June 20

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

Jun 20 - 6:20:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy (June 20, 1768).

“The commodious Inn, in Princeton, long known by the name of the Hudibras.”

As spring turned to summer in 1768, the number of advertisements aimed at travelers and others seeking entertainment during moments of leisure increased compared to the frequency of their appearance throughout the winter. Josiah Davenport placed advertisements in newspapers published in both Philadelphia and New York when he opened the Bunch of Grapes inn and tavern in Philadelphia, extending an invitation to locals and travelers alike. The proprietors of Ranelagh Gardens advertised a series of fireworks exhibitions in newspapers printed in New York. Samuel Fraunces simultaneously promoted food, lodgings, and entertainment at Vauxhall Garden, an alternative destination on the outskirts of New York City. An advertisement in the June 20 supplement to the Boston Evening-Post announced that the “Waters of Jackson’s Spaw are now in a good Degree of Perfection,” the first notice concerning “Jackson’s Mineral Well” that appeared in Boston’s newspapers since the previous summer. On the same day, Jacob Hyer inserted an advertisement for the “commodious Inn” he recently opened in Princeton, New Jersey, in the New-York Gazette: Or, the Weekly Post-Boy. Especially in northern colonies, readers encountered seasonal advertisements from an emerging hospitality and tourism industry in the late colonial period.

Hyer had a particular advantage working in his favor when it came to attracting guests to his tavern and inn, the Hudibras. Like many of his counterparts, he had “furnished the House with the best of Liquors” as well as “the best Provisions he can Procure.” Unlike his competitors, however, “the Stage-Waggons from New-York to Philadelphia and back, put up at his House.” This likely increased his clientele since passengers became guests, making it less necessary to advertise. On the other hand, Hyer may have believed that alerting residents of New York to the various amenities at the Hudibras could influence their decisions about taking a trip to Philadelphia. Even before commencing the journey they could plan for comfortable accommodations along the way rather than leave to chance any arrangements for food and lodging. Hyer’s desire “to entertain Travellers … in the best Manner” made the journey sound as appealing as the destination, encouraging readers to consider traveling between New York and Philadelphia for business or for pleasure.

August 1

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

Aug 1 - 8:1:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (August 1, 1767).

“She takes in Boarders at a reasonable Rate.”

Mary Bass of Boston placed an advertisement in the Providence Gazette to inform its readers that she had “removed into a very commodious House … where she takes in Boarders at a reasonable Rate.” In the 1760s, most advertisers who offered boarding usually offered their services to local residents or, at the very least, confined their notices to newspapers published in their town. Bass’s decision to advertise in the Providence Gazette rather than any of the four newspapers printed in Boston was out of the ordinary, but she had a particular kind of client in mind: “Gentlemen and Ladies who resort to this Town, both on Business and Recreation.”

Bass believed that she had identified a market for her services. Many travelers, she explained, “had much rather be entertained at private Houses, than at Taverns.” Part of this was due to the patrons and atmosphere often associated with taverns, which some travelers might not find “so agreeable.” Bass offered an alternative, a place where travelers could “enjoy themselves in a quiet and retired Manner.” She marketed the ambiance of her boarding house, which she also noted had been “improved” by a previous resident. To further encourage visitors to stay with her, Bass also let them know that they could stable their horses nearby.

In addition, Bass made sure that out-of-town visitors could find her residence easily. By way of directions, she indicated it was “opposite the Heart and Crown … and next Door to Mr. Jolly Allen’s.” Visitors unfamiliar with Boston would have had no difficulty finding Bass’s house once they asked any local resident to point them in the direction of the Heart and Crown, the printing shop where T. and J. Fleet printed the Boston Evening-Post. Alternately, locals also would have known where to find Jolley Allen, a prominent shopkeeper and prolific advertiser.

