January 27

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (January 27, 1773).

“We find them very advantageous … and certainly is preferable to any method ever before invented.”

When Samuel Reynolds invented a machine “for raising Mill-stones, and turning them on their back, fit for dressing or washing in five minutes or less,” he took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette to promote his product.  In an advertisement addressed “TO THE MILLERS IN GENERAL” in the January 27, 1773, edition, Reynolds described how millers could safely use his invention with “one hand only” to maneuver millstones for cleaning “without hurting the plaister on burr stones.”  He invited millers who wished to order the machine to contact him in Wilmington, Delaware, or any of three millers “at Brandywine mills,” Daniel Byrnes, Joseph Tatnall, and William Starr.

Rather than ask prospective customers to rely solely on the inventor’s own proclamations about his product, Reynolds included a testimonial from Byrnes, Tatnall, and Starr.  The experienced millers asserted that Reynolds “made each of [us] one of the said Machines, and we find them very advantageous, as the Mill-stone is taken up by them, with great ease and safety.”  In so doing, they reiterated the most important claims made by the inventor.  In addition, they declared that using Reynold’s new machine “certainly is preferable to any method ever before invented.”  Such an assessment bolstered the pitch made by Reynolds.

The inventor also suggested that he received advance orders or at least interest from other millers, though that may have been a marketing ploy rather than fact.  “As there has been a number made for people at a considerable distance, whose names an approbation are difficult to be collected,” he stated, “said Reynolds will be obliged to those that join in sentiment with the above, to favour him with a line for that purpose.”  In other words, he invited millers interested in the new machine to join with many others in showing their support by placing orders to acquire their own.  The savvy Reynolds sought to incite demand by demonstrating that demand already existed among experienced millers familiar with his product.

January 4

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (January 4, 1773).

“More certificates may be seen, and any other particulars concerning them fully explained.”

Michael B. Goldthwait placed an advertisement for “Dr. KEYSER’S celebrated PILLS” in the January 4, 1773, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, yet he had little to do with generating the copy.  Instead, he republished an advertisement that previously ran in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  James Rivington, a printer and bookseller in New York, hawked the patent medicine to generate additional revenue.  He placed an advertisement that made a patient’s “certificate” or testimonial about the efficacy of Keyser’s pills its main focus.  Goldthwait may have worked with Rivington when he decided to reprint the advertisement in one of Boston’s newspapers.  Given the wide circulation of colonial newspapers, however, he Goldthwait may have seen Rivington’s advertisement in a copy of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury that made its way to Boston and decided to appropriate it for his own use.

Goldthwait made only a few revisions to the notice before submitting it to a local printing office.  He altered the headline from “KEYSER’s PILLS” to “Dr. KEYSER’S celebrated PILLS” and streamlined the introductory paragraph that gave context for William Shipman’s testimonial, softening some of the language about the “purchase money” necessary to acquire the medicine.  The entire testimonial appeared, including Shipman’s assertion that it “is a faithful relation of my Case, and I can with an honest confidence recommend the Medicine to those who are afflicted with any Rheumatic complaints.”  Goldthwait did devise one significant embellishment.  Rivington concluded the original advertisement with an offer to provide “very satisfactory information” to anyone “desirous of enquiring further to the efficacy of this medicine,” but Goldthwait claimed that he had “more certificates” or testimonials at his shop near the Mill Bridge.  Those certificates likely included testimonials he published in an advertisement in August 1772.  Furthermore, Goldthwait could supply “other particulars” that “fully explained” those certificates.

When it came to advertisements appearing in multiple newspapers published in a town or city, merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and other purveyors of goods and services often placed the same notice in more than one publication.  In terms of advertisements for consumer goods appearing in multiple newspapers published in different cities, that most often occurred with subscription notices for books, pamphlets, newspapers, and other printed materials as printers attempted to generate sufficient demand to make those ventures viable.  Apothecaries, shopkeepers, printers, and others throughout the colonies advertised Keyser’s pills, but they did not coordinate their marketing messages.  Shipman’s testimonial running in newspapers in Boston and New York was a rare instance of entrepreneurs in two towns exposing consumers to the same marketing campaign.

