January 27

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 27, 1767).

“THE Subscriber returns his sincere Thanks to his Friends and Customers.”

Andrew Taylor placed an earnest, yet cryptic, advertisement to express “his sincere Thanks to his Friends and Customers” for their previous patronage. He also expressed his desire to continue to serve them in the future. Unlike most advertisements, however, Taylor did not give any indication of what sort of business he pursued or where his store or workshop was located. While it was possible that many residents of Charleston already knew Taylor, the busy urban port was large enough to support three newspapers, hardly making it a small town where everyone could be expected to know everyone else.

Eighteenth-century advertisers frequently expressed their appreciation to their customers, but they usually used wording that extended an invitation to the general public, to others who might read the advertisement and wish to avail themselves of whatever services were being offered. Such advertisements aimed to drum up new business from new customers or clients, not just maintain relationships with current patrons.

Perhaps Taylor wished to cultivate an aura of exclusivity by making it seem as though he had little need for new customers but instead wished to focus on his existing clientele. In a nota bene he indicated that his wife was a mantuamaker; perhaps he was in the clothing trades himself. Maybe Taylor was indeed a tailor, one of sufficient prominence in Charleston that he did not need to list his occupation or location. Perhaps the sorts of customers Taylor wished to attract would have already been sufficiently familiar with him and his work that he did not need to provide additional information, and those who could not penetrate his brief open letter to his clients were not anyone whose patronage would contribute to the impression of his business and its patrons that he wished to project.

Many eighteenth-century advertisers played with the concept of gentility and its appeal to consumers, simultaneously offering goods and services that might allow the better sorts to maintain their status while also making the same goods and services available to anyone who could pay. Taylor may have been up to something similar in this advertisement, creating an appearance of exclusivity for his current “Friends and Customers” even as he implicitly invited others to join their ranks as he reminded all of the readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that he continued his “Endeavours.”

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