November 16

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

Connecticut Courant (November 16, 1774).

“The BEST of BEER.”

In the fall of 1773, Amasa Jones placed advertisements in the Connecticut Courant to alert residents of Hartford and nearby towns that he “HATH just received a large Supply of LONDON PORTER, and BRISTOL BEER.”  Most of his advertisement focused on cultivated relationships with former and prospective customers.  He “Returns his Thanks to those Gentlemen that have been Kind enough to favour him with their Custom,” simultaneously inviting them to purchase beer from him once again.  Jones hoped “they will continue” those “favours” by placing new orders.  He concluded with a note to “All those Gentlemen that are dispos’d to Favour him with their Custom,” whether or not they previously bought beer from Jones, to promise that they “may depend upon having a Bottle of the BEST of BEER.”

That final line sounded much like an advertising slogan that marketing agencies would develop for breweries two centuries later: “the BEST of BEER.”  Had Jones consulted more closely with the printing office, that final line, rather than his name, could have been the headline for his advertisement.  After all, other advertisements in the November 16 edition of the Connecticut Courant had headlines like “Hartford LOTTERY” and “Best ANCHORS.”  Some entrepreneurs did experiment with headlines other than their names.  Although Jones missed that opportunity, he did conclude with an overture for prospective customers to imagine themselves enjoying the “LONDON PORTER” and “BRISTOL BEER” he sold.  He encouraged them to imagine themselves drinking a single bottle of beer, savoring the experience as they imbibed “the BEST of BEER” that they could acquire anywhere in England or the colonies.  Jones certainly wished to sell beer in quantities, but to do so he devised a marketing strategy that emphasized appreciating his “LONDON PORTER” and “BRISTOL BEER” one bottle at a time.  Consumers need to try those beverages to see for themselves if Jones did indeed sell “the BEST of BEER.”

October 25

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

South-Carolina Gazette (October 25, 1773).

Let the Beer justify itself.”

As October 1773 came to a close, Edmund Egan promoted his “CAROLINA BEER” in the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  The prospects of this new product hitting the market excited the compositor for the South-Carolina Gazette enough to enclose the headline within a border of decorative type, distinguishing it from all other news and notices in the October 25 edition.  The headline did not receive the same treatment in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, though in both publications it had a prime spot at the top of the column in a section for “New Advertisements.”  Readers could hardly miss it.

To incite demand for the beer, Egan told a story about it.  He began by declaring that the “BREWERY … long laboured under many Disadvantages,” but Egan overcame them and the brewery “is now complete, and amply supplied with a Stock of the best MALT and HOPS.”  In so doing, the brewer crafted a narrative that only briefly focused on resilience in the face of adversity before extolling the factors that made his beer such a quality beverage.  Egan cited his own “unwearied Application” in launching the brewery as well as his experience and his “first Connection in London,” perhaps where he learned “the most regular Principles” of his craft.

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 26, 1773).

All of that led Egan to assert that he would produce a “constant Supply of BEER and ALE … equal to any imported from any other Country.”  He also suggested that consumers should not take his word for it.  Instead, he proclaimed, “Let the Beer justify itself.”  That declaration appeared in italics in both the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, suggesting that Egan did indeed instruct the compositors in both printing offices to give it some sort of special treatment to make it stand out from the copy in the rest of the notice.  The brewer did not need to say anything else about his “CAROLINA BEER.”  He could not say anything else that would be a better recommendation than consumers drinking his beer and ale and experiencing it for themselves.  “Let the Beer justify itself” simultaneously resonated as an affirmation, an invitation, and a challenge.  Egan was confident that customers would not be disappointed.

August 2

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (August 2, 1773).

“He makes all sorts of coaches … equal to any imported from England.”

William Deane made appeals to price and quality in an advertisement for the coaches he constructed at his shop “in Broad-street” in the August 2, 1773, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  Compared to most other advertisers, however, he devised much more elaborate marketing strategies to convince prospective customers of the price and quality he offered.

