that I was lately seized with the disorder, and had it very bad; but by taking Dr. Weed’s Syrup and Powder for the Bloody Flux, according to directions, I found immediate ease and by repeating it a few times was perfectly cured.”  Each of the testimonials was dated within the past month, making them current endorsements of the nostrum.

Except for a headline that read “To the PUBLIC,” the advertisement did not include any additional information, not even instructions about where to purchase Dr. Weed’s Syrup and Powder for the Bloody Flux.  George Weed apparently did not believe that such details were necessary given his stature in the community and long experience serving residents of Philadelphia.  Dr. Weed’s Syrup and Powder for the Bloody Flux was not a mass-produced patent medicine imported from across the Atlantic.  It did not bear the name of a physician or apothecary famous throughout the British Empire.  Instead, Weed prepared his syrup and powder in Philadelphia and sought to cultivate local and regional acclaim for those medicines.  In an advertisement he placed in the Pennsylvania Gazette three years earlier, he touted his thirty of experience, including “the last seven Years of which he served in the Pennsylvania Hospital” where he “attended to all the Administrations of Medicine, and Chirurgical Operations in that Infirmary.”  Even though Philadelphia was the largest city in the colonies in 1770, it was still a small enough town that Weed could assume that readers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle either already knew of him or could easily learn more by asking their acquaintances.  Whether or not that was the case, Weed gambled on making an impression by devoting his entire advertisement to testimonials and trusting that his reputation would do the rest of the work necessary to direct prospective patients to his shop.

August 8

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

Aug 8 - 8:6:1770 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 6, 1770).

“The FLYING MACHINE.”

Partners John Barnhill and John Mercereau took different approaches to adverting their stage wagon service between New York and Philadelphia in 1770.  Barnhill was responsible for operations in Philadelphia, while Mercereau ran his portion of the business in New York.  Presumably, each partner handled marketing in the city at his end of the circuit.

Barnhill placed a brief advertisement in the August 6, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Extending only three lines, it announced that “The FLYING MACHINE, kept by JOHN BARNHILL in Elm-street, sets out for New-York, on Mondays and Thursdays, and performs the Journey in TWO DAYS.”  A small manicule directed readers to the notice, but otherwise it was unadorned.  (The printing ornaments below the advertisement were part of the colophon that appeared in every issue rather decoration Barnhill selected for his advertisement.)  Barnhill seemingly relied on an established reputation for the stage wagon, emphasizing the speed of the journey.  In just “TWO DAYS” passengers and freight practically flew to New York like birds in the wonderous “FLYING MACHINE” that Barnhill maintained.

Aug 8 - 8:6:1770 New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (August 6, 1770).

That same day, Mercereau placed a much more lavish advertisement in the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy.  It featured a woodcut depicting a covered wagon drawn by two horses.  A driver wielded a whip encouraged even greater speed, enhancing the image of horses and wagon in motion.  The woodcut occupied one-third of the space of the advertisement.  Except for the masthead and an image of a ship in another advertisement, this was the only image in that issue of the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy.  As a result, it likely attracted even greater attention to Mercereau’s advertisement.  (Absent other evidence, it would be tempting to assume that Mercereau made an additional investment to commission a unique woodcut to represent his business, but earlier in the year a competitor used a nearly identical image on the same page as Mercereau’s advertisement.  The presence of both suggests that they were lesser-used stock images that belonged to the printer, not unlike images of ships, houses, horses, and enslaved people.  See the July 23 and 30 editions.)

In the advertising copy, Mercereau acknowledged his partner “in Elm Street, in Philadelphia” and listed his sign, “the New Blazing-Star,” near New York as his address.  Like Barnhill, he conjured up impressions of speed, but with a blazing star or comet rather than a flying machine.  Mercereau provided a much more extensive overview of the schedule.  The stage wagons left both Philadelphia and Powles Hook Ferry across the river from New York at sunrise on Mondays and Thursdays.  They met at Princeton in the evening.  The following morning, the drivers exchanged passengers and freight before returning to their respective cities.  With that schedule in mind, Mercereau assured prospective clients that it was “very safe for any Person to send Goods” because with only two drivers “they may exchange their Goods without any Mistake” at the only stop along the route.  He also stressed that a round trip took only five days: two days to get to Philadelphia, then “two Nights and one Day to do their Business in” Philadelphia, and finally two days to return to New York.

