November 24

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

Pennsylvania Journal (November 24, 1773).

“THE extraordinary quality of this Oil will (he presumes) recommend it to all, who please to make trial of it.”

As November came to an end and the days continued getting shorter, Richard Wells took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal to advertise the “Fine Spermaceti LAMP OIL” that he “MANUFACTURED and SOLD … At his SPERMACETI WORKS” on Arch Street in Philadelphia.  His short advertisement gave his location and declared that the “extraordinary quality of this Oil will (he presumes) recommend it to all, who please to make trial of it.”  Customers who purchased a small quantity, Wells suggested, would be so satisfied that they would buy more.

Pennsylvania Gazette (November 24, 1773).

Wells did not go into great detail about the “extraordinary quality” of his lamp oil, nor did he arrange for any sort of distinctive typography to call attention to his advertisement.  In both newspapers, the format for the copy Wells submitted to the printing office followed the choices often made by the compositors when they set the type for advertisements.  As a result, the version in the Pennsylvania Journal featured more variation in capitalization, font sizes, and white space, but nothing that suggested Wells made any special requests or gave specific instructions.  His advertisement in the Pennsylvania Journal also benefited from appearing at the bottom of the first column on the first page, giving it greater visibility than notices that ran on the third and fourth pages, but most likely that resulted from a choice made by a compositor who needed to complete a column rather than from any arrangements made by Wells.

For the most part, Wells took a conservative approach to advertising.  He did realize that placing notices in two newspapers rather than just one would place his product before the eyes of a greater number of prospective customers.  He did not, however, opt to run his advertisement in every newspaper in other local newspapers, such as the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Packet.  Perhaps he found the cost of doing so prohibitive.  Perhaps he wished to see what kind of response these advertisements received before making final determinations about inserting them in other publications.  His advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette and Pennsylvania Journal included notations (intended for the compositors) that they should remain until Wells discontinued them rather than for a set period (like “6W” for six weeks).  It could have been Wells’s intention to assess their effectiveness, determining the value his business derived from those notices in order to make further decisions about his marketing efforts.

November 17

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

Pennsylvania Journal (November 17, 1773).

“Mr. DOUGLASS’S concern for the peace of the Theatre prevented him from … confuting those falshoods … propagated against him.”

Something happened at the theater in Southwark on the outskirts of Philadelphia in November 1773, something that one of the actors, John Henry, believed he should address in the public prints.  Among the various advertisements in the November 17 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal, Henry inserted “A CARD” in which he “most respectfully assures the Town, that he has too great a deference for their opinion to wish to do any thing contrary to it.”  He did not elaborate on what had happened, nor did any of the newspapers published in Philadelphia at the time mention any controversy among the local news they printed that week, but conversation and gossip likely made any such coverage unnecessary.  If readers did not already know what happened, they could easily enough ask friends and acquaintances to learn more.

Henry made some references in his “CARD” that likely would have piqued the curiosity of readers and prompted some of them to make inquiries.  For instance, he indicated that a play had been canceled, but, if it had been performed as scheduled, he would have “addressed the Audience and submitted himself entirely to their judgment.”  However, “Mr. DOUGLASS’S concern for the peace of the Theatre prevented him from having an opportunity of evinceing that respect he has for the Public, and of confuting those falshoods that, he understands, have been propagated against him.”  Scandal!  What kinds of rumors circulated about Henry?  Henry’s “CARD” likely whetted the appetites of some readers to find out more about what kind of trouble the actor’s troubles.

An advertisement in the previous issue of the Pennsylvania Journal announced that the American Company would perform “A COMEDY called THE CLANDESTINE MARRIAGE,” first performed at Drury Lane in London in 1766, at the “Theatre in Southwark” for “POSITIVELY THE LAST WEEK.”  Douglass, the manager of the company, played the role of Sir John Melvile, while Henry played Lovewell.  Apparently, none of the rumors about Henry had circulated before the advertisement ran on November 10, at least not so widely to merit canceling any performances.  Whatever had conspired, Henry wanted a chance to address “those falshoods,” though the actor seemingly preferred to present his defense to an audience rather than in print.  He likely reasoned that he could more readily sway the sympathies of an audience who witnessed how he comported himself than readers who could not hear the tone of his voice or observe his demeanor.  In addition, he likely did not wish to commit some allegations to print.

