What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“The best Clubs, and the greatest Entertainments in this City, were at the above Tavern.”
Samuel Fraunces was one of the most illustrious tavernkeepers of his day. His fame continues into the twenty-first century, due in part to the quality of the services he provided to guests in eighteenth-century America and in part to the continued operation of Fraunces Tavern as a restaurant and museum at the corner of Pearl Street and Broad Street in New York. Fraunces advertised the various taverns he operated in the late 1760s and early 1770s. More than a decade later, he hosted George Washington’s farewell to his officers at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.
Fraunces ran an advertisement in the September 13, 1770, edition of the New-York Journal to announce the opening of his newest venture, the “QUEEN’s-HEAD TAVERN, Near the Exchange.” He attempted to downplay the necessity of placing an advertisement even as he promoted the various services and amenities available at his tavern. He emphasized that during his “many Years” of operating a tavern “the best Clubs” met at his establishment and experienced “the greatest Entertainments.” Given the reputation he had built, Fraunces “flatters himself the Public are so well satisfied of his Ability to serve them, as to render the swelling of an Advertisement useless.” Its only purpose, he declared, was to “assure his former Friends and the Public in general, that every Endeavour will be used to give them the highest Satisfaction.”
Yet other “swelling” embellished Fraunces’s advertisement as he attempted to attract patrons. He noted renovations taking place; the tavern was “now fitting up in the most genteel and convenient Manner.” He also inserted a nota bene to inform prospective customers that he provided take-out and delivery options for those “who live at a convenient Distance.” Fraunces concluded with a manicule directing attention to a short note explaining that the “House at the Gardens will be duly attended as usual.” He referred to another venture that he operated simultaneously, Vauxhall Garden, a restaurant, tavern, and pleasure garden named after the popular site in London.
Fraunces had indeed established his reputation as restaurateur and tavernkeeper before opening the Queen’s Head Tavern in the fall of 1770, yet he did not consider his past success sufficient for attracting patrons to his new enterprise. Instead, he inserted an advertisement to spread the word about his newest venture, amplifying his reputation in the process.