What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Invite all Captains of Vessels (especially from Connecticut) and Sailors.”
After moving from Stamford, Connecticut, to New York, Foster Lewis kept residents of his former home apprised of his new endeavors. On September 8, 1772, he inserted an advertisement in the Connecticut Courant to inform readers in Hartford and other towns that he “has opened a public house near Burling-Slip, known by the name of the New England Tavern.” He promised prospective patrons that if “they give him their Custom … they may depend upon being handsomely used.” In other words, Lewis made hospitality a priority at the New England Tavern. He also noted that he “provides good Stabling for Horses” for patrons who arrived in New York by land rather than by sea.
Given the tavern’s location near the waterfront in New York, Lewis addressed his advertisement to mariners, both “Captains of Vessels (especially from Connecticut) and Sailors.” He hoped to cultivate a sense of community among customers with connections to Connecticut as well as give them an additional reason to choose his tavern over others. In highlighting his own origins in the neighboring colony, Lewis likely intended to suggest that he exerted even greater effort in making mariners and travelers from New England, especially Connecticut, feel welcome and comfortable in his establishment. After all, the name of the public house, the New England Tavern, testified to the character of its proprietor and patrons.
Although Lewis no longer lived and worked in Connecticut, he sought to capitalize on identifying with that colony in the advertisement he placed in the Connecticut Courant. Rather than being treated as strangers and run-of-the-mill customers, patrons who hailed from Connecticut could expect enthusiastic service grounded in their shared connections to that colony. Lewis apparently suspected that this marketing strategy would resonate with colonizers in Connecticut, making the effort to place his notice in a newspaper published there rather than opting for any of the newspapers published in New York. Some readers and prospective patrons may even have known Lewis, prompting them to expect a friendly and familiar face if they visited the New England Tavern.