May 28

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

Connecticut Journal (May 28, 1773).

“Physician, Surgeon, and Man-Midwife.”

When Richard Tidmarsh arrived in town in the spring of 1773, he published “An Address to the Inhabitants of New-Haven, and the Public in general” to offer his services as “Physician, Surgeon, and Man-Midwife.”  Like others who provided medical care and placed newspaper notices, he included an overview of his experience and credentials in hopes of convincing prospective patients otherwise unfamiliar with him that he was indeed qualified.

Tidmarsh asserted that he “was regularly bred in London” to all three “Branches” of medicine.  In other words, he received formal training in the largest city in the empire.  Furthermore, he had the “Advantage of being Pupil and Dresser in one of the most considerable Hospitals” in London.  He eventually migrated to Jamaica, where he “practised some Years with good Success,” but ultimately decided to relocate to mainland North America because of what he considered an “unhealthy Climate” in the Caribbean.

The “Physician, Surgeon, and Man-Midwife” did not arrive in New Haven directly from Jamaica.  Instead, he “lately practised ay Hartford in this Colony.”  Tidmarsh attempted to bolster his reputation by declaring that “his Abilities are well known” in Hartford, especially since “he was particularly successful in several dangerous Cases, where the Patients were gave over and deemed incurable.”  Given the relative proximity, he likely believed that prospective patients and “the Public in general” were more likely to hear of those successes in Hartford through other sources than they were to learn about his training in London or his work in Jamacia.  Even if they did not, Tidmarsh may have believed that including the local angle made his entire narrative more credible.

Given his background and experience, Tidmarsh hoped that residents of New Haven and nearby towns would consider him a “useful Member of Society” and seek medical care from him.  To encourage them to do so, he stated that he “proposes to practice as reasonable as any Gentleman of the Faculty” at the college (now Yale University).  His services did not come at higher prices than those of other physicians, surgeons, and man-midwives (though Tidmarsh conveniently overlooked female midwives who cultivated relationships and provided care to patients in the area).  As a newcomer in New Haven, he recognized the importance of sharing a short biography and assuring prospective patients about the quality and cost of his services.

April 24

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

Providence Gazette (April 24, 1773).

“He has had long Experience in the Practice of Physic and Surgery.”

Shortly after Ebenezer Richmond informed readers of the Providence Gazette that he “proposes to attend to the Practice of Physic and Surgery in this Town” and Thomas Truman renewed his call for “all those who have hitherto neglected to bring in their Accounts against the Estate of Doctor SAMUEL CAREW” and reminded the public that he sold “an Assortment of choice Medicines,” another physician placed an advertisement offering his services.  Daniel Hewes went into much more detail about his “long Experience in the Practice of Physic and Surgery.”

First, he declared that he had a “long Acquaintance with the best of Books, and with the most renowned and worthy People of the same Business.”  Hewes claimed that those colleagues bestowed on him “public Recommendations, and Testimony of Esteem.”  He had the most experience with “curing of Cancers, Falling Sickness, all Kinds of Convulsion, Hysteric and Hypochondriacal Fits, setting of Bones, [and] Midwifery.”  Furthermore, he stated that his “highest Ambition … is to do all the Good he can to his fellow Creatures, and on the most reasonable Terms.”  In other words, he offered medical care at the lowest prices.

Although he claimed extensive experience with midwifery, Hewes stated that he “does not advertise any Design of practising that Branch of Business” because so many “male and female Midwives” already provided those services in the area.  That did not prevent him, however, from offering “to assist all that are engaged therein, who demand his Assistance,” and inserting commentary that promoted his own skill and experience while simultaneously critiquing the practitioners he offered to assist.  Hewes proclaimed that he “has the Vanity to think he can save Multitudes of Lives, by unfolding some plain, safe and easy Methods, which will make the most the most dangerous Case free from all Danger, and prevent almost any Case from becoming dangerous, if seasonably used.”  He asserted that the “Want of Acquaintance with” or ignorance of “the Methods, he fears has occasioned those Deaths and Desolations that have attended Midwifery of late.”  Immediately after alleging that he did not wish to compete with the many practitioners of midwifery in Providence and nearby towns, Hewes presented himself as possessing superior skill and knowledge while playing on anxieties about “Deaths and Desolations” potentially caused by others.

