January 28

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

Jan 28 - 1:28:1766 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (January 28, 1766)

“To be sold, By DAVID MOORE … Women’s Damask and Calamanco Shoes … Boys Felt Hats … &c. &c.”

I recently featured an advertisement noteworthy in that it explicitly addressed female consumers.  I pointed out that this was not a standard practice in colonial America, that most advertisers did not narrow the realm of possible customers by specifying that they expected to sell their wares to patrons of one sex or the other.  I also noted some occasional exceptions, such as milliners who specialized in women’s hats or tailors who made men’s garments.  Still, most shopkeepers, like David Moore, did not place advertisements that singled out one sex or the other.

That being said, many shopkeepers did indicate that they stocked goods, almost always clothing items, intended for men or women, boys or girls, such as the “Women’s Damask and Calamanco Shoes” and Boys Felt Hats” in this advertisement.  They were not, however, parceled out in distinct sections of advertisements.  Instead, they appeared mixed in with the multitude of other goods included in the list advertisements so common during the period.  Rather than categorize their merchandise to make it easier for consumers to find men’s, women’s, and children’s garments, advertisers allowed them to discover these items in the midst of others that may or may not have been related.

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