What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Proposes to engage his performance for one year, provided the owners do not abuse the same.”
When Thomas Morgan, a watch- and clockmaker, relocated from Philadelphia to a shop on Gay Street in Baltimore in the early 1770s, he placed an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Packet, published in Philadelphia. Why did he advertise in a newspaper published in the town he left rather than one published in his new town? Baltimore did not yet have its own newspaper. Colonizers in Baltimore and the surrounding area depended on the Maryland Gazette, published in Annapolis, and several newspapers published in Philadelphia, including the Pennsylvania Packet, as regional newspapers. When he placed an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Packet, Morgan anticipated that prospective customers in Baltimore would see it.
In addition, he deployed other marketing strategies. He marked his new location in Baltimore with “THE SIGN OF THE ARCH DIAL,” a visual statement to all passersby about what kind of business he operated. He also offered a guarantee for repairing and cleaning watches and clocks, stating that he would “engage his performance for one year, provided the owners do not abuse the same.” In other words, the guarantee remained in effect only if customers treated their clocks and watches well. That included not subjecting their timepieces to “unskilful hands” who did more harm than good. Morgan lamented that “many good watches are greatly abused for want of experience” by artisans who purported to possess skills that they did not. In so doing, Morgan made appeals similar to those that John Simnet, a watchmaker in New York, included in his newspaper advertisements. He also offered guarantees of his work, contingent on how customers treated their clocks and watches, and warned against trusting inexperienced watch- and clockmakers who damaged the timepieces entrusted to them.
Morgan invited “Any Gentleman” to visit his new location in Baltimore, promising that they may “have new Watches and Clocks made after the neat and best construction.” To encourage those previously unfamiliar with his work, he indicated that he already attracted new clients and “most gratefully acknowledges the many favours received from the Public, and hopes for the continuance of them.” Morgan hoped that advertising in the Pennsylvania Packet would further ease the transition after setting up shop in a new town.