Hewes also shared a gruesome tale from the “early Day of his Practice” when the colonial government in Massachusetts “present[ed] him with the Body of a Negro Malefactor, who was executed for murdering the Wife of Deacon Sanford of Mendon.”  Hewes wired together the bones, “vulgarly called an Anatomy,” and then, he boasted, had a “superior Advantage” in providing medical care, especially “in Bone-setting.”  He advised others “who pretend to set Bones” as well as prospective patients “to learn, by a proper Frame of Bones, how each bone ought to be.”  As an ancillary service, Hewes invited “all those concerned, who have not a Frame of Bones handier, to take a View of his, from Time to Time, Cost-free, except a small Gratuity, to pay the Trouble of Attendance.”  Both his medical practice and this means of generating additional revenue benefited from scrutinizing the remains of a Black man who almost certainly did not consent to having his body put to such use.

As Richmond and Truman competed for patients with their advertisements in the Providence Gazette in the spring of 1773, Hewes placed his own notice that went into even greater detail about his knowledge, skill, and experience “in the Practice of Physic and Surgery.”  The level of detail suggested that he believed prospective patients would be more likely to choose a practitioner who included a significant amount of information in the public prints, not unlike the merchants and shopkeepers who placed lengthy advertisements in their efforts to demonstrate all the different kinds of merchandise and bargains at their stores and shops.  This also gave him an opportunity to undermine his competitors, critiquing both midwives and surgeons “who pretend to set bones,” as well as boast about “the best of Books” and the “Frame of Bones” he consulted to learn how to care for patients.

April 10

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

Providence Gazette (April 10, 1773).

“An Assortment of choice Medicines.”

Nearly four months had passed since Thomas Truman first placed a notice in the Providence Gazette to request that “all Persons who have Accounts unsettled with Doctor SAMUEL CAREW, late of Providence, deceased,” visit Truman at the “House and Shop lately occupied by Doctor CAREW” to make or receive payment.  He also informed the public that he “proposes to tarry in Providence, and continue the Practice of Physic and Surgery,” reminding “all those Gentlemen and Ladies who have kindly favoured him in the Way of his Business” that he served an apprenticeship under Carew’s supervision.  Truman positioned himself as Carew’s successor, hoping to inherit the physician’s patients.

On April 10, Truman inserted a new notice in which he “once more” directed “those who have hitherto neglected to bring in their Accounts against the Estate of Doctor SAMUEL CAREW” to so do “directly, that they may be settled.”  Similarly, he asked that those “indebted to said Estate … make Payment immediately … that the Books may be closed, and the Debts paid off with Honour.”  In a nota bene, Truman stated that he no longer occupied Carew’s former house and shop.  He had “removed … two Doors further down Street,” where he sold “an Assortment of choice Medicines.”  He offered the lowest prices for the quality of the medicines he peddled.

The timing of Truman’s new advertisement may have been a coincidence, but it happened to appear a week after Ebenezer Richmond placed his own notice that he “proposes to attend to the Practice of Physic and Surgery in this Town” and boasted of his extraordinary record of success caring for patients over several years.  Truman no doubt wished to close the books on Carew’s estate, but he may have also noticed the presence of a rival in the public prints.  Given that advertisements usually ran for three weeks or more, Truman may not have wanted Richmond to enjoy the benefits of being the sole physician to advertise in the city’s only newspaper.  That competition may have played as much of a role in convincing Truman to place a new notice as his desire to bring a conclusion to Carew’s estate.

April 3

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

Providence Gazette (April 3, 1773).

“Not having lost more than six or eight Patients, out of Hundreds whom he has attended in a great Variety of Disease.”

In the spring of 1773, Ebenezer Richmond took to the pages of the Providence Gazette to inform readers that he “proposes to attend to the Practice of Physic and Surgery in this Town.”  When they advertised in colonial newspapers, physicians often included an overview of their training and credentials as a means of demonstrating their competence and expertise to prospective patients.  Richmond did so, yet did not provide many details.  “Respecting his Qualifications,” Richmond declared, “he will only observe, that the Cultivation of medical Knowledge, and of the Languages and Sciences, preparatory to, or connected therewith, has been the Business of his Life.”

Rather than offer further clarification, Richmond emphasized his experience as a physician.  He asserted that “for several Years past [he] practised with uncommon Success, not having lost more than six or eight Patients, out of Hundred whom he attended in a great Variety of Disease.”  With that record, prospective patients could trust that they were in good hands when they sought treatment from Richmond.  Once again, however, he glossed over details that may have been important to prospective patients, such as where he practiced during those “several Years” and whether anyone in Providence, especially colleagues or former patients, could vouch for him.  When Thomas Truman advertised that he planned to “continue the Practice of Physic and Surgery” in Providence the previous December, he positioned himself as the successor to Dr. Samuel Carew, recently deceased, and reminded residents of the city, especially Carew’s former patients, that he served an apprenticeship with the doctor.  Richmond, on the other hand, did not invoke any such connections.

