May 26

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

May 26 - 5:26:1768 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (May 26, 1768).

“FAULKNER’S BOTTLED ALE.”

William Faulkner, a brewer, incorporated several marketing strategies into the advertisement he placed in the May 26, 1768, edition of the New-York Journal. Like other colonists who peddled goods and services, he made appeals to price and quality. However, he did not merely resort to the formulaic language that appeared in countless newspaper advertisements. Instead, he offered additional commentary to convince prospective customers to purchase his product.

Faulkner could have simply stated that “he continues to supply the public with the best of liquor on the most reasonable terms.” Such appeals to price and quality, however, were not sufficient for promoting his “country brew’d ALE” that was only recently ready for the marketplace. Not only was his ale “now fit for use,” but “in the opinion of good judges, equal in quality to any imported.” Faulkner did not reveal the identities of these “good judges,” but he did suggest to potential customers that others had indeed endorsed his product. For those still skeptical, he advanced another strategy for encouraging them to take a chance on his “country brew’d ALE.” He stated that the public had already expressed desire “for bottled Beer of this sort” and then invoked “the laudable encouragement given to our own manufactures at this period.” Faulkner did not rehearse the ongoing dispute between Parliament and the colonies. He did not need to do so. Prospective customers were already well aware of the Townshend Act that went into effect six months earlier as well as the calls for increased production and consumption of goods in the colonies as a means of decreasing dependence on imports. With a single turn of phrase, Faulkner imbued purchasing his ale with political meaning.

He also offered a discount of sorts to return customers, pricing his ale at “10s. per dozen” but noting “3s. per dozen allowed to those who return the bottles.” In other words, customers who brought back their empty bottles paid only seven shillings for a dozen full bottles. Faulkner kept his own production costs down through this design. Of the many choices available to them, the brewer encouraged colonists to enjoy “FAULKNER’S BOTTLED ALE” over any alternatives, especially imported ales. He offered assurances about quality in addition to providing pricing and political considerations to persuade consumers to choose his ale.

May 21

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

May 21 - 5:21:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (May 21, 1768).

“Will now undertake to make Kinds of Wigs.”

Convenience!  That was the hallmark of Benjamin Gladding’s advertisement in the May 21, 1768, edition of the Providence Gazette.  The peruke (wig) maker and hairdresser acknowledged that some of his potential clients had not previously had access to all the goods and services they desired in the local marketplace.  In particular, he noted that some “Gentlemen … have heretofore been at the Trouble of sending to Boston for their Wigs.”  That, Gladding proclaimed, was no longer necessary because “he has lately engaged a Journeyman” to assist in his shop.  Together, they could meet the needs of prospective clients in Providence. Gentlemen no longer needed to resort to the inconvenience of having wigs shipped from Boston.

In case prospective clients were as concerned about quality as convenience, Gladding offered additional commentary about the skills and expertise of his new journeyman, describing him as “a compleat Workman.”  Together, they labored “to make all Kinds of Wigs, in the neatest and best Manner, and in the most genteel Taste.”  In making this assertion, Gladding underscored that he offered potential customers more than just convenience.  He implicitly compared the wigs produced in his shop to those that came from Boston, stressing that they were not inferior in any way.  They possessed the same quality, having been made “in the neatest and best Manner,” and they were just as fashionable, following “the most genteel Taste” currently in style in the colonies and the British Atlantic world.  Gladding further emphasized his familiarity with the latest trends when he promoted his services as a hairdresser.  Since he set hair according to “the newest Fashions,” his clients did not need to worry that friends and acquaintances would critique them as ignorant or outdated, at least not as far as their tonsorial choices were concerned.

Gladding concluded his advertisement by pledging that “his constant Endeavour will be to render every Satisfaction.”  By then he had demonstrated what this promise meant:  prospective clients could depend on attention to convenience, quality, and fashion when they patronized his shop.

May 13

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

May 13 - 5:13:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (May 13, 1768).

“Not be obliged to wear out one Pair of Shoes, coming after another.”

Zechariah Beal, a cobbler, placed an advertisement in the May 13, 1768, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette to announce that he had moved to a new location in Portsmouth. In addition to giving directions to his new shop, Beal also offered commentary on what he considered a sorry state for footwear in the port city. He pledged that his customers would “not be obliged to wear out one Pair of Shoes, coming after another,” a situation “which he is very sorry to hear is too much the Case in Portsmouth.”

In making this assertion, Beal buttressed his appeal to quality. He included one of the standard phrases to describe his workmanship, asserting that he made shoes “in the neatest and best Manner,” but he elaborated on that commonly deployed phrase by favorably contrasting his shoes others sold in the city, whether imported or made locally. Too many colonists purchased shoes that wore out too quickly, forcing them to continuously replace them. Beal set about remedying that situation.

