August 13

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

Aug 13 - 8:10:1769 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (August 10, 1769).

“At present it seems peculiarly the interest of America to encourage her own manufactories.”

In August 1769, Richard Wistar took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette to advertise the products he manufactured at his “GLASS-WORKS” in Philadelphia. His inventory included “BOXES of WINDOW GLASS, consisting of the common sizes” as well as “most sorts of bottles,” containers for mustard and snuff, and other specialty glassware. Wistar also offered to cut glass windows of “uncommon sizes.”

To encourage prospective customers to purchase his wares, Wistar emphasized that “the abovementioned glass is of American manufactory” and then launched into a political lesson that matched the discourse circulating throughout the colonies in newspapers and in conversations in taverns, coffeehouses, and town squares. Glass produced in the colonies was “consequently clear of the duties the Americans so justly complain of,” duties imposed on certain imported goods by Parliament in the Townshend Acts. Wistar continued his lecture: “at present, it seems peculiarly the interest of America to encourage her own manufactories, more especially those upon which duties have been imposed, for the sole purpose of raising a revenue.” Those goods included paper, tea, lead, paints, and, most significantly for Wistar, glass.

In response, colonists revived a strategy they had previously pursued to resist the Stamp Act: merchants and shopkeepers vowed not to import goods from Britain. In order for their economic resistance to have greater political impact, they did not limit their boycott to only those goods indirectly taxed by the Townshend Acts. Instead, they enumerated a broad array of goods that they would not import or sell until the duties had been repealed. Simultaneously, they issued calls for the encouragement of “domestic manufactures” and argued that consumers could demonstrate their own politics in the marketplace by making a point of purchasing goods produced in the colonies. Neither producers nor consumers alone would have as much of an impact as both exercising their civic virtue through “encourage[ing] her own manufactories,” as Wistar reminded readers of the Pennsylvania Gazette.

Colonists certainly imbibed political arguments in news articles and editorials in newspapers, but they also encountered them in advertisements. In the service of selling goods and services, savvy entrepreneurs mobilized politics during the period of the imperial crisis that led to the American Revolution. They directed consumers away from some products in favor of purchasing others, challenging them to consider the ramifications of their activities in the marketplace.

July 13

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

Jul 13 - 7:13:1769 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (July 13, 1769).

“At Mr. JOSEPH SOLOMAN’S … in Lancaster, by the appointment of Mr. HAMILTON, Surgeon Dentist.”

At the same time that advertisements for Mr. Hamilton’s amazing tincture for curing toothaches and other maladies ran in multiple newspapers in New York in July 1769, it also appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette, a newspaper published in Philadelphia with circulation far beyond that city. The copy in the Pennsylvania Gazette matched the New York advertisements almost exactly – including the guarantee of “No CURE No PAY” – except for instructions about where customers could acquire the tincture for themselves. Readers of newspapers printed in New York were directed to “Mrs. Buskirk’s, the corner of Wall-Street, near the Coffe-house,” where they could consult directly with Mr. Hamilton, “Surgeon Dentists and Operator for the Teeth from LONDON.” The variant in the Pennsylvania Gazette, on the other hand, gave directions to local agents in Pennsylvania. Readers could purchase the tincture “at Mrs. [illegible], next door to the Indian Queen, in Fourth-street, Philadelphia; and, at Mr. JOSEPH SOLOMAN’s, in King-street, near the Court-house, in Lancaster.” Purveyors of the tincture in Pennsylvania stocked and sold it “by the appointment of Mr. HAMILTON.”

Inserting advertisements in all of the newspapers published in New York was ambitious on its own, but designating local agents and branching out to yet another newspaper in another colony was even more innovative. In eighteenth-century America, most providers of goods and services confined their marketing efforts to newspapers that served their own city or town. Printers and publishers were an important exception; they frequently placed subscription notices in newspapers throughout the colonies to gauge the market and generate sufficient interest to move forward with printing a book, magazine, or other publication. This involved designating local agents to receive subscriptions, collect payment, and distribute publications after they went to press, but those agents were usually fellow printers who already participated in networks for exchanging newspapers and information. Still, this was a model that need not work for printers exclusively. Hamilton experimented with designating local agents in Philadelphia and Lancaster as a means of enlarging the market for his tincture.

