What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“At the corner store, opposite Mr. Duyckinck’s Universal Store, near the Old-slip.”
Note the final lines of this advertisement, marked by a manicule. To direct potential customers to his own workshop, the advertiser noted that it was located “opposite Mr. Duyckinck’s Universal Store.”
Gerardus Duyckinck’s “UNIVERSAL STORE; Or the MEDLEY of GOODS” was a landmark in New York in the late 1760s. Duyckinck worked carefully to brand his store with that name, frequently placing newspaper advertisements that ennumerated the “Variety of Assortments” of imported goods that he stocked and sold to consumers. His advertisement in the supplement to the August 13, 1767, issue of the New-York Journal proclaimed the name of his shop and listed everything from “Hatters Trimmings” to “Carpetting” to “Writing Paper.” Several times he invoked consumer choice and challenged potential customers to imagine the array of merchandise he carried: “a beautiful and fashionable Assortment” of some items, “Almost every Article in these Branches, too tedious to mention” for certain supplies used by artisans, and “a general Assortment” of patent medicines “as extensive” as local physicians and families needed. Some merchants and shopkeepers specialized in certain types of wares, but Duyckinck’s advertising suggested that he truly provided a “MEDLEY of GOODS” at his “UNIVERSAL STORE.”
With the exception of taverns, most eighteenth-century businesses did not have names. They were identified simply by the name of the proprietor or the device on the shop sign that marked their location. That Duyckinck’s shop had a name made it fairly unique. This name operated in addition to “the Sign of the Looking-Glass, and Druggist Pot” that decorated the exterior; text on the sign may have further identified the location as Duyckinck’s “UNIVERSAL STORE” or promoted the MEDLEY of GOODS” available inside.
This marketing strategy enjoyed some success. The “IVORY and HARD WOOD TURNER” across the street did not give directions relative to Duyckinck’s shop or the “Sign of the Looking-Galss, and Druggist Pot.” Instead, he used the name bestowed on the store by the proprietor and widely advertised in local newspapers: “Mr. Duyckinck’s Universal Store.” This name was not merely an affectation but instead a common way of identifying the business. In convincing other colonists, including potential customers, to refer to his shop as the “Universal Store,” Duyckinck successfully encouraged them to associate certain qualities with the imported goods he sold.