December 14

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (December 14, 1772).

“The underwritten certificate, from one well known in New-York, and now in perfect health.”

James Rivington is best remembered today as a Loyalist printer who published a newspaper during the era of the American Revolution.  Before he launches his newspapers, he often placed advertisements for “KEYSER’s PILLS” in other newspapers published in New York in the early 1770s.  Whether or not they published newspapers, printers frequently stocked patent medicines, along with books, stationery, and writing supplies, to generate additional revenues.  That being the case, colonizers would not have considered it unusual to encounter advertisements in which Rivington hawked a medicine to those afflicted with venereal disease.

In an advertisement that ran in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury for several weeks in late November and early December 1772, the printer advised that “Any Person desirous of being made more particularly acquainted” with the efficacy of Keyser’s Pills “than can be decently communicated in an Advertisement” could discuss the remedy with him and then “try a Method the easiest and safest, and so secret that the Patient may be cured” without anyone “harbouring the least Suspicion” of their “lamentable Circumstances.”  Yet Keyser’s Pills had an ameliorative effect on more than just venereal diseases.  Rivington devoted a section of his advertisement to how the pills had “Great Effects” on “THE RHEUMATISM” and concluded by noting that they would “cure a Negro in the worst Stage of the Yeaws.”

On December 14, Rivington placed a new version of his advertisement.  He asserted that Keyser’s Pills were so effective in alleviating “every appearance of the venereal distemper” that “persons tormented with other diseases” made “tryals” of the pills.  Those patients included William Shipman, “well known in New-York,” who “was a long time the verist of cripples” but now, as a result of taking Keyser’s Pills, was “in perfect health.”  Rivington referred readers to a “Copy of W. Shipman’s certificate” or testimonial that provided an overview of his suffering as a result of being “so violently afflicted with the rheumatism,” his disappointment with other medicines, his decision to “make trial of Dr. Keyser’s pills,” and the “suprizing relief” that he began experiencing after only two weeks.  Shipman continued taking the pills “without any other consequence but that happy one of being restored to perfect health and ease.”

Shipman’s testimonial comprised half of Rivington’s advertisement, indicating that the printer believed it would effectively market Keyser’s pills to prospective patients.  Rivington acknowledged that Shipman “took a great many of the pills, which made his cure expensive.”  Yet the effectiveness justified the expense.  The “health, strength and agility” that Shipman “now enjoys,” Rivington argued, “is an ample compensation for the purchase money.”  Consumers could acquire “boxes of Ten, Twenty, and Forty Shillings each” as they made their own “tryals” of the pills and determined how much they wished to invest.  Rivington likely intended that Shipman’s testimonial about taking the pills over a period of several months would convince customers to purchase in larger quantities in hopes of achieving the same results.

October 26

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

Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 26, 1772).

“JAMES RIVINGTON Takes Leave to exhibit a second Advertisement of Articles just imported in the Rose.”

Bookseller and shopkeeper James Rivington placed two advertisements in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercuryafter receiving new inventory via the Rose in the fall of 1772.  In the first, he listed dozens of titles, including “Grotius on War and Peace,” “a new Edition of Salmon’s Geographical Grammar,” and “the whole Works of the inimitable Painter Hogarth, in one Volume, with all the Plates he published.”  In addition, he stocked “a fine Assortment of venerable Law Books,” “a fine Assortment of Classicks,” and magazines published in London.  Like so many other newspaper notices placed by booksellers, Rivington’s advertisement served as a book catalog adapted to a different format.

Rivington devoted his second advertisement to other merchandise, stating that he “Takes Leave to exhibit” an additional entry in the public prints to advise prospective customers about “Articles just imported in the Rose, Capt. Miller, different from his literary Exhibition of this Day.”  That advertisement featured a variety of items and marketing strategies.  In a single paragraph, it had sections for musical instruments, patent medicines, clothing, and swords for “Those Gentlemen who propose to take the Field.”