Mercereau also promoted the “best of Waggons,” the “sober Drivers,” and “four Setts of fresh Horses” that made the journey comfortable, safe, and speedy for passengers and freight.  Furthermore, he promised that “this Road is much the shortest” between New York and Philadelphia.  He also listed the prices so prospective clients could determine the value for themselves.

Why did Barnhill and Mercereau take such different approaches to advertising their shared enterprise in Philadelphia’s newspapers and New York’s newspapers?  Perhaps Barnhill established a more robust clientele in Philadelphia than Mercereau had managed in New York.  No matter the reason, the advertisements placed in both cities provide greater detail for understanding the operations in each city.

June 18

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

Jun 18 - 6:18 1770 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (June 18, 1770).

“Sam-Mill SAWS … By BENJAMIN HUMPHREYS.”

Visual images were relatively rare in eighteenth-century newspapers.  Mastheads often, but not always, incorporated images that became familiar to readers, but otherwise when images did appear in newspapers, they tended to accompany advertisements.  Among those images, most depicted vessels at sea, houses, horses, runaway indentured servants, or enslaved people for sale or escaping from those who held them in bondage.  Variation among these images was minor, allowing printers to use them interchangeably in advertisements.  Readers easily recognized them as stock images supplied by printers, images related to the content of advertisements but not created to adorn any particular advertisements.  When it came to ships seeking passengers and cargo, real estate, horses “to cover” (or breed), runaway servants, and the slave trade, printers did steady business selling advertisements, making it worth their investment in stock images.

The familiarity of those images made others all the more striking when they accompanied advertisements.  Even images with fairly simple designs distinguished the few advertisements that incorporated them from others that consisted entirely of text, often dense paragraphs that did not even deploy typography to allow for white space or other visual variations. When Benjamin Humphreys placed an advertisement for “Saw-Mill SAWS, Made in the NEATEST Manner” in the June 18, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, an image of a saw made it all the more noticeable to readers.  Unlike the stock images that belonged to the printer, Humphreys had to commission this woodcut.  Tied directly to his business, it could not be used elsewhere in the newspaper, especially since Humphreys had his name included in the image.  Even among advertisers who arranged for unique images to accompany their newspaper notices, relatively few incorporated their names into the woodcuts.

Jun 18 - 6:18:1770 Bartram Detail Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (June 18, 1770).

The image in another advertisement in the same issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle just happened to do so.  For nearly three years, George Bartram had occasionally published advertisements that included a depiction of his “sign of the NAKED BOY,” complete with his name.  Much more ornate than Humphrey’s woodcut of a saw, Bartram’s woodcut featured a naked child inspecting a roll of cloth in a cartouche in the center, flanked by Bartram’s merchandise on either side.  Garments on rolls of cloth appeared above the name “GEORGE” on the left and a glove draped over more rolls of cloth appeared above the name “BARTRAM” on the right.  The advertising copy changed from advertisement to advertisement over the years, but Bartram’s woodcut remained consistent in identifying his business to readers.

Although clustered in a single issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, these woodcuts were exceptional visual images that not only represented particular businesses but also incorporated the names of the advertisers.  Humphreys and Bartram experimented with creating logos that combined words and images to make them all the more distinctive and memorable for prospective customers.

January 15

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

Jan 15 - 1:15:1770 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (January 15, 1770).

“Dealers will meet with the usual encouragement.”

As colonists greeted a new decade, the “proprietors of the CHINA WORKS, now erecting in Southwark” took to the Pennsylvania Chronicle to advertise their new enterprise. They sought to provide consumers an alternative to the porcelain “manufactured at the famous factory in Bow near London, and imported into the colonies and plantations.” In addition to bolstering the colonial economy, the proprietors likely had an eye on the politics of the day, especially the nonimportation agreements adopted to protest the duties on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea imposed by the Townshend Acts. While they eschewed goods made in England and transported across the Atlantic, American consumers were primed to acquire similar wares produced in the colonies, especially if they had a reasonable expectation of similar prices and quality. To that end, the proprietors assured prospective customers that “the clays of America are productive of as good PORCELAIN” as the merchandise that came from Bow. Furthermore, they intended to “sell upon very reasonable terms.” Indeed, they reiterated both points, concluding the notice by proclaiming that their wares were “warranted equal to any in goodness and cheapness, hitherto manufactured in or imported from England.”

