June 20

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

Jun 20 - 6:20:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (June 20, 1768).

“The commodious Inn, in Princeton, long known by the name of the Hudibras.”

As spring turned to summer in 1768, the number of advertisements aimed at travelers and others seeking entertainment during moments of leisure increased compared to the frequency of their appearance throughout the winter. Josiah Davenport placed advertisements in newspapers published in both Philadelphia and New York when he opened the Bunch of Grapes inn and tavern in Philadelphia, extending an invitation to locals and travelers alike. The proprietors of Ranelagh Gardens advertised a series of fireworks exhibitions in newspapers printed in New York. Samuel Fraunces simultaneously promoted food, lodgings, and entertainment at Vauxhall Garden, an alternative destination on the outskirts of New York City. An advertisement in the June 20 supplement to the Boston Evening-Post announced that the “Waters of Jackson’s Spaw are now in a good Degree of Perfection,” the first notice concerning “Jackson’s Mineral Well” that appeared in Boston’s newspapers since the previous summer. On the same day, Jacob Hyer inserted an advertisement for the “commodious Inn” he recently opened in Princeton, New Jersey, in the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy. Especially in northern colonies, readers encountered seasonal advertisements from an emerging hospitality and tourism industry in the late colonial period.

Hyer had a particular advantage working in his favor when it came to attracting guests to his tavern and inn, the Hudibras. Like many of his counterparts, he had “furnished the House with the best of Liquors” as well as “the best Provisions he can Procure.” Unlike his competitors, however, “the Stage-Waggons from New-York to Philadelphia and back, put up at his House.” This likely increased his clientele since passengers became guests, making it less necessary to advertise. On the other hand, Hyer may have believed that alerting residents of New York to the various amenities at the Hudibras could influence their decisions about taking a trip to Philadelphia. Even before commencing the journey they could plan for comfortable accommodations along the way rather than leave to chance any arrangements for food and lodging. Hyer’s desire “to entertain Travellers … in the best Manner” made the journey sound as appealing as the destination, encouraging readers to consider traveling between New York and Philadelphia for business or for pleasure.

April 24

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

Apr 24 - 4:24:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 24, 1766).

“The Stage Wagon … intends to perform the Journey from Philadelphia to New-York in two Days.”

Today it takes only a couple of hours or less to travel between Philadelphia and New York by planes, trains, or automobiles, but in the eighteenth century going from one of these urban ports to the other required much more time. John Barnhill and John Masherew offered a service intended to transport colonists between the two cities as quickly and efficiently as possible (and as comfortably as well: note that “the Waggon-Seats [were] to be set on Springs”).

This journey could be completed in the impressively short span of two days between April and November, but required three days in the winter months. To make this possible, Barnhill and Masherew pooled their resources. Each offered a service that extended into the hinterland around their respective cities, but neither sent their “Stage Waggon” between the two destinations. Instead, Barnhill operated between Philadelphia and Prince Town (now Princeton, New Jersey) and Masherew offered service from New York to Prince Town. At Prince Town, passengers switched from one “Stage Waggon” to the other. Each leg of the journey took a day (or a day and a half in the winter).

The advertisement indicates Barnhill and Masherew began advertising this service before it appeared in the April 24, 1766, issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette: “commencing the 14th Day of April next.” The notation on the final line – “* 6 W.” – was likely a reminder to the printer to insert the advertisement in six consecutive issues over the course of six weeks.