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.

August 31

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

Aug 31 - 8:31:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (August 31, 1767).

“Stage-Coach No. I. … SETS out on every Tuesday Morning.”

Thomas Sabin operated “Stage-Coach No. 1” between Boston and Providence. He had a flair for attracting attention to his transportation services, having advertised the previous summer that travelers would ride in “a most curious four wheeled Carriage, called the AETHERIAL VEHICLE.” Yet Sabin realized that generating business required more than just associating snappy names with the carriages that transported his passengers.

In particular, he advertised widely in both cities. His notice appeared week after week in the Providence Gazette, the only newspaper printed in that city in 1767. In addition, he placed advertisements in at least three out of four of the newspapers published in Boston. On August 31, the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Boston Post-Boy carried identical notices, each with an impressive headline for “Stage-Coach No. 1.”

Sabin neglected only one newspaper, the Massachusetts Gazette, the only Boston newspaper distributed on Thursdays rather than Mondays. Here Sabin missed an opportunity to reach as many potential customers as possible by spreading out his advertisements in multiple newspapers. Or did he? Note the schedule for the Boston to Providence journey. His stagecoach departed on Thursdays. Perhaps Sabin did not consider advertising in the Massachusetts Gazette worth the investment since readers obtained their copies just as he left town. It may have made more sense to advertise widely on Mondays, giving potential passengers three days to make arrangements. He observed a similar schedule in Providence, where his advertisements appeared in a newspaper printed on Saturdays and clients had three days to book seats for departure on the following Tuesday.

Some eighteenth-century advertisers made efforts to maximize the number of potential customers exposed to their marketing efforts. In cities with multiple newspapers, they industriously placed the same notice in each of them. Sabin adopted this strategy, but adapted it to fit the particular circumstances of how his business operated.

May 26

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

May 26 - 5:26:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 26, 1767).

“Good horses and chairs, which he will hire out by the day.”

Personal transportation was a major investment in eighteenth-century America, just as it continues to be today. Not all colonists could afford to own horses, considering the costs of stabling, feeding, and caring for them. Even for those with horses, coaches and carriages were another significant expense, one often incurred only by the most affluent colonists who wished to demonstrate their gentility and wealth through conspicuous displays of consumption.

The costs, however, did not put the use of horse and carriage completely beyond the means of colonists who did not rank among the elite. Those who did not have either cause or the means to own horses or carriages of their own could rent them from entrepreneurs who took advantage of that void in the marketplace. Thomas Eustace, for instance, advertised that he had “purchased some good horses and chairs, which he will hire out by the day.” (Colonists used the term “chair” generically to denote all sorts of carriages.) In choosing the device to identify his location, Eustace positioned such rentals as a central component of his business: he could be found “at the sign of the Horse and Chair.” There he also stabled horses and “proposes taking in wagons” for the night. In effect, he provided parking in the bustling port of Charleston.

Eustace’s approach to providing personal transportation for other colonists anticipated practices commonly associated with the age of automobiles, but he was not the only innovative entrepreneur who pioneered what may otherwise seem to be particularly modern practices. The day before Eustace advertised in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Adino Paddock informed readers of the Boston-Gazette that in addition to making new coaches he also had to sell “a second-hand Phaeton, two Curricles, several Chaises and Chairs.” In addition he “will take old Chaises in part Pay for new.” Paddock had been offering used vehicles and trade ins for at least the better part of a year. Two days after Eustace’s advertisement, John Mercereau and John Barnhill inserted a notice in the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy to promote their “Stage-Waggons” that ran between Philadelphia and New York, complete with a woodcut of horses pulling a covered wagon. They ran a shuttle service not unlike buses that connect major urban centers today.

Thomas Eustace’s plan to “hire out” horses and carriages “by the day” was part of a larger network of services that made personal transportation accessible to greater numbers of people in eighteenth-century America. Some of the practices easily associated with the age of automobiles had precursors in the colonial era.

February 26

GUEST CURATOR: Samuel Birney

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

feb-26-2261767-massachusetts-gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (February 26, 1767).

“TO BE SOLD A standing Top-Chaise … and a very neat Sulkey.”

The advertisement featured today offered two types of carriages, “A standing Top-Chaise” and “a very neat Sulkey.” As the colonies expanded and populations grew, carriages became an important means of travel within cities and between colonies. Colonists made, bought, and used a variety of carriages, also commonly referred to as chairs, chaises, chariots, gigs, whiskeys, and sulkies.

According to Mary R.M. Goodwin, a chaise, which was interchangeable with the term chair, was a “light open carriage for one or two persons, often having a top or calash; those with four wheelers resembling a phaeton, those with two the curricle; also loosely used for pleasure carts and light carriages generally.” Goodwin consulted William Felton’s Treatise on Carriages, published in London in 1796, to describe sulkies. Sulkies were single seated “small, light four-wheeled vehicle, ‘built exactly in the form of a Post-chaise, Chariot, or Demi-Landau.’” Although some accounts referred to them as two-wheelers, the defining feature of the sulkey was its single person carrying capacity, basically making it a private and personal means of transportation. (For more information about the different kinds of carriages Goodwin mentions, see “Wheeled Carriages in Eighteenth-Century Virginia.”)

