What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“An Assortment of choice Medicines.”
Nearly four months had passed since Thomas Truman first placed a notice in the Providence Gazette to request that “all Persons who have Accounts unsettled with Doctor SAMUEL CAREW, late of Providence, deceased,” visit Truman at the “House and Shop lately occupied by Doctor CAREW” to make or receive payment. He also informed the public that he “proposes to tarry in Providence, and continue the Practice of Physic and Surgery,” reminding “all those Gentlemen and Ladies who have kindly favoured him in the Way of his Business” that he served an apprenticeship under Carew’s supervision. Truman positioned himself as Carew’s successor, hoping to inherit the physician’s patients.
On April 10, Truman inserted a new notice in which he “once more” directed “those who have hitherto neglected to bring in their Accounts against the Estate of Doctor SAMUEL CAREW” to so do “directly, that they may be settled.” Similarly, he asked that those “indebted to said Estate … make Payment immediately … that the Books may be closed, and the Debts paid off with Honour.” In a nota bene, Truman stated that he no longer occupied Carew’s former house and shop. He had “removed … two Doors further down Street,” where he sold “an Assortment of choice Medicines.” He offered the lowest prices for the quality of the medicines he peddled.
The timing of Truman’s new advertisement may have been a coincidence, but it happened to appear a week after Ebenezer Richmond placed his own notice that he “proposes to attend to the Practice of Physic and Surgery in this Town” and boasted of his extraordinary record of success caring for patients over several years. Truman no doubt wished to close the books on Carew’s estate, but he may have also noticed the presence of a rival in the public prints. Given that advertisements usually ran for three weeks or more, Truman may not have wanted Richmond to enjoy the benefits of being the sole physician to advertise in the city’s only newspaper. That competition may have played as much of a role in convincing Truman to place a new notice as his desire to bring a conclusion to Carew’s estate.