What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“He has almost every Article usually enquired for in that way.”
In the fall of 1772, Duncan Ingraham, Jr., took to the pages of the Massachusetts Spy to promote “a very Large and Elegant Assortment of ENGLISH, India and Scotch GOODS, which are now ready for Sale, at his Shop” on Union Street in Boston. In an advertisement that ran in the October 8 edition, he made appeals to both price and choice in his efforts to entice consumers to shop at his establishment. Ingraham made bold claims in both regards. He trumpeted that he would “sell Wholesale and Retail as cheap for Cash [as] at any Store in America,” comparing his prices to those in other shops in Boston as well as Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, and other ports throughout the colonies. Ingraham confidently stated that “His Prices will show the Goods well charged.” In turn, he “doubts not of giving satisfaction to all who please to favour him with their custom.”
He had many competitors in Boston, including several who advertised in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on the same day. Herman Brimmer and Andrew Brimmer, Caleb Blanchard, Joshua Gardner, and William Jackson all placed advertisements that listed dozens of imported items available at their shops, demonstrating an array of choices for prospective customers. The partnership of Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers also published what amounted to a catalog of their merchandise under a headline that promised “GOODS EXTREMELY CHEAP.” Ingraham adopted a different strategy, choosing instead to market his “very Large and Elegant Assortment” of goods with a nota bene in which he declared that he “has almost every Article usually enquired for in that way.” He left it to readers to imagine his merchandise on their own. Even if he did not happen to carry an item a shopper desired, if such a bold claim managed to get them into his store, then he still had an opportunity to make a sale by recommending alternatives.
Ingraham may not have wished to pay to insert a lengthy list of his inventory in the public prints, but that did not mean that he did not attend to consumer choice in an effort to make himself competitive with other merchants and shopkeepers. In some ways, he invocation of “almost every Article usually enquired for” made even bigger claims than the extensive lists in other advertisements.