October 11

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

New-London Gazette (October 11, 1771).

“The Staffordshire and Liverpool WARE-HOUSE In KING-STREET.”

Ebenezer Bridgham launched a regional advertising campaign for his “Staffordshire and Liverpool WARE-HOUSE In KING-STREET” in Boston in the fall of 1771.  Beyond his own city, he began by placing advertisements in the Essex Gazette, published in Salem, and the Providence Gazette, published in the neighboring colony.  Many of the readers of those newspapers resided in the hinterlands around Boston, making them as likely to order merchandise from shops in that busy port as from shops in Salem or Providence.

Bridgham, however, sought to enlarge his market to include prospective customers who resided at much more considerable distances.  Over several weeks, he inserted advertisements in most of the newspapers published in New England outside of Boston.  On October 11, 1771, Bridgham’s advertisement ran in the New-London Gazette, a newspaper just as likely to carry notices from New York as from Boston.  Indeed, another advertisement in that issue promoted the “Passage-Boat” or passenger ferry that Clark Truman operated between New London and Sag Harbor, a village on Long Island, once a week.  That service helped residents of New London other parts of Connecticut keep better connected to New York, facilitating commerce and purchasing goods from merchants and shopkeepers there.

In each instance that Bridgham’s notices ran in additional newspapers, they featured identical copy but unique formats designed by the compositor who labored in the local printing office.  That copy included a pledge that Bridgham was “able and fully inclin’d to sell” his wares “at least as low as they were ever Sold in America.”  In attempting to create a regional market in which he competed with merchants and shopkeepers beyond Boston, Bridgham considered it imperative to assure prospective customers that he offered prices as good as any they might find locally.  In stating that his prices were “at least as low” as others, he hinted at even better bargains for consumers in distant towns and villages who sent away to Boston for their “China, Glass, Delph, and Stone WARE.”

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