What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Those who … left Breeches to clean, are requested to call for them.”
Most advertisements for consumer goods and services attempted to convince potential customers to make purchases, to participate in the consumer revolution taking place around them. On occasion, however, shopkeepers and artisans placed advertisements requesting that customers actually take possession of the goods that belonged to them. Two such advertisements appeared in the December 30, 1766, issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.
In the first, Alexander Caddell, a “Breeches-maker and Glover,” announced that he planned to return to London. He called on business associates and former customers to settle their accounts, but he also informed anyone who “left Skins to be manufactured for Breeches” to retrieve them. Similarly, those who “left Breeches to clean” had two months to pick them up. Otherwise, Caddell planned to sell them.
In another advertisement, Edward Weyman noted that he had “in his Possession sundry Looking-Glasses belonging to different Persons” who had entrusted him with silvering them. He called on the owners to “pay the Charges” and “take them away.” Like Caddell, he threatened to sell them, though he allowed six months, rather than two, for the owners to recover their property from his shop.
In both cases, the advertisers had provided services but presumably had not yet been paid. Selling items that had been abandoned by their owners, after giving sufficient notice that they planned to do so, became a method for receiving payment for their services through a different means.
This situation also illuminates one of the convoluted routes for delivering goods to consumers. Many eighteenth-century advertisements featured new goods that moved along a simple path from producer to retailer to consumer. The breeches that Caddell threatened to sell and the looking glasses that Weyman threatened to sell, however, did not traverse such a simple trajectory. Instead, these used goods had multiple owners, multiple sellers, and rather complicated provenances. The consumer revolution occurred not only because buyers and sellers valued and exchanged new goods but also because they developed markets for used wares, sometimes as an expediency when the original owners neglected to reclaim possessions left in the care of shopkeepers and artisans.