What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“On as low Terms as at any Store in BOSTON.”
The partnership of Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers made low prices one of the focal points of their advertising in a notice that ran in the February 17, 1772, edition of the Boston Evening-Post. Most newspaper advertisements of the era featured the names of the advertisers as headlines, if they included headlines at all, but in this case “Amorys, Taylor and Rogers” constituted a secondary headline. Their advertisement commenced with a primary headline that proclaimed, “GOODS EXTREMELY CHEAP.”
The partners then developed that theme in a nota bene that preceded a lengthy list of their inventory that extended three-quarters of a column. They offered their wares wholesale to retailers, both “Country Shopkeepers” and “Town Shopkeepers.” Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers explained that they offered their customers low prices because they acquired “almost every Kind of Goods usually imported from Great Britain … immediately from the Manufacturors.” In other words, they did not deal with English merchants whose intervention tended to inflate prices. By eliminating those middlemen, Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers kept prices down for American retailers. In turn, those retailers could generate business by setting their own low prices for their customers.
The partners underscored that they offered the best bargains. They pledged that “Country Shopkeepers may be supplied at any Time with what Goods they want, and on as low Terms as at any Store in BOSTON.” Those “Country Shopkeepers” had many choices of merchants supplying retailers with imported goods in that bustling port city, but Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers indicated that they matched the prices of any of their competitors. In addition, “Town Shopkeepers … who usually import their Goods, may have them on such Terms as may answer them as well as importing.” Retailers in Boston would not find better deals through corresponding with English merchants, especially since Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers had their goods shipped “immediately from the Manufacturors.”
Low prices played an important role in marketing imported goods among both wholesalers and retailers in eighteenth-century Boston. Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers explained at some length how they were able to part with their goods “EXTREMELY CHEAP,” hoping to attract the attention of retailers looking to set low prices of their own and pass along the savings to consumers. That merchants and shopkeepers promoted low prices comes as no surprise, but the commentary about prices that sometimes appeared in newspaper advertisements demonstrates that some advertisers made deliberate efforts to engage prospective customers rather than passively announcing low prices and expecting that would be sufficient to generate business.