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).

“THE STAGE-COACH Between NEW-YORK and BOSTON.”

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).

“STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YOK AND BOSTON.”

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.

August 8

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

Aug 8 - 8:6:1770 Pennsylvania Chronicle
Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 6, 1770).

“The FLYING MACHINE.”

Partners John Barnhill and John Mercereau took different approaches to adverting their stage wagon service between New York and Philadelphia in 1770.  Barnhill was responsible for operations in Philadelphia, while Mercereau ran his portion of the business in New York.  Presumably, each partner handled marketing in the city at his end of the circuit.

Barnhill placed a brief advertisement in the August 6, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Extending only three lines, it announced that “The FLYING MACHINE, kept by JOHN BARNHILL in Elm-street, sets out for New-York, on Mondays and Thursdays, and performs the Journey in TWO DAYS.”  A small manicule directed readers to the notice, but otherwise it was unadorned.  (The printing ornaments below the advertisement were part of the colophon that appeared in every issue rather decoration Barnhill selected for his advertisement.)  Barnhill seemingly relied on an established reputation for the stage wagon, emphasizing the speed of the journey.  In just “TWO DAYS” passengers and freight practically flew to New York like birds in the wonderous “FLYING MACHINE” that Barnhill maintained.

Aug 8 - 8:6:1770 New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (August 6, 1770).

That same day, Mercereau placed a much more lavish advertisement in the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy.  It featured a woodcut depicting a covered wagon drawn by two horses.  A driver wielded a whip encouraged even greater speed, enhancing the image of horses and wagon in motion.  The woodcut occupied one-third of the space of the advertisement.  Except for the masthead and an image of a ship in another advertisement, this was the only image in that issue of the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy.  As a result, it likely attracted even greater attention to Mercereau’s advertisement.  (Absent other evidence, it would be tempting to assume that Mercereau made an additional investment to commission a unique woodcut to represent his business, but earlier in the year a competitor used a nearly identical image on the same page as Mercereau’s advertisement.  The presence of both suggests that they were lesser-used stock images that belonged to the printer, not unlike images of ships, houses, horses, and enslaved people.  See the July 23 and 30 editions.)

In the advertising copy, Mercereau acknowledged his partner “in Elm Street, in Philadelphia” and listed his sign, “the New Blazing-Star,” near New York as his address.  Like Barnhill, he conjured up impressions of speed, but with a blazing star or comet rather than a flying machine.  Mercereau provided a much more extensive overview of the schedule.  The stage wagons left both Philadelphia and Powles Hook Ferry across the river from New York at sunrise on Mondays and Thursdays.  They met at Princeton in the evening.  The following morning, the drivers exchanged passengers and freight before returning to their respective cities.  With that schedule in mind, Mercereau assured prospective clients that it was “very safe for any Person to send Goods” because with only two drivers “they may exchange their Goods without any Mistake” at the only stop along the route.  He also stressed that a round trip took only five days: two days to get to Philadelphia, then “two Nights and one Day to do their Business in” Philadelphia, and finally two days to return to New York.

Mercereau also promoted the “best of Waggons,” the “sober Drivers,” and “four Setts of fresh Horses” that made the journey comfortable, safe, and speedy for passengers and freight.  Furthermore, he promised that “this Road is much the shortest” between New York and Philadelphia.  He also listed the prices so prospective clients could determine the value for themselves.

Why did Barnhill and Mercereau take such different approaches to advertising their shared enterprise in Philadelphia’s newspapers and New York’s newspapers?  Perhaps Barnhill established a more robust clientele in Philadelphia than Mercereau had managed in New York.  No matter the reason, the advertisements placed in both cities provide greater detail for understanding the operations in each city.

June 30

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

Jun 30 - 6:30:1769 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (June 30, 1769).

“A neat BOAT, suitable for the reception of passengers.”

Readers encountered four advertisements for transportation via “Passage Boat” in the June 30, 1769, edition of the New-London Gazette. Ebenezer Webb sailed between New London and Sterling on Long Island “as usual,” though he advised prospective passengers that they “may be landed on any Part of the East End of the Island.” Peter Griffing charted a similar course across Long Island Sound, but kept a different schedule than his direct competitor, Webb. A brief advertisement reminded readers that “Truman’s Passage-Boat plies between Sagharbour and Norwich Landing, as usual.”

Samuel Stockwell inserted a much more extensive advertisement to address prospective passengers; it occupied as much space on the page as the other three advertisements combined. Unlike the others, Stockwell did not transport passengers and freight across Long Island Sound. Instead, he sailed up and down the Thames River between New London and Norwich. In order to pursue that enterprise, he had “lately built and has now fitted out a neat BOAT, suitable for the reception of passengers.” In a nota bene, he added that he provided food and wine “at a very reasonable rate.”

Griffing, Truman, and Webb did not comment on why readers of the New-London Gazette might wish to travel aboard their passage boats except to move freight and passengers from one place to another. Each implied that crossing Long Island Sound was much more efficient than making a journey by land. Stockwell, on the other hand, suggested that “Gentlemen or Ladies” might wish to make a voyage aboard his boat “for their health or pleasure,” presenting his business as part of a nascent tourism and hospitality industry that began to emerge in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Realizing that passengers seeking leisure activities likely would not sustain his new endeavor by themselves, he also made a practical appeal to “Gentlemen that have occasion to attend the courts” when they were in session in New London and Norwich. Stockwell set a regular schedule, but he adapted during those weeks that prospective passengers needed to attend “the sitting of the courts.” Hiring passage on his boat, he proposed, would “lessen the vast expence of the law” by eliminating the “great expense of horse hire and keeping.” Even though less than fifteen miles separated New London and Norwich, those who traveled between the two incurred significant expenses if they made the journey on land. Stockwell provided an attractive and more comfortable alternative, one that made the journey a “pleasure” even for those who traveled to attend to business at the courts.

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.