July 6

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

Boston Evening-Post (July 6, 1772).

“THE STAGE-COACH Between NEW-YORK and BOSTON.”

In the early 1770s, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown placed advertisements seeking “encouragement” for stagecoach service they wished to establish between Boston and New York.  In addition to calling on the public to support them by traveling on their stagecoaches, the Browns sought investors “willing to become adventurers … in said undertaking.”  They outlined the various benefits of this service, including increasing commerce in the Connecticut as colonizers traveled through the province instead of bypassing it by sailing from New York to Providence and then continuing overland to Boston.

When summer arrived, the Browns launched the service on a trial basis.  They initially placed an advertisement in the June 25 edition of the New-York Journal to announce that the “STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YORK AND BOSTON … for the first Time sets out this Day.”  In the following days, they placed additional advertisements in the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, and the Connecticut Journal, published in New Haven.  On July 6, their advertisement from the New-York Journal appeared in the Boston Evening-Post, alerting the public at that end of the line that the stagecoach paused in Hartford for a week and would arrive in Boston on July 11.  The Browns planned for the next trip to depart on July 11, so prospective passengers had nearly a week to make plans if they wished to travel at that time.  If demand warranted, the operators intended to “perform the Stage once a Week.”

The advertisement in the Boston Evening-Post included one element not included in the New-York Journal.  A woodcut depicting horses, a driver, and a stagecoach with a passenger visible inside appeared at the top of the advertisement.  That helped to draw attention to their notice by distinguishing it from others, especially since it was the only advertisement in that issue that incorporated an image (though Jolley Allen’s notice on the following page did feature his trademark border).

In hopes that their “Trial” would find sufficient “Encouragement” to establish a permanent route that ran once a week, the Browns placed advertisements in several newspapers along their route.  They did not, however, advertise as extensively as possible, perhaps due to budgetary constraints.  They could have flooded the market with advertising, placing notices in both newspapers printed in New York, all five in Boston, and even any in Philadelphia for prospective passengers who planned to travel north.  Perhaps they wished to assess the return on their investment for their initial round of advertising before expanding to additional publications.

June 26

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

Connecticut Journal (June 26, 1772).

“The Hartford Stage-Coach, will be in New-Haven … on its Way to New York.”

In the early 1770s, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown envisioned a stagecoach route that connected New York and Boston.  They placed advertisements seeking investors in the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, and the Connecticut Journal, published in New Haven.  Such an enterprise, they argued, would benefit residents and entrepreneurs in a colony that travelers often bypassed when they chose to sail between New York and Providence and then continue to Boston via stage.  In the summer of 1772, the Browns inserted an advertisement in the New-York Journal to announce a trial run for their service between New York and Boston.

At the same time that they sought passengers from New York and its hinterlands, the Browns placed new notices in the Connecticut Courant and the Connecticut Journal.  For instance, Jonathan advertised that the “Hartford Stage-Coach, will be in New-Haven … on its Way to New York” in the June 26, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Journal.  He stated that “any Gentlemen or Ladies that may want a Conveyance there, or to any Place on the Road, between this Town and that City, may be accommodated in said Coach.”  In an advertisement that appeared in the Connecticut Courant on June 16, Jonathan declared that he “furnished himself with a convenient Coach and suitable horses” to provide service between Hartford and New York.”  In the same issue, Nicholas declared that he “purposes to have a Stage Coach going from this Place to Boston every Fortnight during the Summer.”  The success of the larger venture depended not only on passengers who made the journey between Boston and New York but also on other customers who paid fares to travel shorter distances.  In their efforts to attract those customers, the Browns marketed their service in several newspapers that circulated in Connecticut even as they sought passengers from beyond New England via notices in the New-York Journal.

June 25

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

New-York Journal (June 25, 1772).

“STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YOK AND BOSTON.”

Two months after they placed an advertisement seeking investors in their stagecoach service in the Connecticut Courant, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown informed readers of the New-York Journal that the “STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YORK AND BOSTON … for the first Time sets out this Day.”  The route took passengers through Connecticut “by Way of Hartford.”  In an advertisement that ran in the Connecticut Journal nine months earlier, Nicholas Brown lamented that “Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces, travelling to Boston … generally go by Water from New-York to Providence,” never passing through towns in Connecticut.  He hoped that reliable stagecoach service would “increase the Intercourse between the two Towns of Hartford and New-Haven as well as connect them to major urban ports.

