GUEST CURATOR: Mary Aldrich
What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“A Large and good Assortment of loose STONES.”
I found a few things interesting about this advertisement: first, that Welsh’s goods were imported from London; second, the goods he sold; and, third, that his shop was located next to an insurance office.
Compared to other advertisements I chose for this week, Welsh explicitly stated that his goods were imported from London. While the Revolution had not officially started, there was a lot of unrest in the colonies and tension with Britain. On the other hand, from the goods he sold, Welsh would have wanted to let his potential customers know that they were getting a good product.
From the products he advertised, Welsh’s clients were likely elites or merchants with disposable income. I cannot imagine a farmer or shopkeeper with enough money to spend on garnets, topazes, or rubies. This is the first time I have seen an advertisement for such luxury items.
This leads me to the third thing that interested me about this advertisement: the location. Other than using the shop next door as a point of reference, I believe that John Welsh might have been trying to establish subconsciously a sense of security for his customers. By stating that his shop was located next to an insurance office he projected an air of reliability. He likely also has insurance with the office and he was well protected so his customers should have felt the same.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes
Like Mary, I am interested in where “JOHN WELSH, Jeweller,” kept shop, but from a different angle. He indicated that he sold “Jeweller’s and Goldsmith’s Work” at “his Shop next to Mr. Pigeon’s Insurance-Office, at the North End of BOSTON.” The advertisement, however, appeared in the Newport Mercury! This caught me by surprise because in the 1760s most men and women who placed newspaper advertisements for consumer goods and services did so only in publications printed in the city or town where they operated their business. They targeted their marketing at relatively local consumers, those who resided in their city or the hinterland served by the city’s newspaper(s). An increasing standardization of goods in eighteenth-century American helps to explain this: shopkeepers in Newport by and large stocked the same merchandise as their counterparts in Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston. Accordingly, advertisers focused on attracting local customers.
There were, however, some exceptions, including John Welsh. His specialized merchandise may help to explain why he advertised in a newspaper printed and distributed in a port city about seventy miles away. He needed to reach a critical mass of potential customers. Certainly wealthy merchants who could afford his wares resided in Newport. Note that he stated that “any Gentleman may be as well used by Letter as if present.” Welsh offered a form of mail order shopping for customers who could not visit his shop.