November 17

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 17, 1772).

“A large and valuable Assortment of Goods.”

Samuel Gordon promoted the “large and valuable Assortment of Goods” he sold at the “IRISH LINEN WARE-HOUSE” in an advertisement in the November 17, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Contrary to the name of his store, Gordon’s inventory extended far beyond textiles.  To aid prospective customers in perusing his notice, he identified more than two dozen categories of merchandise, including “MILLINARY,” “SHOES,” “HOSIERY,” “CHINA,” “GLASS,” “LOOKING-GLASSES,” “STATIONARY,” and “PEWTER.”  Each of those categories appeared in capitals, indented to form a new paragraph, and followed by a short description or list of goods.  The format likely made Gordon’s advertisement easier for readers to navigate than others that featured dense blocks of text.  Alexander Gillon’s advertisement, for instance, occupied a similar amount of space and included a similar number of items, but nothing about the format differentiated any of the goods from others.

In contrast, Gordon deployed short passages that invited prospective customers to engage with the various kinds of merchandise he stocked.  For “HATS,” he had a “choice of mens fine fashionable hats, felt ditto, ladies riding ditto.”  He did not go into greater detail, but instead encouraged readers to imagine the choices and then visit his store to see for themselves.  The “STATIONARY” items included a “great choice of pocket-books, quills, wax, wafer, paper of different qualities, and a complete set of large books, viz. ledger, journal, and waste-book.”  Gordon composed a longer blurb for “CUTLERY,” mentioning a “great choice of knives and forks, ditto in cases, razors, ditto in cases, … carving-knives, pen-knives,” and related items.  He repeatedly used the word “choice” to signal to prospective customers that they ultimately made decisions according to their own taste and budget rather than settling for whatever happened to be on the shelves.  Similarly, he used variations that included “large assortment,” “different sorts,” “large quantity,” and “variety.”  Many blurbs concluded with “&c.” (an abbreviation for et cetera), suggesting that far more choices awaited those who entered Gordon’s store.

Gordon did not rely on choice alone in marketing his wares.  He also offered a discount to “Merchants who may want any of the above articles.”  He extended credit, while promising a “discount of Ten per cent” to merchants who paid their accounts in January.  Gordon likely intended that the carefully formatted list of wares would spark interest and then the discount in the nota bene would seem like too good of a bargain for merchants to ignore.  The design of the advertisement suggests that Gordon carefully considered his marketing strategy rather than simply publishing an announcement that he had imported goods for sale.

October 18

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

Massachusetts Spy (October 15, 1772).

“The least favours gratefully acknowledged.”

John Langdon deployed a variety of strategies for marketing his inventory at the “New Book-Store” in Boston in the fall of 1772.  Like many other retailers, he emphasized the choices that he provided for consumers.  In an advertisement in the October 15 edition of the Massachusetts Spy, the bookseller informed prospective customers that he recently imported a “LARGE and Grand Assortment of BOOKS in all Arts and Sciences.”  Those new titles supplemented those he already had in stock.  He confidently proclaimed that he now offered “as large a collection as is to be found at any Store in America.”  His selection supposedly rivaled what consumers would encounter in shops in urban ports like Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia as well as in the shops operated by local competitors.  Langdon intended for that bold claim to double as an invitation for prospective customers to browse in his shop and discover titles of interest among his extensive inventory for themselves.

In addition, thew bookseller made appeals to price and customer service.  He explained that he planned to depart for England in the spring.  As a result, he wished to sell his inventory over the course of the next several months.  To do so, he set low prices.  Langdon pledged that “every Gentleman who may please to favour him with their custom may depend on purchasing at a little more than the sterling cost and charges.”  In other words, he did not mark up the prices exorbitantly but instead sought to make only a small profit on each book he sold.  Langdon concluded his advertisement with a note that the “least favours [are] gratefully acknowledged.”  He appreciated any business, no matter how large or small the transaction.  Even though he had such a large inventory, no purchase … and no customer … was insignificant. Langdon intended to cultivate relationships with everyone who entered his shop.

Langdon’s advertisement for the New Book-Store was no mere announcement that he sold books.  Instead, he crafted a notice that incorporated multiple marketing strategies.  He emphasized the size of his inventory, his motivation for setting low prices, and the importance of every customer in his effort to encourage consumers to acquire books from him.

October 11

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

Massachusetts Spy (October 8, 1772).

“He has almost every Article usually enquired for in that way.”