The Browns did not mention that objective when they sought passengers in New York, though they did note that when the stagecoaches that simultaneously departed from Boston and New York met in Hartford they continued the journey “after staying a Week.”  That meant that travelers had time to conduct business in Connecticut.  As they passed through the colony, the stagecoaches “always put up at Houses on the Road where the best Entertainment is provided.”  The Browns assured prospective passengers that they could expect good food and lodging while traveling between New York and Boston.  They could also “depend on good Usage” by drivers and a “reasonable Rate” for their baggage.

In their efforts to convince prospective passengers to choose their service over alternate routes, the Browns asked “Gentlemen and Ladies … to encourage this useful, new, and expensive Undertaking.”  They did not mean that customers paid high prices, but instead that the enterprise was expensive for the Browns to operate.  They made that clear in previous advertisements seeking investors.  They intended to communicate that their passengers actually got quite a bargain when they chose to travel via stagecoach between New York and Boston.  The Browns hoped customers would agree, stating that they would schedule weekly departures if they “find Encouragement” after the inaugural journey.  After months of planning, they managed a “Trial.”  The success of that trial depended in part on passengers responding to their advertisements.

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.

April 28

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

Connecticut Courant (April 28, 1772).

“Gentlemen willing to become adventurers … in said undertaking.”

In the fall of 1771, Nicholas Brown advertised his intention to operate a stagecoach between Hartford and New Haven.  He also expressed his hope that another stagecoach would connect Hartford and Boston, “encourage[ing] Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces” to pass through Connecticut on their way to Boston instead of traveling “by Water from New York to Providence.”  To help turn that idea into reality, Brown attempted to recruit donors and investors.  He requested that “all Gentlemen disposed to countenance the Undertaking to leave their Names at the Printing-Office in New-Haven, adding such Sum for him, as their Generosity shall dictate.”  For those unwilling to bestow an outright donation, he offered “to admit … into Partnership” anyone “disposed to share with him the Loss or Gain of the Undertaking.”

Brown’s advertisement apparently did not attract as many donors or investors as he hoped.  Several months later, he published a new advertisement, this one co-signed by Jonathan Brown.  They noted that they had “advertised in the public papers, that they should on proper encouragement, establish a STAGE COACH for the conveyance of passengers thro’ the upper post road, to and from New York and Boston.”  They planned to cover that distance in a single week, but determined that the enterprise “cannot be carried on without great expence.”  They lamented that thus far they had not gained “the encouragement from the public that they hoped for,” but reiterated “the usefulness and advantage … to the public” inherent in operating a stagecoach that connected New York and Boston.  Committed to making some progress on the venture, they scaled down their plans “to perform said journey once every fortnight only.”  Still, they sought others who were “willing to become adventurers … in said undertaking” by “supplying horses” or providing other support.

The Browns had an idea for a service they were wished to provide but did not have the resources to launch it on their own.  Harnessing an entrepreneurial spirit, they ran newspaper advertisements to generate interest in their proposal and recruit investors who also recognized its potential and the benefits to the community.  On occasion, newspapers carried brief advertisements seeking investors for unnamed ventures, indicating the amounts they needed but not giving other details.  The Browns offered significantly more information.  When the first round of advertising did not work, they tried again, taking another chance on the power of the press to achieve results.

September 13

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

Connecticut Journal (September 13, 1771).

“STAGE-COACH … to pass thro’ this Coolony.”

Nicholas Brown aimed to improve the infrastructure that connected the major towns in New England in the early 1770s, establishing his own stagecoach service between Hartford and New Haven to supplement other routes already in existence.  In the summer of 1771, for instance, John Stavers placed advertisements in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and the New-Hampshire Gazette to promote “Stage-Coach, Number One” that ran between Boston and Portsmouth.  Stavers sought to ward off competition from a competitor who had only recently established service along the same route.

Brown, on the other hand, added a new route in hopes of better connecting the region.  To that end, he acquired “an elegant, and convenient Stage Coach and four Horses” to cover a route between Hartford and New Haven once a week. He anticipated that another operator would soon set up service from Hartford to Boston, allowing “Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces” to pass through Connecticut on their way to Boston rather than “go by Water from New-York to Providence” and then continue overland to Boston.  New routes meant more options for transporting passengers and freight.

