What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“An additional Supply of English GOODS.”
Wholesalers and retailers rarely placed multiple advertisements in a single issue of a newspaper prior to the American Revolution, but on occasion some did so. Such was the case for George Deblois of Salem in the spring of 1771. He originally published one advertisement in the Essex Gazette in April and then supplemented it with another advertisement in May. The timing of the advertisements as well as the contents corresponded with the arrival of ships in port.
In an advertisement in the April 23 edition, Deblois “acquaint[ed] his Customers and others” that he stocked “A good Assortment of English Piece Goods” that he “just imported, in the last Ships from LONDON.” To entice consumers, he enumerated some of the merchandise available at his shop, including textiles, stationery, and hardware. That advertisement filled two-thirds of a column. A month later, he placed another advertisement promoting “An additional Supply of English GOODS” and listing dozens of items not mentioned in the first advertisement. These goods, Deblois explained, arrived “in the Captains Lyde, Hall, and Hood, from LONDON, and in Capt. Gough from BRISTOL.” Like many other advertisers, he named the captains rather than the vessels that transported the goods. The merchant also proclaimed that he received “in Captain SMITH from BRISTOL, a large Assortment of HARD WARES.” Not as lengthy as the first advertisements, this one filled one-third of a column.
Both advertisements ran in the May 21 edition of the Essex Gazette and then appeared in the same issue again on June 4. In each instance, they accounted for a considerable portion of the content. Between them, they extended an entire column in a newspaper that consisted of only twelve columns. For his marketing efforts, Deblois purchased a significant amount of space in the local newspaper. Running two advertisements simultaneously, though briefly, enhanced the visibility of his enterprise. Nathaniel Sparhawk, one of Deblois’s competitors, ran an advertisement that extended nearly an entire column, but readers encountered his notice only once when they perused the Essex Gazette. That Deblois published multiple advertisements, each documenting a variety of items, suggested an even greater array of choices for consumers who visited his shop.