Carriages were either privately owned by the wealthy who could afford to purchase either locally built or imported carriages. By the 1760s, sometimes they were operated by local companies that charged for transportation.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

As Sam indicates, affluent colonists imported carriages of all sorts from England, but by the 1760s coachmakers set up shops and advertised their wares in the largest American cities, sometimes noting that they consulted imported pattern books in order to produce carriages of the same style and quality as those available in London and other English cities. For instance, just a few days after today’s featured advertisement appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette, Hawes and Company, “Coach-makers,” inserted a lengthy notice about their services in the Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette.

Today’s advertisement does not indicate the place of production for any of the conveyances it offered, but it does reveal a significant aspect of the marketplace in the revolutionary era. Just as many colonists acquired secondhand clothing and other goods, a market for used carriages emerged. The previous summer Adino Paddock, who followed “the Coach and Chaise-making Business” at a shop in Boston, advertised that he “always [had] a Number of second-hand Chaises to dispose of, very cheap.” Similarly, Hawes and Company’s advertisement noted that in addition to new carriages they also sold “on the most reasonable Terms, TWO second hand POST-CHAISES, a FAMILY COACH, and several CHAIRS.” Consumers who could not afford new carriages could discover a bargain when considering used ones instead.

The anonymous seller of “a very neat Sulkey” and a “standing Top-Chaise” may have found that maintaining these carriages was no longer practical or affordable. Alternately, the seller may have been in the process of acquiring a new – perhaps more impressive or fashionable – carriage and hoped to apply the proceeds from the sale of the chaise and sulkey to the purchase. If that was the case, the seller presumably was not dealing with Paddock, who pledged that he “will take old Chaises as Part of Pay for new.” These examples reveal that the marketing and financing of cars in twentieth and early twenty-first century resemble techniques launched by coachmakers in the eighteenth century.

 

October 5

GUEST CURATOR: Elizabeth Curley

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

oct-5-1041766-new-london-gazette
New-London Gazette (October 3, 1766).

“A Passage Boat … is now Established between Long-Island and New-London.”

A “Passage Boat” between New London, Connecticut, and Long Island, New York, was a quicker way of travelling than by over land. Ebenezer Webb pointed out that passengers would save fifty miles when they traveled to New York. Webb also developed a schedule and a system of rates, which allowed passengers to be able to plan their passage. Printing the schedule in an advertisement allowed prospective customers to save it if needed for future reference. Webb also made sure to include where he could be found at both locations; he gave the locations of the taverns and which days he would be in what area.   He also let potential customers know that if they would like to become customers of the New-London Gazette, he would drop them off on any of the islands off the coast of Long Island. Those islands included Shelter Island, Plum Island, and Gardiners Island. Another courtesy that passengers in Sterling could enjoy was a “Ferry-Boat” for carrying them to Shelter Island. Webb listed three different rates, which needed to be paid in New York currency. The different rates included “Man and Horse” for eight shillings, a “single Passenger” for three shillings, and for “Packs or Bundles” of goods it depended on their weight.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Today’s advertisement provides important information about ferry service between Connecticut and Long Island during the colonial period, reminding us that the most efficient forms of travel in the eighteenth century differed from modern conveniences made possible by a much more complex transportation infrastructure. As Elizabeth notes, colonists who needed to travel from New London to New York could shave fifty miles off their journey, plus benefit from “the excellent Road on the Island,” if they opted for Webb’s “Passage Boat” service rather than traveling via a land route. In comparison, ferry service today does not seem to offer the same advantages, given the conveniences of travel by car, bus, and train.

I found the final portion of this advertisement to be especially interesting for what it suggests about the business practices and distribution of the New-London Gazette. Webb noted that he would deliver the newspaper to “Those Person on any of the Islands that encline to become Customers.” Despite the distance between New London and those islands (and their separation by Long Island Sound), the New-London Gazette would have been a local newspaper for residents of the islands, at least as much of a local newspaper as those printed in New York. The printer of the New-London Gazette certainly welcomed opportunities to increase distribution to paying subscribers and would have approved of Webb’s efforts to deliver newspapers to Shelter Island and other locales. Given that they were associates in that regard, might the printer have given Webb a discount on advertisements for the ferry service? After all, Webb’s success could also drum up additional business for the New-London Gazette, a mutually beneficial relationship.

August 23

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

Aug 23 - 8:23:1766 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (August 23, 1766).

“A most curious four wheeled Carriage, called the AETHERIAL VEHICLE.”