In an advertisement in the September 13, 1771, edition of the Connecticut Journal, Brown framed his endeavor as an investment opportunity and a service that merited the support of local benefactors.  He mentioned “a low and moderate Price,” but did not specify which days his stagecoach ran between Hartford and New Haven or where to meet it in either town.  Instead, he focused primarily on the “great Expence” he already incurred, requesting that “all Gentlemen disposed to countenance the Undertaking” would leave their names and “such Sum … as their Generosity shall dictate” at the printing office.  In addition to accepting donations to make stagecoach service between Hartford and New Haven viable, Brown also invited “any Gentleman … disposed to share with him the Loss or Gain of the Undertaking” to join him as partners.  That first advertisement alerted prospective customers to a new “STAGE-COACH” route, but the proprietor also used it as a prospectus for gaining other kinds of support for his new enterprise.

August 11

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (August 8, 1771).

“The first Person that ever set up, and regularly maintain’d a Stage Carriage in New-England.”

John Stavers was not pleased when a competitor set up stagecoach service between Boston and Portsmouth in 1771.  In July, he placed an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette to promote his “Stage-Coach, Number One,” proclaiming that “several Years” experience of transporting passengers, mail, and newspapers meant that his drivers provided superior service.  Stavers also suggested that the “Difficulty, Expence, Discouragements, and very little, if any profit” associated with operating the stagecoach for so many years meant that the public should “give his Coach the Preference” over a newcomer “big with Importance” yet lacking experience.

He placed a similar advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, hoping to draw the attention of prospective passengers at the other end of the line.  Stavers declared that he “was the first Person that ever set up, and regularly maintain’d a Stage Carriage in New-England.”  Regardless of the weather and other conditions, operations continued “at all Seasons” for a decade.  In recognition of both the “Marks of Approbation” he received from prior clients and the “Utility” of the service he provided, he stated that he “therefore humbly hopes that his Carriages will still continue to be prefer’d to any other, that may set up in Opposition to them.”  For those who needed more convincing, Stavers asserted that “his Carriages are universally allow’d to be as convenient, genteel, and easy, and his Horses as good (if not better) than any that have as yet travelled the Road.”  In addition, he promised that “the greatest Care will be taken of all Bundles and Packages.”  For passengers who needed food and lodging upon arriving in Portsmouth, Stavers offered “Good Entertainment at the Earl of Halifax Tavern … equal to any on the Continent,” including any in Boston.  Stavers also listed prices for transporting passengers “in the most genteel and expeditious Manner” from Boston to Portsmouth and Boston to Newburyport so prospective customers could compare rates if they wished.

Stavers never named his competitor in either advertisement, but he did make it clear that he believed his experience resulted in better service for passengers traveling between Boston and Portsmouth.  In addition, he apparently felt that the investment he made operating a stagecoach along that route entitled him to the patronage of travelers who might otherwise choose his rival.  He deployed a carrot-and-stick approach in his marketing efforts, alternating between the describing the benefits associated with his coaches and constructing a sense of obligation for selecting his services.

July 19

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 19, 1771).

“Stage-Coach, Number One.”

John Stavers faced competition for clients … and he did not appreciate it.  In the late 1760s and early 1770s, Stavers operated a stagecoach between Portsmouth and Boston.  For a time, he enjoyed a monopoly on the route, but he tried to convince the public that did not necessarily amount to an unfair advantage.  Instead, Stavers contended, he provided an important service to the community “at a very great Expence” to himself when no one else did.  In an advertisement in the July 19, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, he asked prospective customers to take into account the “Difficulty, Expence, Discouragements, and very little, if any profit” he experienced “when no other Person would undertake” the route.  He did so in service not only to his passengers but also to deliver “the Mails of Letters and News Papers.”

Stavers depicted that as a heroic effort.  His stagecoach had already “surmounted every Obstruction, and through Heat and Cold, Rain and Snow Storm, push’d forward, at Times when every other Conveyance fail’d.”  Regardless of any kind of difficulty, his operation previously ran like clockwork … and would continue to do so.  The stagecoach set off from Stavers’s tavern in Portsmouth on Tuesday morning and departed Boston for the return trip on Friday mornings.  Stavers hired a “careful Driver” and kept the carriage and horses “in such Order, that Nothing bit some unforeseen Accident, shall at any Time give Hindrance, or by any Means retard the Journey.”  Through experience, Stavers was prepared for any obstacle.

