October 17

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

Oct 17 - 10:17:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 17, 1768)

“I also expect by the first vessels from London and Bristol, a number of other articles suitable for the season.”

In the fall of 1768 Eleazer Miller, Jr., placed an advertisement in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury to promote the “neat assortment of Goods fit for the Season” that he had “just imported.” Miller’s inventory included a variety of textiles, garments, and adornments, including an “assortment of silk handkerchiefs, mens black cravats, [and] womens Barcelona handkerchiefs.” Like many other merchants and shopkeepers, he indicated the English ports where shipments of those goods had originated. Some had arrived “from London, per Capts. Gilchrist, Farquhar, Mund, & Miller” and others via the “last vessels from Bristol.” Doing so helped to confirm that Miller carried new merchandise. He assumed that readers would be familiar with the vessels that had recently arrived in port. Those who were not could compare Miller’s list to the shipping news, a list of ships, captains, and ports of origin provided by the customs house.

Yet Miller did not solely market goods “just imported” from English cities. He also encouraged prospective customers to anticipate other merchandise that would arrive soon. After listing dozens of items already in stock, Miller noted, “I also expect by the first vessels from London and Bristol, a number of other articles suitable for the season, which will also be sold cheap.” Perhaps Miller hoped that prospective customers would make their way to his store in Hanover Square regularly to see what kinds of new items had arrived since their last visit. Announcing that he expected additional shipments let consumers know that he did not allow the inventory on his shelves to stagnate, nor did he expect shoppers to accept whatever goods happened to remain. Instead, he refreshed his wares to better serve his customers … at least for the moment.

In addition to such concerns, Miller also faced a deadline of sorts. On August 27, “nearly all the Merchants and Traders in Town” had subscribed to a nonimportation agreement in response to the taxes levied by the Townshend Act. Their resolution appeared in the September 8, 1768, edition of the New-York Journal. The first resolution stated that they “will not send for from Great-Britain, either upon our own Account or on Commission, any other Goods than what we have already ordered.” By underscoring that he expected the imminent arrival of new merchandise via vessels from London and Bristol, Miller could claim that these were goods that he had “already ordered” and that they did not violate the nonimportation agreement. Furthermore, the second resolution stated that the city’s merchants and traders “will not import any kind of Merchandise from Great-Britain, either on our own Account or on Commission … that shall be shipped from Great-Britain after the First Day of November.” Again, by emphasizing that any new merchandise in his shop would arrive on “the first vessels from London and Bristol” Miller suggested that he abided by the parameters of the nonimportation agreement.

Merchants and shopkeepers in New York subscribed to their nonimportation agreement only after stockpiling goods to sell to local consumers. By skating right up to the deadlines for ceasing orders and deliveries, Miller did not explicitly mention the nonimportation agreements but he did send a message to prospective customers with a wink and a nod. Even as colonists extolled the virtues of resistance through their endorsements of nonimportation they could continue many of their usual habits of consumption. The new merchandise at Miller’s store provided the means for doing so.

August 23

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

Aug 23 - 8:23:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 23, 1768).

“GOOD CUSTOMERS may depend on being constantly supplied with FRESH GOODS.”

According to their advertisement in the August 23, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, the partnership of Atkins and Weston operated two shores in the colony, one in the port of Charleston and the other about five miles to the south in Stono on James Island. They stocked “An assortment of Goods proper for the season” recently imported from London and Bristol. They also advised prospective customers that they had on hand “a good supply of RUM, WINE, SUGAR, SALT,” and other staples.

Yet a significant portion of their advertisement did not focus on goods they already offered for sale but instead anticipated merchandise that they planned to make available to consumers in the near future. Atkins and Weston announced that they expected to receive a new shipment of goods from London via the Carolina Packet within two months. This shipment consisted of “two compleat assortments of GOODS, one for each store.”

The partners underscored their commitment to serving their customers. They did not place their advertisement merely out of self-interest, hoping to generate revenues by reducing their current inventory. They also wanted their “GOOD CUSTOMERS” to know that they “may depend on being constantly supplied with FRESH GOODS” rather than being forced to choose from among whatever wares lingered on the shelves. Furthermore, this was the case at both stores. The shop in Charleston did not make room for new goods by transporting remainders to the shop in the smaller settlement at Stono. Instead, each store received its own shipment of goods. Those residing in the country did not need to worry that they were presented with different options than the colonists who resided in the bustling urban port. Atkins and Weston did not attempt to pass off to customers in Stono what had been passed over in Charleston.

