What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Country Traders may depend on having their Ware pack’d in the best Manner.”
In the early 1770s, Ebenezer Bridgham operated the “Staffordshire & Liverpool Ware-House in King-Street, BOSTON,” where he stocked “a very large and compleat Assortment of China, Glass, Delph & Stone WARE.” The merchant advertised in newspapers published in Boston, but he also sought to cultivate customers far beyond the city. In the fall of 1771, he inserted advertisement in the Essex Gazette, the Providence Gazette, the Connecticut Courant, and the New-London Gazette. He likely believed that those advertisements generated business because he once again placed advertisements in the Connecticut Courant in the summer of 1772.
Bridgham informed residents of Hartford and others who read the Connecticut Courant that his inventory of “China, Glass, Delph & Stone WARE” constituted “the greatest Variety to be met with in any Store in America, or perhaps in the whole World.” If that was the case, then how could he confine himself to serving solely customers in Boston and its hinterlands?! In addition, he negotiated with the “several manufacturers in Staffordshire and Liverpool” to acquire his inventory “on such Terms” that he could match the prices in London rather than marking up prices after transporting his goods across the Atlantic. Furthermore, Bridgham vowed that “he will not be undersold by any person in America.” In a regional advertising campaign, he made a bold claim that applied throughout the colonies, signaling to prospective customers in Connecticut that they did not need to look to merchants beyond New England, especially in nearby New York, for better bargains.
In particular, Bridgham hoped that retailers in small towns would respond to his advertisement. He concluded with a nota bene advising that “Country Traders may depend on having their Ware pack’d in the best Manner, there being Packers provided from England for that Purpose” at his store. Bridgham assured shopkeepers and others that their orders would arrive intact, free from damage and ready to sell to their own customers. Orders from just a few “Country Traders” may have sufficiently offset the costs to justify running an advertisement in the Connecticut Journal. Colonial newspapers circulated far beyond the cities and towns where they were published, disseminating advertisements as well as news. Many merchants considered that sufficient to meet their marketing needs, but that was not the case for Bridgham when he decided to become a regional supplier of “China, Glass, Delph & Stone WARE” manufactured in Staffordshire and Liverpool. Instead, he placed advertisements in newspapers published in several towns in New England in his effort to expand his share of the market.