What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Proper Allowances made to those that sell again.”
Numerous merchants and shopkeepers regularly placed advertisements in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter as well as the other newspaper published in Boston in the early 1770s. While the shopkeepers aimed their notices at consumers, some merchants address both retailers and consumers. William Bant, for instance, stocked a “large and general Assortment of GOODS … to sell by Wholesale and Retail.” Not every advertiser identified their intended customers so explicitly; some instead made more specific appeals that invited both retailers and consumers to purchase their merchandise.
John Adams and Company advertised a “complete Assortment of Cream-colour’d China, Glass, Delph and Stone Ware” as well as groceries and a “small Assortment of English Goods” available at their shop near the Old South Meeting House. Adams and Company informed prospective buyers that they sold their wares “very low for Cash – with proper Allowances made to those that sell again.” In other words, retailers who bought in volume received discounts. Similarly, William Bant concluded his extensive advertisement that listed dozens of items with a nota bene that alerted “Traders and Shopkeepers” that they “may be supplied with Assortments of the foregoing Articles, upon as good Terms, as at any Store in Town.” Bant hoped to entice retailers by offering to match the prices set by his competitors.
In another advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, Smith and Atkinson made it clear that they intended to deal with retailers exclusively. They acquired a “Large and General Assortment of European and India Goods … on the very best Terms,” allowing them to sell their merchandise “(by Wholesale only) at such Prices as shall give full Satisfaction to those in Town and Country who purchase their Assortments here.” In addition, they encouraged retailers who imported goods on their own to supplement their inventories and “compleat their Assortments” by selecting from among the items Smith and Atkinson had on hand.
Readers encountered numerous advertisements for consumer goods in just about every issue of newspapers published in Boston in the early 1770s. Merchants and shopkeepers hoping to sell directly to consumers placed the majority of those advertisements, but not all of them. William Bant, John Adams and Company, and Smith and Atkinson were among the many merchants who sold imported goods wholesale, designing marketing materials aimed at retailers rather than consumers.