What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A variety of other articles too tedious to enumerate.”
In the spring of 1772, an advertiser who identified himself simply as “STUKES” (almost certainly William Stukes) advised readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that he imported and sold a “COMPLEAT assortment of millinary, haberdashery, [and] stationary” and “As compleat and large an assortment of RIBBONS as ever was imported into this province at one time.” As further evidence of the bounty available at his shop, he listed dozens of textiles, garments, and accessories. Stukes stocked everything from “new fashioned flowered Leghorn hats” to “Ladies Morocco pocket books … with silver French locks” to “fine white linen gloves” to “fashionable fans.” Like many other eighteenth-century advertisers, he expected such a vast array of choices to entice consumers.
Yet he did not want to overwhelm prospective customers by committing too much to print (or he did not want to pay for additional space that a longer list would occupy in the newspaper). He concluded his litany of goods with a note that he carried “a variety of other articles too tedious to enumerate.” Where did Stukes draw the line? Giving only his last name amounted to an economy of prose, but the lengthy list of goods certainly did not. Only two other shopkeepers placed advertisements listing a similar number of items in the April 7, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Stukes apparently did not consider the “blue satin hats” and the “wax ear-rings” and the “Barcelona cravats” and the “womens black calamanco pumps” in his notice to be “too tedious to enumerate” as he competed to attract customers by demonstrating the choices available at his shop. Proclaiming that listing anything more would become “tedious” was a sly way of encouraging prospective customers to imagine for themselves what else they might discover in Stukes’s shop. He gained the advantage of cataloging his wares in the public prints while simultaneously suggesting that he exercised restraint in how much he shared about his merchandise.