What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“His Assortment as full and as cheap, as in the County.”
Many shopkeepers in smaller towns sought to convince prospective customers that they provided shopping experiences that matched what they would find elsewhere. Such was the case with Edward Emerson when he placed an advertisement in the July 10, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. He informed the public that he carried a “general Assortment of Hard Ware and English Piece GOODS” at his shop in York (then part of Massachusetts, now Maine). He suggested that he made available as many choices as consumers would encounter in any other shop, but “to mention the Particulars would take too much room in the Paper” (and cost much more for Emerson to publish). Instead, he assured “his good Customers and others (in Town or out,)” that when they visited his shop they would “find his Assortment as full and as cheap, as in the County.” The shopkeeper expanded on his appeal emphasizing choice to incorporate price. Elsewhere in his advertisement he pledged to sell goods “At a very low Rate.” Customers would not find more choices or better bargains elsewhere.
Parker Emerson made similar claims about his store in Litchfield, New Hampshire, in the same issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette. He stated that he imported a “large Assortment of English and West India Goods” as well as “NAILS, Window Glass of all sorts; a variety of Glass, Stone, and Delph Ware, and a compleat assortment of London Pewter.” Repeating words and phrases like “variety,” “of all sorts,” and “compleat assortment” underscored that Emerson provided a range of choices even if he opted not to catalog his merchandise in a newspaper advertisement. He also informed prospective customers that “he is determined to sell as cheap as any Store or Shopkeeper in the Country.” In other words, Emerson would not be undersold. Consumers in Litchfield, York, and other towns had the option of visiting shops in Portsmouth in search of more choices and lower prices, but advertisers like Edward Emerson and Parker Emerson aimed to persuade them that they did not need to do so. They positioned their merchandise and prices as rivaling those consumers would encounter elsewhere, suggesting that colonizers in the countryside had equal access to the consumer revolution.