What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“[The Particulars will be in our next.]”
Mary Symonds, a milliner who frequently advertised in Philadelphia’s newspapers, published a truncated advertisement in the April 28, 1768, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette. In it, she announced that she sold “A VERY large and neat Assortment of MERCHANDIZE” at low prices. Unlike many eighteenth-century advertisements for imported goods, this one did not list the items for sale. Instead, it concluded with a note that announced, “[The Particulars will be in our next.]” Potential customers were invited to read the next issue to find out more about Symonds’s wares.
Although “our next” suggests an editorial note from the printer or compositor, perhaps for lack of space to insert the advertisement in its entirety, other evidence suggests that Symonds had not yet submitted the copy for a more extensive advertisement but instead wanted to attract as many customers as possible with an abbreviated version while whetting the appetites of other consumers who could not make it to her shop before publication of the next edition. Consider the advertisement Symonds ran in the Pennsylvania Chronicle three days earlier. It included identical copy, except for the note at the end. Instead, it said, “[The particulars will be in the next CHRONICLE.]” It seems unlikely that both newspapers would have been so short on space that they would have truncated the same advertisement. Symonds’s sister, Ann Pearson, also a milliner, included a similar note in her advertisement in the Chronicle: “[The particulars will be in our next.]” Both milliners likely stated that they would publish a more extensive advertisement the following week, but the printer selected the language.
Consider as well that both Symonds and Pearson advertised goods that had just been imported from London by Captain James Sparks on the Mary and Elizabeth. The shipping news in both the Chronicle and the Gazette indicated that vessel had arrived in port in the past week. The milliners may not have had an opportunity to unload or unpack their most recent shipment, but they did not want to wait an entire week to advertise their wares and potentially lose business to their competitors. Numerous merchants and shopkeepers ran advertisements about new inventory shipped via the Mary and Elizabeth, but few of them offered any “Particulars.” Isaac and Moses Bartram were among the few exceptions, listing dozens of items in their advertisement, but most others took the approaches of Mease and Miller (“A LARGE and neat assortment of European and East-India goods) or Hubley and Graff (”AN assortment of GOODS, suitable for the season”).
Symonds and Pearson attempted to claim their spots in the colonial marketplace alongside male competitors by adopting a similar strategy, yet they supplemented their advertisements with pledges to provide more information about their merchandise in the next edition. In so doing, they communicated a level of service and desire to address the needs of prospective customers not embodied in other advertisements. They did not merely rush their advertisements to press; they also anticipated that consumers would want more details and promised to deliver.