Accordingly, he felt “intitled to” the patronage of travelers now that he faced an upstart who challenged him for business.  Stavers requested that the public “now give his Coach the Preference” rather than hire a competitor “whose Drivers, big with Importance, new and flaming Coaches, expect mighty Things.”  Stavers made clear that he did not believe the competition could live up to its promises, especially in the face of “the first Snow Storm” when the seasons changed. Moreover, he felt annoyed that his rival plied the same route and schedule.  Stavers feigned best wishes for the competition, but simultaneously declared his enterprise “Stage-Coach, Number One,” seeking to establish a ranking to influence prospective clients.  Simultaneously, he asked those prospective clients to take his past successes and sacrifices into consideration when choosing which stagecoach service to hire for trips between Portsmouth and Boston.

December 4

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

Dec 4 - 12:4:1769 New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (December 4, 1769).

“Stage-Waggons.”

Eighteenth-century newspapers featured few visual images. Many had some sort of device in the masthead, but usually delivered the news unadorned. Advertisements sometimes included images, but those were the exception rather than the rule. Those that did have woodcuts relied on stock images that belonged to the printer, primarily ships for notices about vessels preparing to depart, horses for advertisements about breeding, houses for real estate notices, and men or women fleeing for advertisements about apprentices and indentured servants who ran away or enslaved people who escaped. Such woodcuts were used interchangeably for advertisements from the appropriate genre. Other images that accompanied advertisements usually appeared because advertisers commissioned a woodcut specific to their business, either replicating their shop signs or depicting their most notable products.

When Joseph Crane and Josiah F. Davenport turned to the pages of the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy to advertise the stagecoach service they operated between New York and Philadelphia, they included a woodcut depicting a team of horses pulling a covered wagon. This was not one of the standard stock images, suggesting that Crane and Davenport had commissioned it for exclusive use in their advertisements. However, in their advertisements for “Stage-Waggons” that ran between New York and Philadelphia, John Mercereau and John Barnhill published what appeared to be the same image. This was not merely a case of using the woodcut in an advertisement that appeared on one page and then using it again in another advertisement on a page printed on the other side of the sheet. In the December 4, 1769, edition of the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, Crane and Davenport’s advertisement featuring the woodcut ran on the same page as Mercereau and Barnhill’s advertisement featuring the woodcut. They had to have been printed simultaneously, indicating that James Parker, the printer, possessed more than one woodcut depicting horses pulling wagons, just as he had multiple woodcuts of ships and houses. It seems unlikely that Crane and Davenport or Mercereau and Barnhill would have commissioned a woodcut that looked so nearly identical to one used by a competitor as to be indistinguishable. Apparently Parker’s collection of stock images was at least a little bit larger than the frequent reiteration of the most common woodcuts suggested. That did not, however, significantly alter the frequency of visual images accompanying either news or advertising in his newspaper. His publication, like other colonial newspapers, consisted almost exclusively of text and a limited number of stock images. That made any visual image, but especially those seen infrequently, all the more notable.

Dec 4 - 12:4:1769 Woodcuts New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (December 4, 1769).

December 1

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

Dec 1 - 12:1:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (December 1, 1769).

“A Stage from Portsmouth to Boston.”

When Joseph S. Hart established “a Stage from Portsmouth to Boston,” he inserted an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette to provide the particulars to prospective clients. He offered to carry passengers, but also acknowledged that he accepted freight as well. Hart included a schedule, informing readers that he departed Portsmouth for Boston on Fridays and then departed Boston for the return trip on Tuesdays. Each journey began at “about Eight o’Clock in the Morning” in order to allow for a full day of travel.

Although Hart’s stage began or ended each trip at either his house in Portsmouth or “Thomas Hubbart’s in King Street, Boston, at the Sign of Admiral Vernon,” he allowed for other destinations for the convenience of his clients. He pledged to deliver passengers wherever they wished to go. Similarly, those shipping “Bundles” could send them wherever they wished, rather than having to arrange for recipients to retrieve them from Hubbart at the Sign of Admiral Vernon. He did not, however, indicate that he picked up passengers or packages in Boston or Portsmouth, though that may have been negotiable upon contacting Hart to engage his services.

In addition to offering such convenience to passengers and other clients, Hart imbued his entire enterprise with an atmosphere of good service. He carried passengers and goods “with Dispatch” and promised that “All Persons who favour me with their Custom may depend upon being well used.” In making such assertions, Hart repeated sentiments often deployed in newspaper advertisements for consumer goods and services. Although he used formulaic words and phrases, he also communicated to prospective clients that he understood their expectations and that they should anticipate the same attention and quality service from him that they received from other entrepreneurs who had been established for quite some time. Indeed, for this new endeavor Hart assured prospective clients that he would deliver a pleasant experience as part of delivering them to their destinations.