What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“A Variety of other Goods.”
In the final edition of the Maryland Gazette published in 1771, Alexander Ogg informed readers that he carried a “VERY large and general Assortment of European, East and West India Goods, suitable for the Season.” To demonstrate to consumers that he did indeed offer an array of choices, he listed scores of items in an advertisement that extended more than half a column. He stocked all kinds of fabrics, including “Sagathies, Durants, Tammies, Camblets and Cambletees, Calimancoes, flowered Queen Stuffs, Velvets and Velverets, Taffaties and Persians.” He also had “Mens, Womens and Childrens Worsted Hose” as well as “Silk Mittens” and “Mens and Womens Beaver Gloves.” Beyond textiles and clothing, he listed housewares, saddlery, patent medicines, and a variety of other items. Customers could acquire “a large Assortment of white Stone Ware, consisting of Dishes, Mugs, Teacups and Saucers, [and] Sauce Boats” or “Silver Buckles both Shoe and Knee” or “Horse and Chair Whips” at his shop.
Ogg’s inventory seemed to rival that of any merchant or shopkeeper in the major ports. His catalog of goods included the same items that appeared in advertisements in newspapers published in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia, yet he did not serve prospective customers in an urban center. Instead, he imported these items from London to sell at his shop “at Hunting-Town in Calvert County,” about thirty miles south of Annapolis. He advertised in the Maryland Gazette, the only newspaper published in the colony at the time. As such, the Maryland Gazette served as a regional newspaper rather than a local one, so Ogg expected that prospective customers in his area would encounter his advertisement. The length of the list, as well as references to a “VERY large and general Assortment” and assurances of “a Variety of other Goods,” may have been intended to underscore that he did indeed offer as many choices as merchants and shopkeepers in Annapolis … or Charleston or Philadelphia. His advertisement also demonstrates that the consumer revolution did not occur solely in urban ports. Enterprising merchants and shopkeepers advertised and distributed imported goods to rural communities as well.