What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The Indian King Tavern and London Coffee House in Salem, in the Province of Massachusetts Bay.”
Thomas Sommerville was the proprietor of the Indian King Tavern and London Coffee House in Salem, Massachusetts. To entice visitors of all sorts, he provided a variety of amenities, from “good Accommodations” to exceptional customer service (“the genteelest Usage”) for “Gentlemen, Ladies, and other Travellers.” While Sommerville certainly welcomed local residents to partake in the food and beverages he served as they gathered to socialize or conduct business, he also wished to augment the number of patrons who came through his door, especially visitors from other towns who would pay for lodging in addition to food and drink.
To that end, Sommerville needed to attract customers from beyond his local market. Accordingly, he placed advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform residents of Portsmouth and its hinterland about the services he offered. While the Indian King Tavern and London Coffee House might not have been the ultimate destination for most travelers, Sommerville sought to make it a destination that they planned to visit while en route to other places. Not unlike the modern hospitality and tourism industries, he marketed his services to potential customers from a distance.
In his announcement, Sommerville indicated that “the Season is now opening,” suggesting that as spring gave way to summer that greater numbers of people would travel beyond their local communities, either for business or leisure. In the advertisement printed immediately below Sommerville’s notice, Thomas Wood also addressed travelers and described the reception they could anticipate receiving at his tavern at Newbury Ferry in New Hampshire. Sommerville and Wood operated businesses with seasonal rhythms and placed advertisements accordingly, as did their counterparts in other parts of the colonies. Notices promoting houses of entertainment and scenic gardens within and beyond the major port cities increased in spring and the summer months as colonists embarked on their own version of what has become the summer vacation season.