That did not prevent him from making an earnest plea in his “CARD.”  Henry declared that had he been permitted to make an address that “his intention was to throw himself on the protection of an American Audience,—who, he was conscious, would not condemn him unheard.”  He believed this from experience, having been “Brought up to his profession on the American Stage, and having exerted his poor endeavours to please, for these seven years past.”  The Irish-born actor had previously performed in Dublin and London before migrating to Jamaica and, eventually, the mainland colonies.  He appeared in productions at the John Street Theatre in New York in 1767, later moving to the theater in Southwark.  In his “CARD,” he professed that American audiences “have hitherto honoured him with more marks of their indulgence than his small share of merit deserves.”  Given a chance, the actor was confident that “an American Audience, … from their known generosity, candour, and impartiality,” would have heard his story and accepted the explanation he gave.  Henry concluded by declaring that “it shall be his constant—his grateful study to deserve” the trust and approval of that audience.

Henry’s “CARD” did not tell the whole story, though it revealed more than appeared elsewhere in any of the newspapers published in Philadelphia at the time.  The truncated narrative delivered local news in its own way, while also prompting readers to seek out information from other sources to learn more about whatever scandal embroiled one of the actors at the Southwark Theatre.

November 10

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

Pennsylvania Journal (November 10, 1773).

“For terms of freight or passage apply … at the London Coffee-House.”

The Clarendon prepared to sail from Philadelphia to Kingston and Old Harbour in Jamaica on November 10, 1773.  In advance of the ship’s departure, newspaper advertisements promoted “genteel accommodations for passengers” and solicited cargo for the voyage.  Those notices continued until the day the Clarendon was scheduled to leave port, appearing in the November 10 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  By then, neither Samuel Smith, the merchant who sponsored the voyage, nor William Townsend, the captain, probably did not accept freight that would cause delays by taking too long to load, but perhaps welcomed passengers who waited until the last minute.  Townsend likely gathered letters to deliver to correspondents in Jamaica for as long as the ship remained in port.  The advertisement advised that anyone with business for the Clarendon should apply to Smith “in Front-Street,” the captain “at Mr. Knox’s wharf, or at the London Coffee-House.”

It was not that only advertisement in that issue of the Pennsylvania Journal that listed the London Coffee House as one of the locations designated for meeting with masters of vessels to conduct business.  A notice for the Lovely Lass, departing for Jamaica under the command of Andrew Waid before the end of November, directed readers “to CRAIG and MORRELL, or the said Master, at the London Coffee-House.”  Similarly, the Lydia, under the command of Thomas Dean, “WILL sail with all convenient speed” to Liverpool, “having part of her cargo ready to go on board.”  To arrange freight or passage, readers needed to contact “Jeremiah Warder and Sons, said master on board, or at the London Coffee-House.”  Another ship, the Charming Nancy, would depart for Jamaica under the command of Charles Biddle on December 1.  A familiar refrain instructed readers to “apply to MATTHIAS ASPDEN, or said Master on board, or at the London Coffee-House.”

Not every advertisement adorned with a woodcut depicting a ship at sea made reference to the London Coffee House, but four out of ten in that edition of the Pennsylvania Journal listed that landmark as one of the places to meet with merchants and captains to arrange for freight or passage.  Readers did not have to reside in Philadelphia to realize that the London Coffee House was an important gathering place for conducting business during the era of the American Revolution.  Advertisements testified to how often merchants and captains frequented the establishment to meet with associates and customers.

October 27

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

Pennsylvania Journal (October 27, 1773).

“As he is determined to quit Trade and settle his Affairs, he will sell off all his remaining Goods at public Sale.”

Randle Mitchell advertised a “going out of business” sale in the fall of 1773.  He announced that he “is determined to quit Trade and settle his Affairs” and “is now selling off his stock of European and India GOODS, Imported in the last Vessels from London and Bristol.”  The merchant outlined the terms of the sale in an advertisement that ran in the Pennsylvania Journal for several weeks in October.