Rather than merely list the patent medicines, Rivington inserted testimonials to assure consumers they were authentic: “Turlington’s Balsam: We certify that the Balsam advertised and sold by Mr. James Rivington, is the genuine sort purchased from us, made from the Receipt left by Mr. Turlington, to us, MARY WRAY, MARY TAPP.”  Similarly, prospective customers interested in “Anderson’s Scots Pills” did not need to worry about counterfeits.  Another testimonial stated, “I do certify that the Scot’s Pills sold by Mr. Rivington of New-York, are genuine, INGLIS.”  The layout of the advertisement did not call particular attention to these testimonials, but readers expecting a list of merchandise likely noted that Rivington departed from the usual format.

Rivington also devised a section about “elegant small Swords of all kinds.”  He listed several varieties, including “Cutteaus De Chase, Seymaters, Light Infantry, Cut and Thrust, &c.”  He concluded with the common abbreviation for et cetera to suggest that he carried even more swords.  To entice customers to examine the swords, he proclaimed that they were “the most beautiful … that ever were offered to Sale in this City.”  Rivington anticipated that customers interested in “superfine ribb’d Worsted Stockings for the wear of Gentlemen, of the best and newest Fashions” in another section of the advertisement would desire attractive swords that enhanced their attire.

A newspaper advertisement did not provide sufficient space for Rivington to tout all of his wares.  He concluded with a note that he “has many more Articles, of which a Catalogue is printing.”  Did that catalog provide commentary about any of those goods, whether blurbs about the clothing, swords, and musical instruments or additional testimonials about the patent medicines?  In a third advertisement in the supplement that accompanied the October 26, 1772, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, Rivington included a testimonial about the “PATENT SHOT” he sold.  With more space available in a catalog, he may have elaborated on some of his merchandise in greater detail.

October 1

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

New-York Journal (October 1, 1772).

“I think it my duty to declare, that they are a curious, expeditious and elegant contrivance.”

The October 1, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal included an advertisement for a “MACHINE to dress FLOUR.”  The inventor, John Milne, or his son explained that the king “has been pleased to grant … his royal letters patent, for all his colonies in America, &c. for the sole making and vending” of this new machine.  In turn, the Milnes declared that the “said machines are to be sold by JOHN MILNE, and Co. at their house in Manchester; or by applying to James Milne (son of the said John Milne)” in New York.  They also described how this machine “not only make[s] the flour look better, but also … will dispatch three times as much business in the same time, as the common method of bolting with cloths.”  They went into detail about the greater efficiency of the machine compared to more familiar methods that relied on bolting cloths, underscoring that the efficiency resulted in savings.  Overall, Milne’s machines “are much cheaper” than the alternative.  In addition, he produced machines for cleaning wheat, barley, and other grains that removed seeds and gave “brightness and lustre to the grain.”

Rather than ask prospective customers to trust only in the inventor’s description and the “royal letters patent,” the Milnes provided two testimonials from satisfied customers near New York.  Jacob Sebring, Jr., noted that he used the machines at his mill on Long Island, “where they are now to be seen at work.”  Based on his experience with the new machines, he considered them “a curious, expeditious and elegant contrivance” … that “will answer every purpose for which they are designed, and likewise be of great service to the publick.”  Similarly, Derick Brinckerhoff of “Fish-Kills, Dutchess County” wrote that he “found Mr. Milne’s machine answer the purposes of bolting for which they are intended; infinitely better than the old method of doing it with cloths.”  He confirmed some of the claims made by the inventor, stating that the machines “really bolt three times as quick without the least exaggeration.”  He offered his endorsement “for the good of the community, and particularly to those who are manufacturers of flour.”  Both Brinckerhoff and Sebring positioned their testimonials as a public service rather than a commercial appeal.  Sebring even invoked his “duty” to share his experience with others who would benefit from acquiring Milne’s machine.

The Milnes realized that prospective customers might doubt the veracity of their claims about the efficiency of this invention, even with the “royal letters patent” granted by the king.  To answer doubts, they enlisted others who already had experience with the machine to provide testimonials that confirmed that they accurately represented their product’s capabilities.  They hoped that such endorsements would aid in making sales in the colonies once prospective customers learned that others had positive experiences with the new machines.

