May 17

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

Pennsylvania Packet (May 14, 1772).

“Enquire only for Dr Hill’s American Balsam.”

Advertisements for patent medicines frequently appeared in early American newspapers.  In the spring of 1772, William Young took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Journal to promote “Dr. HILL’s AMERICAN BALSAM, LATELY imported from London.”  For those unfamiliar with this remedy, Young explained that “Experience has fully testified, that by the proper use of this excellent medicine, great numbers of people in America have been relieved in the consumption, gravel [or kidney stones] and rheumatic pains.”  In addition, it helped with colds, coughs, and “swimmings in the head.”

Many consumers may have been more familiar with popular patent medicines commonly sold by apothecaries, merchants, shopkeepers, and even printers and booksellers.  Newspaper advertisements suggest that colonizers could easily acquire Bateman’s Drops, Godfrey’s Cordial, Hooper’s Pills, Turlington’s Balsam, and a variety of other patent medicines in shops from New England to Georgia.  Hill’s American Balsam, in contrast, was not as readily available.  Instead, a small number of sellers in the colonies exclusively handled the distribution, including merchants in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Wilmington, North Carolina; shopkeepers in New York and Lancaster, Pennsylvania; a printer in Germantown, Pennsylvania; and a goldsmith in Wilmington, Delaware.  Young proclaimed that consumers would find this patent medicine “no where else.”

Such exclusivity had the potential to lead to confusion or even counterfeits.  In a nota bene, Young warned that “People, in buying this so highly esteemed medicine, should be careful not to get a wrong one and be deceived.”  To prevent that from happening, he gave instructions “to enquire only for Dr. Hill’s American Balsam.”  Consumers could confirm that they obtained the correct product by looking for Hill’s “direction wraped about each bottle.”  Printed materials played an important role in marketing this patent medicine, via the advertisements that appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal and via the ancillary materials that accompanied each bottle of Dr. Hill’s American Balsam.

May 10

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

Pennsylvania Journal (May 7, 1772).

“JUST IMPORTED in the ship Britannia, Capt. Falconer from London.”

Readers of the Pennsylvania Journal and other colonial newspapers did not have to rely solely on the list of vessels “Entered In” that appeared in the shipping news from the customs house to learn which ships recently arrived in port.  Advertisements often carried that information as well.  Consider, for instance, the first advertisement in the May 7, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  It included a standard introduction that named the ship that transported the goods offered for sale before naming the purveyor of those goods or listing the merchandise.  Richard Bache began his advertisement for an assortment of textiles with “JUST IMPORTED in the ship Britannia, Capt, Falconer from London.” His notice appeared on the first page, two pages before the shipping news.

Even if readers skipped over that advertisement, it would have been difficult for them to miss every reference to the arrival of the Britannia from London.  Several other advertisements included introductions nearly identical to the one in Bache’s notice.  George Fullerton began his advertisement (on the third page, one column to the right of the shipping news) with “IMPORTED in the ship Britannia, Capt. Falconer, from London.”  The fourth and final page featured four more advertisements that mentioned the Britannia.  Mark Freeman and Townsend Speakman both opened their advertisements with that introduction, while John White and the partnership of Duffield and Delany listed their names first and then credited “the Britannia, Captain Falconer, from London” for delivering their “FRESH” merchandise.  On the first page, Daniel Roberdeau hawked “A COMPLEAT EDITION of the GENUINE LETTERS of the Late Rev. Mr. GEORGE WHITEFIELD … Received from his Executors, per Capt. Falconer.”  He did not need to provide more information since other advertisements provided context about Falconer.

Prospective customers likely found such notes helpful as they perused newspaper advertisements, especially when merchants and shopkeepers ran advertisements for weeks or even months.  Noting which vessel transported the merchandise in an advertisement helped readers determine if it was still “FRESH” or if other shops carried textiles, garments, housewares, and other goods that arrived more recently and, as a result, might include more recent fashions and styles.  This standard introduction to so many advertisements thus yielded its greatest advantage for advertisers when their notices first appeared in the public prints, but contained to provide useful context for consumers throughout the entire run of those advertisements.