The proprietors addressed multiple audiences in their advertisement. They called on skilled workmen to seek employment as well as “such parents as are inclined to bind their children” as apprentices to contact them as soon as possible. The advertisement served as a general notice to consumer, but the proprietors included notes specifically for retailers. They pledged to “take all orders in rotation, and execute the earliest first.” More significantly, they aimed to convince merchants and shopkeepers that stocking up on this porcelain would be a good investment that yielded profits because the proprietors would not undersell them when dealing directly with consumers. They asserted that “Dealers will meet with the usual encouragement,” implying discounts for merchants and shopkeepers who purchased by volume. The proprietors then explicitly stated that dealers “may be assured that no goods under thirty pounds worth will be sold to private persons, out of the factory, at a lower advance than from their shops.” Considering that pledge was the only copy throughout the entire advertisement that appeared in italics, the proprietors intended for retailers to take notice. After all, they stood to achieve significantly larger transactions with merchants and shopkeepers who then assumed the risk of dispersing the porcelain to consumers.

The imperial crisis of the late 1760s and early 1770s helped to frame the entrepreneurial activities of colonists who launched new commercial endeavors, the “domestic manufactures” so often invoked in public discourse when discussing the trade imbalance with Britain and the duties on certain imported goods. Yet those who answered the call to produce goods in the colonies realized that it was not enough merely to make them available to consumers. The “proprietors of the CHINA WORKS” and other entrepreneurs realized that they needed to convince both consumers and retailers to embrace their wares in practice as well as in the ideology that circulated in conversations and in the press. Newspaper advertisements allowed them to make a case that emphasized cost, quality, and employment opportunities. Others went into even greater detail, outlining procedures designed to persuade them to stock “domestic manufactures” in their own shops.

January 8

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

Jan 8 1770 - 1:8:1770 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (January 8, 1770).

“Hart’s Vendue Store.”

Relatively few eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements featured visual images. Most that did relied on woodcuts of ships, houses, horses, or people that belonged to the printer for repeated use in various advertisements, but some advertisers did commission woodcuts that appeared exclusively in their notices. Oftentimes such woodcuts depicted their shop signs, creating consistent marketing iconography, but that was not always the case. Whether or not tied to shop signs, unique woodcuts stood to attract more attention to advertisements than they would have garnered without visual images.

Readers of the January 8, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle could hardly have overlooked the advertisement for an auction house, Hart’s Vendue Store, with its exceptionally large woodcut depicting a hand ringing a bell enclosed in a frame. Even though it was not the only visual image, it dominated the page, in large part due to its size. The woodcut occupied more space than the copy for the advertisement! The frame formed a square with the length of each side the same as the width of the column in which the advertisement ran. Woodcuts that the printer supplied, including one of a ship in the advertisement immediately to the left of the one for Hart’s Vendue Store, were much smaller icons. They usually appeared in the upper left corner of advertisements, with copy to the right and continuing below. In featuring such a large visual image, Hart invested not only in commissioning the woodcut but also in the space required to publish it in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. It more than doubled the amount of space filled by the advertisement. Hart may have considered it very well worth the investment if the woodcut managed to distinguish his advertisement and attract bidders to his auction house. Footman and Jeyes placed an advertisement for their “New VENDUE-STORE” on the same page. It lacked visual images. Indeed, the entire advertisement filled the same amount of space as Hart’s woodcut alone.

In the process of mobilizing a visual image, Hart’s advertisement may have engaged readers in other ways as well. Did colonists hear the ringing of the bell when they saw the woodcut? Did they imagine someone walking through the streets of Philadelphia proclaiming that they should visit Hart’s Vendue Store and participate in “the Sales of a large and very neat ASSORTMENT of Merchandize” on Tuesday afternoon? Did the woodcut evoke some of the sounds of the colonial city, prompting readers to imagine that they were already part of the sales that would soon take place?

