May 19

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

May 19 - 5:19:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 19, 1767).

“He served his apprenticeship in London, of which city he is a freeman.”

As a standard part of their advertisements, merchants and shopkeepers noted that they sold goods imported from faraway places, especially London. In so doing, they established themselves as conduits who connected their customers to both the quality and fashions associated with goods produced and popularly consumed in the largest city in the British empire. Artisans who made the items they sold in local workshops, however, could not make quite the same claim. Instead, those who had migrated across the Atlantic proudly proclaimed their origins, announcing that they were “FROM LONDON,” as Whiting the saddler did in today’s advertisement.

On occasion, artisans elaborated on the training they had received in workshops in London, demonstrating to potential customers why they should take notice of their origins. Whiting asserted that he was capable of “execut[ing] all the branches of that business in the compleatest manner” precisely because “he served his apprenticeship in London, of which city he is a freeman.” This meant that Whiting belonged to the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, one of the city’s livery companies that originated as trade guilds. These companies oversaw members who practiced their trade; they kept standards high, an early modern version of quality control. To become a member, known as a freeman, an artisan had to serve an apprenticeship under a master of the trade who was already a freeman. Alternately, some joined by patrimony if a parent ad been a freeman or by redemption upon paying a fee. Working within the walls of the City of London required achieving freeman status. This conferred some level of prestige on the artisans, a certain cachet that Whiting suggested could be transferred to those who hired him. Whiting wanted prospective customers to know that he had earned the rank of freeman via servitude rather than patrimony or redemption, that he had honed his skills through an apprenticeship to a master saddler.

Although he was an ocean away from the livery companies that oversaw artisans in the City of London, Whiting called on their privileged position and his membership in their order to advance his own workshop in Charleston. He expected that this would resonate with local residents.

March 5

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

mar-5-35-1767-pennsylvania-gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (March 5, 1767).

“Quilted or plain Carrying Saddles.”

“JOHN YOUNG, senior, SADLER,” operated a workshop “In Second-street, opposite the Baptist Meeting, and next Door to Mr. Alexander Huston’s,” in Philadelphia. Elsewhere in the city “JOHN YOUNG, jun. Saddler,” ran his own shop “At the sign of the ENGLISH HUNTING SADDLE, at the corner of Market and Front-streets, and opposite the LONDON COFFEE-HOUSE.” The younger Young likely learned his trade from the elder Young. Which one taught the other about the power of advertising? Was that also passed down from one generation to the next? Or did the senior Young eventually adopt marketing strategies on the recommendation of his son (or perhaps even to compete with him)?

mar-5-491767-pennsylvania-chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (March 9, 1767).

Both Youngs advertised in newspapers printed in Philadelphia in early March 1767, the elder Young in the established Pennsylvania Gazette and the junior saddler in the new Pennsylvania Chronicle. Although both included woodcuts of saddles in their notices, the younger Young seems to have been the more sophisticated marketer when it came to mobilizing an image to identify his products. Note that Young Sr. merely listed directions to aid potential customers in finding his workshop, yet Young Jr. created a brand for his business that operated at “the sign of the ENGLISH HUNTING SADDLE.” Score one for the younger Young’s innovative marketing.

The saddlers offered almost identical appeals concerning quality, price, and fashion. Young Sr. stated that “he makes in the neatest and most Fashionable Manner, and sells at the most reasonable Rates” a variety of saddles and other riding equipment. In turn, Young Jr. announced that “he makes in the best and most fashionable manner, and sells at the most reasonable rates” a similar array of leather goods. Both indicated that they had sufficient inventory “ready made” that they could sell in quantity, though the elder saddler edged out his son by offering “proper Abatement to those who buy to sell again.” In other words, retailers received a bulk discount. Score one for the elder Young’s innovative pricing.

The two saddlers seemed to address slightly different clientele. Although both asserted they made saddles “in the most fashionable Manner,” Young Jr. placed more emphasis on serving elite customers. He listed “GENTLEMEN’S English hunting” saddles first among his wares (and the format of the advertisement directed readers’ eyes to the word “gentlemen”) and underscored that he did his work “in the genteelest manner.” On the other hand, Young Sr. thanked gentlemen and merchants for their previous patronage, but he included appreciation for “Shallopmen, and others” in the same sentence. One saddler traded on exclusivity for elite customers, while the other made his workshop more accessible to clients from all backgrounds. In the end, which marketing method yielded greater revenues by attracting more business? For now, that should be considered a draw.