Doing so required prospective customers to place trust in the local agents in addition to Hamilton, especially when it came to the “No CURE No PAY” guarantee. Clients in New York used the tincture under the direction of Hamilton and could appeal to him directly if the medicine did not produce the desired effect. Clients in Philadelphia and Lancaster, in contrast, had to depend on fair dealing by local agents who may not have possessed Hamilton’s experience or expertise. After all, the advertisement described Hamilton as a “Surgeon Dentist,” but did not indicate the occupations of his local agents in Pennsylvania. Other portions of the advertisement may have alleviated some concerns by presenting a portrait of Hamilton’s character. In addition to describing Hamilton’s tincture, the advertisement provided an overview of the services he provided in New York. Hamilton “cleans and beautifies teeth” and “makes and sets in artificial teeth.” He served his clients “with dispatch and secrecy.” The advertisement concluded with a nota bene that depicted Hamilton as a humanitarian: “the poor, afflicted with the tooth-ach, cured gratis, every morning, from 8 to 10 o clock.” Was such information about Hamilton’s practice in New York superfluous in an advertisement placed in the Pennsylvania Gazette? Readers in Philadelphia and, especially, Lancaster were unlikely to travel to New York to have Hamilton clean their teeth or fit them with artificial teeth. The poor were even less likely to make such a journey. Hamilton could have reduced the costs of advertising in the Pennsylvania Gazette if he had eliminated that portion of the advertisement, yet that information was not superfluous. It testified to Hamilton’s competence and professional demeanor, allowing him to cultivate a reputation that might have made faraway readers more inclined to trust his description of his toothache tincture and, in turn, deal with local agents who sold it on his behalf.

July 6

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

Jul 6 - 7:6:1769 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (July 6, 1769).

“DANIEL GRANT … HAS now opened a HOUSE of ENTERTAINMENT.”

A nascent hospitality and tourism industry emerged in America in the late eighteenth century. Its expansion occurred, in part, as a result of advertisements that encouraged consumers to partake in a variety of leisure activities at venues in their own towns and in places located some distance away. On July 6, 1769, Samuel Francis (better known today as Samuel Fraunces) inserted advertisements in the New-York Chronicle and the New-York Journal to invite visitors to Vauxhall Gardens to enjoy coffee, tea, and pastries “at any Hour in the Day,” evening concerts, a ballroom for parties, “Dinners or Suppers dressed in the most elegant Manner,” and, of course, the gardens “fitted up in a very genteel, pleasing Manner.” Advertisements for Vauxhall Gardens became a familiar sight in New York’s newspapers in the late 1760s.

On the same day, Daniel Grant advertised his own “HOUSE of ENTERTAINMENT, at the Sign of the Buck” in Moyamensing on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Grant first presented his credentials for opening his own establishment, asserting that he worked for seven years as “a Bar-keeper to Mr. John Biddle, at the Indian King.” He had gained the requisite experience to launch his own enterprise. Grant offered many of the same amenities at the Buck as Francis did at Vauxhall Gardens. The spacious house had three rooms on each floor as well as “a large hall in each story.” In addition to those accommodations, guests could also enjoy the gardens and “summer-houses” that, in particular, made the Buck “an agreeable place to resort in the summer season.” Grant served “the best tea, chocolate, [and] coffee” for breakfast and in the afternoon, but he also had on hand “the best liquors of all kinds.” He invited prospective customers to plan parties or “large entertainments” at his venue, assuring them that events could be arranged “by giving short notice.” As was the case for anyone working in hospitality, service was a cornerstone for Grant’s business. He pledged to “make it his constant endeavour to give the best attendance to those who please to favour him with their company.” Accommodations, amenities, and service: Grant offered a complete experience to guests at his “HOUSE of ENTERTAINMENT.”

