What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“As complete Assortment as any ever imported into this Province.”
Consumers would not find a larger selection of merchandise anywhere else in the colony. That was the promise made by Edwards, Fisher, and Company in an advertisement in the February 4, 1773, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. The partners reported that they “just imported” a variety of wares in the Fair American from Liverpool as well as “the late Vessels from LONDON,” achieving “as complete [an] Assortment as any ever imported into this Province.” To demonstrate the point, Edwards, Fisher, and Company deployed dual deadlines, each in larger font than the rest of the advertisement, declaring that they stocked “A VERY LARGE AND COMPLETE ASSORTMENT of GOODS, Suitable for the present Season” and “A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF Ironmongery, Cutlery, Tin-Ware, &c.” That abbreviation for et cetera alerted readers to even more items.
Lists of goods, short catalogs, followed each of the headlines. Among the merchandise “Suitable for the present Season,” the merchants carried a “large Quantity of Ladies Calamanco Shoes and Pumps,” “Fashionable Beaver Hatts,” “Mens, Womens, Boys, and Girls Worsted Hose,” “Fashionable Broad Cloths,” a “large Quantity of exceeding good white Plains,” and a variety of other textiles in many different colors and patterns. Their selection of ironmongery, cutlery, and housewares included everything from “Very neat Parrot Cages” to “Complete Setts of Table China” to “long and short Pipes.” In some instances, the merchants referred to the packaging materials to suggest the volume of dishes and other ceramics they imported, such as “Crates of yellow Ware” and “Hogsheads [or large barrels] of assorted Delf Ware.” They offered a tantalizing description of a “large Quantity of Queens Ware,” proclaiming that it included “one Sett of Desert, exceeding elegant, and is the First of the Kind ever imported into this Province.” Their merchandise was not merely more of the same kinds of items that shoppers could find in other stores and warehouses in Charleston.
Edwards, Fisher, and Company did not publish the longest advertisement for imported consumer goods in that edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. Others, including John Wilson and a merchant who went by Wakefield, inserted announcements as long or longer. Wakefield divided his notice into even more categories, while Wilson listed hundreds of items available at his store. Yet Edwards, Fisher, and Company made a bid for offering the largest selection in their efforts to draw prospective customers to their shop to browse and buy.