What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“The public Prints taken in for Gentlemen’s Amusement.”
Edward Bardin operated taverns in both Boston and New York in the late 1760s and early 1770s. In advance of opening “a compleat Victualing-House, [at] the Sign of the Golden Ton, in Chapel-Street” in New York he placed an advertisement detailing its many amenities in the June 4, 1770, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury. Bardin focused primarily on the food prepared and served at his establishment, proclaiming that “Gentlemen may Breakfast, Dine and Sup, any Day in the Week.” He also catered “Dinners or Suppers for large or small set Companies.” For those who did not wish to dine at the Sign of the Golden Tun, Bardin also prepared takeout food; his services included “Victuals ready dressed, sold out in any Quantity, to such Persons who may find it convenient to send for it.” Bardin pledged that his customers would experience “the most civil Treatment, and the very best Accommodations.” He asserted that he served meals “in the most genteel Manner.”
When it came to amenities beyond the food and service, he mentioned one in particular, noting that the “public Prints [were] taken in for Gentlemen’s Amusement.” In other words, Bardin subscribed to newspapers that his clients could read while they dined at the Sign of the Golden Ton. He likely received copies of all three newspapers published in New York at the time, the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (in which his advertisement appeared), the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, and the New-York Journal. He may have also subscribed to newspapers from the largest ports in the colonies and even London, all part of the service he provided at his establishment. In addition to “Gentlemen’s Amusement,” these newspapers offered an overview of current events that would have contributed to shaping both the politics and the business ventures of Bardin’s patrons. A single copy could have been perused by dozens of readers who dined at the victualing house. The proprietors of coffeehouses and similar establishments aided in the dissemination of the news in eighteenth-century America by making newspapers available for their customers to read at their leisure.