Today, many Americans are celebrating the Independence Day weekend with excursions to all sorts of venues that are part of the modern hospitality and tourism industry. Advertising plays a significant role in enticing guests to partake in leisure activities, encouraging them to purchase experiences rather than things. That strategy has origins that date back to a time before Americans declared independence. Entrepreneurs like Grant and Francis promoted themselves as purveyors of entertainment and leisure activities as they welcomed guests to venues like the Buck and Vauxhall Gardens in the eighteenth century.

June 22

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

Jun 22 - 6:22:1769 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (June 22, 1769).

“BETWEEN the sixth and seventh day, / MARY NOWLAND ran away.”

Advertisements for runaway servants and slaves regularly appeared in the pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette in the 1760s. The June 22, 1769, edition, for instance, featured several such advertisements. To distinguish his notice from others, Abraham Emmit opted for a format other than the usual dense block of text that provided a description. Instead, he published a poem about Mary Nowland, deploying a style intended to encourage readers to give the advertisement more than a cursory glance and, as a result, better remember how to recognize this particular runaway. In addition, the novelty of his poem imbued his advertisement with greater entertainment value, further contributing to the likelihood that readers would take note.

Among the rhyming couplets, Emmit provided a physical description of Nowland. Although in verse, it simultaneously described and denigrated the runaway servant. She had “Brown hair, red face, short nose, thick lips” and was “large and round from neck to hips.” Indeed, the aggrieved Emmit suggested that Nowland was so chubby that it affected her movement – “Short, thick, and clumsy, in her jog” – so much so that he compared her to a “fatten’d hog.” Like many other advertisements for servants, this one reported Nowland’s origins as a means of helping readers identify her. Emmit did not, however, simply state that Nowland had been born in Ireland. Instead, he mentioned that she was “The same religion with the Pope” and “Upon her tongue she wears a brogue,” expecting readers to reach the conclusion that Nowland was an Irish Catholic. In presenting this puzzle, albeit not a particularly difficult one, Emmit encouraged greater participation by readers from their first encounter with the text than most runaway advertisements expected of them. This notice did not merely charge readers with reporting or capturing a runaway if they happened to spot her; it invited them first to engage with the printed page much more actively than they would have when perusing other advertisements concerning runaways.

The clever Emmit did not merely sign his verse. He incorporated his own name into the final couplet, promising a reward of forty shillings to anyone who delivered Nowland to him: for any reader “Who brings her home I will give them it, / Your humble servant, ABRAHAM EMMIT.” These last lines were just as stilted as the rest of the poem, but composing a piece of great literature had not been Emmit’s purpose. Given how many notices about runaway servants and other advertisements ran in the Pennsylvania Gazette, he sought a means to differentiate his advertisement and draw greater attention from readers. The format of the poem alone, compared to dense paragraphs of text in other advertisements, separated it from others on the page, encouraging readers to have a closer look. Emmit speculated that once they discovered the novelty he had composed that they would pay more attention to his description of the runaway Nowland. Providing this simple entertainment increased the chances that someone would recognize Nowland and either return her to Emmit’s household or send word of her whereabouts.

April 13

GUEST CURATOR: Bryant Halpin

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (April 13, 1769).

“CYDER.”

