May 8

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

May 8 - 5:5:1768 New-York Journal Supplement
Supplement to the New-York Journal (May 5, 1768).

“He likewise cleans gentlemen and ladies clothes … in as neat a manner as those done in London.”

Like many other artisans, Henry Brabazon, a “Silk-dier and Dry-scourer,” emphasized his skill in his newspaper advertisements.  Deploying formulaic language, he announced that “his customers may depend upon having their work done with dispatch and fidelity” in a notice he inserted in the supplement that accompanied the May 5, 1768, edition of the New-York Journal.  Yet Brabazon did not resort merely to standardized language that appeared in countless other advertisements placed by artisans of all sorts.  He promoted his skill by favorably comparing the results of his efforts to the work undertaken by his counterparts in England.

For instance, Brabazon proclaimed that he “cleans gentlemen and ladies clothes … in as neat a manner as those done in London.”  In addition to asserting his credentials as a dry scourer, he provided further commentary about his skills as a silk dyer, declaring that he “dies cotton velvet as fine a black, and to as good perfection, as those in Manchester.”  He expected that prospective customers in the colonies were capable of making distinctions when it came to associating specific products with particular places in England.  Note that he introduced himself as “from Europe,” but did not make general comparisons to silk dyers and dry scourers on the other side of the Atlantic.  Instead, he made targeted comparisons that associated dying with Manchester and scouring with London.

Brabazon attempted to cultivate a clientele among colonists who were savvy consumers.  Even though they resided far from the places of production in England, his prospective customers knew the market and distinguished among goods and services based on their place of origin.  Brabazon also knew that colonial consumers did not want to feel as though they had to settle for inferior goods and services merely because they resided far from the center of the empire.  They imported textiles, housewares, and other goods to keep up with fashions in England, but they also wanted services that rivaled the quality available there.  As a dyer and scourer, Brabazon skillfully assisted his customers in maintaining their textiles and garments so they would not appear second best compared to their counterparts in England.

February 19

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

Feb 19 - 2:19:1768 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (February 19, 1768)

“Robert Bingham … Makes all Kinds of Surgeons Instruments for Amputation.”

In a notice in the New-London Gazette, Robert Bingham, a “CUTLER, from LONDON,” deployed many of the appeals most commonly included in newspaper advertisements during the eighteenth century. Artisans tended to promote the skills they had acquired in their trade, via training or experience or both. Without much elaboration, Bingham did mention his skill, noting that he completed his work “in the neatest manner.” Like many other advertisers, Bingham also established his connection to London, the center of the empire. For artisans, this often implied skill achieved through training superior to that available in the colonies. More often than not, advertisers of all sorts – whether merchants, shopkeepers, or artisans – incorporated appeals to price into their commercial notices. Bingham again followed the standard practice of the period, declaring that he performed his work at the “most reasonable rate.”

In general, Bingham wrote copy that prospective customers likely found reassuring, if not especially innovative or exciting. His appeals did not particularly distinguish his business from others, but neglecting to insert any of them into his advertisement would have distinguished him in the wrong ways. He needed to do more than merely announce his services. He needed his advertisement to demonstrate that he understood the expectations of potential clients.

Still, the composition of Bingham’s advertisement suggests that he may have attempted to make a more nuanced appeal to skill than just asserting that he made cutlery “in the neatest manner.” He worked in a shop in Lebanon, Connecticut. Residents of this small village and the surrounding area were much more likely to purchase “Table Knives and Forks, – Raisors [razors] – Scissars, – Penknives” than “Surgeons Instruments for Amputation and Trepanning; – also Surgeons Pocket Instruments.” Yet Bingham did not commence his advertisement with the items most likely to meet local demand. Instead, he first listed specialized instruments that required skill and precision in crafting, signaling his abilities to readers without making explicit reference to skill. Bingham may have considered the order he listed his wares a persuasive marketing strategy, one that showcased his skills more effectively than professing his abilities at great length.

February 9

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

Feb 9 - 2:9:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 9, 1768).

“Greatful thanks for the encouragement he has had for eighteen years past in Charles-Town.”

