What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Not one single Article in the Store was bought of any Merchant in this Country.”
William Jackson regularly placed advertisements in several newspapers published in Boston in the late 1760s and early 1770s. In addition to those notices, he distributed a trade card, engraved by Paul Revere, that depicted the “BRAZEN HEAD” that marked his location “next ye Town House.” He eventually marketed his shop with another name, calling it “Jackson’s Variety Store” to call attention to the array of choices he made available to consumers. In his newspaper notices and on his trade card, Jackson listed some of his merchandise. In a notice in the June 29, 1772, edition of the Boston Evening-Post, for instance, he promoted a “full and compleat Assortment of English, India & Hard-Ware GOODS, consisting of Cloths of all Kinds, Linnens of all sorts, Calicoes, … Brass Kettles, London and Bristol Pewter, … an elegant Assortment of Looking-Glasses, Paper Hangings, [and] Wilton and Scotch Carpets.”
In a note at the end of that notice, Jackson assured “Wholesale and Retail Customers” that they “may depend that not one single Article in the Store was bought of any Merchant in this Country.” Instead, he imported his wares directly “from the BEST Hands in ENGLAND, via LONDON, BRISTOL, and LIVERPOOL.” That allowed him to sell his inventory “extremely Cheap” because he did not deal with middlemen on either side of the Atlantic. Going to the manufacturers rather than through merchants meant that he could pass along savings to his customers rather than marking up goods as much as his competitors. Jackson apparently considered this an effective marketing strategy. A year earlier, he informed prospective customers that he “has been in England himself the last Winter, and has visited most of the manufacturing towns.” As a result of that trip, Jackson “flatters himself that he has his Goods upon as good Terms as any Merchant in the Town.” In a subsequent advertisement, he asserted, “Wholesale and retail Customers may depend upon having goods” at his store “as cheap as at any store or stop in town, without exceptions, as all his goods are from the best hands in England.” If Jackson did not believe that this appeal resonated with consumers then he probably would not have published so many variations of it. Many merchants and shopkeepers combined appeals about low prices and extensive choices. Jackson devised a means of making those appeals distinctive. He did not merely claim to offer low prices but also explained how he was able to do so.