What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Allowing each passenger a small Bundle in their own Care.”
Advertisements in colonial newspapers aid in reconstructing transportation networks in early America. A series of advertisements by Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown, for instance, gave details of a new stagecoach route between New York and Boston that they established in the summer of 1772. They initially declared that they would undertake a “Trial” and if they “find Encouragement, they will perform the Stage once a Week.” That trial apparently achieved sufficient success for them to continue the venture. They continued to advertise in the July 30, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal.
By that time, John Stavers and Benjamin Hart had much more experience operating their own stagecoach service between Boston and Portsmouth. In an advertisement in the August 8, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, Stavers stated that he had been in business “for Ten Years past.” Stavers and Hart placed an advertisement in the July 31, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette to “Inform the Public, That their Carriages still continue to ply,” having survived a challenge posed by a newcomer who set up a competing service the previous summer. Thanks to Stavers and Hart and the Browns, colonizers could travel via stage between Portsmouth and New York, if they desired an alternative to sailing between the two ports.
In addition to providing their schedule, Stavers and Hart used their advertisement to promote various aspects of their service. They charged “the customary price of Three Dollars,” asserting it was a good bargain and “as low as the Fare for the same Distance in any Stage Coach in America.” They also advised prospective passengers that they needed to pay “half on engaging a passage, the other half at the last Stage, or on leaving the Carriage.” They claimed they asked for half in advance “to prevent Disappointment.” Such a means of securing a reservation worked in favor of both travelers and the stagecoach operators. Passengers paid for “All Baggage, Bundles, [and] Trunks … according to their Weight and size.” Stavers and Hart did not allow for any complimentary “checked items,” but they did permit “carryon items.” Each passenger could board the coach with “a small Bundle in their own Care.”
Stavers and Hart, like other stagecoach operators, sought to make travel appear attractive to prospective customers. They promised good customer service for passengers, pledging “all Favours acknowledged by their very humble Service.” In giving their schedule, they promoted the convenience of traveling via their stagecoaches. They also incorporated other appeals, proclaiming that they offered bargain prices and inviting passengers to board with personal items that did not require additional fees. Over time, the travel industry refined marketing strategies already in use during the era of the American Revolution.