March 26

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (March 26, 1773).

“Hart and Davis Inform their Friends and Customers; that their Stage for Passengers setts out for Boston every Friday Morning.”

Theodore Davis began offering stagecoach service between Portsmouth and Boston during the final days of 1772 and continued in 1773.  In advertisements that ran in the New-Hampshire Gazette in late December and early January, he advised prospective clients that his stage “will set off, on Mondays, from here, and return on Fridays.”  That provoked a response from John Stavers, who had operated similar service for more than a decade.  He objected to Davis attempted to siphon off customers from his weekly trip to Boston that departed on Tuesdays, stating that he “has always been ready to serve [passengers] on Monday, as well as Tuesdays, if their Business required it.”  He also presented an appeal that he advanced on previous occasions when he faced competition.  Stavers believed that his long experience as “the first Promoter of a Stage Coach in this Province” entitled him to “the Preference” of prospective clients.

Perhaps passengers found Stavers’s argument convincing.  Within a couple of months, Davis took a partner, Benjamin Hart, and revised his schedule.  Less than a year earlier, Hart had been a junior partner in the firm of Stavers and Hart. Now, he received first billing in the new partnership of Hart and Davis.  In addition, the stage departed “from Mr. HART’s House, near the Ferry in Portsmouth; where all Baggage, Bundles, &c. will be received and delivered as directed.”  Davis previously did not offer information about the terminus in Boston, but the new partners promoted the accommodations at the other end of the line, advising that their stage “Puts up at Mrs. Beans, Lower End of King-Street, Boston.”

For the convenience of passengers, the stage “setts out for Boston every Friday Morning,” rather than Monday mornings, thus putting it on a half-week interval with Stavers’s stage.  Some customers may have found that the Tuesday and Friday options suited their needs better than clustering departures at the beginning of the week.  That Hart and Davis adopted a new schedule suggests that they believed sufficient demand existed for two stages to operate simultaneously, provided that they stagger their trips to Boston.  They may have also believed that they could cultivate additional demand through expanding the options available to prospective passengers, thus benefitting both Stavers and themselves.  Such competition had the potential to yield more business for both stagecoach services as their operators participated in improving the transportation infrastructure in New England in the early 1770s.

January 15

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (January 15, 1773).

“He has set up a STAGE between this Town and Boston.”

As the new year arrived, Theodore Davis launched a new enterprise, informing the public that he established stage service between Portsmouth and Boston.  He first advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette on December 25, 1772, and then continued placing notices in January 1773.  He had at least one competitor.  John Stavers had been operating a stage along that route for more than a decade, sometimes in partnership with others.

Realizing that he was a newcomer on the scene, Davis advised prospective passengers that he “served his Apprenticeship in the Business,” though he did not give more details.  Perhaps he had previously worked on a route that connected other towns or perhaps he had been involved with one of the competitors that periodically challenged Stavers or perhaps he had even worked with Stavers and now challenged him for business.  Whatever his background, Davis claimed that he was “well acquainted with the best Houses of Entertainment” and other amenities on the route between Portsmouth and Boston.  His advertisement suggested that some prospective clients did know him from one of the stages that plied that route; he requested “the Continuance of their Favours, as he now sets out on his own Account.”

New-Hampshire Gazette (January 15, 1773).

One aspect of Davis’s service certainly distinguished it from the stage operated by Stavers.  Davis departed on Mondays, a day before Stavers made the journey.  When Stavers answered Davis’s advertisement with a notice of his own in the January 15, 1773, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, he expressed some exasperation with that ploy.  As he had done on other occasions, he underscored that he established the first route between Portsmouth and Boston, declaring himself “the first Promoter of a Stage Coach in this Province.”  Accordingly, he felt a sense of entitlement, this time adding that “the Public will think he ought to have the Preference, and not countenance others in taking Passengers the beginning of the Week.”  Besides, he lamented, he had a history of accommodating his passengers and “has always been ready to serve them on Monday, as well as Tuesdays, if their Business required it.”  To make that possible, Stavers “expended a large sum of Money.”  The veteran stage operator did more than emphasize his long experience.  He attempted to leverage a sense of obligation on the part of prospective passengers.

That may have been an effective strategy for Stavers, at least in the past.  After all, other competitors had not managed to put him out of business.  Still, he believed that Davis’s new service infringed on a clientele that rightfully should have belonged to him and could have an impact on his livelihood.  He called on his “old Customers and others” to engage his services rather than choosing an upstart who was relatively new to route connecting Portsmouth and Boston.