August 2

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

New-York Journal (July 30, 1772).

“If any person will take the trouble to call upon me … I shall fully satisfy him of what I have here asserted.”

Among the many advertisements in the July 30, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, one consisted entirely of a testimonial submitted to the printing office by Bartly Clarke.  He lauded a cure for “that terrible distemper the cancer” he experienced under the care of “that famous doctor Kemmena, now living in Maiden-Lane, in the city of New-York.”  Clarke explained that he had suffered with cancer “in my lip” for fifteen years.  He spent “a large sum of money” in seeking treatment from “several eminent physicians,” but none restored him to health.  Clarke sought out Kemmena upon the recommendation of “Capt. Charles Chadwick, of New-London, who was cured of the like distemper by him, almost three years ago.”

According to Clarke, Kemmena “effectually cured” him “in the space of four weeks, by the application of his famous plaster.”  During that time, Clare observed “three different persons cured of the cancer” by Kemmena.  He provided their names, enlisted them in bolstering his testimonial.  Daniel Davis, for instance, “had his whole under lip taken away, and in the space of a fortnight closed it up with sound flesh, so that it scarcely left a scar.”  Davis resided on Long Island, as did Nancy Curshow.  The third patient, Captain Rite, hailed from Bermuda, making it difficult for readers to consult any of the “three different persons” that Clarke claimed Kemmena also cured.

They could, however, speak to Clarke to learn more and assess his trustworthiness in person … but only for a limited time.  He offered that “if any person will take the trouble to call upon me at the house of doctor Kemmena, (during my stay, which will be until Sunday the second day of August) I shall fully satisfy him of what I have here asserted.”  Clarke intended to depart for his plantation in South Carolina just days after inserting the testimonial, dated July 30, in the newspaper.  That did not give other colonizers much time to consult him.  The notations at the end, however, alerted the compositor that the advertisement should run for four weeks from issue 1543 to issue 1546, circulating for some time after Clarke left the city.

Whether or not Clarke worked with Kemmena in composing and publishing this testimonial, he likely believed that its appearance independent of additional advertising by the doctor would enhance its veracity.  On occasion, other doctors ran advertisements that incorporated testimonials after they described their services, so a testimonial appearing alone amounted to a novel approach.  Clarke framed his missive as so important that he needed to share his good fortune before leaving town.  Savvy readers, on the other hand, would have questioned the timing as well as the other claims, especially since Clarke indicated that “some malicious person” spread false rumors that the doctor’s cures were not effective.  For some, none of the particulars in the testimonial may have mattered.  This advertisement, like so many others for medicines and medical treatment, leveraged hope as its primary marketing strategy.

March 12

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (March 12, 1772).

The case and cure of Thomas Hewitt, sent to the Proprietor.”

An advertisement for Maredant’s Drops, a patent medicine, in the March 12, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazetteconsisted almost entirely of testimonials from patients who claimed that it cured impurities of the blood, scurvy, ulcers, “long continued inflammations of the eyes,” and a variety of other maladies.  Nicholas Brooks sold Maredant’s Drops at his shop on Market Street in Philadelphia.  In his advertisement, he directed prospective customers to visit in order to examine “the cases of the following persons, and many others, cured by Maredant’s drops.”  He listed several individuals, including “Joseph Feyrac, Esq; lately Lieutenant-Colonel in the 18th regiment of foot,” “Mr. Stoddard, brewer, Mr. Thomas Forrest, Attorney,” and “John Good, late surgeon to his Majesty’s sloop Ferrit.”  Brooks anticipated that the volume of testimonials would convince colonizers to take a chance on the patent medicines to see if they would benefit from similar results.

