December 27

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 27, 1768).

“Certificates of which, she can produce from the Gentleman whose Lectures she attended.”

When Mrs. Grant arrived in South Carolina in late 1768, she placed an advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to inform colonists in her new home that “she proposed to practise MIDWIFERY.” In introducing herself to the public, she deployed many of the same strategies as her male counterparts, though she also expanded on some of them.

As a newcomer, Grant did not benefit from having a reputation gained from building a clientele over the years. Instead, she needed to offer assurances that she was indeed capable of providing the services she claimed. To that end, she first emphasized her credentials, formal training, and experience. She was qualified to practice midwifery, “having studied that Art regularly, and practised it afterwards with success at EDINBURGH.” When men who provided medical services moved to a new town or city in the colonies and placed advertisements, they usually provided a similar overview. Grant, however, did not expect her prospective clients to trust the word of a stranger when it came to such an important service. In addition to noting her training and experience, she stated that she could produce “Certificates … from the Gentleman whose Lectures she attended, and likewise from the Professors of Anatomy and Practice of Physic” in Edinburgh. Male practitioners rarely offered documentation to confirm their narratives. In an era during which medicine increasingly became professionalized (and, as part of that process, masculine), Grant may have believed that she need to do more in order to level the playing field when competing with male counterparts for clients.

To help establish her reputation, Grant also indicated in a nota bene that she would “assist the Poor, gratis.” Doing so allowed her to demonstrate her skills while simultaneously testifying to her good character and commitment to her new community. She was not alone in offering free services to the poor as a means of introducing herself. Men sometimes did so as well. Still, Grant may have considered it especially imperative as a way of breaking into the market upon arriving as a stranger in Charleston.

December 21

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

Dec 21 - 12:21:1767 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (December 21, 1767).

John M’Lane stop’d last Wednesday Night a Large Silver Spoon.”

Watchmaker John McLane advertised his services in the Boston Post-Boy for several weeks in December 1767. He relied on two marketing strategies to attract potential clients, one commonly used by artisans and the other a clever innovation that testified to his character in addition to his credentials.

McLane opened his advertisement with a recitation of his training to assure customers that he was qualified to work as a watchmaker. He had completed an apprenticeship, having “serv’d his Time in Dublin to one of the best Finishers there.” On its own, this might have impressed prospective clients, but McLane also reported that he received additional training when he “work’d in London for improvement.” Artisans who migrated across the Atlantic frequently asserted their connections to the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in the empire, often providing details about their previous training and work.

McLane’s second strategy, however, deviated from colonial artisans’ usual marketing practices. He appended a nota bene that reported he had “stop’d last Wednesday Night a large Silver Spoon.” In other words, a man that McLane deemed untrustworthy had attempted to sell him a spoon, but the watchmaker suspected stolen goods. He confiscated the spoon and advertised descriptions of both the spoon and the man who attempted to sell it to him. The owner, upon recognizing the monogram or “Marks of the Spoon,” could contact McLane to have it returned.

When he “stop’d” the silver spoon, McLane prevented it from circulating in an informal economy or black market, an alternative means for many colonists to participate in the consumer revolution. Less scrupulous artisans would have purchased it at a bargain price and not questioned how the stranger who presented the spoon had acquired it. By taking this action, McLane demonstrated his character to potential customers in a manner they might remember longer than they would recall his training in Dublin and additional experience in London. Not only was he skilled, he was also trustworthy.

May 28

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

May 28 - 5:28:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (May 28, 1767).

“Have their Work done by Men who have been regularly brought up to the different Branches of Trade.”

Elkanah and William Deane made coaches “At their Shop in Broad-Street, New-York.” At the same location they also did “Coach-Harness Work, and Saddler’s-Work of every Kind.” The Deanes apparently were not impressed with many of their competitors, issuing sharp words about the quality of work customers could expect from other shops. In a nota bene they asserted, “The above named DEANE’S, have their Work done by Men who have been regularly brought up to different Branches of Trade, and not be Apprentice Boy’s, whose Master’s never knew the Business, or perhaps ever saw a Coach making in their Lives.”

The quality promised by the Deanes resulted from specialized training by qualified artisans. They accused competitors of hiring workers who had supposedly been through apprenticeships, but they cast doubt on the caliber of expertise and experience possessed by some of the supposed masters who trained the next generation of coachmakers and artisans in related occupations, such as harnessmakers and saddlers. The Deanes warned that prospective customers needed to heed not only the credentials of the coachmaker who ran a shop but also those of anyone employed in that shop. After all, the owner of a shop did not undertake all the work but instead distributed it and oversaw the labor of others. The Deanes took responsibility for the work done by every employee in their shop, pledging that they only hired experienced “Men who have been regularly brought up to the different Branches of Trade.”

Assuring potential customers of the quality of the work produced in their shop was so important to the Deanes that they offered a one-year guarantee. Whether repairs to coaches or new harnesses or saddles, everything that came out of their shop was “warranted for Twelve Months.” By providing a guarantee, the Deanes underscored that their scathing comments about training and expertise were not merely idle boasts. They could afford to guarantee their work because they were so confident in their own skills and experience as well as those of everyone who worked in their shop.