January 23

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

Jan 23 - 1:23:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (January 23, 1768).

“Three very compleat Stage-Boats, for the Carriage of GOODS and PASSENGERS.”

In the late 1760s, Thomas Lindsey and Benjamin Lindsey frequently advertised their ferry service or “STAGE-BOATS from Providence to Newport” in the Providence Gazette, sometimes directly competing with advertisements inserted by Joshua Hacker. That competition may have inspired the Lindseys to provide additional services and market them in their notices aimed at potential customers. In November 1767, Hacker had upstaged them when he published a list of prices and promoted several services he provided gratis, including storage of goods at his warehouse until they were ready for shipment. The Lindseys’ advertisement that ran at the same time much more briefly promised “excellent Accommodations for Passengers.”

In their subsequent advertisement, however, the Lindseys elaborated on the sort of experience travelers could expect on their “very compleat Stage-Boats.” As a convenience for their passengers, they “supply their Boats with Provisions and Liquors of all Kinds” to make the journey more enjoyable. Furthermore, they also pledged that “Passengers will be treated in the most genteel Manner.” In addition, the Lindseys augmented their schedule, sailing between Providence and Newport “every Day” instead of “twice a Week” as they had done just a couple of months earlier. In that regard, they now matched Hacker’s itinerary, making their schedule just as convenient for prospective clients. For customers who wished to ship commodities, they now offered “a convenient Store for the Reception of Goods, with Conveniences for weighing the same, at Arnold’s Wharff.” Again, their services matched those Hacker previously outlined in his advertisement.

The differences between the Lindseys’ advertisements published in November 1767 and January 1768 suggest that they determined that they needed to augment their services if they wanted to compete with Hacker. Yet improving their services was not sufficient: they also needed to market them in the public prints lest Hacker become the preferred carrier of passengers and goods between the two ports by default. They did not want potential clients to gain the impression Hacker offered superior services based on the more extensive advertising campaign he previously launched. The Lindseys may have considered their expanded services and expanded advertisement necessary to maintain and improve their position in the marketplace, especially if they felt they previously had been at a deficit that resulted from Hacker besting their advertisements with his own.

November 14

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

Nov 14 - 11:14:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (November 14, 1767).

He has two swift-sailing small Sloops, which ply constantly between Providence and Newport.”

Readers of the Providence Gazette encountered two advertisements for ferries between Providence and Newport on the final page of the November 14 edition. The operators adopted different strategies in promoting their services. Thomas Lindsey and Benjamin Lindsey inserted a short, streamlined advertisement to announce that their “STAGE-BOATS … ply twice a Week … with GOODS and PASSENGERS.” They made a nod toward customer service, assuring prospective customers that they “may depend on being faithfully served,” and concluded with standard language about the “excellent Accommodations for Passengers.” They dressed up their advertisement with a woodcut of a ship, which likely attracted attention since it was the only image that accompanied an advertisement in the entire issue.

Joshua Hacker devised a much more extensive advertisement. Even without a woodcut, its length and the table of fees distinguished it visually from the other advertisements on the same page. Hacker elaborated on many of the marketing appeals made by the Lindseys; he also launched additional appeals intended to convince prospective clients to choose him over his competitors. While the Lindseys sailed twice a week, Hacker’s sloops “set off every Day … Wind and Weather permitting.” Instead of using formulaic phrases that consistently appeared in other advertisements offering passage, Hacker expanded on the “exceeding good Accommodations,” promising that passengers “can be as comfortable on board … as in their Parlours.” Hacker did not merely reiterate stock phrases used in advertisements throughout the colonies. He exerted additional effort in writing copy to make it resonate with potential customers.

He also incorporated additional justifications for selecting his business over others. Not only did he make an appeal to price – “the very cheapest rates” – he provided a list of more than a dozen specific rates, including nine pence for a single passenger, three shillings for a four-wheeled carriage, and three shillings for a barrel of cargo. To cultivate customers, he also offered some services gratis. He informed those who wished to ship goods between the two ports that “he hath a convenient Store for depositing such Goods,” a warehouse where they would be stored for free. Hacker also made an appeal to his long experience, noting that he had “for upwards of ten Years, carried on this Business.”

Neither the Lindseys nor Hacker merely announced that they operated ferry and freight service between Providence and Newport. Both advanced appeals intended to make their businesses attractive to prospective clients, yet their approaches differed significantly. The Lindseys relied on methods already in use by their counterparts who advertised similar services in other colonial ports. Hacker, however, offered a much more innovative advertisement that further developed existing marketing strategies.