By promoting a shipment of goods that had not yet arrived, Atkins and Weston sought to create a sense of anticipation among consumers in both locations. They currently stocked “Goods proper for the season,” but the season would soon change and the partners attempted to incite desire for other goods. They encouraged potential customers to imagine consumption as an ongoing process, one of acquiring goods now and planning to acquire “FRESH GOODS” later. Providing details about a shipment they expected to receive “in less than two months” prompted consumers to keep their eyes on Atkins and Weston’s stores when they contemplated purchases in the future.

June 14

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

Jun 14 - South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 14, 1768).

A Catalogue of which will be in our next.”

In advance of an auction of “A COLLECTION of LAW BOOKS” to be held on June 22, 1768, Charles Crouch placed an advertisement in the June 14 edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He attempted to incite enthusiasm by informing potential bidders that the collection included several “valuable Articles; many of which, are now rarely to be found.” Anyone potentially interested would not want to miss this sale since auctions often yielded bargain prices, even for rare items that might otherwise cost significantly more when they exchanged hands through other sorts of transactions.

Crouch did not expect prospective buyers simply to trust his assertions about the value and rarity of the books up for auction in just over a week. Instead, he advised them that “A Catalogue … will be in our next” edition, a promise that Crouch could confidently make since he was the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Publishing a catalog, whether in a newspaper or as a separate pamphlet or broadside, provided a preview of the auction. It allowed interested parties to contemplate the merchandise in advance; as they anticipated the auction they likely imagined themselves bidding and acquiring some of the items, perhaps increasing the chances they would do so once they found themselves at the auction.

Yet Crouch did not yet direct readers to such visualizations: the list of rare and valuable books would not appear in the newspaper until the following week. He mentioned the catalog, however, as an invitation to potential bidders to peruse the next issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, perhaps assuming that their eagerness would make them more inclined to select items that they did indeed wish to buy at the auction. Alternately, he ran the risk that the catalog would merely disappoint some readers if its contents did not include books they considered interesting or particularly valuable or rare. Crouch gambled that mentioning the catalog in advance would make readers more disposed to examining it and attending the auction.

May 25

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

May 25 - 5:25:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 25, 1768).

“MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM WARES, daily expected from Bristol.”

In an advertisement they placed in the May 25, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette, merchants Inglis and Hall promoted merchandise they already had on hand. In addition, they attempted to stoke anticipation for inventory that would be available soon but had not yet arrived at their store in Savannah.

Inglis and Hall proclaimed that they “have just imported” an assortment of goods “from London.” They named the ships and captains that had transported that “QUANTITY of EUROPEAN and EAST-INDIA GOODS” across the Atlantic so readers could consult the shipping news or their own memories to confirm that they did indeed sell wares that had recently arrived in the colony.

At the same time, Inglis and Hall reported that they had ordered a “GENERAL ASSORTMENT of LINENS, WOOLENS, MANCHESTER and BIRMINGHAM WARES” that they expected to add to their stock soon since the vessel carrying them was “daily expected from Bristol.” Given that the Georgia Gazette, like every other newspaper published in the American colonies in 1768, appeared only once a week, it was quite possible that Inglis and Hall would make those goods available for sale before the next issue scheduled for publication on June 1. Previewing the merchandise might have drawn customers into the store for an initial visit to see what was available as well as a return visit to check for new arrivals, increasing foot traffic and potential sales.

This strategy also conditioned some prospective customers to read the weekly list of ships “ENTERED INWARDS at the CUSTOM-HOUSE” printed elsewhere in the Georgia Gazette as an extension of Inglis and Hall’s advertisement. The merchants created the possibility that anyone reading that a vessel had arrived from Bristol would associate that news with their advertisement trumpeting a much more extensive inventory. Although they did not have any authority over the other content in the newspaper, Inglis and Hall harnessed the shipping news as an auxiliary component of their own advertisement.

April 28

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

Apr 28 - 4:28:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 28, 1768).

“[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.

December 18

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

Dec 18 - 12:18:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (December 18, 1767).

“The above Advertisement coming late and being long must omit the Particulars till next Week.”

