What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“INGLIS and HALL, have just imported, In the DIANA, Capt. CHEESEMAN, from LONDON.”
Inglis and Hall, frequent advertisers in the Georgia Gazette, informed potential customers that they “have just imported, In the DIANA, Capt. CHEESEMAN, from LONDON, A general and neat Assortment of EAST-INDIA and EUROPEAN GOODS.” To modern eyes, it may appear quaint that the shopkeepers provided not only the origins of their goods but also the vessel on which they arrived. In the eighteenth century, however, this was vital information that helped readers to determine how they should interpret the claim that the goods had been “just imported.”
To do so, colonists could consult the shipping news that appeared elsewhere in the newspaper, often immediately before the advertisements. According to the January 14 issue of the Georgia Gazette, the “Brigt. Diana, Isaac Cheeseman” from London “ENTERED INWARDS at the CUSTOM-HOUSE in SAVANNAH” the previous day. That did not allow sufficient time for Inglis and Hall to insert an advertisement in the local newspaper that week. One did appear in the next issue, on January 21, just eight days after the Diana arrived in Savannah. That same advertisement repeated on January 28, this time in a column to the left of the shipping news that stated the “Brigt. Diana, Isaac Cheeseman” had “ENTERED OUTWARDS” for Portsmouth sometime during the past week. Even if readers of the January 28 issue did not have access to previous editions to determine exactly when the Diana had arrived in port they could at least surmise that it must have been fairly recently considering that she had just departed.
Inglis and Hall ran this advertisement a third and final time a week later. In the time since the Diana arrived in port, she was the only vessel that sailed directly from London. For colonists who increasingly expressed British identity through participation in the consumer revolution, this may have given accrued additional cachet to the merchandise stocked by Inglis and Hall. When the shopkeepers informed potential customers that their inventory came “from LONDON” they suggested connections to the most recent fashions in the metropolitan center of the empire, a selling point that competitors who had not received goods on the Diana could not associate with their wares.