February 10

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 10, 1767).

“A few light green silk umbrelloes.”

In marketing his wares to potential customers, John Davies made many of the standard appeals that appeared in eighteenth-century newspaper advertising. He specified that his goods had been “Imported … from London” (and even named the vessel that carried them so readers could confirm how recently they had arrived). He offered customers choices, including “a great variety of printed cottons and linens” and “a large assortment of men and women’s neat made shoes and pumps.” He listed some of his goods to whet consumers’ appetites, but also allowed them to use their imaginations about what might be included among the “many other articles” in his shop. He gave assurances about the quality of his merchandise at the beginning and end of his advertisement. He also promised low prices, even mentioning specific prices for particular items as a means of guaranteeing those rates and allowing potential customers to assess the value themselves even before visiting his shop. When he stated that he sold his wares “proportionably cheap,” he likely offered discounts for buying in bulk, especially considering that he stressed that he stocked “a quantity” of several items, including printed linens and handkerchiefs. At a glance, Davies’ advertisement looks like a block of dense text, but on further examination readers discovered that it contained many of the most modern marketing strategies of its time.

In addition, Davies resorted to another sort of appeal not used quite as often in eighteenth-century advertising: an appeal to scarcity. He carried “a quantity” or “a large assortment” of several items, but only “a few light green silk umbrelloes.” This created a different sort of imperative for potential customers to visit his shop. Readers had many opportunities to purchase most of Davies’ wares, but his inventory included only a limited number of fashionable umbrellas. Anyone interested in such an item needed to buy it quickly or risk supplies being sold out. Without being heavy-handed in his approach, Davies created a sense of urgency when it came to obtaining one of the “few” green silk umbrellas he had imported from London.

December 5

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (December 5, 1766).

“The NEW-HAMPSHIRE ALMANCK, For the Year of our Lord CHRIST 1767.”

With only four weeks remaining until the first day of the new year, it was time for readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette to procure almanacs for 1767. Printers and booksellers in some colonial towns had been advertising their almanacs since early September, giving customers plenty of time to purchase one of the most widely distributed types of publication in colonial America.

Some readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette had apparently already acquired their almanacs by the time today’s advertisement appeared. “Those who are not already supplied,” Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle warned, “must apply speedily, as but few remain unsold, and no more will be printed this Year.”

In making such a statement, the Fowles simultaneously deployed three appeals to potential customers. They made an appeal to scarcity, noting that “but few remain unsold.” The printers had limited stock to offer to those who had not yet bought their almanacs for the new year. They made an appeal to popularity, implying that the scarcity had been caused by the large volume of purchases on the part of customers (rather than the printers producing too limited a quantity). Many other readers apparently trusted David Sewall’s calculations and the other content of the almanac; they had already acquired their copies. Finally, the Fowles made an appeal to potential customers’ sense of urgency. Not only was the new year quickly approaching, those who wanted their own copy of the New-Hampshire Alamanack for reference needed to “apply speedily” because “no more will be printed this Year.” The Fowles had printed enough copies to sell the almanac both “Wholesale and Retail,” but they did not print so many that they would end up with leftover stock that could never be sold. This helped to create a sense of urgency as they cautioned potential customers that they risked being shut out if they waited too long to shop for this particular item.

Almanacs were certainly popular reading and reference material in colonial America. It would be hard to deny that latent demand for them existed. However, the Fowles’ advertisement did more than simply notify the public that they offered a product already in demand. Instead, the Fowles various appeals – scarcity, popularity, sense of urgency – to incite greater demand for the New-Hampshire Almanack for 1767.