What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“His Stay is intended to be very short.”
George Strange offered “A fresh Assortment of English GOODs” for sale “At a Store on Mr. Allcock’s Wharfe near Spring Hill in Portsmouth.” At first glance, Strange used formulaic language common in many advertisements placed by shopkeepers in the eighteenth-century. However, describing the location as “a Store” rather than “his Store” departed from the usual convention. From the perspective of regular readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, nothing else would have looked out of the ordinary throughout the remainder of the advertisement (a fairly standard list of wares “Just imported from England) until the final sentence. “His stay is intended to be very short,” Strange warned.
It appears that George Strange did not reside in Portsmouth, unlike other shopkeepers who advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette. He would not have had his own shop already familiar to locals but instead probably rented a store on the wharf for a brief time. What was Strange’s story? Why did he set up shop in Portsmouth only temporarily? Had he traveled directly from England? Or had he been to other port cities before Portsmouth? Where was he headed next? He offered to “barter Goods for white Pine BOARDS that are fit for the English Markets.” Was a port in Great Britain his next destination? Or would he visit other American ports and attempt to sell any goods not purchased in Portsmouth? This advertisement raises as many questions about commercial culture in a colonial port as it answers.
If George Strange was indeed a stranger in Portsmouth, placing an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette may have been even more imperative for conducting his business than advertising was for local shopkeepers already known to the city’s residents. He needed to attract new customers to his location as quickly and efficiently as possible. His advertisement, more extensive than any other for consumer goods in the same issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette, certainly would have made his presence known to readers and potential customers.