What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“ALL Persons indebted to CARNE & WILSON, are requested to discharge their respective Debts.”
Apothecaries Carne and Wilson advertised widely when they dissolved their partnership in the fall of 1770, calling on clients to “discharge their respective Debts” or else face the consequences. They threatened that those who disregarded their notices would “have to settle with a Gentleman of the Law.” They also expressed some exasperation, stating that they had inserted advertisement “in the several Gazettes” published in Charleston so none of their customers “may plead ignorance.” Such notices were common in South Carolina and throughout the colonies.
Neither Carne nor Wilson retired, moved to another town, or ceased working as apothecaries when their partnership came to an end. Instead, they each pursued other opportunities. Wilson ran his own shop, while Carne embarked on a new partnership. Both ran advertisements for their new endeavors, notices that overlapped with their advertisements instructing former customers to settle accounts. In the December 19, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, for instance, a single column on the front page included advertisements representing all three enterprises. Wilson’s advertisement for a “LARGE and compleat ASSORTMENT of DRUGS, CHEMICAL, GALENICAL, and FAMILY MEDICINES” appeared at the top of the column, followed immediately by Carne and Poinsett’s advertisement for a “Large Parcel of DRUGS and MEDICINES.” Even though they were now competitors rather than partners, the proximity of their advertisements kept their names associated with each other. Several other advertisements appeared in that column, with Carne and Wilson’s notice for customers to discharge their debts at the bottom.
The public prints featured reverberations of Carne and Wilson’s former partnership even as they launched and promoted new ventures. The success of those new ventures may have depended in part on closing the books on the partnership, hence their stern warning that recalcitrant customers might have to deal with an attorney “as no longer indulgence can possibly be given, there being an absolute necessity for having every thing relative to that concern closed.” Colonial entrepreneurs placed advertisements throughout the various stages of operating their businesses, announcing that they would soon open, promoting goods and services available at their shops, and informing the public when they closed. The three advertisements that Carne and Wilson placed simultaneously in the South-Carolina and American General Gazetteencapsulated this cycle, telling a more complete story about their commercial activities.