March 8

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

Pennsylvania Journal (March 5, 1772).

“There is another edition, JUST PUBLISHED.”

Get a copy while they are still available!  That was the message that William Bradford and Thomas Bradford delivered to prospective customers in Philadelphia when they advertised their own edition of A Dissertation on the Gout, and All Chronic Diseases by William Cadogan, a “Fellow of the College of PHYSICIANS.”  The Bradfords noted that “a number of Gentlemen were disappointed in the purchase of the first publication” so they set about producing “another edition” in order to meet demand.  Still, copies went so fast the first time around that the Bradfords warned consumers not to miss their opportunity to purchase the volume this time.

The printers underscored the popularity of the book on both sides of the Atlantic, stating that it was “so much esteemed in England, that it has already past through Eight Editions.”  This testified to the reputation it had earned.  Printers would not have published so many editions, the Bradfords implied, if the public did not clamor for them.  Furthermore, all sorts of people, not just physicians, found the “rational METHOD of CURE” helpful.  “The Doctrines advanced,” the Bradfords advised, “are delivered in a familiar style, which renders them intelligible to Gentlemen of all professions, as well as to Physicians.”

The Bradfords were not alone in publishing American editions of Cadogan’s Dissertation on the Gout in 1772.  Printers in two other cities produced their own editions.  Hugh Gaine did so in New York, while John Boyle, Benjamin Edes and John Gill, and Henry Knox published competing editions in Boston.  In Philadelphia, Robert Aitken appended the work to William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine or, The Family Physician, perhaps as a bonus intended to make the entire volume more attractive to perspective customers.  With a “first publication” that sold out in 1771, the Bradfords confirmed that Cadogan’s Dissertation on the Gout likely had as much potential in American markets as it did in England.

February 2

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

Pennsylvania Journal (January 30, 1772).

“A carpenter he is by trade, / Clandestinely from me he stray’d.”

Like newspapers published throughout the colonies, the Pennsylvania Journal regularly ran advertisements about indentured servants who ran away and enslaved people who liberated themselves.  When Richard Grosvenor, a carpenter indented to Joseph Lamb, ran away in January 1772, Lamb placed such an advertisement.  To distinguish his notice from others and make it more memorable, Lamb composed a verse that described Grosvenor and the horse that he stole.

Rather than the standard “RUN AWAY” that appeared at the beginning of similar advertisements, Lamb commenced with “JANUARY the nineteenth day, / RICHARD GROSVENOR rode away.”  He then simultaneously described the runaway servant and mocked him.  “Short, thick, and chunkey, five feet four / His height appears, – I think no more,” Lamb pronounced.  He then explained that Grosvenor was “fat and plump, the cause I reckon / ‘S with eating of my beef and bacon.”  Lamb had provided for the ungrateful servant, only to be betrayed.  As for Grosvenor’s clothing, most of it was old, worn, and faded, “And yet the proud, presumptuous cur / Must place upon each heel a spur, / Brass joined ones, some of the best; / The drunken sot’s compleatly dressed.”  Lamb peppered the carpenter with insults before describing the horse he stole.  His advertisement concluded, as most did, with the terms of the reward for capturing and returning the runaway servant.  “Whoever takes up the miscreant, / A good reward they shall not want, / THREE DOLLARS cast, I do declare, / Just one for him, and two the mare.”  As a final insult, Lamb offered twice as much for recovering the horse as he did for his “drunken sot” of an indentured servant.

Readers of the Pennsylvania Journal encountered so many advertisements about runaway servants that Lamb sought to increase the chances that they took note of his notice about Grosvenor.  The unusual format likely made the description of Grosvenor more memorable as well.  Lamb was certainly not the first aggrieved advertiser to resort to stilted verses to describe a runaway servant, but so few adopted that strategy that he probably believed it stood a good chance of engaging readers as they perused the advertisements.

December 12

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

Pennsylvania Journal (December 12, 1771).

