May 24

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

May 24 - 5:24:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 24, 1768).

“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.

May 23

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

May 23 - 5:23:1768 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (May 23, 1768).

Those who will favor him with their Custom may always depend upon being as well used as at any Store or Shop in Town.”

Shopkeeper William Bant advertised in a very crowded marketplace. Residents of Boston encountered shops and stores practically everywhere they went as they traversed the city in the late 1760s. They also experienced a vibrant culture of advertising for consumer goods and services in the pages of the several newspapers published in the city. Some of those newspapers so overflowed with advertisements that the publishers regularly distributed supplements to accompany the regular issues. As the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century continued in Boston, Bant was just one of countless merchandisers attempting to entice prospective customers to patronize his shop.

As part of that effort, he inserted a relatively brief advertisement in the May 23, 1768, edition of the Boston Evening-Post. In it, he announced that he stocked “A general Assortment of English and India GOODS.” Unlike many other shopkeepers, however, Bant did not provide a list of his inventory. On the following page, Thomas Lee’s advertisement extended one-third of a column and listed dozens of imported goods he offered for sale. Jonathan and John Amory’s advertisement was twice as long and listed even more merchandise. John Gore, Jr., inserted an advertisement of a similar length, though its list of goods appeared even more crowded due to graphic design choices made by the compositor.

How did Bant attempt to compete with merchants and shopkeepers who invested in so much more space for promoting their wares in the public prints? He left the details of his “general Assortment” of goods to the imagination, instead opting to emphasize customer service. He pledged that “those who will favor him with their Custom may always depend upon being as well used as at any Store or Shop in Town.” Bant did not promise merely satisfactory service; he proclaimed that the service he provided was unsurpassed in the busy marketplace of Boston. He did not need to overwhelm prospective customers with dense and extensive lists of all the items they could purchase in his shop. Instead, he invited them to imagine the experience of shopping and interacting with the purveyors of the goods they desired. Just as merchandisers competed with each other for customers, consumers sometimes competed with each other for the attention of merchants and shopkeepers. Bant presumed that shoppers sometimes experienced frustration when they dealt with retailers. In turn, he assured prospective customers that they would not be disappointed in the service they received at his shop.

May 22

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

May 22 - 5:19:1768 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (May 19, 1768).

“Said Paddock will take second hand Chaises in part Pay for new.”

In the late 1760s Adino Paddock operated a workshop “Where the Coach and Chaisemaking Business is carried on in every Branch.” In other words, Paddock made, repaired, and sold all sorts of carriages to the residents of Boston and its hinterlands. He frequently promoted his enterprise by inserting advertisements in multiple newspapers published in the city. In addition to some of the usual appeals made by other artisans, especially appeals to price and quality, Paddock deployed additional marketing strategies that seem strikingly modern.

For instance, in the May 19, 1768, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette Paddock provided a brief overview of some of his inventory. Among the various carriages available, he had “A very good second-hand Coach, Curricle, and several Chaises, some almost new.” He anticipated a common practice in the modern automobile industry. Then, as now, not all consumers could afford or wished to invest in a new vehicle, so Paddock provided an alternate means for acquiring carriages. His “second-hand Coach” was the eighteenth-century equivalent of today’s used car. Also like modern dealerships, Paddock realized that prospective customers balanced the price of a “second-hand” carriage against its condition. What kind of wear and tear took place before it landed in the resale market? To address such concerns, he described “several Chaises” as “almost new.” He offered the best of both worlds to his customers: lower prices for slightly used vehicles still in excellent condition. Paddock also incorporated another innovative marketing strategy into his advertisements: the trade-in. He advised readers that he “will take second hand Chaises in part Pay for new.” He simultaneously made his carriages more affordable and replenished his inventory.

Used vehicles and trade-ins are very familiar to modern consumers who buy vehicles, but these practices did not originate with the automobile industry. Instead, they were already in use in the colonial period, long before automobiles had even been invented. Automobile manufacturers and dealerships eventually adopted marketing strategies that their precursor industry had developed much earlier.