The industrious shoemaker balanced that marketing strategy with an appeal to customer service. Like many others in the garment trades, he declared that his clientele “may depend on being punctually served,” but once again he elaborated on the standard language inserted in many eighteenth-century advertisements. Beal guaranteed that his customers would “have their Work done at the Time appointed.” He would not inconvenience or disappoint them by not meeting the deadlines determined at the time customers contracted his services.

Beal took an innovative approach to writing the copy for his notice in the New-Hampshire Gazette. He started with some of the most common appeals to quality and customer service, but then elaborated on those appeals as a means of distinguishing both his advertisement and his business. Eighteenth-century newspapers advertisements for consumer goods and services often appear static at first glance, but Beal and others incorporated all sorts of variations to make their notices distinctive as they sought to incite demand among prospective customers.

February 24

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

Feb 24 - 2:24:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (February 24, 1768).

“GENUINE MUSTARD of different qualities.”

Although brief, Jacob Polock’s advertisement on the front page of the February 24, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette incorporated several appeals intended to incite demand among prospective customers. Polock promoted only three items – tea, mustard, and kettles – but he associated a specific marketing strategy with each, rather than merely announcing that he offered those goods for sale.

First, Polock highlighted his “EXCELLENT GREEN TEA, at 15s. per lb.” Here Polock succinctly made two appeals, first emphasizing the quality of the tea and then providing a price. Most merchants and shopkeepers did not indicate prices for their merchandise in their newspaper advertisements; Polock, on the other hand, let readers know what they could expect to pay in advance of visiting his shop. Tea was such a popular commodity that most prospective customers likely already had a sense of what constituted a good deal, allowing them to assess whether Polock offered a bargain.

By publishing a price, Polock set the maximum amount he would charge for a pound of tea, but that did not preclude him from giving discounts at the time of sale, especially for customers who bought in volume or purchased other items. Any time Polock lowered the price when interacting directly with customers he cultivated a good impression for having extended a better deal than the prices published in the newspaper.

Polock also sold “GENUINE MUSTARD of different qualities.” Here he offered consumers the ability to make choices. In choosing among the “different qualities” of mustard customers could make selections based on both cost and personal preferences, not unlike modern shoppers picking the type of mustard they most enjoy from a condiments shelf stocked with all kinds of variations.

Finally, Polock carried “IRON TEA KETTLES of Rhode Island manufacture.” In response to deteriorating relations with Britain that resulted from a trade deficit and the imposition of new taxes via the Townshend Act, many colonists resolved to purchase fewer imported goods while simultaneously encouraging domestic manufactures. Merchants and shopkeepers frequently advertised teapots and other accessories imported from England, but Polock instead participated in a rudimentary “Buy American” campaign when he noted that his tea kettles had been produced in the colonies. He challenged consumers to consider the political ramifications associated with the goods they chose to purchase.

Polock’s advertisement might appear rather simple at a glance, but careful consideration reveals that he inserted several appeals intended to resonate with readers and encourage colonists to consume his merchandise.

November 20

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

Nov 20 - 11:20:1767 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 20, 1767).

“He keeps neither negroes nor apprentices, but hires white journeymen.”

Donald Harper, a tailor, made a rather unique appeal to prospective customers in an advertisement in the November 20, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. Unlike most of his competitors, he mentioned the assistants who worked for him, acknowledging that he was not solely responsible for all the garments produced in his shop. In the process, he underscored that “he keeps neither negroes nor apprentices, but hires white journeymen.”

What was Harper attempting to communicate to potential clients? From the distance of a quarter millennium, the racial aspect of this appeal may seem most prominent. It might be tempting to assume that since being fitted for clothing could be a rather intimate experience that required close personal contact that Harper suspected some customers would prefer not to interact with enslaved assistants. Yet other newspaper advertisements, as well as all kinds of other sources from the period, indicate that colonists had little objection to sharing spaces, even close quarters, with enslaved men, women, and children, provided that contact was temporary and that everyone behaved according to the expectations of prevailing social and racial hierarchies. The same issue of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, for instance, included advertisements for enslaved domestic servants, including seamstresses, cooks, and other “house wenches.” In serving white colonists, slaves became invisible and unremarkable, which would have made Harper’s marketing strategy out of place had his intention been exclusively to promote a workshop free of enslaved workers.

The advertisement might better be understood by noting that Harper relied on the labor of “neither negroes nor apprentices.” Instead, he “hires white journeymen,” an aspect of his business that he connected to clients “being served to their satisfaction” because the journeymen did their work “with the greatest dispatch and in the genteelest manner.” Seen through the eyes of eighteenth-century readers, Harper made an appeal to quality. He did not resort to untrained or barely trained workers, whether enslaved or apprenticed, but instead hired artisans who had demonstrated some level of skill and competence in order to achieve journeyman status. As a result, customers could depend on a certain level of quality when they chose to acquire garments from Harper’s workshop.

