April 4

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Providence Gazette (April 4, 1772).

“They have just opened a large and fine assortment of Spring and Summer Goods.”

Joseph Russell and William Russell were among the most prolific advertisers in the Providence Gazette in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  Two of the city’s most prominent merchants, the Russells generated significant advertising revenue for the printers of the Providence Gazette.  They sometimes ran multiple advertisements at once, especially when they received new shipments of imported goods via vessels arriving in port.  Even when the Russells were relatively quiet, they inserted a new advertisement approximately once a month or every six weeks.  In doing so, they maintained their visibility in the public prints much more consistently than their competitors.  That likely contributed to their prominence, both in the Providence and in other towns where the Providence Gazette circulated.

As part of their ongoing advertising campaign, the Russells inserted a new advertisement in the April 4, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette.  It did not include much by way of prologue, sporting a headline that read, “To be Sold by JOSEPH & Wm. RUSSELL,” before listing a variety of goods in two columns.  The Russells apparently marketed items they previously had on hand or else they would have resorted to a convention adopted by many merchants and shopkeepers in their advertisements.  That standard format proclaimed that the advertisers had “just imported” certain goods and named the vessels and captains that transported them across the Atlantic.  Prospective customers could compare that information to the shipping news to determine how recently the merchandise made it to shops and stores.

Lacking such an introduction, the Russells’ advertisement suggested to readers that they had not just received the “Cream coloured plates and mugs,” “Brass kettles,” and “Looking glasses of all sizes.”  The advertisement concluded with a note that the merchants “have just opened a large and fine assortment of Spring and Summer Goods” for those who wished to peruse them, but savvy consumers realized that they would choose from among items imported during a previous season.  If the Russells had new goods recently delivered from England, they would have incorporated that information into their new advertisement.

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