May 21

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

May 21 - 5:21:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (May 21, 1768).

“Will now undertake to make Kinds of Wigs.”

Convenience!  That was the hallmark of Benjamin Gladding’s advertisement in the May 21, 1768, edition of the Providence Gazette.  The peruke (wig) maker and hairdresser acknowledged that some of his potential clients had not previously had access to all the goods and services they desired in the local marketplace.  In particular, he noted that some “Gentlemen … have heretofore been at the Trouble of sending to Boston for their Wigs.”  That, Gladding proclaimed, was no longer necessary because “he has lately engaged a Journeyman” to assist in his shop.  Together, they could meet the needs of prospective clients in Providence. Gentlemen no longer needed to resort to the inconvenience of having wigs shipped from Boston.

In case prospective clients were as concerned about quality as convenience, Gladding offered additional commentary about the skills and expertise of his new journeyman, describing him as “a compleat Workman.”  Together, they labored “to make all Kinds of Wigs, in the neatest and best Manner, and in the most genteel Taste.”  In making this assertion, Gladding underscored that he offered potential customers more than just convenience.  He implicitly compared the wigs produced in his shop to those that came from Boston, stressing that they were not inferior in any way.  They possessed the same quality, having been made “in the neatest and best Manner,” and they were just as fashionable, following “the most genteel Taste” currently in style in the colonies and the British Atlantic world.  Gladding further emphasized his familiarity with the latest trends when he promoted his services as a hairdresser.  Since he set hair according to “the newest Fashions,” his clients did not need to worry that friends and acquaintances would critique them as ignorant or outdated, at least not as far as their tonsorial choices were concerned.

Gladding concluded his advertisement by pledging that “his constant Endeavour will be to render every Satisfaction.”  By then he had demonstrated what this promise meant:  prospective clients could depend on attention to convenience, quality, and fashion when they patronized his shop.

May 20

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

May 20 - 5:20:1768 Connecticut Journal
Connecticut Journal (May 20, 1768).

“JOHN DURAND, Portrait Painter, INTENDS to Stay in this Town part of the warm Season.”

Advertising in local newspapers was imperative for John Durand, an itinerant portrait painter. Since he regularly moved from town to town he did not build up a clientele in a community that considered him one of its own.  Instead, Durand earned his living by traveling from place to place, setting up temporary studios where he served “any Gentlemen or Ladies” who “choose to have their Pictures Drawn.”  When he arrived in New Haven late in the spring of 1768, he placed an advertisement in the Connecticut Journal to inform the community that he “INTENDS to Stay in this Town part of the warm Season.”  He would engage as many clients as possible but then move along to another town once he determined that the local market had been satisfied.

To convince potential clients to commission his services, Durand invited them to visit “Captain Camp’s House, where several of his Performances may be seen.”  Before sitting for their own portrait or drawing, “any Gentlemen or Ladies” could examine Durand’s portfolio and determine for themselves whether they appreciated his style or considered his abilities sufficient to merit the time and expense of sitting for a portrait. In addition, the artist made an appeal to price, noting that he would create their likenesses “a good deal cheaper than has yet been seen.”  As he moved from town to town, he may have inquired about prices charged by his rivals. Even if he did not offer the best bargain possible, he likely did not set rates so high that prospective clients would choose to wait for the next itinerant portrait painter to pass through town.  He also invited clients to dictate some of the terms of service.  They could visit his temporary studio in his lodgings “at Captain Camp’s House” or summon him to their own residences, asserting their own social standing in the process.

Unlike artisans who worked in one location for years or decades, this artist could not rely on the familiarity of friends and associates for word-of-mouth recommendations that enhanced his reputation over time and, as a result, attracted new customers to an established studio.  As much as he may have wished to stay in one place and accrue such advantages, the market for portraits and drawings in colonial America did not afford him that opportunity.

May 19

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

May 19 - 5:19:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (May 19, 1768).

“The Cork of each Bottle will be stamped.”

