December 30

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

dec-30-12301766-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 30, 1766).

“Those who … left Breeches to clean, are requested to call for them.”

Most advertisements for consumer goods and services attempted to convince potential customers to make purchases, to participate in the consumer revolution taking place around them. On occasion, however, shopkeepers and artisans placed advertisements requesting that customers actually take possession of the goods that belonged to them. Two such advertisements appeared in the December 30, 1766, issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.

In the first, Alexander Caddell, a “Breeches-maker and Glover,” announced that he planned to return to London. He called on business associates and former customers to settle their accounts, but he also informed anyone who “left Skins to be manufactured for Breeches” to retrieve them. Similarly, those who “left Breeches to clean” had two months to pick them up. Otherwise, Caddell planned to sell them.

dec-30-12301766-advert-2-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 30, 1766).

In another advertisement, Edward Weyman noted that he had “in his Possession sundry Looking-Glasses belonging to different Persons” who had entrusted him with silvering them. He called on the owners to “pay the Charges” and “take them away.” Like Caddell, he threatened to sell them, though he allowed six months, rather than two, for the owners to recover their property from his shop.

In both cases, the advertisers had provided services but presumably had not yet been paid. Selling items that had been abandoned by their owners, after giving sufficient notice that they planned to do so, became a method for receiving payment for their services through a different means.

This situation also illuminates one of the convoluted routes for delivering goods to consumers. Many eighteenth-century advertisements featured new goods that moved along a simple path from producer to retailer to consumer. The breeches that Caddell threatened to sell and the looking glasses that Weyman threatened to sell, however, did not traverse such a simple trajectory. Instead, these used goods had multiple owners, multiple sellers, and rather complicated provenances. The consumer revolution occurred not only because buyers and sellers valued and exchanged new goods but also because they developed markets for used wares, sometimes as an expediency when the original owners neglected to reclaim possessions left in the care of shopkeepers and artisans.

April 30

What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Apr 30 - 4:28:1766 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (April 28, 1766).

“May depend on having their commands executed with expedition, and in the neatest manner.”

Breechesmaker John Baster understood the importance of customer service, and he wanted potential customers to know that he would treat them well if they called on him. He promised that his clients “may depend on having their commands executed with expedition, and in the neatest matter.” In other words, he did the job quickly but well, not sacrificing quality for speed.

In choosing to use the word “commands” rather than “orders” or “instructions,” he also established the relationship between artisan and customer. Whether elite, middling, or more humble, all customers could expect deference from Baster throughout their commercial interaction, regardless of their relative status and relationship to each other beyond his shop at the Sign of the Buck and Breeches.

Baster thanked former customers for their patronage (letting potential customers know that others had visited his shop) before stating that he “only requests the continuance of it, no longer than he makes it his study to please.” This convoluted passage was the eighteenth-century method of assuring customers that he understood that if he failed to offer good customer service that he realized that they would seek out other breechesmakers. Not only did he realize that was the case, he expected it.

Customer service is a major aspect of running a retail enterprise today, but colonial Americans understood its value as well, though they may have expressed it differently.