September 24

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

Sep 24 - 9:24:1767 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (September 21, 1767).

“Good, sound, and neat silver watches.”

Advertisements for imported goods – textiles, housewares, hardware – filled the pages of colonial newspapers. In most instances, artisans and manufacturers in England made items colonists either could not produce on their own or that surpassed the quality of similar items made by colonial crafters. As the eighteenth-century progressed, however, greater numbers of skilled artisans participated in transatlantic migrations, bringing their expertise to colonial cities and towns. They set up shop in their new places of residence; their skills and experience contributed to improving the reputation associated with domestically produced goods.

By the 1760s, residents of Philadelphia and major urban ports worried that observers in England, especially London, might look down on them as backwater provincials since they were so far distant from the center of the empire. Some advertisers in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia attempted to allay these anxieties with assurances that they made and sold goods of the highest quality and most recent fashions. Yet concerns about cosmopolitanism were not confined to the largest and busiest port cities. In Lancaster, more than fifty miles west of Philadelphia, Thomas Skidmore opened a workshop where customers interested in purchasing expensive watches “may be here supplied as in London.”

In an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, Skidmore, a “WATCH-FINISHER, from London,” insisted that local consumers were no longer “under the necessity of importing good watches from England or Ireland.” For only £12, he made “good, sound, and neat silver watches” in the town of Lancaster. Skidmore did not work alone; instead, he employed two assistants, “the one a movement-maker, and the other a motion-maker,” both of whom had previously followed their trade in England. Working together, the three produced “good watches” that Skidmore asserted rivaled any imported from Britain. Skidmore was so certain of the quality of the work done in his shop that he offered a guarantee that his watches would not require repairs in the first three years. He made appeals that would have been familiar to residents of Philadelphia, the largest city in the American colonies in the decade before the Revolution. His location in Lancaster, however, demonstrates that desire to participate in consumer culture extended beyond urban centers, far into the hinterland.

September 2

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

Sep 2 - 9:2:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 2, 1767).

“EXCEEDING GOOD OLD BARBADOS RUM, by the hogshead, quarter-cask, or small quantity.”

Horton and Moore placed a fairly simple advertisement in the September 2, 1767, issue of the Georgia Gazette. In it, they announced that they sold a small number of items: rum, sugar, vinegar, and Delftware (a popular blue and white pottery made in the Netherlands and exported to locales throughout the Atlantic world). Compared to the list-style advertisements that crowded the pages of many eighteenth-century newspapers, their notice was relatively short. Yet the simplicity and the length did not mean that Horton and Moore neglected to advance marketing messages in their advertisement. For each item, they offered some sort of commentary intended to entice potential customers to visit Horton and Moore’s wharf to make their purchases.

The partners resorted to some of the most common appeals made to consumers throughout the eighteenth century. They emphasized quality, explicitly and implicitly, to promote both rum and sugar. They described the former as “EXCEEDING GOOD” and the latter as “of an extraordinary good quality.” In noting the places of origin – “BARBADOS RUM” and “JAMAICA SUGAR” – they further testified to quality since those locations were widely recognized for producing the finest examples of their respective commodities.

When it mattered, Horton and Moore made an appeal to consumer choice: they carried a ‘COMPLETE ASSORTMENT” of Delftware. This implied a variety of (fashionable) patterns as well as an array of items, from plates and bowls to canisters and sugar dishes to tiles and tureens for household use and decoration. Horton and Moore invited customers to examine all the possibilities, promising that they would not be forced to choose from a tiny selection. A “COMPLETE ASSORTMENT” meant the freedom to express themselves by identifying their favorites and choosing items that distinguished them from their friends and relations.

Horton and Moore also marketed convenience when they offered to sell their commodities in various quantities. Customers could purchase rum “by the hogshead, quarter-cask, or small quantity,” sugar “by the hogshead, barrel, or small quantity,” and vinegar “in any quantity.” Presumably shoppers were also welcome to select as many or as few pieces of Delftware as they desired.

Finally, the partners made an appeal to price, stating they sold all of their merchandise “on the most reasonable terms.” Combined with the other appeals, this made their wares even more attractive to prospective customers.

Horton and Moore’s advertisement demonstrates that commercial notices aimed at consumers did not need to be elaborate or lengthy to incorporate marketing appeals. In the space of half a dozen lines, the merchants deployed messages about quality, choice, convenience, and price as they attempted to incite demand among customers in Savannah and its hinterland.