What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“I intreat them to consider my late heavy, and grievous Misfortunes, and give their Custom to said Mill.”
In December 1771, Elisha Brown placed an advertisement in the Providence Gazette to inform readers that he would soon commence operations at his mill, “the nearest to the Town of Providence.” In preparation, he offered advice to prospective customers, explaining “the best Way of keeping their Grain, in order to make good Meal.” He lamented that sometimes “millers are blamed when they are not worthy of it, by Reason of the Grain’s being damp and unfit to grind.” That being the case, he gave extensive instructions for storing corn and grain in order to avoid collecting moisture that resulted in “sweaty Dampness” and, ultimately, meal of “a soft, clammy Quality, which will never make good Bread.” Prospective customers could save themselves a lot of grief if they followed Brown’s recommendations, though he likely aimed to spare himself from difficult interactions with dissatisfied customers as well.
Brown provided this guidance as a service to his customers. For those not enticed by such concern for their prospects of receiving good meal upon supplying grain that had been stored appropriately, he also attempted to play on their sympathies as a means of convincing them to choose his mill over those run by competitors. He had deployed a similar strategy several months earlier. Brown declared, “I intreat” residents of Providence “to consider my late heavy, and grievous Misfortunes, and give their Custom to said Mill.” He did not specify any particulars, assuming readers were already familiar with those events and might be inclined to assist him in overcoming those “Misfortunes.” To further justify employing him, Brown underscored his industriousness, proclaiming that “constant Attendance will be given … from before Sunrise, in the Morning, till the Mill be cleared in the Evening.” He planned to be on site as often as possible, but also arranged for Abner Thayer, a clothier, to tend the mill in his absence.
Whatever Brown’s “Misfortunes” may have been, he endeavored to recover from them, but he needed the assistance of customers who brought their grain to his mill. He attempted to help them avert misfortunes of their own, giving lengthy directions for the best methods to store grain in order to produce meal of good quality. In exchange for looking out for their welfare, he hoped that prospective customers would reward him by improving his own condition through their patronage at his mill.