In this advertisement, Isaac Gray lists goods for sale, including “CYDER”. Mark Turdo provides descriptions of cider written in the eighteenth century by Reverend Israel Acrelius as part of A History of New Sweden: Or, the Settlements on the River Delaware. Acrelius included many different kinds of cyder, such as Apple-wine (cider),” “Cider Royal,” and “Mulled cider,” and “Sampson.” Colonists used wooden mills to help prepare cider. This was a long process that began with a horse-powered grinding up apples. They then placed the apples under a press until the juice ran off. The juice went into a barrel and left to ferment. If the apples were “not of a good sort,” they boiled the cider and added a few pounds of ground ginger into it, and it became “more wholesome and better for cooking.” Acrelius stated, “This liquor is usually unwholesome, causes ague when it is fresh, and colic when it is too old.” Some people heated their cider with a red-hot iron.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

When they visited Isaac Gray’s warehouse to purchase cider, some customers likely acquired some of the grocery items also listed in his advertisement, intending to use them to enhance the beverage. As Bryant notes, Israel Acrelius described adding ginger to one kind of cider, a variation that he called “Apple-wine.” The minister also offered a recipe for “Cider Royal,” made by adding “some quarts of brandy” to a barrel of cider “along with several pounds of Muscovado sugar.” This resulted in a drink that “becomes stronger and tastes better.” It could be further improved by drawing it off into bottles, putting raisins in them, and then allowing the mixture to age “for a year or so.” Gray listed both raisins and “double and single refined loaf and lump sugars” among his wares. Although he did not mention brandy, he carried enough varieties of beer, wine, and spirits that he may have had some brandy among his merchandise as well.

Acrelius also described other sorts of cider commonly consumed in Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century. “Mulled cider” was served warm. In addition to sugar, it included “yolks of eggs and grains of allspice.” Gray named pepper and ginger in his advertisement, but also made a generic nod to other spices that he had in stock. If sugar, eggs, and allspice did not sufficiently enhance mulled cider then Acrelius recommended adding rum “to give it greater strength.” The recipe for “Sampson” required fewer ingredients: “Sampson is warmed cider with rum in it.” Gray certainly offered rum for sale, though he referred to it as “OLD Jamaica spirits.” In a final variation, “Cider Royal of another kind,” Acrelius described a mixture “in which one-half is cider and the other mead [honey liquor], both freshly fermented together.”

Gray marketed his “CYDER” for home consumption. Some customers may have enjoyed it in its original form as purchased from his warehouse, but Acrelius suggests that many others would have doctored it to their own tastes before they consumed it. In that regard, Gray operated a business similar to modern liquor stores that provide not only alcoholic beverages but also various accouterments, such as tonics and bitters, to make mixed drinks. Then and now, purveyors of beer, wine, and spirits, sell other products intended to enhance consumers’ enjoyment of their beverages.

February 9

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

The following large assortment of GOODS.”

Pennsylvania Gazette (February 9, 1768).

Daniel Benezet, John Benezet, and Thomas Bartow placed an advertisement for a “large assortment of GOODS” that filled an entire column in the February 2, 1769, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal. Their advertisement did not appear in that publication the following week, but it did run in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on February 6 and in the Pennsylvania Gazette on February 9. The iteration in the Gazette featured the same copy as the original in the Journal, but the version in the Chronicle sported revisions to both content and format (which will be examined in a separate entry on February 12).

In addition to identical copy, the format of the advertisement in the Gazette replicated the notice that previously ran in the Journal in many ways. The two advertisements had the same headlines that introduced the merchants and instructed prospective customers where to find their store. Both advertisements concluded with the same nota bene that announced they expected to receive “a very large and compleat assortment of spring and summer GOODS” via vessels from England. The same words were capitalized in both advertisements. Beyond that both advertisements deployed italics for everything except the names of the merchants, even though most other advertisements on the page used italics sparingly, if at all. In the Journal, Philip Wilson’s list-style advertisement also used italics, suggesting that this may have been the format for that type of advertisement selected by the compositor. Alternately, either Wilson or the Benezets and Bartow may have specified that they wanted their advertisement in italics and the compositor chose to give the other the same treatment. Either way, the compositor for the Gazette copied the format from the Journal exactly, almost as if the Benezets and Bartow had cut their advertisement out of the Journal and submitted it to the Gazette. The line breaks were the only noticeable difference, with the Gazette squeezing more items onto each line. As a result, the version in the Gazette did not fill an entire column, but it very nearly did so.