Experience matters. That was the central theme James Lingard presented in his advertisement in the February 9, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. In the process of announcing that he had moved to a new location at the east end of Queen Street, Lingard expressed his appreciation to his former customers, noting that he had served the residents of Charleston for the past eighteen years. While merchants and shopkeepers occasionally referred to their years of experience in their attempts to entice customers, artisans most commonly made such appeals. Lingard, a blacksmith and farrier, continued a common practice among eighteenth-century artisans who placed newspaper advertisements.

Lingard enhanced his professional reputation by promoting his experience and expressing “his greatful thanks for the encouragement” he had received from those who had previously engaged his services. It would not have been possible for him to operate a shop in the busy port for nearly two decades had it not been for his skills in “the smiths and farriers business, in all its branches.” Still, it did not hurt to inform potential customers that he had honed those skills over the years and now possessed significant experience. For those who had resided in Charleston for quite some time, Lingard’s advertisement served as a reminder that he had been operating his shop for years. For newcomers to the city, however, Lingard seized an opportunity to inform them of his long history working with local customers.

Lingard likely attracted some of his business via word-of-mouth referrals built on his reputation. Turning to print could have been a strategy to prompt more referrals, presenting himself for consideration among members of “the public in general” who had not previously hired him but who might ask others if they had any experiences dealing with Lingard. In such situations, his appeals to skill and experience in his advertisement set the tone for conversations among customers.

December 29

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

Dec 29 - 12:29:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 29, 1767).

“Fechtman undertakes to make stays and negligees, gowns and slips, without trying, for any lady in the country.”

Christopher Fechtman, a “STAY and MANTUA-MAKER from LONDON,” promoted his services in an advertisement in the supplement to the December 29, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. After noting his change of address, he launched several appeals intended to incite demand for his services and instill a preference for obtaining stays, mantuas, and other items from him rather than his competitors.

Fechtman offered a guarantee of sorts, pledging to “give entire satisfaction to those who favour him” with their patronage. He did so with confidence, underscoring his own “knowledge of the business.” Yet Fechtman did not labor alone in his shop. He also employed “some experienced hands, who understand their business to the utmost dexterity.” Artisans commonly noted their skill and expertise in eighteenth-century advertisements. Fechtman assured potential customers that his subordinates who might have a hand in producing their garments were well qualified for the task. He staked his own reputation on that promise.

The staymaker also proclaimed that he would “work at a lower rate than any heretofore,” hoping to entice prospective clients with lower prices. High quality garments produced by skilled workers did not necessarily have to be exorbitantly expensive. Quite the opposite: Fechtman indicated that his prices beat any his competitors had ever charged.

Finally, Fechtman offered his services to women who resided in Charleston’s hinterland, widening his market beyond those who could easily visit his shop on Union Street while they ran other errands around town. To that end, he played up the convenience of procuring his services, noting that he could “make stays and negligees, gowns and slips, without trying, for any lady in the country.” His female clients did not need to visit his shop for a fitting. Presumably they forwarded their measurements when submitting their orders from a distance; tailors and others who made garments sometimes included instructions to send measurements with orders in their advertisements.

Fechtman competed with other stay- and mantua-makers in Charleston, a busy port city. To distinguish his garments and services from the competition, he resorted to several marketing strategies in his advertisement. He emphasized skill and expertise, both his own and that of the “experienced hands” who labored in his shop. He also offered low prices as well as convenience to clients unable to visit his shop for fittings. In the process, he encouraged prospective clients to imagine acquiring “stays and negligees, gowns and slips” from him, stoking demand and desire for his wares.

December 5

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

Dec 5 - 12:5:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (December 5, 1767).

“All performed in the neatest and best manner.”

Blacksmiths Amos Atwell and Jonathan Ellis inserted an advertisement in the December 5, 1767, edition of the Providence Gazette to inform readers in “the Town and Country” that they had established a partnership and were “determined to carry on a large stroke of business.” Atwell and Ellis made a variety of items for use in the home, on the farm, in workshops, and aboard ships, including “broad and narrow axes, drawing knives, carpenters adzes, all sorts of coopers tools, farming tools, … kitchen utensils, and ships iron work of every kind.”

