June 11

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

Jun 11 - 6:11:1768 Tillinghast 1 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (June 11, 1768).


Readers of the Providence Gazette encountered a rather brief advertisement at the end of the last column of the third page of the June 11, 1768, edition. Limited to four lines, it announced that “NICHOLAS TILLINGHAST Has to sell, Very good Bohea Tea, Which he will warrant, CHEAP for CASH.” On the following page they encountered a second advertisement placed by Tillinghast, this one slightly longer and listing other goods for sale, including “GOOD Fyal Wine” (from Faial in the Azores), “Brandy,” and “choice Vinegar.” In terms of both word count and the amount of space they occupied on the page, both were among the shortest advertisements in that issue. In comparison, Joseph and William Russell ran an advertisement that contained approximately the same number of words as Tillinghast’s second advertisement, but the bold typography – especially the way they deployed fonts of various sizes – made their advertisement appear twice as long.

Jun 11 - 6:11:1768 Tillinghast 2 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (June 11, 1768).

Visually, neither of Tillinghast’s advertisements were as flashy as the one placed by the Russells. He relied on a different strategy to capture a place in the minds of prospective customers. He could have placed a single advertisement that included “Very good Bohea Tea” alongside his wine, brandy, and vinegar. Instead, he opted for multiple advertisements that repeatedly introduced him, his wares, and his promises of low prices to consumers. The iterative aspect of his marketing strategy made it more difficult for readers to quickly pass over a single advertisement. In placing multiple advertisements in a single issue of the Providence Gazette he imprinted his name and business in the minds of readers.

This became a much more common strategy in the last decades of the eighteenth century as well as a staple marketing method in nineteenth-century newspapers when some advertisers inserted dozens or more advertisements in a single issue. Although he did not as fully develop the technique as subsequent advertisers, Tillinghast’s efforts at repetition could be considered a precursor to later marketing campaigns that relied on frequent and multiple reiteration.