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.

November 28

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

Providence Gazette (November 28, 1772).

“He has had the Advantage of several Years Experience in some of the principal Shops in London.”

John Sebring, a “Saddler, Chaise and Harness Maker,” used solely his last name, “SEBRING,” as the headline for his advertisement that ran in the Providence Gazette in November 1772.  Occasionally advertisers deployed that strategy, perhaps intending to suggest to prospective customers that their reputations were already so well established that they did not need to give their full names.  That did not prevent Sebring from providing plenty of information about his business to refresh the memories of prospective customers who could not quite place him by last name alone.

The saddler listed all sorts of saddles and accoutrements that he made “in the newest Fashion” at his shop.  He also provided details about some of the specialized merchandise that he produced, including “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.”  Sebring emphasized safety in marketing his saddles, indicating that his concern for his customers extended beyond the point of sale.

He also highlighted the experience he gained in London, using an appeal often made by artisans who migrated across the Atlantic.  In addition to introducing himself as “from London,” Sebring declared that he “has had the Advantage of several Years Experience in some of the principal Shops in London.”  Artisans often believed that such declarations served as testimonials to their skill and experience, pledging that they would deliver the same quality workmanship to prospective customers in their new towns as they did for former customers in the cosmopolitan center of the empire.  Sebring stated that he “hopes to merit the Approbation of all that may please to favour him with their Custom” by fulfilling their expectations for the saddles, harnesses, and other items he made and sold at his shop.

Sebring’s advertisement contained a lengthy list of his wares, a common element in newspaper advertisements of the era, but the saddler also incorporated elements intended to distinguish him for his competitors.  He used a flashy headline, emphasized his experience in “principal Shops” in London, and featured a saddle with detachable stirrups for the safety of his customers.  Any of those strategies could have piqued the interest of prospective customers, inciting them to visit the saddler’s shop to satisfy their curiosity.

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.

May 3

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

May 3 - 5:3:1770 Pennsylvania Gazette
Postscript Extraordinary to the Pennsylvania Gazette (May 3, 1770).

“The Sign of the Hunting-Side-Saddle.”

A striking image of a saddle embellished Elias Botner’s advertisement in the Postscript Extraordinary to the Pennsylvania Gazette published on May 3, 1770.  The woodcut announced Botner’s occupation before readers had a chance to peruse the advertising copy that described “GENTLEMENS English, hunting, full welted and plain, Hogskin, Buckskin, and Neats Leather, seated SADDLES,” “Ladies hunting Side-Saddles,” and all kinds of accessories.  Inserting this image represented a significant investment for Botner.  He had to commission the woodcut that corresponded to his business and would not be used in any other advertisements, plus he had to pay for the space that it occupied on the printed page.  Eighteenth-century advertisers paid by the amount of space required for their notices, not the number of words.  The image of the saddle nearly doubled the amount of space for Botner’s advertisement.

The saddler quite likely considered it worth the investment.  His saddle was the only visual image on either page of the Postscript Extraordinary, drawing the eye away from the dense text that constituted both news and every other advertisement.  Including an image was itself extraordinary in the various parts of the May 3 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  The standard four-page issue featured only two images, the shield that adorned the masthead on the front page and a generic image of a ship that accompanied a notice about a ship preparing to depart for Bristol.  In the two-page Supplement, another woodcut of a ship appeared in another notice about a ship sailing for Bristol.  Both images of ships belonged to the printer and could be deployed interchangeably in advertisements concerning maritime trade.  Over the course of the eight pages that constituted the standard issue, the Supplement, and the Postscript Extraordinary, readers encountered only four images.  Botner’s saddle was the only one that would have been unique or unexpected.  As a result, it may have been just as effective as (or even more effective than) his description of hjs goods or his promises of customer service in attracting the attention of prospective customers.

December 18

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

Dec 18 - 12:18:1769 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (December 18, 1769).

“Will engage to make any Piece of Work as compleat as can be imported.”

In December 1769, Daniel MacNeill, a “Saddler and Cap-maker from DUBLIN,” turned to the Boston-Gazette to advise residents of Boston and its environs that he operated a shop in King Street. He made and sold a variety of items, including “Neat welted and plain Hunting Saddles,” “Pistol Cases & Holsters,” “Portmanteaus and Saddle Baggs,” and “every Article in the Sadlery Branch.” In addition to offering low prices, he assured prospective customers that he served them “with Fidelity and Dispatch.” He also made appeals to quality and fashion, proclaiming that he constructed these items “in the neatest and genteelest Manner.” MacNeill incorporated many of the most common marketing appeals of the eighteenth century into his advertisement.

As a relative newcomer to the city, MacNeill deployed another strategy that often appeared in newspaper notices placed by artisans who migrated across the Atlantic. He provided an overview of his work history as a means of convincing prospective customers of his competence. MacNeill asserted that he “had the Advantage of many Years Practice in the most principal Shops in Dublin and Towns adjacent.” In so doing, he attempted to transfer the reputation he established in one location to another, asking prospective customers to credit him for his years of experience. Although items he made during that time had not circulated for inspection in Boston, MacNeill hoped that his affiliation with “the most principal Shops” in one of the largest cities in the empire testified to his skill and expertise.

To that end, he pledged that he made saddles and other items “as compleat as can be imported.” Realizing that colonists sometimes had a preference for imported goods with an expectation of higher quality or better craftsmanship, MacNeill promised that his clients did not have to fear that they purchased inferior goods from his workshop. This appeal likely resonated with colonists who adhered to the nonimportation agreements and sought “domestic manufactures,” goods produced in the colonies, as alternatives to those transported across the Atlantic. An article on the first page of the December 18, 1769, edition of the Boston-Gazette proposed bringing artisans and their families to the colonies, suggesting that those migrants were much more welcome than imported goods that Parliament taxed. MacNeill’s advertisement reverberated with political implications, even as he made standard appeals to price, quality, and fashion.

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?

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)?

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?

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.