Whether the Youngs competed or cooperated with each other, they devised advertisements that shared some of the most common appeals deployed in commercial notices printed in newspapers throughout the eighteenth century. Each other advanced unique and innovative marketing strategies, demonstrating that advertising in early America amounted to more than mere announcements that particular vendors sold certain goods.

December 10

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

dec-10-12101765-georgia-gazette
Georgia Gazette (December 10, 1766).

“Chairs lined with livery lace,     –     –     £.1   10   0.”

With the exception of subscription notices for books, prints, and other printed items, eighteenth-century advertisements rarely included prices for goods offered for sale. Merchants and shopkeepers sometimes indicated prices for limited numbers of items listed in their lengthy advertisements, but rarely did they associate specific prices with more than two or three products. Instead, they tended to promise low and competitive prices. Merchants who sold wholesale also indicated they offered discounts to those who purchased in bulk. Sometimes producers and suppliers published shorter advertisements that promoted just one or two commodities and indicated specific prices. Rarely, however, did an advertisement listing more than half a dozen items include prices for each of those items.

Frederick Holzendorff, a saddler in Savannah, took a unique approach to his advertisement when he specified prices for every items listed in his advertisement, from “Fring’d Side-saddles” (his most expensive product at 3 pounds and 15 shillings) to “Silk whip-lashes” and “Single girths” (his least expensive at only 6 pence each). The saddler let prospective customers know exactly what they could expect to pay for “Chairs lined with livery lace,” “Cart saddles,” “Best snaffle bridles,” and nearly two dozen other products. This allowed for comparison shopping, but may have also attracted customers who remembered approximately how much they paid for similar goods when they previously dealt with any of Holzendorff’s competitors.

Such an advertisement represented an investment by the saddler. In column inches it was the longest advertisement that appeared in the December 10, 1766, issue of the Georgia Gazette, thanks to the table that carefully listed one product per line along with its price in pounds, shillings, and pence. In and of itself, the table of “Rates” for each item visually distinguished Holzendorff’s advertisement from others. Though a couple of the dense real estate and legal notices may have had higher word counts, Holzendorff’s advertisement had more words than any that offered consumer goods and services.

Holzendorff experimented with indicating a price for every item he listed in his advertisement, presumably believing that this strategy would attract sufficient business to offset any additional costs of his lengthy advertisement compared to the shorter notices that appeared in his local newspaper.

June 11

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

Jun 11 - 6:11:1766 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (June 11, 1766).

“A house of entertainment … good assortment of liquors … food for men and horses.”

Daniel Ocain used an advertisement to announce that he had opened a tavern and inn in Savannah in 1766. In just a few lines he let potential customers know about the variety of services available ay his “house of entertainment.” He offered “to board or lodge any person that please to favour him with their custom.” Although he did not say so explicitly, Ocain stabled horses for his guests, as his promise of “food for men and horses” suggested. To entice potential visitors to choose his establishment over others, he also promoted his “large and good assortment of liquors.”

Ocain resorted to two methods in listing his location. For the headline for his advertisement he used “DANIEL OCAIN in Savannah.” At the conclusion of the advertisement he indicated that he operated his business “at his house near the Hon. James Habersham, Esq.’s in Johnson-Square.” That would have been sufficient for local residents familiar with the area to find their way to his tavern, even if they didn’t already know Ocain or where he lived and worked. His initial announcement that he operated a tavern and inn “in Savannah” was for the benefit of readers outside the port. The Georgia Gazette was the only newspaper printed in the colony in 1766. As a result, it served readers far beyond Savannah. Copies circulated throughout the colony and throughout the Lower South and beyond. Ocain opened his advertisement by noting that his “house of entertainment” was in Savannah to attract the attention of distant readers who might have business or other reasons to visit the city and would need a place to lodge. Ocain knew that in the 1760s “local” newspapers usually had distant readers.