December 11

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

Connecticut Courant (December 11, 1770).

“They have been at the expence of bringing workmen from Philadelphia.”

Herman Allen and Levi Allen embarked on a new venture in December 1770.  The Allens ran a store in Salisbury, Connecticut, where they sold a “LARGE and general assortment of European, East, & West India Goods.”  Their notice, along with others for shops in Hartford and other towns in Connecticut that ran in the Connecticut Courant, demonstrated that the consumer revolution extended beyond the major port cities and into the countryside.

The Allens’ new venture also demonstrated that retailers and, likely, customers looked to larger cities for cues about consumption practices while also remaining mindful of local economies.  In addition to the “general assortment” of merchandise available at their store, the Allens also informed consumers that “they have been to the expence of bringing workmen from Philadelphia, for dressing Leather, and making Breeches and Gloves in the neatest Philadelphia fashion.”  They assumed that prospective customers in small towns were familiar with the manner of making breeches and gloves in the largest city in the colonies as well as the appearance of the finished products.  Furthermore, the Allens expected that their customers desired breeches and gloves that resembled those made in Philadelphia.  Even if prospective customers did not, the Allens suggested that they should.

The Allens also declared that their customers could gain access to the fashions of urban ports while still supporting the local economy.  Since the Allens brought the workmen to Connecticut to make breeches and gloves, “the public may be supply’d without sending the money out of this colony.”  Furthermore, customers did not have to pay a premium for that privilege.  Instead, the Allens set prices “as cheap as in New York or Albany or elsewhere.”  In terms of payment, they accepted cash and “all sorts of country produce” and extended “the usual credit.”

Colonists did not need to reside in urban ports where newspapers overflowed with advertisements for consumer goods in order to experience the pleasures of shopping and showing off the clothing and other possessions they acquired.  From stocking an assortment of goods to bringing workmen to the town of Salisbury to make breeches and gloves “in the neatest Philadelphia fashion” to low prices and credit, the Allens sought to make it easy and convenient for residents of Salisbury and other small towns in Connecticut to participate in the consumer revolution.

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