The shopkeeper noted that the patent medicine “may be taken in any season, without the least inconvenience or hindrance from business.”  In addition, this nostrum would “perfect digestion, and amazingly create an appetite.”  He did not say much else about Maredant’s Drops, but instead relied on two testimonials inserted in the advertisement.  In the first, dated “Kilkenny, June 25, 1771,” Thomas Hewitt explained that twenty years earlier he “was afflicted with a most violent scurvy” in his arms that eventually led to “large ulcers and blotches” on his face.  He consulted “several eminent physicians, and tried various medicines, prescribed by them, to little or no effect.”  Other residents of Kilkenny, where Hewitt lived for more than thirty years, could confirm that was the case.  Eventually, Hewitt saw Maredant’s Drops advertised by a printer in Kilkenny.  He purchased four bottles.  The medicine “quite restored” his appetite and the scurvy “gradually left [his] face, and all parts of [his] body.”  Hewitt declared himself “perfectly cured.”  The mayor of Kilkenny co-signed Hewitt’s testimonial to “certify the above case to be a fact.”

In another testimonial, Charles Ashley, an innkeeper, described the misfortunes of his son, afflicted with “the King’s evil” (scrofula, a form of tuberculosis) after surviving smallpox.  His son “was in so much misery, and without hopes of recovery” that Ashley “despaired of his life.”  When Ashley’s son recovered upon taking the “most excellent drops,” the innkeeper felt such “gratitude for so extraordinary a cure” that he “desired this to be made public.”  Furthermore, he invited readers to call at his house, “the Talbot inn, in the Strand,” to learn more and “see the child” for themselves.  Brooks apparently believed that he did not need to say more about Maredant’s Drops.  He depended on the testimonials to do all the necessary marketing.

December 30

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

Pennsylvania Packet (December 30, 1771).

“I am so rejoiced at my own good fortune, that I had almost forgot to thank you for curing my wife of hardness of hearing.”

When Dr. Graham, an “oculist and auralist,” arrived in Philadelphia in the fall of 1771, he placed an advertisement in the November 11, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet to inform “the inhabitants of British America in general, that he may be consulted … in all the disorders of the eyes, and in every species of deafness.”  Like many other physicians who migrated across the Atlantic, he presented his credentials, stating that “after several years study at the justly celebrated University of Edinburgh, he has travelled and attended upon the Hospitals and Infirmaries in London, Edinburgh, [and] Dublin.”  He acknowledged that many “practitioners in physic and surgery, gentlemen eminent in their profession,” already provided their services in Philadelphia, but nonetheless asserted that he “had more experience as an oculist and auralist, than, perhaps, any other Physician and Surgeon on this vast Continent.”  At the end of his advertisements, Graham inserted five short testimonials from patients in towns in New Jersey.

By the end of the year, his advertising strategy consisted almost entirely of publishing testimonials in the Pennsylvania Packet.  The December 30 edition included a “(COPY)” of a letter that the doctor received from John Thomas, a resident of Race Street in Philadelphia.  Thomas explained that he had been “afflicted with the unspeakable misfortune of total deafness in both ears” for thirty years.  He sometimes resorted to “a large trumpet, which assisted my hearing considerably in one ear.”  Upon seeing Graham’s advertisement “in this useful paper,” Thomas sought his services.  As a result of the doctor’s care, he no longer had “the least occasion for the trumpet” because he could “hear ordinary conversation” and could “conduct my business with a satisfaction, that for 30 years past I have been an utter stranger to.” In a postscript, Thomas also revealed that Graham cured his wife of “hardness of hearing, which she had been afflicted with for above fourteen years.”

An editorial note appeared at the end of the advertisement, almost certainly inserted by Graham rather than by the printer.  “As it is impossible for us to insert the great number of cures Dr. Graham has performed since his arrival in this city,” the note declared, “we must therefore refer the public for further information to the Doctor, at his apartments.”  This note seemed to give another third-party recommendation of Graham’s abilities to treat “all the disorders of the eye or its appendages; and in every species of deafness, [and] hardness of hearing,” but John Dunlap, the printer of the Pennsylvania Packet did not sign it.  Rather than a referral from the printer, Graham devised the note to bolster an advertising campaign centered on endorsements from others.  Having introduced himself in previous notices, he disseminated testimonials from local residents to bolster his reputation among prospective patients.

August 21

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 19, 1771).