Mitchell ran the advertisement in advance of commencing the sale, hoping to build both anticipation and competition among wholesalers and retailers interested in acquiring his wares.  The sale would start on November 1, but interested parties could examine the merchandise at Mitchell’s store on Water Street “three days before the sale.”  He pledged that “the Good [will be] arranged in order for any person to view them.”  In addition, he distributed “Hand bills with the particulars of the goods … thro’ the city and country, a week before the sale.”  Mitchell did not rely on newspapers notices as the only means of advertising his “going out of business” sale.  Though none of those handbills survive, Mitchell’s reference to them suggests that colonizers encountered more advertisements in various formats than have been preserved in research libraries, historical societies, and private collections.

To entice prospective buyers, Mitchell declared that he “will sell off in the Packages to any Merchant or Shopkeeper at prime cost or the usual credit.”  He offered more generous terms to those who bought in greater volume, setting “Six Months Credit” for “All Persons purchasing above Fifty Pounds value.”  Those purchasing “only £20 value and under £50” received just three months credit, while smaller purchases had to be paid in cash at the time of sale.  Furthermore, anyone eligible for six months credit who instead chose to pay case “may have a discount of Five per cent.”  Those who qualified for three months credit, in turn, received “a discount of Two and a half per cent” for paying cash.  Mitchell considered these terms “so very convenient, and advantageous to the Purchasers, that they must see their Interest in purchasing at the Sale.”

Although Mitchell did not use the term “going out of business” to describe his sale, that was the kind of event that he sponsored at his store.  With newspaper advertisements and handbills distributed far and wide, he attempted to create a buzz of anticipation for the bargains soon available to merchants and shopkeepers interested in buying in volume.  To inspire them to imagine how they could manage such purchases, Mitchell explained the discounts and credit available.  In the process, he devised a structure that encouraged larger purchases in his efforts to liquidate his inventory.  Mitchell did not merely announce that he was going out of the business.  He made his decision “to quit Trade” an event that demanded the attention of merchants and shopkeepers in and near Philadelphia.

October 13

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

Pennsylvania Journal (October 13, 1773).

“He therefore flatters himself, that he, a young beginner, will receive suitable encouragement from the generous public.”

Benjamin January, a “BOOK-BINDER and STATIONER,” offered his services to residents of Philadelphia in an advertisement in the October 13, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  He declared that he had recently opened a shop “where he carries on the BOOK-BINDING BUSINESS … and where Merchants, Shop-keepers, and others, may be supplied with all sorts of account books, and and ruled to any pattern, at the lowest price.”  He also listed a variety of stationery and writing supplies available for sale.  Like many other advertisers, January emphasized customer service as an important part of his business.  He promised that “he shall make it his peculiar study to merit the approbation of all such, who please to employ him, so shall it be his constant endeavour to give, to the utmost of his power, entire satisfaction.”  In a final plea to prospective customers, the bookbinder and stationer emphasized that he was “a young beginner” who would benefit “suitable encouragement from the generous public.”  He suggested that consumers had a duty to reward him for his enterprising spirit.

Benjamin January, Trade Card (Philadelphia, ca. 1783-87).  Courtesy American Antiquarian Society.

That “young beginner” apparently convinced prospective customers to give him a chance, at least for a time.  In the 1780s, he remained in business and continued to advertise by distributing an engraved trade card that gave his location as “the sign of the Bible & Dove” with “in Front Street” written in a blank space.  The bookbinder and stationer could change locations, retain the sign associated with his shop, and update his trade card accordingly.  He first listed Front Street as his location in an advertisement for a lost pocketbook in the May 3, 1780, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, but did not make reference to “the sign of the Bible and Dove” until advertising in the June 5, 1783, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet.  Advertising did not guarantee success.  The December 3, 1787, edition of the Independent Gazetteer carried a bankruptcy notice “issued forth against Benjamin January, of the city of Philadelphia, Bookbinder and Stationer.”  Following that setback, January tried again, soliciting “a continuance of the favours of his former employers, and of all others who wish to encourage him” at his new location on Chestnut Street in an advertisement in the February 13, 1788, edition of the Independent Gazetteer.  He continued advertising in newspapers throughout the remainder of the 1780s and into the 1790s.

