What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Articles of JEWELLERY.”
John B. Brimmer stocked an array of goods at his store in Norwich Landing, Connecticut, in the summer of 1772. In an advertisement in the New-London Gazette on July 17, he promoted a “great Variety of English and Hard Ware Goods,” but claimed to have “too great a Variety to be enumerated in an Advertisement.” That differed from his marketing efforts the previous summer, but perhaps Brimmer determined that he did not wish to incur the expense of inserting lengthy lists of his goods in the newspaper. He did list a couple of dozen items in a dense paragraph that included “best London Pewter,” “Brass Kettles,” “Iron Tea-Kettles,” concluding with “&c. &c. &c.” In repeating the abbreviation for et ceterathree times, he suggested to prospective customers that they would discover much more when they visited his store.
Brimmer also informed the public that he carried many “Articles of JEWELLERY.” Those items he did choose to enumerate, listing “Cypher Drops,” “Brilliants for Rings,” “Cyphers for Buttons,” “Brilliant Drops,” and “Sparks and Garnets.” To draw attention to this merchandise, Brimmer arranged it in two columns with only item on each line. Decorative type separated the two columns, giving the advertisement a unique visual component compared to any other notice in that issue of the New-London Gazette. Only the “POETS CORNER,” a weekly feature at the top of the final page, featured anything similar, lines of decorative type appearing both above and below its headline.
Like most eighteenth-century advertisers, Brimmer relied on the copy to do most of the work in marketing his goods. He made appeals to consumer choice, invoking the word “variety” more than once, and promised low prices. However, he also introduced a bit of graphic design to engage readers of the New-London Gazette. The decorative type enhanced the visibility of his advertisement, distinguishing it from others.