No other advertisement in that issue of the Pennsylvania Chronicle compared to the notice for Hart’s Vendue Store. The image of the hand and bell may look crude by model standards, but the size of the woodcut and its inclusion in the advertisement at all would have been notable to colonial readers.

October 16

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

Oct 16 - 10:16:1769 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 16, 1769).

“Just published … Father ABRAHAM’S ALMANACK.”

It was one of the signs that fall had arrived in the colonies: advertisements for almanacs began appearing in newspapers from New England to Georgia. The appearance of these advertisements had a rhythm as familiar as the changing of the seasons. A small number appeared as early as July or August to announce that particular titles would be published in the coming months. A greater number ran in September and October. By the end of October, some printers informed customers that they had just published almanacs, alerting them to purchase their favorite titles before supplies ran out. In November and December the number and frequency of advertisements for almanacs increased. As the new year approached, printers devoted significant space to newspaper advertisements about almanacs. This continued into January, though the advertisements tapered off in February and beyond. Some printers continued their attempts to rid themselves of surplus copies that ate into their profits. By the time spring arrived, advertisements for almanacs practically disappeared.

John Dunlap inserted his own advertisement for “Father ABRAHAM’S ALMANACK, For the Year of our LORD, 1770” in the October 16, 1769, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Noting that he had “Just published” the almanac, Dunlap made it available to customers two and a half months before the beginning of the new year. His marketing strategy consisted primarily of listing the contents, hoping to entice prospective customers with a combination of practical reference materials and entertaining essays and poems. The almanac included the usual astronomical calculations, such as “the Rising and Setting of the Sun; the Rising, Setting, and Southing of the Moon; … [and] Length of Days.” Other reference material included “Tables of Interest at 6 and 7 per Cent; a Table of the Value, and Weight of Coins,” and a calendar of “Quakers yearly Meetings.” The practical information even extended to medicine: “A Collection of choice and safe Remedies, simple and easily prepared.” Dunlap imagined some of his prospective customers when he suggested that these remedies were “fitted for the Service of Country People” who did not have immediate access to apothecary shops in Philadelphia. The pieces of entertainment included “An Essay on Toleration and the Search after Truth” as well as “The Ant and Caterpillar, a Fable” and “Spring, a Poem.” One item resonated with news reported in the public prints and discussed in town squares: “An Ode on Liberty.”

Dunlap offered little commentary on the contents of the almanac, leaving it to prospective customers to assess the value on their own. Clearly, however, he believed that listing the contents would stimulate demand. Doing so provided a preview while also distinguishing this almanac from the many others printed, published, and sold in Philadelphia. If he had not considered listing the contents an effective means of marketing the almanac, he could have truncated the advertisement to just a few lines merely announcing its availability.

September 18

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

Sep 18
Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 18, 1769).

“DANCING MASTER.”

Advertisements in the September 18, 1769, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle reminded readers that more than one dancing master taught lessons in the city that fall. Martin Foy and Mr. Tioli placed notices that conveniently appeared on the same page. Indeed, the compositor may have had a little fun when choosing the layout for the page, positioning both advertisements at the top of their respective columns but on opposite sides as though they were facing each other before commencing a dance … or perhaps a duel, considering that Foy taught “Gentlemen the use of the small sword” in addition to the latest steps. Whatever the compositor’s intent, the placement of the advertisements clearly put Foy and Tioli in competition with each other.

Even though they were rivals for students, both dancing masters emphasized the environment in which they provided their lessons. Foy ran his school “at the assembly room,” noting that the “room will be illuminated” in the evenings when he provided lessons for men who could not attend during the day due to their other commitments. Tioli taught at his home, where he set aside a room “excellently adapted for the purpose.” Yet it was not only the place of instruction that concerned the dancing masters. Tioli also assured prospective pupils that he would “make it his particular study to preserve the greatest order and decorum” during lessons. When several students gathered, the dancing school became a cacophony of movement and physical interactions, which helps to explain why both dancing masters instructed men and women separately. Even during lessons segregated by sex, Foy and Tioli recognized the prospect for misbehavior and mischievousness, whether horseplay or gossip, and insisted on their students acting with propriety. They imposed order when necessary. Foy promised his “fidelity” in conducting lessons “in a regular and polite manner.”