Whatever the difficulties that January encountered, he joined several merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans in marketing efforts that extended beyond newspaper notices, the most common form of advertising in eighteenth-century America.  His trade card resembled those that circulated in London and urban ports in the colonies.  An ornate border depicted books, ink wells, shakers, quills, and desk accessories.  A ribbon woven throughout the border listed other wares, including “INK POWDER,” “SLATES,” “WAFERS,” “PENCILS,” “WAX,” and “PAPER.”  In the text contained within the border, January advanced some of the same appeals he deployed when he introduced himself to readers of the Pennsylvania Journal and other newspapers published in Philadelphia.  He asserted “all Sorts of Account Books are Made & Ruled to any Pattern” and sold “all Sorts of stationary wares at the Lowest Rates.”  Such a fine trade card signaled initiative and industriousness, though January may not have received the return on this investment that he hoped.  Still, his trade card testifies to the rich visual landscape of advertising media that circulated in Philadelphia during the era of the American Revolution.

September 29

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

Pennsylvania Journal (September 29, 1773).

“At the Sign of the Golden Key.”

In the fall of 1773, William Ross, a shoemaker, informed readers of the Pennsylvania Journal that he imported a “Very neat assortment of BOOT LEGS and BEN LEATHER SOALS” and “double CALLIMANCOE for ladies shoes.”  He asserted that he stocked “an assortment of the best articles in the business” for the benefit of “his friends and customers.”  The copy for Ross’s advertisement occupied less space than the image that accompanied it.  A woodcut depicting the sign that marked his location on Walnut Street included a shoe and the words “W. ROSS FROM SCOTLAND.”  The shoemaker enhanced his advertisement by investing in a woodcut associated exclusively with his business, unlike the stock images of ships at sea included in some of the other advertisements on the same page.

Pennsylvania Journal (September 29, 1773).

Ross was not the only entrepreneur whose advertisement featured an image of a shop sign in the September 29 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  Harper and Jackson adorned their notice for their “WET and DRY GOODS STORE, At the sign of the Golden Key” on Water Street with a woodcut of an ornate key.  Their names flanked the key, further associating the device with their business.  Unlike Ross, Harper and Jackson devoted most of their advertisement to copy, listing dozens of items among their inventory.  In addition, they promised “a variety of other goods, too tedious to mention,” that they sold “at the most reasonable rates.”  The merchants pledged “their utmost endeavours … to give general satisfaction to those who will please to favour them with their custom.”  As much as prospective customers may have appreciated such appeals, it was likely the image of the key that initially attracted their attention to the advertisement and made it memorable.

These two advertisements testify to some of the advertising images that colonizers encountered as they navigated the streets of Philadelphia during the era of the American Revolution.  Many merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and tavernkeepers adopted, displayed, and promoted devices that became synonymous with their businesses, precursors to logos associated with corporations.  Relatively few included images of their shop signs in their newspaper advertisements, though greater numbers did mention the symbols that marked their locations.  Readers of the Pennsylvania Journal and other newspapers glimpsed truncated scenes of the commercial landscape of the bustling port as they perused the pages of the public prints.

September 15

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

Pennsylvania Journal (September 15, 1773).


It was a sign of the changing seasons, the arrival of fall, for readers of the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal.  On September 15, 1773, James Adams published one of the first advertisements for almanacs for 1774.  Soon, many other printers and booksellers would advertise other almanacs in the Pennsylvania Gazette, the Pennsylvania Journal, and other newspapers throughout the colonies.  That would include Hall and Sellers, the printers of the Pennsylvania Gazette, and William Bradford and Thomas Bradford, the printers of the Pennsylvania Journal, inserting advertisers for almanacs they published.  The next day, Clementina Rind, printer of the Virginia Gazette, ran an advertisement for the Virginia Almanack for the Year of Our Lord 1774, drawing readers into the same annual ritual of marketing, selecting, and purchasing the popular pamphlets.

For readers in Philadelphia and its hinterlands, James Adams advertised two almanacs that came off the presses at his printing office in Wilmington, Delaware.  Both included the kinds of information that made almanacs both entertaining and useful.  The Wilmington Almanack, for instance, contained the usual astronomical observations as well as extracts from The Family Physician, “shewing people what is in their own power both with respect to the prevention and cure of diseases,” an “address to the Ladies, on the present fashions” (conveniently ignoring that men just as eagerly participated in consumer culture), and both “jests” and “wise sayings.”  The reference material included “tables of interest at 6 and 7 per cent,” schedules for courts, fairs, and “Friends yearly meetings,” and descriptions of roads in the region.  Adams also sought to compete with printers in Philadelphia by publishing his own Pennsylvania Town and Country-Man’s Almanack.  Like the Wilmington Almanack, its contents included astronomical observations, schedules for courts, fairs, and Quaker meetings, descriptions of roads, and tables of interest.  For the edification of readers, it also featured “two extraordinary letters, one of them from Sir Walter Rawleigh, to his wife, after his condemnation; the other from James Earl of Marlborough, a little before his death, to his friend” as well as “memoirs of several other great and worthy men” and an essay “concerning casualties and adversities.”  Adams listed Jonathan Zane and William Wilson, both on Second Street in Philadelphia, as local agents who sold the Pennsylvania Town and Country-Man’s Almanack.