Thomas Sabin provided transportation between Providence and Boston “or elsewhere” for his clients, but he marketed an experience (not unlike modern car manufacturers and airlines). According to his advertisement, the important part of a trip was not necessarily arriving at the destination. Instead, enjoying the journey itself, including the amenities of his “AETHERIAL VEHICLE,” transformed getting from here to there into an event itself.

This was no ordinary “four wheeled Carriage,” Sabin proclaimed. A variety of factors, including its “wonderful and most elegant Construction,” merited an equally wonderful and most elegant name – the “AETHERIAL VEHICLE” – that distinguished it from any of the other carriages, coaches, chaises, phaetons, and, especially, stage wagons common in colonial America.

Sabin conjured up images of practically gliding from place to place, compared to the bumpy ride passengers experienced when using other wheeled vehicles. “It is airy, and more easy than any other Carriage,” he explained. “It would be almost impossible to describe it’s uncommon Machinery in Words, so as to give an adequate Idea of its Ease and Use.” Sabin implicitly challenged readers with doubts about the accuracy of this hyperbolic description to engage his services and judge for themselves, a crafty way to generate more business.

He also deployed another strategy to encourage the curious to become customers. “Those who are not inclined to ride in it, and desire to see it, shall be waited upon by the Owner to view it, when in his Coach House, gratis.” Once Sabin had potential customers in his “Coach House” and was able to speak to them directly, he could work on convincing them to hire his “AETHERIAL VEHICLE.” It’s difficult to know Sabin conducted himself in person, but it’s possible he could have given the same sort of hard sell that modern consumers encounter when they visit car dealerships.

At the very least, Sabin assured clients that they would receive special treatment when they rode the “AETHERIAL VEHICLE.” He promised that “besides the Satisfaction of being conveyed in so convenient a Machine,” customers “may depend upon the most ready Observance of their Desires, and punctual Compliance with their Commands.” For colonists, this would have been the equivalent of hiring a limousine or flying first class.

July 13

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

Jul 13 - 7:11:1766 Advert 2 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (July 11, 1766).

“The Portsmouth PACKET sails for Boston next Monday.”

This advertisement caught my eye thanks to its fairly unique format. It ran across the bottom of the three columns on the second page of the July 11, 1766, issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette. It briefly announced that “The Portsmouth PACKET sails for Boston next Monday. Those who incline to go to Commencement may have a Passage, &c.” While it was short on details, the advertisers assumed that readers had sufficient background knowledge to fill in the gaps on their own.

For readers who read or examined this newspaper long after it was published, another advertisement at the bottom of the third column on the facing page told more of the story.

Jul 13 - 7:11:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (July 11, 1766).

(As an aside, I note that the third page is not the facing page when accessing this issue digitally since only one page at a time can be accessed and viewed. This creates yet another distinction between the manner in which eighteenth-century readers consumed newspapers and modern readers experience their digital surrogates. Researchers working with original newspapers, however, benefit from a better impression of the visual composition of multiple pages in relation to each other.)

This second advertisement revised the schedule for the stagecoach that regularly traveled between Portsmouth and Boston. Instead of leaving on the following Tuesday, it was instead scheduled to depart on Monday “for the better Convenience of those who may incline to go to the ensuing Commencement at Cambridge, on Wednesday next.”

The Commencement ceremony at Harvard College was a significant enough event that the providers of multiple forms of transportation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, placed advertisements intended to facilitate travel to it and attract passengers. Their advertisements on facing pages created competition between two modes of transportation, a stagecoach by land or a ship by sea.

April 24

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

Apr 24 - 4:24:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 24, 1766).

“The Stage Wagon … intends to perform the Journey from Philadelphia to New-York in two Days.”

Today it takes only a couple of hours or less to travel between Philadelphia and New York by planes, trains, or automobiles, but in the eighteenth century going from one of these urban ports to the other required much more time. John Barnhill and John Masherew offered a service intended to transport colonists between the two cities as quickly and efficiently as possible (and as comfortably as well: note that “the Waggon-Seats [were] to be set on Springs”).

This journey could be completed in the impressively short span of two days between April and November, but required three days in the winter months. To make this possible, Barnhill and Masherew pooled their resources. Each offered a service that extended into the hinterland around their respective cities, but neither sent their “Stage Waggon” between the two destinations. Instead, Barnhill operated between Philadelphia and Prince Town (now Princeton, New Jersey) and Masherew offered service from New York to Prince Town. At Prince Town, passengers switched from one “Stage Waggon” to the other. Each leg of the journey took a day (or a day and a half in the winter).

The advertisement indicates Barnhill and Masherew began advertising this service before it appeared in the April 24, 1766, issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette: “commencing the 14th Day of April next.” The notation on the final line – “* 6 W.” – was likely a reminder to the printer to insert the advertisement in six consecutive issues over the course of six weeks.