Deane started by describing the various services in his shop.  He made several different kinds of carriages as well as “all sorts of harness and saddlers work.”  In addition, he also did “painting, gilding and Japanning, in the neatest and most elegant manner.”  Deane emphasized that he achieved a high level of quality while offering the lowest possible prices because he did not outsource any of those jobs to artisans.  Instead, he “finishes all carriages whatever in his own shop, without applying to any other.”  Accordingly, he was “determined to make them as good, sell them as cheap, and be as expeditious as there is a possibility.”

The carriagemaker realized that he needed “to convince the public of the truth of what he asserts.”  To that end, he vowed that he “will make any piece of work that is required, equal to any imported from England, and will sell it at the prime cost of that imported.”  His customers did not have to sacrifice either price or quality, one for the other, when they supported domestic manufacture by purchasing carriages made in his shop in New York.  Furthermore, they benefitted from additional bargains since they “will save the freight, insurance, and the expences naturally attending to putting the carriages to rights after they arrive.”  In so many ways, purchasing a carriage from Deane was so much easier than importing one made in England.  In addition, he “has now a considerable stock of the best of all materials fit for making carriages,” so he was ready to serve customers who placed orders.

Deane offered a “further inducement,” a one-year guarantee on the carriages made in his shop.  He had been providing guarantees in newspaper advertisements for at least six years (including in an advertisement with nearly identical copy in the New-York Journal more than a year earlier).  The carriagemaker declared that he “will engage his work for a year after it is delivered, that is, if any part gives way, or fails by fair usage, he will make it good at his own expence.”   To make the choice even more clear, he underscored that prospective customers would not have access to that kind of customer service in maintaining their carriages if they opted for ones made in England.  “Those advantages,” Deane intoned, “cannot be obtained on carriages imported.”

The carriagemaker’s advertisement revolved around price and quality.  He did more than make casual reference to them, developing a sophisticated marketing strategy that touted the advantages of purchasing carriages made in his shop.  He used only the best materials and oversaw every aspect of the construction to produce carriages that rivaled in craftsmanship those imported from England.  He also offered competitive prices, especially since his customers saved on shipping and insurance, and a one-year guarantee on any parts that might require repairs.  Deane sought to convince prospective customers that all of this made his carriages the best choice.

June 12

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

Providence Gazette (June 13, 1773).

“MAKES in the newest Fashion, and in the neatest Manner, all Sorts of Men and Womens Saddles.”

In the summer of 1773, John Sebring, a “Saddler, Chaise and Harness-Maker, from London,” once again took to the pages of the Providence Gazette to promote his services.  As he had done in previous advertisements, he used only his last name as a headline for his notice, implying that readers should have been so familiar with his reputation that he did not need to give his full name.  In addition, he asserted that he already established a clientele in the city, expressing “his Thanks to all those who have obliged him with their Custom.”  Anyone in need of saddles and accessories who was not already familiar with the remarkable Sebring, the advertisement suggested, needed to learn more about the saddler from London and his wares.

To underscore that point, Sebring proclaimed that he “MAKES in the newest Fashion, and in the neatest Manner, all Sorts of Men and Womens Saddles … with every other Article in the Saddlery Way.”  In so doing, he deployed common marketing strategies.  He made an appeal to fashion, asserting his familiarity with the latest styles, as well as an appeal to quality and his own skill in producing “Saddles, Portmanteaus, Saddle Bags, Holsters, Half Covers, Velvet Jockey Caps, Leather Caps, Bridles,” and other accessories.  In a nota bene, he reiterated his knowledge of the current trends: “Ladies Hunting Side Saddles made in the newest Fashion.”  In each instance, his London origins bolstered those appeals, suggesting that he had access to the “newest Fashion” in the most cosmopolitan city in the empire and that he received superior training in his trade in that metropolis compared to local competitors.  His clients, however, did not have to pay a premium for those benefits.  Sebring declared that he set prices “on as low Terms as are sold in any Shop in Providence.”

Appropriately, the saddler ran his workshop “at the White Horse.”  He invited current and prospective customers to visit him there to take advantage of the many benefits he outlined in his advertisement, seeking to convince genteel gentlemen and ladies that he was in the best position of any saddlers in Providence to serve their needs.

