January 20

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

Jan 20 - 1:20:1766 Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (January 20, 1766)

“At his STORE … Where LADIES may find as compleat an Assortment as at any Store in Town.”

Consumption is feminized in the twenty-first century.  After all, ladies love shopping, right?  At first glance, Samuel Fletcher’s advertisement might suggest that this is a natural conclusion, that consumption has always been a feminine pursuit because women more inherently possess a desire to shop than men do.

However, reaching such a conclusion based on Fletcher’s advertisement would be faulty.  This advertisement, listing so many of the different goods for sale in Boston and so many other colonial American port cities and villages, is rather unique among those published in the 1760s.  Very rarely did advertisers in this era identify potential customers by gender (though there were exceptions, such as seamstresses who made clothes for women and tailors who specialized in men’s garments).  In explicitly identifying “LADIES” with consumption, Fletcher engaged in a mode of marketing not yet widely practiced, but one that eventually became a largely unquestioned part of American consumer culture.

I choose many advertisements because they include common or standard aspects of eighteenth-century marketing, but this advertisement caught my attention precisely because the appeal to the “LADIES” was extraordinary, rather than ordinary, in the 1760s.

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