“Newest fashionable muffs, tippets and ermine.”

In the fall of 1771, furrier Fromberger and Siemon placed newspaper advertisement in their efforts to entice customers to visit their new shop on Market Street in Philadelphia.  They adopted several strategies that may have served them well, though their effectiveness may have been mitigated by an uneven rollout of the furriers’ advertising campaign.

Fromberger and Siemon commenced advertising in the Pennsylvania Journal in late September.  They incorporated a variety of appeals into their notice.  They informed customers that they catered to the latest tastes, stating that they carried “the newest fashionable muffs, tippets, and ermine, now worn by the ladies at the courts of Great Britain and France.”  They also called on consumers “to encourage their American manufacture” rather than purchase imported items.  In addition, the furriers sought to establish ongoing relationships with their customers by providing ancillary services.  Their customers could send their furs to Fromberger and Siemon to have them “taken care of gratis for the summer season.”  To draw attention to these various marketing strategies, the furriers adorned their advertisements with a woodcut depicting a muff and tippet.

That advertisement did not last long in the Pennsylvania Journal before it appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Fromberger and Siemon commissioned only one woodcut, so they arranged to have it transferred from one printing office to another.  Once again, their advertisement quickly lapsed.  They revived it in the Pennsylvania Journal on December 5, though without the woodcut.  The following week, it ran once again, this time with the image of the muff and tippet.  The woodcut made its way back to William Bradford and Thomas Bradford’s printing office.  On December 19, however, Fromberger and Siemon’s advertisement appeared once more without the image that made it so distinctive.  Why, after investing in the woodcut, did the furriers deploy it so haphazardly?  Was it a tradeoff against the expense of purchasing the additional space?  Did the printers play any role in deciding that they needed the space for other content?  What other factors played a role in how Fromberger and Siemon executed their advertising campaign?

November 14

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

Pennsylvania Journal (November 14, 1771).

“WATCHES made in Philadelphia.”

When Parliament imposed duties on certain imported goods – glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea – in the Townshend Acts in 1767, colonists responded by adopting nonimportation agreements.  In so doing, they resumed a strategy that helped win repeal of the Stamp Act, using economic leverage in the service of political goals.  At the same time that merchants vowed not to import and sell a wide assortment of items, many colonists also advocated that consumers support “domestic manufactures” by purchasing goods produced in the colonies as alternatives to their imported counterparts.  When Parliament eventually relented and repealed all of the duties except the one on tea, colonial merchants and others resumed trade with Britain.  Imported goods flooded American markets.

Even as consumers eagerly embraced imported goods once again, some American entrepreneurs continued to promote domestic manufactures.  John Sprogell, Jr., for instance, marketed “WATCHES made in Philadelphia” in an advertisement in the November 14, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  Like others who advertised goods made in the colonies, Sprogrell promised prospective customers that they would not sacrifice quality.  To that end, he declared that he had “employed journeymen from London” so his shop would produce “the best of WATCHES.”  He offered a guarantee, proclaiming that he would “insure [the watches] for one, two, or three years.”  They would not need any maintenance that would incur “expense to the purchaser,” with the exception of routine cleaning.

As the proprietor of the shop, Sprogell understood that his reputation was on the line.  “The public may be assured,” he asserted, “that he will use his utmost endeavour to give general satisfaction” because “the character of the maker lays at stake.”  Even though the journeymen who labored in the shop did much or all of the work, ultimately the watches were Sprogell’s products.  Inferior work would have an effect on his standing in the marketplace, so even as he arranged a means of providing the same quality as found in London he provided additional security for customers who chose his “WATCHES made in Philadelphia” in hopes that his various pledges and promises would entice them into his shop.

November 10

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

Pennsylvania Journal (November 8, 1771).

American FLINT GLASS.”

When Parliament repealed most of the duties on imported goods imposed by the Townshend Acts, leaving only the duty on tea in place, most American merchants counted it as a victory that merited bringing their own nonimportation agreements to end in favor of resuming regular trade with Britain.  Some colonists objected, insisting that they should hold out until Parliament met all of their demands by repealing the duty on tea as well, but they were in the minority.  Merchants and consumers alike welcomed the return to transatlantic business as usual.