April 15

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

Maryland Gazette (April 15, 1773).

“For Neatness and Elegance … they are able to excel any of the Business ever arrived in Annapolis.”

When John Finlater and Company set up shop in Annapolis in the spring of 1773, they placed an advertisement that ran for six weeks in the Maryland Gazette.  Newcomers to the town, the wheelwrights explained that they were “Late fromEurope” and “propose carrying on the various Branches of the Business.”  They crafted “Wheels of all kinds” for a variety of carriages, including “Coaches, Berlins, Post-Chariots, Curricles, Sulkies, and single Horse Chaises.”  In addition, they made wheels for “Waggons, Carts, Ploughs, and Harrows,” promising “the neatest Construction” for all their work.  As an ancillary service, Finlater and Company also painted and varnished carriages and wheels “in the best Manner.”

Unlike other artisans who extolled their training and experience when they settled in the colonies after migrating across the Atlantic, Finlater and Company did not provide details about the work they had undertaken in Europe.  They did, however, extend some of the usual promises to prospective clients.  “Those who please to honour them with their Commands,” the wheelwrights declared, “may be assured, that a speedy Execution of their Work and Attention to Business will entitle them to their Favours.”  In turn, Finalter and Company intended that the quality of their work with their initial customers would help in cultivating a good reputation and “in some Measure recommend them to the Encouragement of the Publick.”  In other words, they hoped that satisfied customers would spread the word so others would seek out their services.

The wheelwrights concluded with a bold claim.  When it came to “Neatness and Elegance” of the wheels they constructed and the carriages they painted and maintained, Finlater and Company proclaimed that “they are able to excel any of the Business ever arrived in Annapolis.”  They were better wheelwrights than any who had previously labored in the town.  In making that claim, they challenged prospective customers to test that assertion for themselves.  As newcomers without an established reputation, Finlater and Company resorted to other means of attracting attention to their business and distinguishing themselves from the competition.

March 31

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (March 31, 1773).

“A Quantity of well made RIFLES.”

Thomas Palmer, a gunsmith, made several appeals to prospective customers in Philadelphia in the advertisement he placed in the March 31, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  He declared that his inventory included a wide selection, a “Quantity of well made RIFLES, of different Lengths and Sizes of Bores.”  Palmer was so confident of the quality of those guns that he proclaimed that he “will insure to the Purchasers” that they were “as good and as handsomely fitted up as any made in America.”  Consumers would not find better in Philadelphia or anywhere else in the colonies.  In addition, the gunsmith “makes Fowling Pieces, of different Sizes, such as have been approved of by Gentlemen of this City.”  Short of publishing testimonials from his clients, Palmer suggested that men with good reputations endorsed the guns produced in his workshop.  In addition to making rifles and fowling pieces, he also “repairs old Guns in the most careful Manner.”

Palmer did not rely on advertising copy alone to market his services.  Instead, he incorporated a visual image into his notice.  A woodcut that may have replicated a sign that marked the gunsmith’s location adorned the advertisement, though the copy did not make reference to any sign at Palmer’s shop on “the North Side of Market-street, between Fourth and Fifth-streets.”  On the other hand, Palmer may have considered it unnecessary to mention a sign in copy that appeared immediately below an image of a rifle and the words “THO: PALMER Gun Smith” enclosed within a double border.  Residents of Philadelphia may have already been familiar with the sign and readers from beyond the city would have easily recognized it if they decided to visit Palmer’s shop.  Whether or not Palmer displayed a sign at his shop on Market Street, the woodcut helped distinguish his advertisement from other content in the Pennsylvania Gazette, likely making it worth the investment.  With the exception of the seal in the masthead, only one other image appeared in that issue.  A stock image of a house ran with a real estate notice, but that lacked the same level of customization as the woodcut in Palmer’s advertisement.  The gunsmith deployed text and image simultaneously in his efforts to engage prospective customers.

February 27

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

Providence Gazette (February 27, 1773).