Timothy Matlack promoted his “Philadelphia brewed BOTTLED BEER” in an advertisement in the May 19, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette. The brewer encouraged “Masters of Vessels, and others” to purchase his beer, describing it as “remarkably pale, and very good.” His advertisement also revealed that he engaged in a practice that amounted to branding his beer, marking his product in such a way that made it easy for consumers to recognize and associate it with a particular brewer. He informed prospective customers that “[t]he Cork of each Bottle will be stamped” with his name and an abbreviation for Philadelphia.

Matlack had been marking the corks that stoppered bottles containing his beer for quite some time. Two years earlier, in an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Journal, he reported that his beer “will be stamped on the cork with black letters.” (For more biographical information about Matlack, including his famous connection to the Declaration of Independence, see the entry that examined that previous advertisement.) His advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette, however, featured an innovation. With increased attention to typography, this advertisement more accurately depicted the likely appearance of the stamp. It arranged the three words that identified the beer on three lines, centering them just as they would appear on the cork:

TIM

MATLACK

PHILAD.

No matter where throughout the Atlantic world “Masters of Vessels” happened to transport Matlack’s beer, those who consumed it would always be able to identify its origins and its brewer. Matack planned ahead in anticipation that those who drank his beer would appreciate its taste or quality, especially after being stored and shipped long distances. He made sure they encountered tangible reminders of where to obtain more the next time they needed to provision their ships or make purchases for other sorts of consumption. While he certainly did not achieve the name recognition associated with modern breweries, Matlack made efforts – in print and on the packaging of his product – to induce customers to associate his name with a beverage that might otherwise have seemed generic.

May 18

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

“If propagating injurious reports be at all commendable …”

May 18 - 5:18:1768 Response Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 18, 1768).

Whether or not advertisements achieved the intended purposes of those who placed them in colonial newspapers, they did generate revenue for the printers who published them. At least that was the case once advertisers paid for their advertisements; colonial printers frequently inserted their own notices calling on subscribers and advertisers alike to settle accounts long overdue.

If his clients did indeed pay, James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette, generated significant revenue by publishing two series of advertisements between feuding colonists in the spring of 1768. It began with the dispute between Lachlan McGillivray and John Joachim Zubly. Over the course of several lengthy advertisements, the two men published point and counterpoint among the advertisements in the Georgia Gazette. They spilled so much ink making accusations and defending their reputations that Johnston even published a two-page supplement devoted entirely to their quarrel because including their notices in the regular issue would have crowded out both news and other advertisements. That they thrust and parried in the pages of the Georgia Gazette week after week over the course of a month likely provided entertainment for some readers not involved in their disagreement.

That exchange had barely died down before another found its way into the Georgia colony’s only newspaper. Upon receiving a letter from John Mullryne informing her of his intention to publish “a short dissertation upon Slanders” and “the danger of envenomed tongues,” Heriot Crooke opted to promptly place her own advertisement in the Georgia Gazette for public view rather than respond privately to her correspondent. In so doing, she preempted Mullryne and shaped the narrative by suggesting that she had had nothing to hide when it came to his accusations about how she had comported herself when discussing the candidates standing for election to become “Member of Assembly for Vernonburgh.” Crooke’s advertisement ran in the May 11 edition of the Georgia Gazette. It appeared again the following week, but by then Mullryne had composed a lengthy response. In it, he accused Crooke of being a pawn who acted “under the influence of a prompter or prompters.” He then defended himself against accusations leveled in an affidavit that had been included in Crooke’s original advertisement.

Together, the two advertisements filled approximately two-thirds of a column, a significant amount of space in a newspaper comprised of only eight columns. Assuming that Johnston, like many other printers, charged by the length of the advertisement, he stood to profit from the feud that unfolded among the advertisements in his newspaper. This also benefited the advertisers who wished to draw attention to the legal issues they litigated in their notices. By paying to have their advertisements inserted, Crooke and Mullryne (as well as McGillivray and Zubly) sidestepped the editorial process involved in selecting which news items to publish. In publishing advertisements, they made sure the content they wanted to see in the Georgia Gazette was indeed available for consideration by the public.

May 18 - 5:11:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 11, 1768).