Throughout the fall, the pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette, Pennsylvania Journal, and other colonial newspapers would become increasingly crowded with advertisements for almanacs.  As the new year approached, printers and booksellers would offer dozens of titles for consumers to select.  Some printers would also market discounts for purchasing in volume, hoping to enlist shopkeepers in town and country in selling and distributing almanacs.  As much as changes in the weather and fewer hours of daylight, the appearance of advertisements for almanacs signaled the arrival of fall for the reading public.

September 8

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

Pennsylvania Journal (September 8, 1773).


Robert Bell became one of the most prominent and influential American booksellers and publishers of the late eighteenth century, in part due to his flamboyant personality and flair for marketing.  He disseminated advertising in the same formats as other booksellers and publishers – newspaper notices, book catalogs, handbills, broadsides – yet introduced innovations intended to engage and entice consumers.

Such was the case in an advertisement that Bell placed in the September 8, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  If they included a headline at all (other than their names), most advertisers used a stark description of their wares, such as “BOOKS” or “PORT WINE.”  Bell, on the other hand, devised a headline that both described and addressed prospective customers: “The CURIOUS IN BOOKS.”  In other advertisements, his headlines addressed “THE SONS OF SCIENCE IN AMERICA” and “THE AMERICAN WORLD” and “those who possess a PUBLIC SPIRIT.”  In other advertisements, his headlines made dramatic pronouncements, such as “HISTORY” and “LITERATURE” and “XENOPHONTICK BANQUET.”  Bell often crafted a headline intended to distinguish his advertisements from others.

He invited “The CURIOUS” to note that “This Day is Published and given away GRATIS, to all who are pleased to call or send for it, ROBERT BELL’S SALE CATALOGUE Of a COLLECTION of NEW AND OLD BOOKS.”  Those who desired a copy had the option of visiting the shop or, for their convenience, Bell had catalogs delivered to those who requested them.  He emphasized the many choices available, declaring that the catalog listed “above FIFTEEN HUNDRED VOLUMES” and then further elaborating the selection included “a number of elegant and uncommon BOOKS, very scare and rarely to be met with.”  That was because many of them were secondhand books from “the LIBRARY of a Gentleman who lately left this Country.”  That meant customers had access to rare volumes not widely available in the colonial marketplace.  It also implied scarcity, just one copy of many of the books in the catalog, so prospective customers needed to purchase books that interested them quickly.

To encourage “The CURIOUS” to take action, Bell listed more than just the authors and titles of the books in his catalog.  Every entry included “the lowest Price fixed to each Book” so consumers could make their own assessments about whether they could afford the books and how much they valued them.  Presenting prospective customers with prices also helped them imagine completing transactions and adding books to their own libraries.  Although they had to pay for any purchases, Bell distributed the catalogs to “The CURIOUS” for free as a means of getting them started on those imaginative journeys that the bookseller hoped would culminate in sales.  Bell combined a lively advertisement and free catalog into an innovative marketing campaign that set him apart from most other booksellers of the period.

August 4

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

Pennsylvania Journal (August 4, 1773).

“MARY GRIFFITH also begs to acquaint the Ladies, that she cleans blonds and gauses.”

Thomas Griffith received top billing in an advertisement addressed “TO THE LADIES” in the August 4, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, though Mary Griffith also provided services for “the Ladies … at their house … in Christian-street” in Philadelphia.”  Thomas’s name served as a secondary headline, making him as visible in his notice as “JOSEPH CRUKSHANK, PRINTER,” “JOHN LAUGEAY,” “SAMUEL SMITH, & SONS,” and other male advertisers were in their own notices.  Although Mary’s name did appear in capital letters, it did not appear in a larger font or centered and extended across the column.  Instead, “MARY GRIFFITH” ran in the same size font as the rest of the paragraph that described her contributions to the family business.