Richmond apparently hoped that his description of his medical knowledge and record of success during several years of experience would be enough to convince prospective patients to seek his services.  For those who needed more, he also stated that he charged “very moderate Fees.”  In addition, he pledged to given them the care and attention they expected, promising that his patients “may depend upon his attending his Business with utmost Assiduity.”  Some readers may have assumed that quality contributed to the record of “uncommon Success” that Richmond reported in his advertisement.

December 26

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (December 26, 1772).

Doctor GEORGE WEED … was a regular bred Physician, in New-England.”

George Weed, an apothecary, served patients in Philadelphia for decades in the middle of the eighteenth century.  In his advertisements, he styled himself as “Doctor GEORGE WEED.”  On occasion, he provided credentials to justify using that title.

For instance, in an advertisement hawking a variety of medicines in the December 26, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, Weed provided an overview of his training before describing his “SYRUP of BALSAM” for coughs and colds, his “ROYAL BALSAM” for wounds, bruises, and sores, his “BITTER TINCTURE” for dizziness and upset stomach, and other medicines that he compounded at his apothecary shop.  Weed asserted that he “was a regular bred Physician, in New-England, and served his time with Ephraim Warner, a licenced Doctor.”  In other words, he received training from “one of the greatest and most successful Practitioners of Physic, in New England, in his day.”  Rather than ask the public to take his word for it, Weed concluded his advertisement with an affirmation from a minister.  Thomas Lewis declared, “That Doctor GEORGE WEED, living in Newtown Township, was under the Instructions and Directions of a judicious Practitioner of Physic, in New-England, for some Years, is certified by me.”  Careful readers may have noted that the affirmation was nearly two decades old, dated October 6, 1753.  Weed apparently believed that it served his purpose in helping to convince prospective patients to purchase his medicines.

To strengthen his pitch, Weed noted that he had “above 34 years successful practice,” including serving as “Apothecary to the Pennsylvania Hospital.”  He no longer held that position, instead operating his own shop on Market Street.  Through his long experience, he proclaimed, Weed “brought to perfection, some medicines, which have proved extraordinary in curing many diseases.”  Although the apothecary mentioned that he carried a “general assortment of Medicines,” he emphasized those that he made himself.  Other apothecaries, retailers, and even printers imported, advertised, and sold a variety of patent medicines produced in England.  Weed suggested to consumers in Philadelphia that the combination of his training and long experience serving patients in the colonies resulted in creating better products to cure common maladies.  They did not need remedies produced elsewhere when they could consult directly with a skilled apothecary who compounded medicines to order.

August 2

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

New-York Journal (July 30, 1772).

“If any person will take the trouble to call upon me … I shall fully satisfy him of what I have here asserted.”

Among the many advertisements in the July 30, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, one consisted entirely of a testimonial submitted to the printing office by Bartly Clarke.  He lauded a cure for “that terrible distemper the cancer” he experienced under the care of “that famous doctor Kemmena, now living in Maiden-Lane, in the city of New-York.”  Clarke explained that he had suffered with cancer “in my lip” for fifteen years.  He spent “a large sum of money” in seeking treatment from “several eminent physicians,” but none restored him to health.  Clarke sought out Kemmena upon the recommendation of “Capt. Charles Chadwick, of New-London, who was cured of the like distemper by him, almost three years ago.”

According to Clarke, Kemmena “effectually cured” him “in the space of four weeks, by the application of his famous plaster.”  During that time, Clare observed “three different persons cured of the cancer” by Kemmena.  He provided their names, enlisted them in bolstering his testimonial.  Daniel Davis, for instance, “had his whole under lip taken away, and in the space of a fortnight closed it up with sound flesh, so that it scarcely left a scar.”  Davis resided on Long Island, as did Nancy Curshow.  The third patient, Captain Rite, hailed from Bermuda, making it difficult for readers to consult any of the “three different persons” that Clarke claimed Kemmena also cured.

They could, however, speak to Clarke to learn more and assess his trustworthiness in person … but only for a limited time.  He offered that “if any person will take the trouble to call upon me at the house of doctor Kemmena, (during my stay, which will be until Sunday the second day of August) I shall fully satisfy him of what I have here asserted.”  Clarke intended to depart for his plantation in South Carolina just days after inserting the testimonial, dated July 30, in the newspaper.  That did not give other colonizers much time to consult him.  The notations at the end, however, alerted the compositor that the advertisement should run for four weeks from issue 1543 to issue 1546, circulating for some time after Clarke left the city.