John Adams placed an advertisement in the December 18, 1767, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform readers that he sold “Philadelphia Flour and Bar Iron” and “a general Assortment of English Goods” at his shop on Queen Street in Portsmouth. An editorial note accompanied Adams’s notice: “The above Advertisement coming late and being long must omit the Particulars till next Week.” The shopkeeper’s much lengthier advertisement did appear in the next issue, but until then readers had to imagine what it might contain. Although they would not have been able to name all the “Particulars,” colonial consumers were so steeped in the print culture of marketing via newspaper advertisements that most would have accurately predicted that the complete notice included a lengthy list of merchandise that presented a multitude of choices. Adams did not benefit from sharing that list with potential customers in the December 18 issue, but when it did appear it concluded with a general description of “a variety of other Articles.” Even when allocated space for the entire advertisement, Adams chose to publish a partial list of his inventory and prompted consumers to imagine what other treasures they might discover if they visited his shop. The editorial note explaining that the advertisement had been abbreviated achieved the same purpose.

That note had at least three audiences. The first consisted of residents of Portsmouth who could easily visit Adams’s shop as part of their usual routines at some point in the coming week. The entire advertisement notified them that Adams carried an array of goods – so many that they could not all be listed in the current edition – that he sold “cheap for Cash.” Readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette who resided in Portsmouth’s hinterland comprised the second audience. They might visit town only occasionally, limiting their access to any of the shops there. The editorial note alerted them that Adams would soon publish more “Particulars” about his inventory, information that they could eventually take into account when planning their excursions into Portsmouth or sending their orders to the shopkeeper. Adams himself was the third audience for the editorial note. It may not have been apparent at the time he submitted his advertisement that it would not appear in its entirety. Even if Adams had been aware in advance, the note provided an acknowledgment and assurances that the printers would allocate sufficient space for his advertisement the following week. It simultaneously informed readers that the shopkeeper had intended to share much more with them. While not the copy Adams intended to publish, the editorial note served to incite interest in his merchandise and anticipation for the complete advertisement.

October 5

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

Oct 5 - 10:5:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (October 5, 1767).

As the Articles in this Advertisement were very numerous, we are obliged to omit them till the next Week for want of Room.”

Bookseller John Mein frequently placed advertisements in Boston’s newspapers (and sometimes publications in other towns) in the 1760s. Even if they had never visited the “LONDON BOOK-STORE North Side of King-Street,” regular readers of the Boston-Gazette would have been familiar with Mein’s marketing efforts. On occasion his advertisements occupied even more space than those inserted by shopkeepers with the most extensive lists of imported merchandise, extending anywhere from an entire column to an entire page. Mein intended to publish another lengthy advertisement in the Boston-Gazette on the first Monday in October 1767, but had to settle for a shorter notice.

Actually, Mein placed two advertisements in the October 5 issue. One appeared at the top of the third column on the second page, to the right of an open letter “To The People of Boston and all other English Americans,” a letter that argued Parliament had renewed its attempts to reduce the colonies to “perfect slavery.” This relatively short advertisement amounted to a single square, the standard length for most paid notices in that issue. The second advertisement, approximately two squares, appeared in the middle of the third column on the third page, less easy to distinguish among the other notices on the page.

Both advertisements announced that Mein stocked “A Grand Assortment Of the most modern BOOKS, In every Branch of polite Literature, Arts and Sciences” (though the typography differed significantly). The shorter notice also indicated that since “the Articles in this Advertisement were very numerous, we are obliged to omit them till the next Week for want of Room.” The second notice focused primarily on a single volume, a new edition of “Dilworth’s Spelling Book” just published on “fine Paper” with new type. It concluded with a brief note that “Printed Catalogues may be had Gratis at the Store” on King Street. Surely Mein’s catalog included many of the books he meant to advertise in the Boston-Gazette that week had space permitted.

Given the placement of Mein’s advertisements within the newspaper, he may not have submitted two separate notices for publication. Instead, the printers may have created the shorter advertisement, with its announcement anticipating a lengthier list of Mein’s titles in the next issue, and given it a prominent place to compensate for not publishing all of the copy Mein submitted. When the advertisement did appear the following week, it filled an entire page. Given the expense that Mein incurred, the printers may have considered a second advertisement promising more information about Mein’s “Grand Assortment Of the most modern BOOKS” the least they could do when they ran out of space to publish the list in its entirety. After all, they wanted to encourage the bookseller to continue (to pay) to insert lengthy advertisements in their newspaper.

Mein intended to attract attention through the volume of his advertising, yet circumstances prompted the printers to deliver an alternate marketing strategy. They incited interest by temporarily withholding the complete advertisement while simultaneously giving the announcement a prominent place in the publication to increase the number of potential customers who would read it.

