What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“A large assortment of Goods.”
Earlier this week, the Adverts 250 Project featured several advertisements from the January 3, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy that made appeals to consumer choice by deploying words and phrases like “great assortment,” “general assortment,” “quantity,” and “all kinds.” None of those advertisements, however, included lists of goods to demonstrate the range of merchandise available. Almost simultaneously, merchants and shopkeepers in New York ran advertisements in the New-York Journal that not only promoted “a large Assortment of Goods” but also enumerated scores of items.
Such was the case in an advertisement inserted by Hallett and Hazard for their store on Hanover Square. In a catalog of their merchandise, they listed everything from “Died pillows” and “Table cloths” to “Mens superfine white and marbled ribb’d worsted hose” and “Womens and childrens white and purple mitts and gloves” to “Candlesticks” and “Brass knobs.” For some items, they used brackets to draw attention to the many varieties in stock. For instance, Hallett and Hazard offered “Gold basket[,] Campaign and Death head” buttons and “Silk and cotton romal[,] Bandannoe[,] Mallabar[,] Barcelona[,] Printed[,] Ghenting[,] Scots and Black gauze” handkerchiefs.” The extensive advertisement filled three-quarters of a column. Elsewhere in the same issue, Thomas Pearsall placed a similar advertisement that also extended three-quarters of a column. Both advertisers made their notices easier for prospective customers to navigate by creating two columns with only one or two items on each line and a dividing line running down the center.
Such advertisements certainly cost more than making declarations about “a large Assortment of Goods.” The colophon for the New-York Journal stated that “Advertisements of no more Length than Breadth are inserted for Five Shillings, four Weeks, … and larger Advertisements in the same Proportion.” For Hallet and Hazard, that meant that their advertisements cost at least three times as much as they would have paid for a standard square of space. The merchants presumably considered it worth the additional investment to demonstrate all the choices they offered to consumers.