December 17

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (December 17, 1770).

“Beds and window curtains in the newest taste, as practised in London.”

An array of merchants and shopkeepers placed advertisements for imported goods in the December 17, 1770, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  For instance, John Schuyler, Jr., announced that he “just imported in the last vessels from London and Bristol, a neat assortment of goods.”  Many of them asserted that their new inventory reflected current fashions in England.  Artisans who offered their services to colonial consumers made similar appeals in their advertisements.

George Richey, who described himself as an “UPHOLSTERER and TENT-MAKER,” did so.  He informed “ladies and gentlemen that will favour him with their custom” that he “MAKES all sorts of upholstery work in the newest fashions” for beds, chairs, couches, and other furniture.  He also made curtains for both windows and beds, stressing that his wares followed “the newest taste, as practised in London.”

Richey and others who advertised consumer goods and services in the 1760s and 1770s frequently assured prospective customers that they provided products that matched current fashions in London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire.  Such appeals tapered off when nonimportation agreements went into effect, but they were quite common at other times.  Even as colonists sparred with Parliament over increased regulation of commerce, collecting duties on certain imported goods, quartering soldiers in port cities, and other matters, they continued to look to London for the latest fashions.

Newspaper advertisements published throughout the colonies made overtures concerning current trends and tastes in London, but such appeals most often appeared in advertisements placed by merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans in the largest port cities.  Residents of Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia experienced urban life, though on a much smaller scale than their counterparts in London.  Still, advertisers sought to assure potential clients and customers that they could acquire the same goods and, in the process, embody the same sophistication even though they lived on the other side of the Atlantic.  Richey the upholsterer joined a chorus of advertisers who invoked “newest fashions” and “newest taste, as practised in London.”

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