November 13

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

Connecticut Journal (November 13, 1772).

“Will alter any Fault (if observed within Twelve Months) gratis.”

Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, Edward Hart, a “WIG-MAKER,” described himself as “Lately from London” when he introduced himself to prospective customers in a newspaper advertisement.  Realizing that readers were unfamiliar with him and his work, he sought to use his origins to suggest a certain level of skill and, especially, knowledge of current fashions in the cosmopolitan center of the empire to convince clients in Wallingford and nearby towns to give him a chance.  In an advertisement in the November 13, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Journal, he declared that he made “Lady’s Hair Rolls … in the best Manner.”  He also boasted that his customers would “be served with all Sorts of Wigs, made in the present Taste.”

Hart did not confine his marketing efforts to those appeals.  He also offered free repair services for a year, pledging that he would “alter any Fault (if observed within Twelve Months) gratis.”  Knowing that he could not yet depend on his reputation to sell his wigs, Hart likely hoped that providing that warranty would persuade prospective customers that they had nothing to lose when they purchased his wares.  If they discovered any defects, the wigmaker pledged to correct them without charge.  Customer service extended beyond the initial purchase, aiding Hart in cultivating a clientele in a new location.

At a glance, Hart’s advertisement may look like little more than a dense block of text to modern readers, but it was not a mere announcement that he made and sold wigs.  Instead, he advanced several appeals intended to entice consumers to acquire their wigs from him rather than other sources.  He promoted his origins in London, the quality of his work, and his knowledge of the latest trends.  In case that was not enough, he also provided a warranty to reassure customers still hesitant after his other marketing appeals.  Rather than inserting an announcement in the newspaper, Hart devised a strategy for attracting customers to his new shop.

August 12

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (August 12, 1772).

“He proposes to affix his Name on the Heads of all his Bolts, rolling Screens, and Fans.”

In the summer of 1772, John Sellers of Darby placed advertisements promoting “VARIOUS Kinds of Wire Work” in the Pennsylvania Gazette.  He made and sold “rolling Screens for cleaning Wheat,” “rolling Screens for cleaning Flaxseed from the yellow or wild Seed,” “small Bolts for separating the Cockle from the Flaxseed,” and “common Dutch Fans” for separating wheat from chaff.

Sellers presented a variety of reasons that readers in need of any of those devices should purchase them from him.  He promised that customers who “favour him with their Orders, may depend on their Work being done with Care,” reiterating a description of his products as “made in the neatest and best Manner.”  He also offered a guarantee, stating that “the Work [is] Warranted.  Furthermore, Sellers drew on long experience as an artisan who met the expectations of his clients.  He was “not pretending to perform that which he has not, in a great Number of Instance, given the utmost Satisfaction.”  Over time, he made “upwards of 50 rolling Screens for Wheat, and upwards of 70 for Flaxseed,” establishing his reputation.

Sellers did not expect prospective customers to visit his workshop in Darby, six miles away from Philadelphia, to examine his products or purchase them.  Instead, “for the Conveniency of his Customers,” he arranged to have them on display “in Plumsted’s Stores, in Philadelphia.”  Sellers instructed to customers to ask for John Brown to handle sales.  For those who wished to confer with the artisan directly, he advised that he “attends generally twice a Week, in Philadelphia.”  Anyone interested in contacting him directly could do so by “leaving a Line at the Conestogoe Waggon, in Market-street, or sending by the Post.”

To attract notice to the various appeals he deployed in the copy of his advertisement, Sellers adorned it with a woodcut depicting one of the rolling screens he constructed.  He commissioned that image at least five years earlier, having included it in an advertisement that ran in the Pennsylvania Gazette in September 1767.  Just as sellers aimed to make his newspaper notice distinctive, he also marked the items he made in his workshop.  He informed his customers that he “affix[ed] his Name on the Heads of all his Bolts, rolling Screens, and Fans.”  That demonstrated pride in his craft while also marketing his products every time someone encountered his name on this equipment after it left his workshop. Sellers did not limit his marketing strategy to describing his products.  Instead, he used distinctive marks to draw attention, both an image in his newspaper advertisement and his name branding his bolts, screens, and fans.

May 7

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

May 7 - 5:5:1766 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (May 5, 1766).

“He upholds and warrants their Performance for one Year.”

Isaac Heron made, sold, and repaired watches. He was proud of his work and stood behind, as the assurances in this advertisements demonstrate. This was not only a point of pride in a job well done, however, but also a strategy for encouraging potential clients to visit his shop.

Heron offered several guarantees in his advertisement. If he repaired a watch, he pledged that it would work correctly for at least a year (though he excluded accidents and “Mismanagement” on the part of the owner). For watches that he made and sold, he guaranteed that they would work correctly for several years. The greater the value of the watch, the longer the period before this warranty expired.

To prove that these were not hollow promises, Heron called on former customers from the past year to bring in their watches if his work had failed. Just as he expected “to receive his Money when earn’d,” he acknowledged his obligation to “Rectify” any of his work that did not live up to the promises he had made.

From start to finish, Heron stressed that his customers “may depend on their [watches] being carefully repair’d, justly charg’d for, and return’d” in a (ahem) timely manner.