“Those that please to favour him with their Custom, may have Yarn dyed at Half an Hour’s Notice.”

Nathaniel Jenks provided multiple services to residents of Smithfield, Rhode Island, and nearby towns.  According to an advertisement he placed in the Providence Gazette in February 1773, he “carries on the Wheelwright’s Business, and makes all Kinds of Carriage Wheels.”  He advised prospective customers that they did not need to worry that they might find better bargains in Providence or anywhere else because he made wheels “as cheap as any other of the Business.”  Jenks did not intend to be undersold by the competition.

In addition to working as a wheelwright, Jenks “carries on the Dying Business.”  Advertisers often placed newspaper notices with multiple purposes.  In this case, Jenks promoted more than one means of earning his livelihood.  As he had with the prices for his wheels, he engaged in superlatives about some aspects of dying textiles.  Jenks proclaimed that he “has an European Blue Dye, which he will warrant to dye as good a Colour as any in America.”  That he pursued his craft in a small town, Jenks informed the public, did not mean that he achieved inferior results.  Prospective customers would be just as satisfied with the color of textiles they sent to him as they would be if they sought the same services in Providence or Boston or New York or any other town or city.

Jenks also emphasized convenience for local customers who visited his shop.  He asserted, “Those that please to favour him with their Custom, may have Yarn dyed at Half an Hour’s Notice.”  Prospective customers with other business to do in Smithfield could drop off their undyed yarn, see to their other tasks, and pick up their newly-dyed blue yarn before returning home.  Jenks intended that the combination of quality and convenience would convince colonizers to avail themselves of his services.  At a glance, his advertisement, like so many others in early American newspapers, may look like dense text with little of interest to modern readers, but eighteenth-century readers, accustomed to closely reading those notices, encountered several marketing pitches designed to capture their attention and distinguish Jenks and his services from his competitors.

February 13

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

Providence Gazette (February 13, 1773).

“Gibbs makes plated Buckles in the newest Fashions, warranted tough and good.”

John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, limited the number of advertisements in the February 6, 1773, edition in order to make room for political news from Massachusetts.  A week later, the final page of his newspaper once again consisted entirely of advertising.  Other advertisements appeared on the first and third pages as well.  Collectively, paid notices accounted for nearly half the space in the February 13 edition.

Those advertisements included one from John Gibbs.  The notice ran for the first time, perhaps delayed by a week when Carter made the editorial decision to focus on the politics of the imperial crisis in the previous issue.  Whatever the particulars of the timing, Gibbs, wished to inform prospective customers that he opened a new shop “where he carries on the Goldsmith’s and Jeweller’s Business, in all their various Branches.”  In other words, he possessed the skill to undertake any sort of order he received.

In addition to promoting his abilities, Gibbs made other appeals commonly deployed by artisans in their newspaper advertisements.  He promised exemplary public service, stating that “Ladies and Gentlemen that please to favour him with their Custom, may depend on being served with Fidelity and Dispatch.”  He also promised low prices, declaring that he charged “as low Rates as any can work for in this Colony, or elsewhere.”  According to Gibbs, those were not just reasonable prices but the lowest prices that consumers would find in Rhode Island or anywhere else.  He also emphasized current trends and quality.  In a nota bene, he exclaimed that he “makes plated Buckles in the newest Fashions, warranted tough and good.”

Gibbs purchased a square of advertising, yet in that small amount of space in the Providence Gazette he incorporated multiple appeals intended to entice prospective customers to visit his shop and give him their business.  He demonstrated his familiarity with advertising culture by including so many appeals commonly used in notices published by goldsmiths, jewelers, and other artisans during the era of the American Revolution.  Given the prevalence of newspaper advertising in the second half of the eighteenth century, both Gibbs and readers recognized the standard elements of such advertisements.

October 4

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

New-York Journal (October 1, 1772).

“The surest Means to acquire a speedy Sale … is to make them of full Quality, at a moderate Charge, and good Attendance.”