This comparison suggests some likely printing practices when it came to advertisements, but does not present definitive evidence. What it does demonstrate for certain, especially when taken into consideration with the third advertisement in the Chronicle, is that some advertisers contemplated the significance of circulating their advertisements to as many readers and potential customers as possible. The Benezets and Bartow sought to maximize the number of colonists who would encounter their advertisement, so they moved it from newspaper to newspaper. Such a lengthy advertisement would have been a considerable investment. That being the case, the Benezets and Bartow chose not to run it for as many weeks as most other advertisements placed by merchants and shopkeepers appeared in the public prints. It ran once in both the Chronicle and Journal and twice in the Gazette. The Benezets and Bartow sacrificed the duration of their advertising campaign in favor of dissemination to the widest possible audience.

January 19

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (January 19, 1769).

“For HOGS BRISTLES, Ready Money, and best Price, is given.”

Relatively few advertisements in eighteenth-century newspapers featured visual images, making those that did particularly notable. Along with their type, many printers had a limited number of stock images to accompany certain kinds of advertisements, including houses for real estate notices, ships for notices about vessels seeking freight and passengers, and horses for notices offering stallions “to cover” mares. In addition, many printers also supplied nondescript depictions of people to accompany advertisements concerning runaway servants, runaway slaves, and enslaved men, women, and children for sale. Most of the time they matched the sex seen in the image with that of the subject of an advertisement, but not always. For each sort of image – houses, ships, horses, people – the woodcuts were used interchangeably in advertisements placed for the corresponding purpose. Any woodcut of a house could accompany a real estate notice. Any woodcut of an enslaved man could appear in a runaway advertisement.

Some shopkeepers and artisans, however, commissioned their own woodcuts to represent their businesses in the public prints. Those woodcuts belonged exclusively to the advertiser; they did not appear in any other notices. Sometimes they replicated a shop sign, as was the case with a woodcut of a mirror on a decorative stand and a bell enclosed in a frame in John Elliott’s advertisement that once again ran in the January 19, 1769, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette. Elliott directed prospective customers to “his Looking-glass store, the sign of the Bell and Looking-glass, in Walnut-street.” He also mentioned a second location “at the Three Brushes, in Second-Street,” but did not include an image of that shop sign. The “Bell and Looking-glass” had circulated so widely in Philadelphia’s newspapers that it served as Elliott’s iconic image.

In the same issue, John Wilkinson, a brushmaker, placed an advertisement dominated by a woodcut depicting a boar. The visual image occupied more than twice as much space as the copy of the advertisement, a stark contrast to the notices comprised solely of text, all of them densely formatted, on either side of Wilkinson’s advertisement. Wilkinson called on readers to provide him with “HOGS BRISTLES” that he could then use in making brushes of “all Sorts and Sizes.” His woodcut depicted the source of his materials rather than the final product. When it came to the copy of his advertisement, the brushmaker adopted a less-is-more approach, depending on the woodcut to attract attention and distinguish his advertisement from the dozens of others in the Pennsylvania Gazette.

Happy Birthday, Benjamin Franklin!

Today is an important day for specialists in early American print culture, for Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 (January 6, 1705, Old Style), in Boston. Among his many other accomplishments, Franklin is known as the “Father of American Advertising.” Although I have argued elsewhere that this title should more accurately be bestowed upon Mathew Carey (in my view more prolific and innovative in the realm of advertising as a printer, publisher, and advocate of marketing), I recognize that Franklin deserves credit as well. Franklin is often known as “The First American,” so it not surprising that others should rank him first among the founders of advertising in America.

benjamin-franklin
Benjamin Franklin (Joseph Siffred Duplessis, ca. 1785).  National Portrait Gallery.