Personal comportment was an important aspect of both dancing well and appearing in genteel company to dance and socialize with others. Many colonists devoted considerable time to learning to dance in order to make the best possible impression on friends and neighbors when they attended public events. Learning the steps – and, equally important, how to do them gracefully – for a dance that lasted a few moments could require hours of instruction and practice, significantly more time for lapses in conduct and demeanor resulting from distractions during lessons composed entirely of male or female students who might feel unfettered when gathered in groups and not observed by members of the opposite sex. Instructing men and women separately avoided certain kinds of opportunities for discomfort among pupils, but doing so meant dancing masters potentially faced other sorts of allegations of impropriety at their schools. To that end, dancing masters advertised that they made great effort “to preserve the greatest order and decorum” at their schools.

August 7

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

Aug 7 - 8:7:1769 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 7, 1769).

“JOHN MASON, Upholsterer, PRAYS for LIBERTY to inform his friends and customers that he has removed his PROPERTY, to a new built house.”

As the imperial crisis intensified in the late 1760s, newspaper advertisements for consumer goods and services increasingly incorporated political messages intended to sway prospective customers. Many such advertisements underscored the benefits of encouraging “domestic manufactures” to achieve greater self-sufficiency and the virtues of purchasing those locally produced goods. Those advertisements often connected their “Buy American” appeals to faithful adherence to nonimportation agreements adopted to resist Parliament’s attempts to enact new taxes, first via the Stamp Act and later through imposing duties on certain imported goods via the Townshend Acts.

Such advertisements became a genre that deployed similar language and took similar forms. In his attempt to sell mattresses and market his services as an upholsterer, John Mason took an even bolder approach. Like other purveyors of goods and services, he turned to the public prints to inform prospective customers when he moved locations. The language he used, however, had distinct political overtones that certainly resonated with debates taking place in newspapers as well as in taverns, coffeehouses, and the public square. Mason trumpeted that he “PRAYS for LIBERTY to inform his friends and customer that he removed his PROPERTY, to a new built house … where he carries on the Upholstery Business.” The word “PRAYS” appeared in capitals because it was the first word in the body of the advertisement. “LIBERTY” and “PROPERTY,” however, apparently appeared in capitals because Mason specified that they needed appropriate emphasis. The upholsterer invoked two of the most important concepts animating resistance to Parliament.

Readers could hardly have missed the point when they considered “LIBERTY” and “PROPERTY” in combination with the nota bene that Mason appended to his advertisement. “No WONDER that Liberty is the Common Cry,” Mason lectured, “for if it was not the inanimate creation would cry out against us, for the very flowers, they, when deprived of their Liberty, Choose Death Rather, than be Confined in the softest bosom.—Methinks a Moment’s Reflections would Convince those that would Deprive us of our Liberty and property that they are Doing WRONG – for if our Fathers have No Right to Deprive us of our Liberty and property after Twenty-one Years, Certainly out Mother* can have No Right after we have enjoyed it near an Hundred Years. *Mother Country.” In this sermon on liberty, Mason looked to the history of the colonies for guidance and precedents. Parliament could not suddenly impose regulations the colonies after more than a century of allowing them to govern themselves through their own colonial assemblies. Furthermore, the stark choice between liberty and death so was evident that it could be witnessed even in the natural world, as Mason attested in his example of flowers that dies when held too closely, even in the most loving embrace.

At a time when many purveyors of consumer goods and services crafted advertisements that either implicitly or softly invoked politics to influence prospective customers, Mason made a full-throated declaration of his political sentiments. Inserting this editorial into his advertisement allowed him to demonstrate his politics to customers. In addition to adding his voice to the discourse unfolding in the public prints, Mason also intended to encourage customers to support his business because they agreed with his politics and admired his bold stance.