April 21

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

Pennsylvania Journal (April 21, 1773).

“A STAGE WAGGON, to go from Great-Egg-Harbour to Philadelphia.”

Newspaper advertisements kept residents of Philadelphia and its hinterlands informed about transportation infrastructure that connected the busy port to other towns in the 1770s.  Shortly after Rensselaer Williams published his advertisement about the Royal Oak Inn adjacent to the Trenton Ferry and Charles Bessonett promoted his “FLYING MACHINE,” a stagecoach between Philadelphia and Princeton with connections to New York, William McCarrell ran his own advertisement to advise the public that he “has fitted a STAGE WAGGON, to go from Great-Egg-Harbour” in New Jersey “to Philadelphia once every week.”

McCarrell provided a schedule so passengers could plan their journeys.  The stage “set off from Ann Risleys, at Abseekam [Absecon], on Monday mornings” and passed by “Thomas Clark’s mill and the Forks” on its way to the Blue Anchor.  The stage likely stopped at that inn for the night before continuing to Longacoming and Haddonsfield and arriving at Samuel Cooper’s ferry on Tuesday afternoon.  After crossing the Delaware River via the ferry, the stage paused in Philadelphia until Thursday morning before retracing its route and returning to Absecon on Friday afternoon.

In addition to passengers, McCarrell’s stage also carried freight, such as “dry goods or other articles” as well as newspapers and letters, charging four pence each.  McCarrell sought to generate additional revenue with that ancillary service, declaring that “persons that live convenient” to the route “may have the news-papers regular” if they contacted him to make arrangements.  Although his advertisement ran in the Pennsylvania Journal, McCarrell transported any of the newspapers published in Philadelphia at the time, including the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the Pennsylvania Packet.  Each of those publications owed some of its circulation beyond the city to post riders and stage operators.  As a result, McCarrell and his counterparts not only carried passengers and freight but also helped disseminate information throughout the colonies.

April 7

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (April 7, 1773).

“The Royal-Oak INN is removed to Trenton Ferry.”

“The FLYING MACHINE … SETS out on Mondays and Thursdays.”

Several kinds of documents testify to the transportation infrastructure in the colonies during the era of the American Revolution.  Almanacs often included information about roads and ferries that connected cities and towns.  Newspaper advertisements gave details about the stagecoaches that transported passengers and packages from town to town as well as the inns and taverns that provided services along the way.

Such was the case in the April 7, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  In one advertisement, Rensselaer Williams promoted the “Royal-Oak INN” near the Trenton Ferry that connected the New Jersey and Pennsylvania sides of the Delaware River.  Williams previously operated the inn at another location, but recently “removed” to a new location for the convenience of his guests.  He hoped that “the public in general, and his friends in particular” would express their appreciation for this new arrangement by continuing their patronage.  He pledged his “care and diligence” in operating both the inn (“with a stock of liquors”) and the ferry.  Williams asked prospective customers to consider the “many advantages of baiting at a Ferry.”  Modern readers may not be familiar with the term that Williams used, but eighteenth-century readers would have known that “to bait” referred to travelers, as the Oxford English Dictionary indicates, “to stop at an inn, originally to feed the horses, but later also to rest and refresh themselves; hence, to make a brief stay or sojourn.”  By “baiting at a Ferry,” Williams declared, travelers saved time compared to making additional stops to refresh themselves and take care of horses and carriages elsewhere.

In another advertisement, Charles Bessonett similarly emphasized efficiency in marketing the stage service he operated for passengers and goods.  He named his stage the “FLYING MACHINE” to suggest how quickly it covered the distance between Philadelphia and Princeton.  Bessonnett also provided a schedule to demonstrate the speed of the journey to prospective customers.  The stage departed from Philadelphia on Mondays and Thursdays and returned from Princeton on Tuesdays and Fridays.  In Princeton, the Flying Machine met a stagecoach from New York and exchanged passengers.  Bessonnett collaborated with another operator in connecting the two cities.

Colonial printers did not usually organize or classify newspaper advertisements.  That an advertisement for the Royal Oak Inn and Trenton appeared in close proximity to an advertisement for the Flying Machine, separated only by a notice offering hempseed for sale, happened more by coincidence than by design.  Still, the two advertisements gave readers of the Pennsylvania Gazette information about some of the options available to them if they wished to travel to New Jersey or New York or even continue on to New England.

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.

July 31

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 31, 1772).

“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.

July 6

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

Boston Evening-Post (July 6, 1772).


