October 14

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

Pennsylvania Journal (October 14, 1772).

“Having for some years operated for, and with the most proficient of the art, in the above-mentioned metropolis (of London).”

When William Johnson, a “GLOVER and BREECHES-MAKER,” arrived in Philadelphia in the fall of 1772, he placed advertisements in the Pennsylvania Journal to introduce himself to the community and invite prospective clients to visit the shop he opened on Front Street.  Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, Johnson emphasized his experience working in London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire.  Until he had time to establish his reputation in the local market, he depended on his connections to London to sell his services.  In the headline for his advertisements, he described himself as “lately arrived from LONDON.”  In the nota bene that concluded his notice, Johnson declared that he “hopes himself capable to give all possible satisfaction, with respect to the neatness of the fitting, and execution of the workmanship; having for some years operated for, and with the most proficient of the art, in the above-mentioned metropolis (of London).”  He opened and closed his advertisement with references to London.

Johnson also intended for the timing of his arrival to resonate with prospective clients.  Having “lately arrived from LONDON” suggested that he was familiar with the most recent styles in that “metropolis.”  His clients could depend on getting news and advice about current trends, helping them to keep up with new tastes on the other side of the Atlantic and perhaps stay ahead of friends and acquaintances in Philadelphia.  Some artisans continued to promote their connections to London long after they relocated to the colonies.  Johnson provided details that made it possible for prospective clients to determine for themselves that he did indeed recently arrive in the city and, by extension, his knowledge of fashions in London was as current as possible.  He reported that he “lately arrived from LONDON, by Capt. SPARKS.”  The “ship Mary and Elizabeth, J. Sparks from London” appeared among the “ARRIVALS” in the shipping news from the “Custom-House, Philadelphia,” in the September 30 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  When Johnson’s advertisement ran in the October 14 edition, he had been in the city for less than three weeks.  In addition, merchants, shopkeepers, and others also referenced the arrival of the ship in their advertisements.  Randle Mitchell, for instance, stated that he “Just imported” new merchandise “in the Elizabeth and Mary, Capt. Sparks, from London.”  Robert Bass, an apothecary, stocked new medicines “JUST IMPORTED in the Mary and Elizabeth, Capt. Sparks from London.”

As yet unknown to prospective clients in Philadelphia, Johnson attempted to leverage his experience in the “metropolis” of London to convince prospective clients to avail themselves of his services.  That experience garnered proficiency in his craft, including “the neatness of the firring, and the execution of the workmanship,” while also giving him access to current styles in the most fashionable city in the empire.  He included the name of the captain of the vessel that transported him across the Atlantic as a means of confirming that he possessed recent knowledge of the latest trends.

October 25

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

Oct 25 - 10:25:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (October 25, 1768).

“WILLIAM JOHNSON, Late of the Co-partnership of TEBOUT & JOHNSON.”

To inform residents of Charleston and its hinterlands that “he carries on the Smith’s business in its various branches,” William Johnson placed an advertisement in the October 25, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He had recently opened his own shop near the city’s “Vendue-House” (or auction room), but Johnson was not a novice to the business. He introduced himself as “Late of the Co-partnership of TEBOUT & JOHNSON.”

In so doing, Johnson’s advertisement differed from many others placed by artisans and others who provided services for consumers. Those advertisers frequently indicated their trade and place of origin in an introductory line that served as a secondary headline for their advertisements. For instance, one column over from Johnson’s advertisement, Thomas Booth’s notice included his name, centered and in a larger font, as the primary headline along with “COACH, SIGN, and HOUSE PAINTER, / from LONDON” as further introduction before describing the services he offered. On the following page, another advertisement promoted the services of “GEORGE WOOD, / BOOK-BINDER and STATIONER, in Elliott-street.”

Johnson could have followed this format, but he may have reasoned that he would attract more business by taking advantage of his record of serving residents of Charleston and the surrounding area. Presumably the partnership of Tebout and Johnson had built a clientele or established a reputation in the busy port. Johnson sought to leverage his prior experience to draw former customers to his shop. Even those who had never engaged his services could have been familiar with the former partnership, making it more valuable for Johnson to list that affiliation than his occupation as the secondary headline for his advertisement. After all, anyone familiar with the “Co-partnership of TEBOUT & JOHNSON” would have known that they were smiths. Deviating from the standard format for advertisements placed by artisans allowed Johnson to place greater emphasis on an aspect of his business likely to resonate with prospective customers.

June 12

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

Jun 12 - 6:12:1766 Frauncis Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (June 12, 1766).

“Gentlemen will be entertained in the most polite manner.”

“AT the Sign of the Globe, … is opened a convenient EATING-HOUSE.”

Compare yesterday’s advertisement for Daniel Ocain’s “house of entertainment” in Savannah to two advertisements for similar establishments that appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette during the same week. Samuel Frauncis (more commonly Fraunces) and William and Ann Johnson offered more extensive and luxurious accommodations and promoted them in greater detail.

Fraunces devoted most of his advertisement to listing and describing the food from his “Cook Shop” and “Confectioner’s Shop,” variety of “Victuals,” baked goods, and condiments. Several related enterprises operated out of his location “at the Sign of Queen Charlotte.” His advertisement suggested that he catered to both male and female clients. “Ladies and Gentlemen may be supplied with Cakes and Pastries of all Sorts” at his large Confectioner’s Shop, but it appears that the “Ordinary,” a separate restaurant operated for three hours in the afternoon, was reserved for “the better Entertainment of Gentlemen” exclusively. Men often gathered in homosocial spaces like taverns and coffeehouses to conduct business, discuss politics, and gossip.

Jun 12 - 6:12:1766 Johnson Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (June 12, 1766).

William and Ann Johnson did not indicate that their “EATING-HOUSE” had as extensive a menu, but they promoted other amenities instead, including a billiard table “where Gentlemen may divert themselves, by paying for their Games only.” (In other words, patrons were not required to purchase food or drink if they only wished to play billiards and socialize. The Johnsons likely assumed that visitors who came with the intention of only playing pool would eventually order something, but they didn’t want to put up any obstacles to getting customers through the door.) The house, located on the outskirts of Philadelphia in the Northern Liberties, was in an attractive setting away from the crowded port. It had pleasant Gardens and Walks, shaded with pleasant Groves of different Kinds of Apple Trees.” Guests could rent rooms by the week, month, or even the entire summer.

Jun 12 - Samuel Fraunces
Portrait of Samuel Fraunces (unknown artist, ca. 1770-1785).  Francis Tavern Museum.

Samuel Fraunces is still remembered today, best known for Fraunces Tavern in New York City, the site of George Washington’s farewell to his officers at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. He also served as the steward of Washington’s household throughout the president’s first term in office. Fraunces Tavern is still in operation at Pearl and Dock Streets in New York City. Visitors may eat, drink, and socialize on the first floor and tour a museum operated by the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York on the second and third floors.