What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Supplied with genuine Medicines, very cheap.”
In the summer of 1770, Amos Throop sold a “compleat Assortment of MEDICINES” at his shop in Providence, appropriately identified by “the Sign of the Golden Pestle and Mortar.” His inventory included a variety of popular patent medicines imported from London, including “Hooper’s, Lockyer’s, and Anderson’s genuine Pills,” “Stoughton’s Elixir,” and “Hill’s Balsam of Honey.”
In an advertisement in the Providence Gazette, the apothecary addressed different sorts of prospective customers. He informed “Country Practitioners” that he could fill their orders “as cheap as they can be served in Boston, or elsewhere.” Throop competed in a regional market; druggists in other port towns also imported medicines from London. Prospective customers could send away to Boston, Newport, or even New York if they anticipated bargain prices, but Throop sought to assure them that they did not need to do so. Throop may have anticipated particular benefits from cultivating this clientele. “Country Practitioners” were more likely than others to purchase by volume. Their patronage indirectly testified to the efficacy of Throop’s medicines and his standing as a trusted apothecary.
Those factors may have helped him attract other customers who did not practice medicine. Throop also invited “Families in Town and Country” to shop at the Golden Pestle and Mortar. He promised them low prices, but he also emphasized customer service, stating that they “may depend on being used in the best Manner.” In addition, he also attempted to allay concerns about purchasing counterfeit remedies. Throop pledged to supply his customers “with genuine Medicines,” putting his own reputation on the line as a bulwark against bogus elixirs and nostrums. When it came to patent medicines, the fear of forgeries merited reiterating that his inventory was “genuine” when he listed the choices available at his shop.
The neighborhood pharmacy is ubiquitous in the twenty-first century, but that was not the kind of business that Throop operated in Providence in the eighteenth century. Instead, he served both local residents and “Country Practitioners” and “Families in Town and Country,” competing with apothecaries in Boston and other towns. To do so effectively, he had to depict the many advantages of choosing the Golden Pestle and Mortar, from low prices to authentic medicines to good customer service.
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