Whether or not Clarke worked with Kemmena in composing and publishing this testimonial, he likely believed that its appearance independent of additional advertising by the doctor would enhance its veracity.  On occasion, other doctors ran advertisements that incorporated testimonials after they described their services, so a testimonial appearing alone amounted to a novel approach.  Clarke framed his missive as so important that he needed to share his good fortune before leaving town.  Savvy readers, on the other hand, would have questioned the timing as well as the other claims, especially since Clarke indicated that “some malicious person” spread false rumors that the doctor’s cures were not effective.  For some, none of the particulars in the testimonial may have mattered.  This advertisement, like so many others for medicines and medical treatment, leveraged hope as its primary marketing strategy.

September 9

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

Sep 9 - 9:9:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (September 9, 1769).

Recommended by the most noted and skilful Professors of Physic and Chirurgery in America.”

A curious advertisement, a testimonial of sorts, appeared in the Providence Gazette in the middle of August 1769 and then continued running for several weeks. In it, Nathaniel Ware of Wrentham, Massachusetts, informed the public had come into possession of “the celebrated Doctor Hugh Bolton’s Method of curing he most inveterate Cancers.” Yet Ware did not promote medical services that he provided. Instead, he reported that his “intimate Acquaintance with Doctor Daniel Hewes, of Mendon, Justice to the Public” had prompted him to pass along Bolton’s “efficacious” cure for cancers as well as “Doctor Bolton’s Specific for curing the Falling Sickness, and other Fits.” Ware also sang Hewes’s praises, proclaiming that he had established a remarkable reputation among his peers. “He is a Gentleman that may be safely confided in,” Ware gushed, “being recommended by the most noted and skilful Professors of Physic and Chirurgery in America, as an ingenious, skilful and successful Physician and Chirurgeon.” In addition to his abilities as physician and surgeon, Hewes was a competent midwife called to attend a “great Number of difficult Cases.” According to Ware, Hewes “has never failed of saving the Womens Lives” and, when summoned in a timely fashion, “the Childrens.” Ware expounded on Hewes’s expertise and experience at great length. Such a notable career spurred Ware to pass along Bolton’s cures “In order that [Hewes] might become universally serviceable to Mankind.”

Ware did not note that he had ever been the beneficiary of Hewes’s care, but he did testify to the reputation that the “skilful and successful Physician and Chirurgeon” had earned among patients and other doctors alike. Although Ware’s endorsement appeared to have been unsolicited by Hewes, the two men most likely coordinated its appearance in the Providence Gazette as a means of directing prospective patients to the physician in Mendon. The printer certainly did not treat Ware’s missive as a public service announcement or general interest story to insert among news items. Instead, it ran with the paid notices, funded by either Ware or Hewes or the two in combination. Hewes could have inserted an advertisement under his own name but may have opted for a testament from a third party as a better means of encouraging trust.

November 1

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

Nov 1 - 11:1:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 1
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 1, 1768).

“Offers his Attendance gratis, to every Person in Charles-Town, whose Circumstances or Situation demand it.”

When T. Lowder arrived in Charleston and established his own medical practice in 1768, he placed an advertisement to introduce himself to the residents of the city and its environs. Like many other physicians who placed newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century, Lowder first provided his credentials to potential clients who might avail themselves of his services. He indicated that he had worked as “MIDWIFE and APOTHECARY, to St. Peter’s Hospital” in Bristol. Furthermore, he reported that “he has for some Years been largely engaged in” the “Practice of Midwifery.” Although he did not provide the particulars, Lowder stated that he had received “a regular, physical Education.” He hoped that prospective clients would consider it, in combination with “a considerable Degree of Experience,” as “sufficient Qualifications.” He also pledged to exert the “utmost Assiduity” in attending to his patients. As a newcomer to the city, Lowder did not enjoy a local reputation. Until he could establish that he was not “deficient” as a midwife and apothecary, he relied on his credentials to promote his services to prospective clients who otherwise knew little else about him.

To aid in establishing his reputation in the busy port, Lowder “offers his Attendance gratis, to every Person in Charles-Town, whose Circumstances or Situation demand it.” To that end, he reserved three hours each afternoon for consulting with “The Poor” at his office on Church Street. Offering “Advice in all Cases” provided an opportunity to work with local patients who could then testify to his skill and care. Lowder likely hoped that demonstrating his competence in cases that he attended without charge would yield additional clients from among the ranks of residents who could afford to pay his fees. Providing free medical advice to the poor also attested to his character, further enhancing the public relations campaign Lowder launched in an advertisement introducing himself to colonists in Charleston. In case his credentials were not enough to attract clients, his altruism might attract the attention necessary for the newcomer to sustain his practice.

