What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“They will be put up in small Lots for the better Conveniency of private Families.”
Samuel Gordon planned to leave South Carolina in February 1772. In advance of his departure, he advertised that he would sell a variety of goods at auction on January 10. To entice bidders, he listed many of those items, including “a great Variety of blue and white enameled Dishes and Plates,” “a great Number of Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate Cups and Saucers,” “Decanters and Wine Glasses,” and “an Assortment of Table Knives and Forks.” He concluded the list with “&c.” (the abbreviation for et cetera commonly used in the eighteenth century) to indicate far more choices awaited those who attended the auction.
Gordon did not want prospective bidders to assume that he was attempting to get rid of merchandise that had lingered on the shelves at his “IRISH LINEN WARE-HOUSE” in Charleston. He asserted that he had recently imported the goods “in the HEART-OF-OAK, who arrived here the Twentieth of December Instant, from LONDON.” In other words, he acquired his inventory three weeks before the auction. Colonizers had an opportunity to purchase new goods shipped from the cosmopolitan center of the empire for bargain prices at auction.
Yet they did not need to wait until the day of the auction if any of the textiles, housewares, and other items interested them. In a nota bene, Gordon stated that he “continues to sell any of the above Goods at a very low Advance, till the Day of the Sale.” He invited customers to visit his warehouse to examine the merchandise and select what they wished to purchase rather than take chances bidding against others at auction. He offered low prices to make this option as attractive as the prospects of a good deal at auction. Gordon also explained that any remaining inventory that went to auction “will be put up in small Lots for the better Conveniency of private Families.” That meant that items would be bundled together. Consumers who wished to purchase only specific items needed to buy them before the auction.
In his efforts to liquidate his merchandise before leaving the colony, Gordon sought to incite interest in new goods recently received from London. He scheduled an auction for colonizers hoping for deep discounts via low bids, but also continued sales at his warehouse for others who wanted the security of making purchases without bidding against competitors. Offering colonizers both means of acquiring his goods had the advantage of maximizing his revenue while also clearing out his inventory.