What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“They will be warranted to be equal, if not superior in quality, to any WINES that has been imported this season.”
Samuel Peronneau advertised “A large parcel of genuine Made[i]ra Wines” in the supplement that accompanied the August 18, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. On the same page, William Hulme promoted the “MADEIRA, VIDONIA and LISBON WINES, BRANDY and GIN” he sold, along with “RUMS, from Jamaica, Barbados, and the Northward.” Elsewhere in the issue, several shopkeepers advertised other alcoholic beverages. James McCall included “bottled beer, cyder, ale, and perry” among a list of dozens of imported items in stock at his shop. Samuel Grove carried “best Taunton ale, [and] cyder,” while Greenland and Jones sold “best Bristol bottled beer, [and] Philadelphia ditto in whole and half barrels.” Other merchants and shopkeepers regularly advertised beers, wines, and liquors in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers printed in Charleston in the late 1760s. Residents of Charleston had many options when it came to acquiring alcohol.
Amid this sea of choices, Peronneau attempted to distinguish his offerings from those presented by his competitors. He confidently stated that his wines were “Of the best London, York, and Jamaica qualities” and boldly pledged that they “will be warranted to be equal, if not superior in quality, to any WINES that has been imported this season.” Some competitors made passing comments about the quality of their beverages, but Peronneau elaborated on why potential customers could trust his assurances in that regard. He did not sell whatever happened to be shipped to him by faraway associates. Instead, he contracted “a gentleman on the spot” to examine “every pipe.” In each instance, that gentleman “spared no pains in the choice of them.” In effect, Peronneau had a quality control agent overseeing the merchandise that entered his warehouse. Ultimately, that “gentleman” worked on behalf of Peronneau’s clients, his efforts mutually benefitting the retailer and the customers rather than the suppliers.
Whether they sold wine or other imported goods, most advertisers did not provide much information about the processes through which they acquired their inventory. Peronneau, however, had a system that distinguished his wines from others on the market. This allowed him to include specific details that further developed his appeal to quality, one of the most common appeals in eighteenth-century advertisements. Rather than make vague and general statements about the quality of his merchandise, Peronneau offered potential customers specific details explaining why they should believe that he did indeed stock wine “equal, if not superior in quality” to any others they could purchase locally.