What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“TWO large and compleat Assortments of Goods.”
In advertisements that appeared regularly in newspapers published in Charleston, South Carolina, in the late 1760s, Atkins and Weston offered prospective customers the convenience of shopping at multiple locations. In an advertisement in the November 2, 1769, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, for instance, they advised consumers that they had “just imported … TWO large and compleat Assortments of Goods, one for their Store at STONO, and the other for their Store in CHARLESTOWN.”
That they described each shipment of goods as “large and compleat Assortments” communicated that they kept both shops well stocked rather than treating one as a satellite location that carried only the bare necessities. The shop in Stono was more than a mere outpost. Still, they did acknowledge that market considerations prompted them to make some items available at their Charleston location, in one of the largest and busiest ports in British mainland North America, which they did not carry at Stono. In particular, the inventory in Charleston included “a great variety of the most elegant and fashionable flowered and plain SILKS.” Atkins and Weston had been in business long enough, operating two stores, that they presumably figured out the most efficient means of distributing their merchandise given the market conditions at both locations.
Their advertisement testifies to the reach of the consumer revolution in eighteenth-century America. It extended beyond the largest urban ports and into the countryside. Atkins and Weston knew that there was a market for “large and compleat Assortments of Goods” outside of Charleston. With their advertisements, they also sought to stimulate even greater demand among consumers living outside of the colony’s largest city. Yet they also identified some items, the “flowered and plain SILKS,” as having the best prospect of selling in the city. Customers in Stono may have been able to send for samples to examine at that location, but Atkins and Weston concentrated their efforts for that merchandise at their urban location. Their advertisement operated at the intersection of convenience for customers and practicality for the vendors.