Shopkeepers in Providence and other colonial cities and towns frequently advertised a similar array of hardware, though they often indicated that they had imported their inventory from London and other English cities. In the face of assumptions that such goods might have been superior in quality to any produced locally, Atwell and Ellis concluded their advertisement with assurances that the items they sold had been made “in the neatest and best manner.” In so doing, they adopted a marketing strategy often deployed by colonial artisans. Advertisers of all sorts made appeals to the price and quality of their merchandise, but artisans – who produced the goods they sold – supplemented those common appeals with commentary about their own skill and expertise. Those attributes associated with individual artisans, not just the features of the goods they sold, played an important role in efforts to convince potential customers to purchase their wares.

Atwell and Ellis also promised to serve their patrons “with fidelity and dispatch,” but invoking those qualities fell into the realm of customer service rather than artisanal skill and expertise. Merchants and shopkeepers also played on personal characteristics of “fidelity and dispatch” when describing how they interacted with customers, but rarely did they express the sort of intrinsic responsibility for the quality of their merchandise that artisans made part of their testament to potential patrons.

November 20

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

Nov 20 - 11:20:1767 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (November 20, 1767).

“He keeps neither negroes nor apprentices, but hires white journeymen.”

Donald Harper, a tailor, made a rather unique appeal to prospective customers in an advertisement in the November 20, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. Unlike most of his competitors, he mentioned the assistants who worked for him, acknowledging that he was not solely responsible for all the garments produced in his shop. In the process, he underscored that “he keeps neither negroes nor apprentices, but hires white journeymen.”

What was Harper attempting to communicate to potential clients? From the distance of a quarter millennium, the racial aspect of this appeal may seem most prominent. It might be tempting to assume that since being fitted for clothing could be a rather intimate experience that required close personal contact that Harper suspected some customers would prefer not to interact with enslaved assistants. Yet other newspaper advertisements, as well as all kinds of other sources from the period, indicate that colonists had little objection to sharing spaces, even close quarters, with enslaved men, women, and children, provided that contact was temporary and that everyone behaved according to the expectations of prevailing social and racial hierarchies. The same issue of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, for instance, included advertisements for enslaved domestic servants, including seamstresses, cooks, and other “house wenches.” In serving white colonists, slaves became invisible and unremarkable, which would have made Harper’s marketing strategy out of place had his intention been exclusively to promote a workshop free of enslaved workers.

The advertisement might better be understood by noting that Harper relied on the labor of “neither negroes nor apprentices.” Instead, he “hires white journeymen,” an aspect of his business that he connected to clients “being served to their satisfaction” because the journeymen did their work “with the greatest dispatch and in the genteelest manner.” Seen through the eyes of eighteenth-century readers, Harper made an appeal to quality. He did not resort to untrained or barely trained workers, whether enslaved or apprenticed, but instead hired artisans who had demonstrated some level of skill and competence in order to achieve journeyman status. As a result, customers could depend on a certain level of quality when they chose to acquire garments from Harper’s workshop.

June 23

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

Jun 23 - 6:23:1766 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (June 23, 1766).

“Having served a regular Apprenticeship to the Business, he flatters himself he cannot fail of giving general Satisfaction.”

“DALLAS, Silk Dyer and Scourer, from London” had a lot going for him and he wanted potential customers to know it. Being a “Silk Dyer and Scourer” required particular skills; novices or pretenders might end up ruining any garments turned over to their care, but Dallas had “served a regular Apprenticeship to the Business.” He had received the training necessary for his occupation. As a result, clients could trust the other claims he made in his advertisement. Dallas did not just market the services he provided or the products he sold. He also marketed himself, especially his expertise and training, much as many modern advertisers list their qualifications, certifications, or degrees when promoting their businesses.

Dallas “clean’d or dyed” a variety of textiles, sometimes seeming to work magic on them. No matter how damaged they happened to be when delivered to his shop “at the Sign of the Dove and Rainbow,” Dallas was able to remove spots and otherwise clean fabrics so “they shall look equal to any new imported.” He pledged that he did this work “to the greatest Perfection.” He was able to accomplish this in part because of his specialized training, but also because he learned during his apprenticeship that it was necessary to have the proper supplies and equipment. Accordingly, “he hath every necessary Dye-Stuff, and proper Utensils superior to any ever erected in America.”

Apparently Dallas was so skilled as a “Silk Dyer and Scourer,” a celebrity in his occupation, that he needed only one name!