In the early 1770s, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown placed advertisements seeking “encouragement” for stagecoach service they wished to establish between Boston and New York.  In addition to calling on the public to support them by traveling on their stagecoaches, the Browns sought investors “willing to become adventurers … in said undertaking.”  They outlined the various benefits of this service, including increasing commerce in the Connecticut as colonizers traveled through the province instead of bypassing it by sailing from New York to Providence and then continuing overland to Boston.

When summer arrived, the Browns launched the service on a trial basis.  They initially placed an advertisement in the June 25 edition of the New-York Journal to announce that the “STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YORK AND BOSTON … for the first Time sets out this Day.”  In the following days, they placed additional advertisements in the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, and the Connecticut Journal, published in New Haven.  On July 6, their advertisement from the New-York Journal appeared in the Boston Evening-Post, alerting the public at that end of the line that the stagecoach paused in Hartford for a week and would arrive in Boston on July 11.  The Browns planned for the next trip to depart on July 11, so prospective passengers had nearly a week to make plans if they wished to travel at that time.  If demand warranted, the operators intended to “perform the Stage once a Week.”

The advertisement in the Boston Evening-Post included one element not included in the New-York Journal.  A woodcut depicting horses, a driver, and a stagecoach with a passenger visible inside appeared at the top of the advertisement.  That helped to draw attention to their notice by distinguishing it from others, especially since it was the only advertisement in that issue that incorporated an image (though Jolley Allen’s notice on the following page did feature his trademark border).

In hopes that their “Trial” would find sufficient “Encouragement” to establish a permanent route that ran once a week, the Browns placed advertisements in several newspapers along their route.  They did not, however, advertise as extensively as possible, perhaps due to budgetary constraints.  They could have flooded the market with advertising, placing notices in both newspapers printed in New York, all five in Boston, and even any in Philadelphia for prospective passengers who planned to travel north.  Perhaps they wished to assess the return on their investment for their initial round of advertising before expanding to additional publications.

June 26

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

Connecticut Journal (June 26, 1772).

“The Hartford Stage-Coach, will be in New-Haven … on its Way to New York.”

In the early 1770s, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown envisioned a stagecoach route that connected New York and Boston.  They placed advertisements seeking investors in the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, and the Connecticut Journal, published in New Haven.  Such an enterprise, they argued, would benefit residents and entrepreneurs in a colony that travelers often bypassed when they chose to sail between New York and Providence and then continue to Boston via stage.  In the summer of 1772, the Browns inserted an advertisement in the New-York Journal to announce a trial run for their service between New York and Boston.

At the same time that they sought passengers from New York and its hinterlands, the Browns placed new notices in the Connecticut Courant and the Connecticut Journal.  For instance, Jonathan advertised that the “Hartford Stage-Coach, will be in New-Haven … on its Way to New York” in the June 26, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Journal.  He stated that “any Gentlemen or Ladies that may want a Conveyance there, or to any Place on the Road, between this Town and that City, may be accommodated in said Coach.”  In an advertisement that appeared in the Connecticut Courant on June 16, Jonathan declared that he “furnished himself with a convenient Coach and suitable horses” to provide service between Hartford and New York.”  In the same issue, Nicholas declared that he “purposes to have a Stage Coach going from this Place to Boston every Fortnight during the Summer.”  The success of the larger venture depended not only on passengers who made the journey between Boston and New York but also on other customers who paid fares to travel shorter distances.  In their efforts to attract those customers, the Browns marketed their service in several newspapers that circulated in Connecticut even as they sought passengers from beyond New England via notices in the New-York Journal.

June 25

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

New-York Journal (June 25, 1772).


Two months after they placed an advertisement seeking investors in their stagecoach service in the Connecticut Courant, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown informed readers of the New-York Journal that the “STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YORK AND BOSTON … for the first Time sets out this Day.”  The route took passengers through Connecticut “by Way of Hartford.”  In an advertisement that ran in the Connecticut Journal nine months earlier, Nicholas Brown lamented that “Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces, travelling to Boston … generally go by Water from New-York to Providence,” never passing through towns in Connecticut.  He hoped that reliable stagecoach service would “increase the Intercourse between the two Towns of Hartford and New-Haven as well as connect them to major urban ports.

The Browns did not mention that objective when they sought passengers in New York, though they did note that when the stagecoaches that simultaneously departed from Boston and New York met in Hartford they continued the journey “after staying a Week.”  That meant that travelers had time to conduct business in Connecticut.  As they passed through the colony, the stagecoaches “always put up at Houses on the Road where the best Entertainment is provided.”  The Browns assured prospective passengers that they could expect good food and lodging while traveling between New York and Boston.  They could also “depend on good Usage” by drivers and a “reasonable Rate” for their baggage.

