What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The threatening destruction of orchards by catterpillars.”
Rudolph Hains and Jacob Hains operated a tree nursery “near the Red Lion, in Uwchland township, Chester county,” about twenty-five northwest of Philadelphia, in the early 1770s. In an advertisement in the December 30, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, they related their story of having “for many years past, followed the business of raising young apple-trees, of grafted fruit, of divers sorts, for sale.” Throughout that time, they “planted many orchards, both for themselves and others.”
Yet the Hains did not place this notice merely to make a sale pitch. Instead, they framed it as a public service announcement, stating that through their long experience they “found that Catterpillars are some of the worst enemies to Orchards.” Indeed, the headline for the advertisement proclaimed, “To DESTROY CATTERPILLARS,” inviting readers to peruse it for advice and guidance. Along the way, prospective customers learned a little more about the Hainses and their business, including Rudolph’s nearly thirty years of experience. In telling their story, the Hainses warned that “they find a far greater number of [caterpillar] eggs this fall, than either of them ever seen before.” The problem was so severe that just days earlier Rudolph “gathered upwards of 300 of such Lumps of Eggs” in his orchard in the course of just a few hours. As a result of a widespread infestation, the Hainses anticipated that “much more damage will be done by them next summer, if not by some means prevented.” As a remedy, they recommended that readers “pull or cut off their eggs with some instrument for that use … and burn them.” This required inspecting trees, but the eggs “are easy to be seen sticking on the small limbs of the tree.”
The Hainses offered this advice “for the good of the public” in general as well as for “their customers in particular, who have bought trees of them, or may yet buy.” There the sales pitch became more blatant. The Hainses announced that they “purpose to continue said business.” This public service announcement enhanced their visibility to prospective customers. It also suggested that customers could depend on an additional service, consultation and advice from the Hainses beyond the initial transaction. The Hainses concluded their advertisement by asserting that “they thought it their duty to publish this” in order to avoid “the threatening destruction of orchards by catterpillars.” They invited readers to contact them directly for more information, while also noting that a “sample of the EGGS maybe seen at the New Printing-Office, in Market-street,” where the newspaper that carried the advertisement was published. This notice served the interests of the entire community. The Hainses, savvy marketers, hoped that their public service announcement would generate customers for their tree nursery.