September 29

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

Sep 29 - 9:29:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 29, 1767).

“They daily expect by the NANCY, Capt. JORDAN, from London, two very large and compleat assortments of goods.”

Like many merchants and shopkeepers throughout the colonies, Atkins and Weston indicated the source of their inventory in their newspaper advertisement. They informed readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that that had “just imported from LONDON, per the Captains BALL, RAINIER, and ALEXANDER, a variety of Goods.” This was boilerplate, part of a formula for the first sentence of many advertisements, but it became a standard part of marketing in eighteenth-century America because it addressed several factors that motivated colonists to participate in a transatlantic consumer revolution.

In proclaiming that they “just imported from LONDON … a variety of Goods,” Atkins and Weston framed the remainder of their advertisement for potential customers. They promised consumer choice among the “variety of Goods” before listing many of them to demonstrate the point. They emphasized a sense of shared identity among residents of the empire’s largest and most cosmopolitan city and colonists in Charleston, South Carolina, and its hinterlands. (Note that the partners operated two shops, one in Charleston and the other in Stono.) Their customers participate in the same “empire of goods” distributed in England. They also asserted that their merchandise was timely, implying that it corresponded to current fashions. An ocean separated consumers in London and Charleston, but this did not have to prevent colonists from keeping up with current tastes and styles.

In addition, listing which captains (and, sometimes, which vessels) delivered the goods to the colonial port allowed for readers to confirm that the merchandise had indeed been acquired recently rather than sitting on shelves or in storage for an extended period. At least some readers would know when certain ships had arrived at port, but any reader could browse the shipping news, usually printed immediately before the advertisements, to learn when ships had entered and departed the harbor.

Atkins and Weston developed an enhancement to this standard introduction. Later in their advertisement they reported that “they daily expect by the NANCY, Capt. JORDAN, from London, two very large and compleat assortments of goods, … and regular importations in future.” Not only did they incite demand for their current inventory, they also encouraged potential customers to anticipate the new wares that would soon become available via the Nancy. Furthermore, promises of “regular importations in future” revealed their confidence in their supply chain while also conditioning readers to assume that Atkins and Weston frequently updated their merchandise even without being exposed to subsequent advertising.

January 5

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

jan-5-151767-boston-evening-post
Boston Evening-Post (January 5, 1767).

“A general Assortment of English and India GOODS, consisting of the following Articles.”

William Palfrey’s lengthy list advertisement, which comprised almost the entire third column of the January 5, 1767, issue of the Boston Evening-Post, fulfilled a promise made in a much shorter advertisement inserted in the previous issue. Confined to a single “square” of advertising space, the earlier advertisement announced that Palfrey had just imported “A general Assortment of English and India GOODS, consisting of many Articles.” The final line of the notice indicated that “[The particular Articles will be in our next].” A week later the same short announcement appeared, though this time as a header for a list of dozens of items divided into two columns. The phrase “consisting of many Articles” had been updated to “consisting of the following Articles,” a more appropriate introduction for the list that followed, but otherwise the content and format for the header remained the same.

It would be reasonable to conclude that the printers of the Boston Evening-Post made a decision to truncate Palfrey’s lengthy advertisement in the interest of space. After all, colonial newspapers often included some sort of notice that due to space restrictions some advertisements that had been omitted would appear in the next issue. That could have been the case in this instance, but another explanation places the decision in the hands of the advertiser rather than the printers.

Perhaps Palfrey decided to insert the first advertisement with its promise of a lengthier catalog of merchandise to appear later as a means of inciting interest and anticipation among prospective customers. The advertisement invited readers to consult the pages of the Boston Evening-Post once again, prompting them to look for Palfrey’s advertisement specifically amid all of those from his competitors. Palfrey may have calculated this as a strategy to overshadow other advertisements, especially if he did not have sufficient time to draw up a list of merchandise that had been “just imported in the Brig Lydia, Captain Scott, from LONDON.” The shipping news supplied by the Customs House in the December 29 issue indicated that the Lydia had arrived only two days earlier. Palfrey likely did not have time to compile a complete inventory of his newly arrived merchandise, but did not want to wait a week to inform potential customers about his “general Assortment of English and India GOODS.” The shorter advertisement simultaneously allowed him to spread the word to eager customers and to encourage anticipation among curious readers who might choose to visit his shop only after previewing the merchandise listed in a subsequent advertisement.