In their efforts to convince prospective passengers to choose their service over alternate routes, the Browns asked “Gentlemen and Ladies … to encourage this useful, new, and expensive Undertaking.”  They did not mean that customers paid high prices, but instead that the enterprise was expensive for the Browns to operate.  They made that clear in previous advertisements seeking investors.  They intended to communicate that their passengers actually got quite a bargain when they chose to travel via stagecoach between New York and Boston.  The Browns hoped customers would agree, stating that they would schedule weekly departures if they “find Encouragement” after the inaugural journey.  After months of planning, they managed a “Trial.”  The success of that trial depended in part on passengers responding to their advertisements.

May 15

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

New-London Gazette (May 15, 1772).

“A STAGE-WAGGON … from Sagharbour on Long-Island, to New-York.”

Newspaper advertisements documented some of the transportation infrastructure established in the colonies in the early 1770s.  The May 15, 1772, edition of the New-London Gazette, for instance, carried an advertisement for a “STAGE-WAGGON” that operated between New York City and Sag Harbor, a village on Long Island, and an advertisement for “Passage-Boats” that connected New London and Norwich.

Samuel Stockwell and John Springer informed readers who needed to travel or transport goods along the Thames River between New London on the coast and Norwich in the interior of the colony that their boats “Continue to ply every Day, Wind and Weather permitting.”  They pledged to keep to their schedule as faithfully as possible.  Stockwell and Springer included images of two vessels in their advertisement, simultaneously suggesting their industriousness and the destinations they served.

A more extensive advertisement for the wagon between New York and Sag Harbor explained that the route “will greatly facilitate the travelling between the New England and Southern Provinces.  That was made possible by combining travel on the wagon with sailing on “a Passage-Boat kept by James Wiggins” that crossed Long Island Sound between Sag Harbor and New London twice a week.  The wagon service departed from both New York and Sag Harbor on Monday mornings.  When they met, they exchanged passengers.  Travelers arrived at their destination by Wednesday evening.  Conveniently, the boat for New London departed “every Thursday Morning, and returns again … on Saturdays.”  Passengers sailing that direction arrived in time to catch a wagon headed to New York on Monday morning.

These two advertisements provided sufficient information for readers to plan trips between Norwich and New York, their journey involving two boats and two wagons in a little less than a week.  In an advertisement for his own stagecoach service in the Connecticut Journal, Nicholas Brown asserted that “Gentlemen from the Southern Provinces, travelling to Boston … generally go by Water from New-York to Providence.”  The advertisements in the New-London Gazetteillustrate other routes available to travelers in New England and New York.

April 16

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

Connecticut Courant (April 16, 1771).

“All gentlemen passengers, [who are] inclined to favour him with their custom[, will] meet with good usage, from their humb[le ser]vant.”

From the early spring through the late fall, Jeremiah Lord operated a “Passage-Boat” or ferry that transported passengers along the Connecticut River and crossed the Long Island Sound, connecting the inland village of Middletown, Connecticut, and the coastal towns of Saybrook, Connecticut, and Sag Harbor, New York.  The passage boat sailed from Middletown on the first and third Monday each month and returned from Sag Harbor the following Thursday, “winds and weather permitting.”  Each passenger paid “half a Dollar” if on foot and twice as much if transporting a horse.

Though dated “March 1771,” Lord’s advertisement first appeared in the Connecticut Courant, printed in Hartford, on April 9.  It then ran for two more weeks.  That it appeared more than once allows historians and other modern readers to discover many of the details obscured in the April 16 edition as a result of collection and preservation practices.  Many eighteenth-century newspapers currently in the collections of research libraries have not been preserved as single issues but instead have been bound together with others.  Depending on the size of the newspaper and its frequency of publication, those volumes include six months, an entire year, or even more issues.  Because they have been bound, the newspapers can no longer be laid flat.  For newspapers with generous margins, this does not matter, but for this with narrow margins it means that often some of the text has been absorbed into the binding.  Often this affects only a small portion of the text, perhaps the last couple of letters at the edge of the column, but in other instances even more text remains hidden by the binding.  Such is the case with the rightmost column on the first and last pages and the leftmost column on the second and third pages of the April 16 edition of the Connecticut Courant.

Modern readers interested in advertising overcome this obstacle by examining other issues.  Advertisements ran multiple times, their placement on the page usually changing.  Lord’s advertisement, for instance, did not appear in the column adjacent to the binding in the April 9 and April 23 editions.  It is more difficult to recover the contents of news accounts, letters, and other items usually printed only once.  Even when most of the print remains legible, other aspects of the production or preservation of historical newspapers conceal portions of the contents.