What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“WILLIAM JOHNSON, Late of the Co-partnership of TEBOUT & JOHNSON.”
To inform residents of Charleston and its hinterlands that “he carries on the Smith’s business in its various branches,” William Johnson placed an advertisement in the October 25, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He had recently opened his own shop near the city’s “Vendue-House” (or auction room), but Johnson was not a novice to the business. He introduced himself as “Late of the Co-partnership of TEBOUT & JOHNSON.”
In so doing, Johnson’s advertisement differed from many others placed by artisans and others who provided services for consumers. Those advertisers frequently indicated their trade and place of origin in an introductory line that served as a secondary headline for their advertisements. For instance, one column over from Johnson’s advertisement, Thomas Booth’s notice included his name, centered and in a larger font, as the primary headline along with “COACH, SIGN, and HOUSE PAINTER, / from LONDON” as further introduction before describing the services he offered. On the following page, another advertisement promoted the services of “GEORGE WOOD, / BOOK-BINDER and STATIONER, in Elliott-street.”
Johnson could have followed this format, but he may have reasoned that he would attract more business by taking advantage of his record of serving residents of Charleston and the surrounding area. Presumably the partnership of Tebout and Johnson had built a clientele or established a reputation in the busy port. Johnson sought to leverage his prior experience to draw former customers to his shop. Even those who had never engaged his services could have been familiar with the former partnership, making it more valuable for Johnson to list that affiliation than his occupation as the secondary headline for his advertisement. After all, anyone familiar with the “Co-partnership of TEBOUT & JOHNSON” would have known that they were smiths. Deviating from the standard format for advertisements placed by artisans allowed Johnson to place greater emphasis on an aspect of his business likely to resonate with prospective customers.