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.