January 7

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

Jan 7 - 1:7:1768 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (January 7, 1768).

“I … have been cured of the Rheumatick Pains, by the above Person.”

In late 1767 and early 1768, the enigmatic “T.F.” placed a series of advertisements in the New-York Journal and other local newspapers. T.F. announced that he had “just arriv’d” from London, where he “had the Honour of curing some of the Nobility and Gentry” of their “Rheumatick Pains.” Some of his patients had been confined to hospital for nearly a year without experiencing relief until T.F. “restored [them] to their former Health.” T.F. now offered his services to the residents of New York.

The brief account of his successes in London sounded too good to be true, so T.F. attempted to assure prospective clients that he was not a quack. To that end, he inserted two testimonials in his advertisement to serve as confirmation of his claims. In the first, the more elaborate of the two, Thomas Johnson described his ailment: “My Pains being in my Knees, Ancles, &c. attended with very great Swellings, in such a Manner as deprived me of the Power of stirring about.” T.F. assisted Johnson in overcoming these debilitating symptoms. The patient proclaimed that he “had been cured of the Rheumatick Pains, by the above Person.” To increase the credibility of his testimonial, Johnson listed his occupation (“School-master”) and address (“in Broad-Street, near the Old City-Hall, New-York”). The second testimonial, signed jointly by three patients, was much shorter. It simply stated, “We have been cured of the same Disorder, by the same Person, in a short Time.” The lack of additional identification beyond the names of these patients made this endorsement more suspect. Still, readers could have been persuaded that a short note concurring with Johnson’s account was more credible than a solitary testimonial. Simply listing the names of three other patients satisfied with his services gave the impression of broader approbation for the accuracy of his claims to cure “Rheumatick Pains … so that no Persons need despair.”

Advertisers frequently incorporated testimonials into their marketing campaigns in the nineteenth century and beyond, but that strategy originated earlier. In the eighteenth century, providers of goods and services experimented with endorsements from satisfied customers to convince others to purchase their products or hire their services.

June 14

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

Jun 14 - 6:11:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (June 11, 1767).

“He is so far from being a Quack Doctor, or Dealer in mysterious Receipts.”

Recently arrived in Philadelphia from Saint Domingue, surgeon-physician Louis Colin did not place an advertisement in search of patients, though that may have been his ultimate goal. For the moment, two obstacles prevented him from offering his services to the residents of Philadelphia. He did not speak English fluently, nor had he cultivated a reputation for skill and expertise in his profession. He placed a notice in the Pennsylvania Gazette to set about overcoming both.

Colin realized that many readers were likely to be skeptical of any new medical practitioner who arrived in town. Too many itinerant doctors made promises and did not deliver. Too many peddlers sold patent medicines that had no effect. To allay suspicions of those sorts, he asserted that he was “so far from being a Quack Doctor, or Dealer in mysterious Receipts, that he utterly despises all Charlatanry.” He did not conjure preposterous diagnoses, prescribe ludicrous treatments, or hawk potions to desperate customers. Instead, his work with patients was grounded in years of training in Europe followed by years of experience in the Caribbean. He offered his credentials to make the point, noting that he studied “in one of the greatest Hospitals” in Paris for nine years before migrating to Saint Domingue. There, Count d’Estaing, the governor general of the colony, “had great Confidence in him, and placed him at the Head of the Hospital of Cape Francois.” Unfortunately for Colin, the climate did not agree with him, so he opted to migrate once again, this time to Philadelphia.

Readers did not need to merely trust that Colin accurately related his credentials. Rather than seeking patients, he placed his advertisement in hopes of making acquaintance with “the Gentlemen Physicians and Surgeons of this City,” provided that they could speak Latin or French. In the course of their conversations with Colin, other medical professionals could assess whether he truly possessed the knowledge and skills he claimed. If he had made false claims, surely local physicians and surgeons already known and trusted by the community would expose him as a fraud, the sort of “Quack Doctor” he disdained. In the course of socializing with his professional peers, Colin could also further develop his ability to speak English, though he assured readers he “assiduously applies himself” to studying the language.

As a newcomer to Philadelphia, Colin made an astute decision about what sort of advertisement to place in the local newspaper. He was not yet ready to solicit patients, but he realized that he would benefit in the long run by introducing himself to the community, especially fellow physicians and surgeons, as a means of gaining familiarity and building his reputation. This would only make recruiting patients that much easier when the time came.