Richard Deane, “DISTILLER, from “LONG-ISLAND,” considered experience one of the best markers of quality for the spirits that he sold in New York.  He stocked “a Quantity of neat Brandy, Geneva, Spirits of Wine, and Cordials of different Sorts” as well as “the very best Quality” shrub and New York rum.  In an advertisement in the October 1, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, he attempted to leverage a precursor to name recognition or brand recognition, stating that the “good Quality of said DEANE’s Brandy, Geneva, and Cordials, has for several Years past been well experienced” by satisfied customers.  In turn, he redoubled his efforts “to excel in that particular Branch of Business” to further enhance his distillery’s reputation.

Deane elaborated on his business philosophy in a note that concluded his advertisement, confiding that he was “fully convinced by long Experience, that the surest Means to acquire a speedy Sale of the above Articles, is to make them of full Quality, at a moderate Charge, and good Attendance, which, with every other Endeavour to give Satisfaction, will be the constant Study, of the Public’s very obliged humble Servant.”  A manicule drew attention to the distiller’s promise to combine high quality, reasonable prices, and excellent customer service.  In many ways, Deane’s marketing strategy anticipated those deployed by breweries and distilleries today.  Many modern companies link their beers and spirits to traditions that date back to previous centuries, invoking a heritage their founders passed down through generations.  They invoke “long Experience” to encourage consumers to feel as though they participate in customs of significance when they imbibe beverages from their breweries or distilleries.  That “long Experience” also testifies to quality.  After all, breweries and distilleries would not remain in business so long if generations of customers did not appreciate their beers and spirits.  The philosophy that Dean expounded at the conclusion of his advertisement in the New-York Journal is the type of historical record that modern advertising executives would love to exploit in connection to the products they market.

August 12

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (August 12, 1772).

“He proposes to affix his Name on the Heads of all his Bolts, rolling Screens, and Fans.”

In the summer of 1772, John Sellers of Darby placed advertisements promoting “VARIOUS Kinds of Wire Work” in the Pennsylvania Gazette.  He made and sold “rolling Screens for cleaning Wheat,” “rolling Screens for cleaning Flaxseed from the yellow or wild Seed,” “small Bolts for separating the Cockle from the Flaxseed,” and “common Dutch Fans” for separating wheat from chaff.

Sellers presented a variety of reasons that readers in need of any of those devices should purchase them from him.  He promised that customers who “favour him with their Orders, may depend on their Work being done with Care,” reiterating a description of his products as “made in the neatest and best Manner.”  He also offered a guarantee, stating that “the Work [is] Warranted.  Furthermore, Sellers drew on long experience as an artisan who met the expectations of his clients.  He was “not pretending to perform that which he has not, in a great Number of Instance, given the utmost Satisfaction.”  Over time, he made “upwards of 50 rolling Screens for Wheat, and upwards of 70 for Flaxseed,” establishing his reputation.

Sellers did not expect prospective customers to visit his workshop in Darby, six miles away from Philadelphia, to examine his products or purchase them.  Instead, “for the Conveniency of his Customers,” he arranged to have them on display “in Plumsted’s Stores, in Philadelphia.”  Sellers instructed to customers to ask for John Brown to handle sales.  For those who wished to confer with the artisan directly, he advised that he “attends generally twice a Week, in Philadelphia.”  Anyone interested in contacting him directly could do so by “leaving a Line at the Conestogoe Waggon, in Market-street, or sending by the Post.”

To attract notice to the various appeals he deployed in the copy of his advertisement, Sellers adorned it with a woodcut depicting one of the rolling screens he constructed.  He commissioned that image at least five years earlier, having included it in an advertisement that ran in the Pennsylvania Gazette in September 1767.  Just as sellers aimed to make his newspaper notice distinctive, he also marked the items he made in his workshop.  He informed his customers that he “affix[ed] his Name on the Heads of all his Bolts, rolling Screens, and Fans.”  That demonstrated pride in his craft while also marketing his products every time someone encountered his name on this equipment after it left his workshop. Sellers did not limit his marketing strategy to describing his products.  Instead, he used distinctive marks to draw attention, both an image in his newspaper advertisement and his name branding his bolts, screens, and fans.