That did not, however, prevent American producers from promoting their “domestic manufactures” as alternatives to imported goods.  Henry William Stiegel, for instance, advertised “American FLINT GLASS … made at the factory in Manheim in Lancaster county” in Pennsylvania during the summer of 1771 and into the fall.  Stiegel proclaimed that his product was “equal in quality with any imported from Europe,” reassuring prospective customers that they did not have to sacrifice quality when choosing to support American industry.  He also promised that “merchants, store-keepers and others” could acquire his glass “on very reasonable terms.”  In addition to competitive prices, “Wholesale dealers” received discounts for “buying large quantities.”

Pocket Bottle, attributed to American Flint Glass Manufactory, 1769-1774. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Stiegel also framed purchasing his “American FLINT GLASS” as a patriotic duty for both retailers and consumers, even though the situation between the colonies and Britain was relative calm at the moment.  He declared that “as the proprietor” of the factory in Manheim he “well knows the patriotic spirit of the Americans” and “flatters himself they will encourage the manufactories of their own country” whenever possible instead of purchasing or retailing imported goods.  To help consumers and retailers throughout the region submit orders, Stiegel designated local agents in Philadelphia, Lancaster, and York in Pennsylvania as well as Baltimore in Maryland.

Work attributed to Stiegel and the American Flint Glass Manufactory, including this pocket bottle produced at about the same time he advertised in the Pennsylvania Journal, survives in museums and private collections.  Whether attracted by the quality, price, or invitation to “Buy American,” colonial consumers purchased “domestic manufactures” even as they resumed buying imported goods.  Stiegel managed to garner a share of the market amid the array of choices available. The frequency that he placed notices in newspapers suggests that he apparently believed that advertising aided in that endeavor.

September 26

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

Pennsylvania Journal (September 26, 1771).

“The newest fashionable muffs.”

In the fall of 1771, the partnership of Fromberger and Siemon took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Journal to promote a “Very large assortment of Russia and Siberia fur skins” which they intended to make into muffs, tippets, and linings for cloaks.  They deployed a variety of marketing strategies to capture the attention of consumers in Philadelphia and its environs.

For instance, the partners informed readers that they sold “the newest fashionable muffs, tippets, and ermine, now worn by the ladies at the courts of Great Britain and France.”  Fromeberger and Siemon attempted to incite demand by educating their prospective clients.  Ladies who feared they were unfamiliar with the latest trends on the other side of the Atlantic as well as those who merely wanted to confirm that they had indeed kept up with the latest styles could visit Fromberger and Siemon’s shop to outfit themselves.

Even as the partners emphasized European tastes, they also promoted “American manufacture.”  In the process, they suggested to “the ladies” that they could play an important role in supporting the commercial and politic interests of the colonies in the wake of recent meddling by Parliament that had resulted in nonimportation agreements in response to the Stamp Act and the duties imposed on certain goods in the Townshend Acts.  All but the duty on tea had been repealed and merchants returned to importing vast arrays of goods, but some American entrepreneurs continued to advocate for “American manufacture.”  Consumers did not have to sacrifice quality when supporting those entrepreneurs, at least according to advertisers like Fromberger and Siemon who promised they made muffs and tippets “superior to that which is manufactured in England.”

In addition to those appeals, the partners also offered a free ancillary service to their customers.  “Ladies who purchase any manufactured furs of great value” could wear them in the fall, winter, and spring and then “send them to our manufactory” where they would “be taken care of gratis for the summer season.”  Fromberger and Siemon cultivated relationships with customers that did not end when making a sale but could instead continue for years as they assisted in the care and maintenance of expensive garments.

A woodcut depicting a muff and tippet may have drawn the attention to Fromberger and Siemon’s advertisement, but they did not rely on the visual image alone to market their wares.  Instead, they incorporated several appeals to “the ladies” they hoped would visit their shop, order garments, and make purchases.  They invoked current fashions in England and France, the importance of supporting “American manufacture,” and free services to convince readers to become customers.

