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.

November 3

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

Nov 3 - 11:3:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 3, 1767).

“One for their TOWN and one for their STONO STORE.”

Atkins and Weston placed an advertisement in the November 3, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to “Inform their friends and customers, that by the ship Nancy, Captain Jordan, from London” they had just imported a variety of new merchandise. The shipping news, fortuitously printed immediately to the left of the advertisement, confirmed that Jordan and the Nancy had entered the port two weeks earlier on October 20. Atkins and Watson had been expecting this shipment for quite some time. They previously attempted to drum up demand for their new inventory even before it arrived; in September they published an advertisement designed to incite anticipation among their “friends and customers” and other readers of the newspaper throughout the colony.

In both advertisements Atkins and Weston underscored that they operated stores at two locations, one in Charleston and the other in Stono, a smaller settlement to the southwest across the Ashley River. Potential customers who lived in the vicinity of Stono did not have to travel to the colony’s major port to make their purchases at Atkins and Weston’s main store. Instead, they could shop at the local branch. The advertisers made clear that customers at both locations would choose from among the same selection and experience the same treatment. They announced that the recent shipment on the Nancy included “TWO very LARGE and COMPLEAT ASSORTMENTS of GOODS” that “consist of almost every article usually imported.” They were so certain of this that they did not publish a detailed list but instead argued it was “needless to descend to particulars.” They did not privilege customers in Charleston, pledging “to keep both their stores well supplied.” In addition, they assured prospective customers in both locations that they “may place a fixed confidence in their selling on as reasonable terms as any people in the province.”

Atkins and Weston offered options to consumers who did not reside in the colony’s major port, one of the largest and most cosmopolitan urban centers in the colonies in the late 1760s. Colonists who lived in Charleston’s hinterland could have the same shopping experiences at a local outlet in Stono as if they made the journey into the city because Atkins and Weston stocked both stores with the same goods. The merchandise at their second location was neither secondhand nor second best.

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.