What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Several other articles too tedious to mention.”
Samuel Douglass and Company did not want prospective customers to merely take them at their word that they stocked “A COMPLEAT ASSORTMENT of EUROPEAN and EAST-INDIA GOODS.” To demonstrate their extensive inventory they published a newspaper advertisement that listed hundred of items available at their shop. That advertisement began at the bottom of one column and entirely filled the next, making it rather unique among advertisements in the Georgia Gazette in the 1760s. Other merchants and shopkeepers in Savannah sometimes placed list-style advertisements, but the longest typically extended one-quarter or one-third of a column.
Due to its length, Douglass and Company’s advertisement was one of the most prominent items in the November 18, 1767, edition of the Georgia Gazette. It accounted for slightly more than one of the eight columns of content in the issue, certainly a significant investment for Douglass and Company and a windfall for printer James Johnston. The Georgia Gazette sometimes struggled to attract advertisers, as demonstrated by the generous white space that separated paid notices in other issues, but in this instance shorter advertisements had an even more compact appearance as the result of efforts to make them all fit within the standard four-page issue.
Although an advertisement of such length was rather extraordinary in the Georgia Gazette, it would not necessarily have looked out of place to colonists. Regular readers would have certainly noticed it because it deviated from the advertisements that usually appeared in that newspaper, but newspapers printed in other colonies circulated so widely that readers likely would have encountered similar lengthy advertisements in other publications. Douglass and Company may have figured that if shopkeepers in other colonial ports found the method effective enough that they repeatedly placed notices that filled an entire column that it might be worth trying the same strategy in their local newspaper as a means of distinguishing themselves from their competitors.
In placing this advertisement, Douglass and Company announced to the residents of Savannah and its hinterland that even though they resided in the most recently established colony they still had access to the same variety of consumer goods sold in Boston, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere throughout the colonies. To underscore that point, they concluded their list by asserting that they also carried “several other articles too tedious to mention.”