“He hath to sell also, his Royal Balsam, which is made of American produce.”

Two advertisements for patent medicines appeared among the notices in the August 21, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  In an extensive advertisement that filled an entire column and overflowed into another, William Young promoted “Dr. HILL’S AMERICAN BALSAM.”  Further down that second column, George Weed hawked his own “Royal Balsam” as well as several other nostrums that he compounded to cure “the bloody flux,” coughs, and other maladies.  Weed’s advertisement was much shorter, but the apothecary indicated that he had the capacity to publish a notice just as lengthy as the one inserted by Young.  “He hath by him,” Weed proclaimed, “a considerable number of certificates of extraordinary cures by [his medicines], which he designs to publish in a short time.”  In other words, Weed claimed to have testimonials from actual patients to disseminate among the public.

While Weed supplied a variety of powders, syrups, and tinctures, Young devoted his entire advertisement to the American Balsam.  This remedy bore that name because a physician in London produced it from “American plants, sent to England by that ingenious gentleman Mr. William Young, of Pennsylvania, Botanist to their Majesties the King and Queen of Great-Britain.”  That botanist was the son of the advertiser, whom Hill “appointed the only capital vender of [his medicine] in all America” out of gratitude “to the young gentleman.”  Hill did allow that Young could appoint “whom he pleases under him” to sell the American Balsam.  The elder Young had an exclusive franchise, but appointed local agents in Philadelphia, Germantown, Lancaster, and Wilmington.

Weed divided his advertisement into two portions.  In the first half, he proclaimed that the American Balsam, an imported medicine, “is now so well known in Pennsylvania, Maryland, &c. &c. there is no need of any further recommendation” and then described its effective use among patients in great detail anyway.  The second half consisted of a letter from Hill in which the doctor described the afflictions the medicine cured, outlined the history of its creation and refinement, and endorsed Young as his American purveyor.  Weed did not resort to such a preponderance of prose for his Royal Balsam, produced locally, or invest nearly as much in placing his much shorter advertisement, though the “certificates of extraordinary cures” that he suggested he would soon publish likely rivaled Young’s advertisement in length.  Although  they chose different marketing strategies, Weed and Young both apparently considered their methods worth the expense of placing notices in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.

January 30

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

Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (January 28, 1771).

“I think it my Duty to acquaint the Publick, that I met with a Doctor … [who] made a sound Cure of me.”

One brief advertisement in the supplement that accompanied the January 21, 1771, edition of the Boston-Gazetteconsisted entirely of a testimonial by Eleanor Cooley about the medical services provided by Charles Stephen Letester of Braintree.  Physicians and purveyors of patent medicines sometimes published testimonials as portions of their newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century, but rarely did they confine their advertising solely to testimonials.  Assuming that Letester and Cooley collaborated on the advertisement and Letester paid to insert it in the newspaper, he must have believed that Cooley’s testimonial was sufficient recommendation to convince prospective clients to avail themselves of his services.

WHEREAS I Eleanor Cooley,” the grateful patient declared, “have had a Burst in the Side of my Belly for Twelve Years, with a Dropsey and several other Disorders:  I think it my Duty to acquaint the Publick, that I met with a Doctor in the Town of Braintree, that with the Help of God, has made a sound Cure of me:  His Name is CHARLES STEPHEN LETESTER.”  This testimonial put Letester in competition with others who provided medical care of various sorts, including Oliver Smith.  In an advertisement almost immediately to the left of Cooley’s testimonial, Smith informed readers that he carried a “compleat Assortment of DRUGGS & MEDICINES, Imported in the last Ships from London, and warranted genuine.”  Especially for colonists who had attempted to find relief via various remedies sold by apothecaries, Cooley’s testimonial about Letester may have provided new hope sufficient to incite them to consult with the doctor.

In this instance, Letester did not recite his credentials, his training, his extensive experience, or his prominent clients, strategies often deployed by other doctors in their newspaper advertisements.  Instead, he relied on a firsthand account of his care for a single patient, one who was not famous but perhaps more relatable to prospective clients as a result.