December 31

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

Georgia Gazette (December 31, 1766).

“A LARGE and NEAT ASSORTMENT of superfine broad cloths.”

Inglis and Hall frequently advertised in the Georgia Gazette. Among Savannah’s shopkeepers, this partnership often placed the most extensive commercial notices in the local newspaper, making their marketing familiar to readers. Although they sometimes experimented with the format of their advertisements, most of the time Inglis and Hall took a fairly conservative approach to the strategies they deployed.

Today’s advertisements, for instance, included several of the most common appeals to consumers made throughout the eighteenth century. Inglis and Hall promoted “A LARGE and NEAT ASSORTMENT” of goods recently imported from England. Listing dozens of items potential customers could expect to find when visiting their shop. In addition, Inglis and Hall noted that these new arrivals supplement “their former assortment,” prompting readers to recollect previous list advertisements that enumerated their merchandise. In so doing, Inglis and Hall made an appeal to choice. Potential customers did not have to accept whatever goods the shopkeepers happened to have in stock. Instead, they could make their own selections to suit their tastes and budgets.

The retailers acknowledged both of those aspects of the shopping experience as well. They concluded their advertisement by promising to sell all of their merchandise “on the most reasonable terms.” Appeals to price were common in the eighteenth century, though they often received as little elaboration as in today’s advertisement. Such appeals became a standard part of boilerplate advertisements, yet shopkeepers dared not omit pledges to low and competitive prices. Potential customers came to expect such reassurances.

Appeals to fashion or taste could also be fleeting or expansive, depending on the advertisement. Today’s advertisement took the former approach when it listed some of the less utilitarian goods for sale: “fashionable Roman tea-urns, tea kettles, coffee pots, and waiters, pewter plates, water dishes, and measures.” Ultimately, customers had to decide for themselves whether Inglis and Hall actually carried “fashionable” housewares that testified to their taste and that they desired to show off to visitors, yet the advertisement helped to shape their expectations.

Today’s advertisement was not especially innovative in 1766, but that did not make it dull or lacking in marketing strategy. Inglis and Hall incorporated an array of standard advertising strategies to attract customers to their shop. They announced that they stocked new goods, noted the origins of their wares, and made appeals to choice, price, and fashion. Ingis and Hall depended on marketing techniques that advertisers throughout the colonies generally agreed were effective.

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