What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Sprogell is, and will be, constantly supplied with every article upon the very best terms.”
In the fall of 1773, Lodowick Sprogell took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette to advertise a “GENERAL and neat assortment of GOODS, suitable to the present and ensuing season” available at his store on Second Street in Philadelphia. To give prospective customers a sense of the selection, he listed some of his merchandise, including “mens, womens, boys, girls, and childrens stockings, of various colors,” “black silk mitts,” “worsted caps,” and “scarlet, light and dark blue, copper, London brown, copper and dark mixtures, and pearl coloured superfine, fine and coarse broadcloths.” He stocked many other kinds of textiles as well as accessors, like “buttons, buckles, [and] ribbons,” as well as “a variety of other articles.” Like many other advertisers, Sprogell presented some of his wares and encouraged readers to use their imaginations to conjure what else they might discover when they visited his store.
The merchant also made appeals to price, noting that he acquired his inventory “upon the very best terms” and would pass along the bargains to his customers. Before listing any of the goods, Sprogell suggested that readers could indeed afford them by stating the he was “determined to sell … at the most reasonable rates. In a nota bene at the end of his advertisement, he reiterated this appeal, declaring that he had been “supplied with every article upon the very best terms” and, as a result, “he flatters himself that it is in his power to sell as low as can possibly be purchased elsewhere in the city.” Among the many merchants and shopkeepers who hawked their wares in the largest city in the colonies, Sprogell vowed to set prices that matched or beat his competitors.
He also attempted to entice prospective customers with promises of future shipments, asserting that he “will be, constantly supplied” with new merchandise. Most merchants and shopkeepers focused exclusively on goods already in their stores when they advertised, but some occasionally strove to create a sense of anticipation among prospective customers. This also signaled that shoppers would not encounter leftovers in the coming months because Sprogrell already had a plan in place to regularly update his inventory. In his advertisement, he looked to the future, not just the present, as an additional means of convincing consumers to take advantage of the large selection and low prices at his store.