Thomas introduced himself as a “Fan-Maker from London, but last from Charlestown,” establishing that he had experience serving genteel ladies in both the most cosmopolitan city in the empire and one of largest ports in the colonies.  He stocked “every material belonging to the fan-trade” imported from London, including “a new assortment of FAN-MOUNTS of beautiful paintings, and of various coloured grounds, some curiously sprigged and bordered with silver” and “a few cut carved and painted ivory fan-sticks.”  That inventory made it possible for customers to create unique fans that reflected their personalities, according to their own tastes and budgets.  Thomas invited ladies to find or select “their own sticks” and choose a mount (as well as bindings, rivets, and buttons) that he would then use to construct a new fan “in a few hours … in as compleat a manner as any in London.”  His customers could confidently display their fans, knowing that no friends or acquaintances possessed any duplicates.  For her part, Mary “cleans blonds and gauses by a new method to look like new.”  Prospective customers knew that “blonds” referred to silk lace made of two threads twisted and formed in hexagonal meshes and “gauses” (or “gauzes”) were a very thin, transparent fabric made of silk.  Mary advised that ladies could view a specimen of her work, a clever way of enticing them to visit the shop that she shared with Thomas.  In addition, she made “all foreign and minionet [or mignonette] laces to the greatest of perfection.”

Between them, Mary and Thomas supplied various kinds of accessories that helped genteel ladies enhance their appearance and distinguish themselves from others in a society enmeshed in consumer culture and conscious of the latest fashions on both sides of the Atlantic.  Thomas achieved greater visibility in their shared newspaper advertisement, but Mary likely assisted in cultivating rapport with his customers seeking fans in addition to other customers interested in her laces.  The format of the advertisement in the public prints did not necessarily reflect the extent of the partnership in their shop.

July 7

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

Pennsylvania Packet (July 7, 1773).

“To be lett, THE CITY TAVERN.”

The City Tavern became a landmark in Philadelphia during the era of the American Revolution, but in 1773 it was a new structure that awaited a tenant to oversee its operations.  An advertisement in the July 7 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal described the location “in one of the principal Streets, near the Center of the Town” and described the grand edifice, including the spacious rooms and the lofty ceilings.  Over time, the City Tavern rivaled the London Coffee House as a meeting place for merchants to socialize and conduct business.  Members of the Continental Congress dined at the City Tavern, as did delegates to the Constitutional Convention.  Notable men and women, including George and Martha Washington and John and Abigail Adams, stayed at the City Tavern.  Residents of Philadelphia and visitors to the city alike gathered, dined, and danced at the City Tavern both during the American Revolution and during the decade that Philadelphia served as the capital of the new nation.

What were the origins of such a storied venue?  Why was the “most convenient and elegant structure of its kind in America” in need of a host to run the establishment in the summer of 1773?  Some of the most elite residents of Philadelphia, the largest and most prosperous city in the colonies, determined that their growing metropolis needed “a genteel club the equal of any in England” to serve as “the center of business by day and entertainment at night.”  As the advertisement in the Pennsylvania Journal explained, “the Proprietors have built this tavern without any view of profit, but merely for the convenience and credit of the city.”  The prestige associated with the city having such an establishment was profit enough.  Samuel Powel, a prominent merchant and politician, donated the land.  Seven trustees set about raising funds by subscription, convincing fifty-three subscribers to contribute at least twenty-five pounds each.  In total, they raised more than three thousand pounds for the building.

Once construction was complete, the proprietors needed someone with an “active, obliging disposition” who would certainly “find it in his interest” to oversee operations at the new City Tavern.  They hoped to engage a tenant who would open the tavern to patrons in September.  The proprietors selected Daniel Smith.  In an advertisement in the February 14, 1774, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet, Smith promoted the “genteel Coffee Room … properly supplied with English and American papers and magazines,” the “goodness of his wines and larder,” “several elegant bed rooms, detached from noise,” and the “best livery stables.”  He set about delivering on the “stile of a London tavern” as intended by the proprietors and subscribers who first envisioned the City Tavern as a marker of Philadelphia’s cultural status.