May 15

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

New-London Gazette (May 15, 1772).

“A STAGE-WAGGON … from Sagharbour on Long-Island, to New-York.”

Newspaper advertisements documented some of the transportation infrastructure established in the colonies in the early 1770s.  The May 15, 1772, edition of the New-London Gazette, for instance, carried an advertisement for a “STAGE-WAGGON” that operated between New York City and Sag Harbor, a village on Long Island, and an advertisement for “Passage-Boats” that connected New London and Norwich.

Samuel Stockwell and John Springer informed readers who needed to travel or transport goods along the Thames River between New London on the coast and Norwich in the interior of the colony that their boats “Continue to ply every Day, Wind and Weather permitting.”  They pledged to keep to their schedule as faithfully as possible.  Stockwell and Springer included images of two vessels in their advertisement, simultaneously suggesting their industriousness and the destinations they served.

A more extensive advertisement for the wagon between New York and Sag Harbor explained that the route “will greatly facilitate the travelling between the New England and Southern Provinces.  That was made possible by combining travel on the wagon with sailing on “a Passage-Boat kept by James Wiggins” that crossed Long Island Sound between Sag Harbor and New London twice a week.  The wagon service departed from both New York and Sag Harbor on Monday mornings.  When they met, they exchanged passengers.  Travelers arrived at their destination by Wednesday evening.  Conveniently, the boat for New London departed “every Thursday Morning, and returns again … on Saturdays.”  Passengers sailing that direction arrived in time to catch a wagon headed to New York on Monday morning.

These two advertisements provided sufficient information for readers to plan trips between Norwich and New York, their journey involving two boats and two wagons in a little less than a week.  In an advertisement for his own stagecoach service in the Connecticut Journal, Nicholas Brown asserted that “Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces, travelling to Boston … generally go by Water from New-York to Providence.”  The advertisements in the New-London Gazetteillustrate other routes available to travelers in New England and New York.

June 30

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

Jun 30 - 6:30:1769 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (June 30, 1769).

“A neat BOAT, suitable for the reception of passengers.”

Readers encountered four advertisements for transportation via “Passage Boat” in the June 30, 1769, edition of the New-London Gazette. Ebenezer Webb sailed between New London and Sterling on Long Island “as usual,” though he advised prospective passengers that they “may be landed on any Part of the East End of the Island.” Peter Griffing charted a similar course across Long Island Sound, but kept a different schedule than his direct competitor, Webb. A brief advertisement reminded readers that “Truman’s Passage-Boat plies between Sagharbour and Norwich Landing, as usual.”

Samuel Stockwell inserted a much more extensive advertisement to address prospective passengers; it occupied as much space on the page as the other three advertisements combined. Unlike the others, Stockwell did not transport passengers and freight across Long Island Sound. Instead, he sailed up and down the Thames River between New London and Norwich. In order to pursue that enterprise, he had “lately built and has now fitted out a neat BOAT, suitable for the reception of passengers.” In a nota bene, he added that he provided food and wine “at a very reasonable rate.”

Griffing, Truman, and Webb did not comment on why readers of the New-London Gazette might wish to travel aboard their passage boats except to move freight and passengers from one place to another. Each implied that crossing Long Island Sound was much more efficient than making a journey by land. Stockwell, on the other hand, suggested that “Gentlemen or Ladies” might wish to make a voyage aboard his boat “for their health or pleasure,” presenting his business as part of a nascent tourism and hospitality industry that began to emerge in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Realizing that passengers seeking leisure activities likely would not sustain his new endeavor by themselves, he also made a practical appeal to “Gentlemen that have occasion to attend the courts” when they were in session in New London and Norwich. Stockwell set a regular schedule, but he adapted during those weeks that prospective passengers needed to attend “the sitting of the courts.” Hiring passage on his boat, he proposed, would “lessen the vast expence of the law” by eliminating the “great expense of horse hire and keeping.” Even though less than fifteen miles separated New London and Norwich, those who traveled between the two incurred significant expenses if they made the journey on land. Stockwell provided an attractive and more comfortable alternative, one that made the journey a “pleasure” even for those who traveled to attend to business at the courts.