December 17

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

Supplement to the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly Mercury (December 17, 1772).

“Stirrups … immediately disengaged.”

Richard Sharwin placed an advertisement for “the new invented SPRINGS For the Stirrups of Ladies and Gentlemens Saddles” in the December 17, 1772, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  In an advertisement he placed in another newspaper a year and a half earlier, Sharwin described himself as a “Sadler and Jockey Cap-Maker, from LONDON.”  He did not list his occupation or origins in his new advertisement, perhaps believing that he had so sufficiently established his reputation among local consumers that he no longer needed to do so.  Instead, he simply directed prospective customers to “the White Horse in King-Street, BOSTON.”

With the exception of a nota bene that provide a general overview of Sharwin’s services that followed his signature, the saddler devoted his advertisement to those “new invented SPRINGS,” using the word “springs” in capital letters as a headline for the notice.  Sharwin explained that when a rider fell from a horse, the springs “immediately disengaged” from the stirrups and “prevented the Danger of being drag[g]ed.”  In offering assurances about quality, the saddler asserted that his springs “are made as compleat as from the Patentee in London.”  In addition, they “may be fixed to any Lady’s or Gentleman’s Saddle.”  Sharwin could make riding safer for any client.

He was not the only saddler in New England emphasizing safety as a marketing strategy in the final months of 1772.  Three weeks earlier, John Sebring, “Sadler, Chaise and Harness Maker, from London,” inserted an advertisement that included detachable stirrups in the Providence Gazette.  He advised prospective customers that he “makes Men and Womens Saddles on such a Construction, that if the Horse should throw his Rider, and the Foot should hang in the Stirrup, the Stirrup will leave the Saddle before the Horse takes three steps.”  Given that colonial newspaper circulated far beyond the cities and towns where they were printed, both Sharwin and other residents of Boston may have seen Sebring’s advertisement in the Providence Gazette.  Sharwin certainly wanted prospective customers to know that they did not need to order saddles with that feature from artisans in Providence or London.

In marketing their saddles, Sharwin and Sebring combined appeals to safety and innovation, a strategy that became increasingly common as advertising continued to develop in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The saddlers encouraged consumers to acquire new inventions with enhanced safety features rather than settle for products that may have seemed more familiar but lacked such important elements.

May 1

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (May 1, 1771).

“Lower Terms than can be at any Shop or Store in the Province.”

Although “Sadler and Jockey Cap-Maker” Richard Sharwin signed his entire name at the end of his advertisement in the April 29, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, he deployed the mononym “SHARWIN” as a headline to draw attention.  The mononym suggested that consumers should already be familiar with his reputation, but he also declared that he was “From LONDON” to further underscore his importance for readers who were not familiar with his work.  Sharwin proclaimed that he made a variety of items, “the several Materials and Workmanship the best of their Kind.”  From “hunting Sadles with Hogskin seat” to “Pelm and Snaffle Bridles with Silver plated Bits” to “Velvet Jockey Caps,” the items he produced in his shop were “as Neat as can be Imported.”  Sharwin assured prospective customers that when they shopped locally, they still acquired goods of the same quality as those that arrived from London.

Sharwin also tended to price in his advertisement, pledging that he sold his wares “upon lower Terms than can be at any Shop or Store in the Province.”  Advertisers commonly asserted their low prices, but not nearly as often did they encourage consumers to compare their prices to those of their competitors.  Sharwin not only did so but also listed prices for welted saddles (“from 8 to 10 Dollars”) and plain saddles (“from 6 to 8 Dollars”), allowing readers to do some comparison shopping without even visiting his shop on King Street.  They could judge for themselves whether he offered bargains.  Merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans provided prices in their advertisements only occasionally, making Sharwin’s invitation to compare prices all the more notable.  Prospective customers could use the prices for welted saddles and plain saddles as a barometer for how much he charged for the dozens of other items listed in his advertisement since Sharwin set prices for “every Article in proportion.”

All in all, Sharwin incorporated several standard elements of eighteenth-century advertising into his own advertisement while also experimenting with less common marketing strategies.  Like many other advertisers, he emphasized consumer choice by listing an assortment of goods, touted his connections to London, and underscored quality and price.  He enhanced his advertisement with a mononym for a headline, stating the prices for some items, and trumpeting that his competitors could not beat those prices.  Sharwin crafted an advertisement that was not merely a rote recitation of the usual appeals made to consumers.