Men and women who made some or all of their living by taking in boarders frequently placed advertisements in the 1760s, but most of them did not identify a specialized market for their services. Mary Bass, on the other hand, intentionally promoted her boarding house to out-of-town visitors who would find her residence more comfortable than lodging at a loud and busy tavern. In an effort to attract travelers before they arrived in Boston, she placed advertisements in newspapers published in other places, anticipating the broad dissemination of advertising undertaken by the modern hospitality and tourism industries.

June 12

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

Jun 12 - 6:12:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 12, 1767).

“The Indian King Tavern and London Coffee House in Salem, in the Province of Massachusetts Bay.”

Thomas Sommerville was the proprietor of the Indian King Tavern and London Coffee House in Salem, Massachusetts. To entice visitors of all sorts, he provided a variety of amenities, from “good Accommodations” to exceptional customer service (“the genteelest Usage”) for “Gentlemen, Ladies, and other Travellers.” While Sommerville certainly welcomed local residents to partake in the food and beverages he served as they gathered to socialize or conduct business, he also wished to augment the number of patrons who came through his door, especially visitors from other towns who would pay for lodging in addition to food and drink.

To that end, Sommerville needed to attract customers from beyond his local market. Accordingly, he placed advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform residents of Portsmouth and its hinterland about the services he offered. While the Indian King Tavern and London Coffee House might not have been the ultimate destination for most travelers, Sommerville sought to make it a destination that they planned to visit while en route to other places. Not unlike the modern hospitality and tourism industries, he marketed his services to potential customers from a distance.

In his announcement, Sommerville indicated that “the Season is now opening,” suggesting that as spring gave way to summer that greater numbers of people would travel beyond their local communities, either for business or leisure. In the advertisement printed immediately below Sommerville’s notice, Thomas Wood also addressed travelers and described the reception they could anticipate receiving at his tavern at Newbury Ferry in New Hampshire. Sommerville and Wood operated businesses with seasonal rhythms and placed advertisements accordingly, as did their counterparts in other parts of the colonies. Notices promoting houses of entertainment and scenic gardens within and beyond the major port cities increased in spring and the summer months as colonists embarked on their own version of what has become the summer vacation season.

June 5

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

Jun 5 - 6:5:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 5, 1767).

“He now keeps the TAVERN at Newbury Ferry.”

Thomas Wood, “Innholder in Salisbury,” offered some helpful advice to travelers in New Hampshire when he announced that he “now keeps the TAVERN at Newbury Ferry.” Not surprisingly, that advice also served to increase the number of patrons, especially overnight guests, at the tavern. Travelers heading east faced a choice when they arrived in his area at the end of the day. Continuing their journey required passage via ferry. Realizing that some might be tempted to call it a day, especially if they had traveled any distance or experienced any difficulties, and wait until the next morning to embark on the ferry, Wood recommended that it actually would be more efficient to make the crossing as the final leg of the journey for the day and then have the liberty to move along at their own convenience at a time that suited the following morning, perhaps saving the trouble of waking the ferry operators. Not only would this arrangement save time, travelers would also benefit from the accommodations that Wood offered at a tavern “repaired in a handsome manner, for the reception of all Gentlemen, Ladies, and others, who travel that way.” Wood assured potential guests they could “depend upon the best of Usage, both for themselves and their Horses.”

Wood made a nod toward what this “best of Usage” entailed in making his recommendation that “it would greatly forward their Journey to cross the Ferry and put up at his House, which would save the trouble of disturbing the Ferrymen so early in the Morning.” Even before interacting with patrons in person, he stepped into the role of concierge to facilitate their travels and create the best possible experience. Many eighteenth-century advertisements indicate that shopkeepers, artisans, and others who provided goods and services practiced what is now commonly known as customer service, though many did not go into detail beyond phrases indicating customers received “the best of Usage.” In his advertisement, Wood included an example to entice potential guests and demonstrate that he did indeed have their best interests at heart, even as he stood to increase his own business at the same time.