What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A sample of the TOBACCO may be seen at the Bar of the London Coffee-House.”
In a series of newspaper advertisements, Hamilton and Leiper informed readers that they sold “the various kinds of manufactured TOBACCO and SNUFF (of the best quality)” at their store on Second Street in Philadelphia. In addition, they “established a MANUFACTORY” in Baltimore “for the conveniency of their customers in Maryland.” Over time, the partners became the most successful tobacconists in the region. Their advertisements and other marketing efforts likely played a role in their success.
As fall approached in 1772, the partners promoted their “KITE-FOOT TOBACCO” in an advertisement in the September 16 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette. As usual, they lauded their tobacco’s “excellent quality.” Like other entrepreneurs who hawked “domestic manufactures,” goods produced in the colonies, Hamilton and Leiper proclaimed their product “equal to any imported from Europe.” Consumers were familiar with tobacco exported to England and Scotland as raw materials, processed in those places, and then imported into the colonies. Hamilton and Leiper, however, asserted that quality tobacco did not need to cross the Atlantic twice.
Prospective customers could decide for themselves. In addition to visiting Hamilton and Leiper’s shop, consumers had the option of examining a sample “at the Bar of the London Coffee-House.” That almost certainly enhanced the visibility of Hamilton and Leiper’s product, exposing patrons of an establishment already popular with merchants and other colonizers to their brand of tobacco. Patrons did not need to enter the London Coffee House with the intention of scrutinizing Hamilton and Leiper’s “KITE-FOOT TOBACCO” to determine if they wished to make a purchase. Instead, they could be incidentally exposed to the product as others examined and discussed it. Making samples available had the potential to incite interest and enthusiasm among multiple prospective customers engaging with each other and the product simultaneously. That marketing strategy had the potential to create a very different kind of experience among consumers than reading newspaper notices.