August 18

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Aug 18 - 8:18:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (August 18, 1768).

“Carpenters, joiners, sadlers and others, may expect they will be sold on the lowest terms.”

In the late 1760s James Eddy operated a hardware store on Second Street in Philadelphia. His lengthy advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette promised a “large and neat assortment of IRONMONGERY.” To demonstrate that was the case, he listed dozens of items available at his shop, everything from nails to “dovetail and key-hole saws” to “files of various sorts and sizes” to “brass H hinges for book cases” to “sundry kinds of brass and iron wire.”

Although everyday consumers would have purchased many of his wares, Eddy understood that artisans comprised a customer base particularly important to his business. As a result, he catered to them by drawing attention to specific tools, including “taylors and womens shears,” “A large assortment of chapes for silver smiths,” “carpenters hammers,” “A large and very neat assortment of clock and watchmakers tools,” and “sundry other tools, suitable for carpenters, ship carpenters, joiners, &c.” Eddy supplied artisans with the tools they needed to practice their trades. That endeavor likely accounted for a substantial portion of his business.

Even if it did not, Eddy’s advertisement suggests that he envisioned a special relationship with artisans as a means of generating revenues. He appended a nota bene that made general appeals about price and quality for all potential customers but then targeted artisans for their prospective patronage. “Carpenters, joiners, sadlers and others,” Eddy proclaimed, “may expect they will be sold on the lowest terms.”

In the eighteenth century advertisers only occasionally addressed their notices to members of particular occupations. Eddy apparently sensed an opportunity to establish a sense of community with artisans who did not merely desire his wares but actually needed them to pursue their own livelihoods. He cultivated that relationship by stocking a wide assortment of tools and underscoring that those who used them could depend on outfitting their own workshops with quality tools sold at low prices. His particular concern for the artisans of Philadelphia may have won him some customers who appreciated that he was sensitive to the costs of the tools they needed to operate their own businesses, a part of his business model that distinguished him from many other shopkeepers in the city.

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