September 23

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly Mercury (September 23, 1773).

“Those who may defer purchasing any of the above GOODS in Expectation of their being put up at Public Auction will be disappointed.”

Ward Nicholas Boylston planned to leave the colonies in the fall of 1773.  Before his departure, he attempted to the liquidate the merchandise at his store on King Street in Boston.  His advertisement in September 23 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter incorporated several strategies to entice customers to purchase his wares.

The notice commenced with a headline: “At first Cost, for Cash only.”  Like an advertisement that Boylston ran in February, a decorative border enclosed the headline to draw attention to it.  The merchant offered the best prices available, even the prices he paid to acquire his inventory.  Earning profits on the goods mattered less than getting them out of his store, but taking advantage of those bargains required paying in cash.  With his departure quickly approaching, Boylston was not in a position to extend credit.  That also explains why the merchant “repeatedly desires all Persons who have any Demands against him to bring in their Accounts & receive their Ballances, & those who are indebted to him to make immediate Payment.”  Boylston did not want any leftovers in his ledgers when he departed.

He also trumpeted that he provided “an Abatement to those who take large Quantities.”  Merchants who planned to wholesale the goods as well as retailers in town and country looking to supplement their inventories would receive discounts for purchasing in volume.  Boylston cautioned that these deals were the best that buyers should anticipate, warning that “[t]hose who may defer purchasing any of the above GOODS in Expectation of their being put up at Public Auction will be disappointed.”  He declared that “what may remain unsold when he leaves the Country … will be disposed of another Way,” but did not give details.  Once again, this advertisement echoed one that Boylston placed in February.  He addressed “[t]hose who have witheld buying hitherto, on a dependence that the above Goods will be finally exposed to Public Sale” and acknowledged that purchasing at auction often resulted in “better Pennyworths” or bargains. That would not be the case in this instance, the merchant promised, because he would dispose of unsold merchandise “otherwise than at Auction.”  The current sale, “The last Chance” promised in the headline, was “the present and last Opportunity” for the best deals possible for purchasing Boylston’s goods.

With only “Fifteen or Twenty Days” remaining before Boylston left town, those who previously did business with him and those who considered doing business with him had a limited time to settle accounts and to buy an “Assortment of English and India Goods … at the neat Sterling Cost, free of any Charges,” from the merchant.  Realizing that some prospective customers might attempt to wait him out in hopes of purchasing his wares at auction for even lower prices than “the first Cost” and discounts for volume that he already offered, Boylston cautioned them, as he had a habit of doing, not to depend on that strategy because he had other plans for disposing of his merchandise.

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