September 14

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 14, 1770).

Cash given for POT-ASH … at which Place is sold various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS.”

James McMasters did not have a single purpose for the advertisement he placed in the September 14, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Instead, he sought to accomplish multiple goals.  His advertisement commenced and concluded with short messages calling on readers to supply commodities that McMasters was interested in acquiring.  “Cash given for POT-ASH” read the headline.  A nota bene also promised “The highest Price for good FLAX SEED” at McMasters’s store.  Nestled between the headline calling for potash and the nota bene seeking flax seed, the middle portion of the advertisement offered goods for sale.  McMasters declared that he sold “various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS” at his store on Wallingford’s Wharf.  He was especially interested in dealing with retailers who would buy in bulk, promising prices “at so low a Rate as may induce Shopkeepers and Country Traders to purchase.”  McMasters anticipated that others would distribute those goods to consumers in Portsmouth and throughout the colony.

Advertisements with multiple purposes frequently appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette and other eighteenth-century newspapers.  Sometimes the various goals were more closely aligned than others.  Advertisers on occasion, for instance, inserted real estate notices that described buildings, land, and other amenities in great detail before concluding with a brief nota bene about consumer goods for sale or services offered.  In McMasters’s case, the entire advertisement focused on buying and selling.  By alternating between the two, his advertisement conjured images of items moving in and out of his store.  This gave the impression that the store was a busy site for commercial transactions while simultaneously testifying to McMasters’s skills as an entrepreneur who balanced the acquisition of commodities and sales of consumer goods.  McMasters could have placed more than one advertisement, each with its own purpose, but combining them together into one notice better represented the scope of his business interests and commercial savvy.

February 7

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

Feb 7 - 2:7:1770 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 7, 1770).

“He continues to follow the Business of an INSURANCE-BROKER.”

Like many colonists who placed newspaper advertisements, John Benfield did not confine his notice in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette to a single purpose. Instead, he divided it into two portions, advancing separate business enterprises. Benfield opened with a recitation standard in advertisements for consumer goods. He gave his location and promised low prices before listing the various goods, mostly spirits and grocery items, for sale at his store. In the second portion of the advertisement, complete with a manicule to attract the attention of readers, he described a service, insurance, he provided to merchants who owned ships that passed through the busy port of Charleston. While these very different endeavors may have merited separate advertisements, that Benfield choose to combine them in a single notice testifies to the close reading of newspapers, even the advertisements, undertaken in eighteenth-century America. Benfield did not devise a separate advertisement about insurance with a distinct headline because he expected prospective clients would take note of both portions of the combined advertisement.

That did not prevent him from making a case for why merchants and others in the market to purchase insurance should allow him to provide that service. He declared that he “continues to follow the Business of an INSURANCE-BROKER,” establishing that he had experience in that capacity. Furthermore, he made an appeal to price, just as he had done for the goods available at his shop. Benfield declared that “Vessels, which are known in this Province to be staunch and good, with their Cargoes, may be insured here on as low Terms as they are in England.” He offered the convenience of purchasing insurance locally rather than having to communicate over long distances with brokers on the other side of the Atlantic. At a time when many colonists encouraged the production and consumption of “domestic manufactures” as a means a means of reducing dependence on goods imported from England, Benfield offered an alternative for a product offered in the service sector. He did not explicitly make this argument, but he may have expected prospective clients to draw their own conclusions considering the rhetoric about nonimportation and domestic production throughout the colonies in the wake of the Townshend Acts. Certainly some readers would have made the connection without prompting from Benfield, especially after carefully perusing the other contents of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.