What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“A CARGO of DRY GOODS … never yet exposed to SALE.”
In the spring of 1768 Samuel Prioleau, Jr., and Company placed an advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that announced their plans to auction “A CARGO of DRY GOODS” just imported from Liverpool. They provided a short list highlighting some of the merchandise, including “cotton and silk hollands,” “Scotch osnaburgs,” and “Drogheda linen,” but also promised “sundry other articles” too numerous to name in their notice.
Prioleau and Company proclaimed that their wares had “never yet been exposed to SALE.” In so doing, they assured potential buyers – retailers and end-use consumers alike – that this was not merely a cargo of castoffs that merchants and shopkeepers on the other side of the Atlantic had been unable to sell and then attempted to pawn off on distant colonists who did not have easy access to the newest and most fashionable goods. Colonial consumers sometimes complained that they were expected to be content with just such merchandise, which explains why so many eighteenth-century advertisers made a point of stressing that they stocked the newest fashions. This was not necessary for the “Irish linen” or “Scotch osnaburgs,” a coarse fabric often used to clothe slaves, but likely made a difference for “men and boys hats” and some of the higher end textiles that Prioleau and Company listed. They also indicated that this cargo had been “Just imported in the Ship Nanny, David Perry, Master, from Liverpool,” signaling to prospective customers that the textiles had not first been offered for sale in local warehouses or shops. According to the shipping news in the South-Carolina Gazette published the previous day, the Nanny was still in port. To underscore that these goods had “never yet been exposed to SALE,” the advertisers concluded by stating that they were “all bought at the manufactory.” Coming directly from the place of production, these items had not previously sat on shelves where they had been pawed and passed over by other prospective customers. Instead, colonists in Charleston had first shot at acquiring this assortment of fabrics.