What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A suit of Broad Cloth, full trim’d.”
By the time he “opened a Taylors Shop” in Portsmouth late in the summer of 1768, Richard Lowden was already familiar to many colonists in New Hampshire. More than a year earlier he had advertised that “the Co-Partnership between him and Robert Patterson … was Dissolved,” but Lowden “still continues to carry on the Taylors Business.” At the time, he had his own shop “near the Town-School in Queen-street.” He apparently changed locations in 1768, through he remained on Queen Street, his shop “almost adjoining to that of Messi’rs Williams and Stanwood, Barbers.” Although in a news shop, he continued to pledge that his clients “may depend on being faithfully and punctually served.”
The format of Lowden’s advertisement made it stand out from others published in the same issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette, particularly a table that listed the prices for several of the garments he made. Prospective customers could expect to pay one pound for “A suit of Broad Cloth, full trim’d,” but only eighteen shillings for “A plain suit of Cloaths” and nine shillings for “A Coat only.” These prices set the baseline for children’s apparel. Lowden charged “in the same proportion” for those items.
Relatively few advertisers who offered consumer goods and services published prices in the 1760s, though general appeals to low prices were among he most common marketing strategies throughout the eighteenth century. Sometimes merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans highlighted special prices for particular items, but rarely did they specify how much they charged for everything listed in their advertisements. Taking this approach may have given Lowden an advantage over other tailors in Portsmouth. Publishing his prices served as a guarantee of sorts, a maximum price that prospective clients could expect to pay. This also presented opportunities for Lowden to bestow bargains on some customers, both those who loyally visited his shop and others who negotiated for better deals. Lowden could underscore to both constituencies that they received a deal, though he could also hold the line with the latter by stating that the published price were the final prices.
Advertisers throughout the colonies realized that making appeals to price made their goods and services more attractive to consumers. Lowden further experimented with that concept, inserting the prices for his garments in order to engage potential clients. He transformed vague assertions about price into specific amounts that he charged for the garments made in his shop.