What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“As neat, as good, as handsome, as cheap, as ever was, or can be fabricated in New England.”
In the late 1760s and early 1770s, James Haslett and Matthew Haslett occasionally placed advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette. Originally from Boston, the Hasletts relocated to Portsmouth. They set up shop as leather dressers, making breeches, jackets, gloves, and other garments. They also sometimes stocked tea, coffee, and other grocery items, their efforts as shopkeepers supplementing the revenues they generated as artisans. Some of their advertisements were quite notable for featuring woodcuts depicting the “Sign of the BUCK and GLOVE.” Other advertisements were more modest in appearance, though not in content.
Such was the case for an advertisement that ran in the June 7, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. It extended only five lines, taking up much less space than some of the Hasletts’ more elaborate advertisements, but its brevity did not mean that it lacked appeals intended to entice consumers to hire the Hasletts to make breeches and other leather items. The Hasletts proclaimed that they made and sold their wares “As neat, as good, as handsome, as cheap, as ever was, or can be fabricated in New England.” The unique cadence of their message to prospective customers may have caught the attention of readers. In just a few words, they made several claims about the price, quality, and appearance of their breeches and other leather goods. They also envisioned a regional marketplace rather than a local one, declaring that consumers would not acquire superior goods or better bargains in Boston or any other town in New England.
Visually, the Hasletts’ advertisement, like so many others in eighteenth-century newspapers, may seem unremarkable, especially compared to modern graphic design standards. The copy, however, advanced multiple appeals intended to engage consumers. The Hasletts did not merely announce that they made and sold leather breeches and other items. Instead, they made a series of assertions about why prospective customers should select them to provide their services, incorporating many of the most popular appeals made in advertisements of the period.