What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Let the Beer justify itself.”
As October 1773 came to a close, Edmund Egan promoted his “CAROLINA BEER” in the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. The prospects of this new product hitting the market excited the compositor for the South-Carolina Gazette enough to enclose the headline within a border of decorative type, distinguishing it from all other news and notices in the October 25 edition. The headline did not receive the same treatment in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, though in both publications it had a prime spot at the top of the column in a section for “New Advertisements.” Readers could hardly miss it.
To incite demand for the beer, Egan told a story about it. He began by declaring that the “BREWERY … long laboured under many Disadvantages,” but Egan overcame them and the brewery “is now complete, and amply supplied with a Stock of the best MALT and HOPS.” In so doing, the brewer crafted a narrative that only briefly focused on resilience in the face of adversity before extolling the factors that made his beer such a quality beverage. Egan cited his own “unwearied Application” in launching the brewery as well as his experience and his “first Connection in London,” perhaps where he learned “the most regular Principles” of his craft.
All of that led Egan to assert that he would produce a “constant Supply of BEER and ALE … equal to any imported from any other Country.” He also suggested that consumers should not take his word for it. Instead, he proclaimed, “Let the Beer justify itself.” That declaration appeared in italics in both the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, suggesting that Egan did indeed instruct the compositors in both printing offices to give it some sort of special treatment to make it stand out from the copy in the rest of the notice. The brewer did not need to say anything else about his “CAROLINA BEER.” He could not say anything else that would be a better recommendation than consumers drinking his beer and ale and experiencing it for themselves. “Let the Beer justify itself” simultaneously resonated as an affirmation, an invitation, and a challenge. Egan was confident that customers would not be disappointed.