What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“PETER GOELET … Has just imported … a great Variety of other Articles.”
Peter Goelet knew that potential customers might read one of several newspapers published in New York in 1767. To increase the chances that colonists who wanted or needed any of his “Large and complete Assortment of Ironmongery, Cutlery and Brasses” would see his advertisement and visit his shop “At the Golden-Key in Hanover-Square” he inserted his notice in more than one newspaper. On a Thursday, readers encountered it in the July 23, 1767, edition of the New-York Journal, but it had also appeared in the New-York Gazette and the New-York Mercury on the previous Monday. The copy did not vary from one publication to another, but the compositors in each printing office made their own decisions about typography (though the variations were minor).
Goelet incurred expenses when he placed his advertisement in multiple newspapers. Neither William Weyman nor Hugh Gaine, the printers of the New-York Gazette and the New-York Mercury, respectively, listed the price for advertising in their publications. John Holt, on the other hand, incorporated the fee schedule into the colophon of the New-York Journal: “Advertisements of a moderate Length are inserted for Five shillings, four Weeks, and One Shilling for each Week after.” Goelet and other advertisers paid a fee to have their notices set in type, but after a month purchased only the space. Goelet, however, did not take advantage of these savings. His advertisement first appeared on July 16 and then again in the next three issues. Perhaps he had stretched the resources he was willing to commit to marketing as far as possible at the time and decided not to continue inserting this particular advertisement. Apparently, however, he believed that advertising in the New-York Journal had been worth the investment. Within three months he inserted a new, much lengthier list-style advertisement that enumerated scores of items recently imported from London and Bristol. New merchandise merited new expenditures on advertising in order to move the goods out the door and generate revenue.