What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Many of the above Articles were bought by himself at London, Bristol and Birmingham.”
John Welsh took to the pages of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter to inform readers that he “Just IMPORTED … An Assortment of English GOODS and HARDWARE” in the summer of 1772. He made choice a central element of his marketing efforts, providing a list of his merchandise that included “Silk and worsted Mitts and Gloves,” “Silk & Linen Handkerchiefs,” and “Ivory & Ebony Stick Fans.” He also indicated that he offered choices among certain kinds of goods, including “A good assortment of Hosiery,” “a Variety of other Piece Goods,” “An Assortment of Handles & Escutcheons,” “Files of all sorts,” and “a Variety of other Braziery, and Cutlary.” In other advertisements, Welsh described himself as a jeweler rather than a merchant or shopkeeper. He included a separate listing for jewelry in this advertisement, including “A fine Assortment of Cypher, Brilliant, Earing, Button and Ring Stones” and “an Assortment of Jewelry, Stone, Shoe, Knee & Stock Buckles.”
Yet consumer choice was not the only appeal that Welsh made to prospective customers. He also offered low prices. A manicule directed readers to a note at the end of his advertisement, a note in which Welsh declared that “Many of the above Articles were bought by himself at London, Bristol and Birmingham, and will be sold low for Cash.” Welsh suggested that he could offer bargains that customers might not encounter in other shops because he eliminated intermediaries. Rather than purchase his wares from English merchants who raised the prices that they paid to producers, Welsh traveled to England and purchased much of his inventory directly from the manufacturers in three cities. He then passed along the savings to his customers. Merchants and shopkeepers often promoted low prices, but few gave any sort of explanation to convince consumers that they would find the best deals in their shops. Welsh aimed to give prospective customers a reasonable expectation that he did indeed offer good bargains on an array of merchandise.