September 5

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

Pennsylvania Journal (September 5, 1771).

“The French academy.”

Francis Daymon, “Master of the FRENCH, LATIN,” placed newspaper advertisements to offer his services as a tutor to the “ladies and gentlemen” of Philadelphia.  His notice in the September 5, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Journalfocused primarily on teaching French.  Daymon declared that he taught “the useful and polite French language in the newest and most expeditious method.”  Furthermore, he utilized techniques “agreeable to the latest improvements of the French academy.”  He made these claims in order to convince prospective students that he provided effective instruction that incorporated methods approved by authorities in his field.

Daymon offered lessons in two settings.  Students could “choose to be instructed at their respective places of abode” during the day or they could “choose to attend his regular class” in the evenings.  He described that class as the “French academy,” though his students gathered at his house across the street from the London Coffee House on Front Street.  Those lessons had already commenced, but the tutor welcomed newcomers.  He had not yet booked private lessons during the day, but encouraged prospective students who desired individual instruction “speedily to apply” in order to hire his services “at convenient hours.”

In addition to lessons, Daymon also offered to sell books to his pupils.  Most schoolmasters and tutors did not mention that sort of ancillary service in their newspaper advertisements.  Daymon, on the other hand, devoted a nota bene to informing readers that “received by one of the last ships from London, a choice collection of French, &c. books, very suitable for his scholar.”  In addition, he expected another three hundred volumes to arrive soon via another vessel.  Prospective students did not need to visit booksellers seeking out books appropriate for Daymon’s curriculum.  Instead, he acquired and sold them as a convenience, one that made his lessons even more accessible for his scholars.

In his efforts to cultivate a clientele, Daymon promoted his methods of instruction, offered lessons in multiple settings to suit the preferences of his students, and supplied texts (at an additional fee) to aid his pupils in their studies.  He promoted these various resources so prospective students could envision successful language acquisition if they gave the French tutor a chance.

September 2

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 2, 1771).

“Those who have taken subscriptions of others, [send] their lists … to the Publisher.”

In the course of just a few days late in the summer of 1771, readers in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina encountered the same advertisement in their local newspapers.  John Dunlap, a printer in Philadelphia, distributed subscription notices for his current project, “ALL THE POETICAL WRITINGS, AND SOME OTHER PIECES, of the Rev. NATHANIEL EVANS,” in order to entice customers in distant places to reserve copies of the forthcoming work.  On September 2, Dunlap’s advertisement ran in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, the Pennsylvania Chronicle, and the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  Four days earlier, the same advertisement ran in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and the Pennsylvania Journal.

With one exception, the advertisements featured identical copy with minor variations in format, the copy being the domain of the advertiser and decisions about design at the discretion of the compositor.  The exception concerned the directions issued to prospective subscribers for submitting their names.  In the newspapers published in Philadelphia, Dunlap requested “that all who are desirous of encouraging this publication, and who may not yet have subscribed, will send their names” to him directly.  In addition, he asked that “those who have taken subscriptions of others,” acting as agents on Dunlap’s behalf, dispatch “their lists without loss of time to the Publisher.”  In the advertisements in the other newspapers, however, he instructed subscribers to submit their names “to the Printer hereof.”  Newspaper printers in other cities served as his local agents, including Richard Draper in Boston and Hugh Gaine in New York.  Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, underscored that he was Dunlap’s local agents, revising the copy in his newspaper to instruct subscribers to “send in their Names, without Loss of Time, to ROBERT WELLS.”

Dunlap did not rely merely on generating demand among local customers when he published “THE POETICAL WRITINGS … of the Rev. NATHANIEL EVANS.”  Instead, he inserted subscription notices in newspapers published in the largest cities in the colonies, hoping to incite greater interest in the project and attract additional buyers.  In the process, he recruited other printers to act as local agents who collected subscriptions on his behalf.  He created a network of associates that extended from New England to South Carolina as part of his marketing campaign.