What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“An entire new fabrick.”
Shopkeepers frequently advertised that they stocked goods, especially materials for making apparel, which were “suitable to the season.” On occasion, they noted that they carried items especially appropriate for the climate of a particular region, whether the heat and humidity in southern colonies or the cold and chill in their northern counterparts.
Thomas Fell, a tailor in Charleston, expanded on that sort of appeal in an advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He informed potential customers that he had just imported “A Compleat assortment of summer cloths and trimmings,” but he did not stop there. To incite curiosity and demand, he claimed that his wares were made “of an entire new fabrick, and the first of the kind ever imported into America.” Compared to more familiar textiles, this one was “much thin[n]er, and certainly fitter than any for a hot country.” As he made a pitch particular to residents of Charleston and its hinterland, the tailor neglected to name this wonderful new textile.
Lest his claims seem too good to be true, Fell resorted to other appeals to reassure customers. He described the fabric as “equal in fineness with the best superfine cloth.” His clients would not have to sacrifice quality for comfort. His inventory originated “from as good Manufactures as any in England.” He also underscored that this wonderful new material was not excessively expensive. Thanks to the relationships he cultivated with the producers, this “entire new fabrick” was as affordable as any other. Customers would not have to pay a premium for clothing materials “fitter than any for a hot country.”
Thomas Fell marketed a novelty product, but one that was exceptionally useful and suited to the clients he hoped to attract. His advertisement likely evoked both curiosity and skepticism; either reaction could draw potential customers into Fell’s shop to examine his “entire new fabrick” and decide for themselves the validity of his claims.