Franklin purchased the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729. In the wake of becoming printer, he experimented with the visual layout of advertisements that appeared in the weekly newspaper, incorporating significantly more white space and varying font sizes in order to better attract readers’ and potential customers’ attention. Advertising flourished in the Pennsylvania Gazette, which expanded from two to four pages in part to accommodate the greater number of commercial notices.

jan-17-pennsylvania-gazette-19-161736
Advertisements with white space, varying sizes of font, capitals and italics, and a woodcut from Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette (December 9-16, 1736).

Many historians of the press and print culture in early America have noted that Franklin became wealthy and retired as a printer in favor of a multitude of other pursuits in part because of the revenue he collected from advertising. Others, especially David Waldstreicher, have underscored that this wealth was amassed through participation in the colonial slave trade. The advertisements for goods and services featured in the Pennsylvania Gazette included announcements about buying and selling slaves as well as notices offering rewards for runaways.

jan-17-pennsylvania-gazette-slave-19-161736
An advertisement for slaves from Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette (December 9-16, 1736).

In 1741 Franklin published one of colonial America’s first magazines, The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, for all the British Plantations in America (which barely missed out on being the first American magazine, a distinction earned by Franklin’s competitor, Andrew Bradford, with The American Magazine or Monthly View of the Political State of the British Colonies). The magazine lasted only a handful of issues, but that was sufficient for Franklin to become the first American printer to include an advertisement in a magazine (though advertising did not become a standard part of magazine publication until special advertising wrappers were developed later in the century — and Mathew Carey was unarguably the master of that medium).

general-magazine
General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, For all the British Plantations in America (January 1741).  Library of Congress.

In 1744 Franklin published an octavo-sized Catalogue of Choice and Valuable Books, including 445 entries. This is the first known American book catalogue aimed at consumers (though the Library Company of Philadelphia previously published catalogs listing their holdings in 1733, 1735, and 1741). Later that same year, Franklin printed a Catalogue of Books to Be Sold at Auction.

Franklin pursued advertising through many media in eighteenth-century America, earning recognition as one of the founders of American advertising. Happy 313th birthday, Benjamin Franklin!

December 15

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (December 15, 1768).

“There may also be had at the same place … a great variety of millinery, made up in the newest and genteelest taste, by a person lately from London.”

Joseph Wood sold a variety of textiles, apparel, and millinery goods at his shop on the corner of Market and Second Streets in Philadelphia. Like many other merchants and shopkeepers, he published an extensive list of his wares to entice prospective customers. According to his advertisement in the December 15, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, he stocked everything from “scarlet and other serges” and “fine and coarse broadcloths, of all colours” to “mens and womens beaver and other gloves” and “mens and womens cotton and worsted hose” to “gold and silver basket buttons” and “newest fashioned gold and silver trimmings for gentlemen and ladies hats.”

Wood did not rely on this impressive assortment of merchandise alone to attract customers. Instead, he provided an additional service: a milliner on site. “There may also be had at the same place,” Wood proclaimed, “a great variety of millinery, made up in the newest and genteelest taste, by a person lately from London, who understands perfectly every branch of that business.” Whether the unnamed milliner was an employee or a tenant was not clear, but that mattered far less than the service available at Wood’s shop. In addition to acquiring materials, customers could also receive advice about “the newest and genteelest taste” in London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire, and even have their hats and other accessories made by a skilled milliner who was familiar with the most recent trends by virtue of having resided there until quite recently. Furthermore, prospective customers did not need to fret about the costs. Wood assured them that “they may depend upon being served on the most reasonable terms, and as cheap as in London.” He promised the same sophistication without inflated prices. Wood played on the anxieties and desires of residents of Philadelphia eager to demonstrate that they were fashionable and genteel despite their distance from London.

Other merchants and shopkeepers made appeals to price and fashion in their advertisements. They also emphasized consumer choice with their own lengthy lists of merchandise. Wood, however, adopted a business model and marketing strategy that distinguished his shop from the competition. He realized that more readers were likely to become customers if he did more than just sell goods but instead provided services that enhanced the shopping experience.