In the fall of 1772, Duncan Ingraham, Jr., took to the pages of the Massachusetts Spy to promote “a very Large and Elegant Assortment of ENGLISH, India and Scotch GOODS, which are now ready for Sale, at his Shop” on Union Street in Boston.  In an advertisement that ran in the October 8 edition, he made appeals to both price and choice in his efforts to entice consumers to shop at his establishment.  Ingraham made bold claims in both regards.  He trumpeted that he would “sell Wholesale and Retail as cheap for Cash [as] at any Store in America,” comparing his prices to those in other shops in Boston as well as Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, and other ports throughout the colonies.  Ingraham confidently stated that “His Prices will show the Goods well charged.”  In turn, he “doubts not of giving satisfaction to all who please to favour him with their custom.”

He had many competitors in Boston, including several who advertised in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on the same day.  Herman Brimmer and Andrew Brimmer, Caleb Blanchard, Joshua Gardner, and William Jackson all placed advertisements that listed dozens of imported items available at their shops, demonstrating an array of choices for prospective customers.  The partnership of Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers also published what amounted to a catalog of their merchandise under a headline that promised “GOODS EXTREMELY CHEAP.”  Ingraham adopted a different strategy, choosing instead to market his “very Large and Elegant Assortment” of goods with a nota bene in which he declared that he “has almost every Article usually enquired for in that way.”  He left it to readers to imagine his merchandise on their own.  Even if he did not happen to carry an item a shopper desired, if such a bold claim managed to get them into his store, then he still had an opportunity to make a sale by recommending alternatives.

Ingraham may not have wished to pay to insert a lengthy list of his inventory in the public prints, but that did not mean that he did not attend to consumer choice in an effort to make himself competitive with other merchants and shopkeepers.  In some ways, he invocation of “almost every Article usually enquired for” made even bigger claims than the extensive lists in other advertisements.

October 3

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 3, 1772).

“To particularize the Articles, in an Advertisements, would be too extensive for Publication in a News-Paper.”

Lengthy advertisements often appeared in the pages of colonial newspapers.  Merchants and shopkeepers promoted the choices they made available to customers by listing many of the goods that they stocked.  In some cases, those lists were so extensive that they operated as catalogs embedded in newspapers.  For instance, George Bartram listed scores of items available at his “Woollen-Drapery and Hosiery WAREHOUSE” in an advertisement that ran in the Pennsylvania Chronicle several times in the fall of 1772.  It filled half a column.

Not every advertiser, however, adopted that strategy.  In their own advertisement in the October 3, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, Hugh Roberts and George Roberts declared that they carried “Ironmongery and Brass Wares, In the most extensive Branches” as well as “A LARGE ASSORTMENT OF Copper Ware, India Metal Ware, Jappanned Ware, and Cutlery” at their “WARE-HOUSE” in Philadelphia.  Like Bartram, they oversaw a warehouse rather than a shop or store, such a name suggesting vast arrays of merchandise gathered in one place.  Unlike Bartram, the Robertses did not go into more detail about their merchandise.  Instead, they proclaimed that the “Ironmongery, Brass, and other Wares, at the said Warehouse, consist of so great a Variety of Sets, Patterns, and Workmanship, that, to particularize the Articles, in an Advertisement, would be too extensive for Publication in a News-Paper.”  Even an abbreviated list, like the one in Bartram’s advertisement immediately below the Robertses’ advertisement, would have been inadequate.

The Robertses challenged readers to imagine what they might encounter on a visit to their “WARE-HOUSE” to browse their “LARGE ASSORTMENT” and “extensive inventory,” hoping that would be as effective as publishing a lengthy list.  This clever strategy may have also been a means of saving money on advertising.  After all, advertisers paid by the amount of space their notices occupied.  The Robertses’ advertisement accounted for approximately a third as much space as Bartram’s notice.  Both strategies did more than merely announce the availability of goods.  They made consumer choice a central component of shopping at both warehouses in Philadelphia.

September 4

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 4, 1772).

“A Considerable variety of GOODS.”

Thomas Martin made an investment in informing the public of the “considerable variety of GOODS” he imported “in the last Ships from England” and added to his “former Assortment” of merchandise at his shop in Portsmouth in the summer of 1772.  To demonstrate the choices he offered consumers, he listed scores of items in an advertisement in the September 4 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  He stocked everything from “silk, kid, and lamb gloves & mitts” and “mantua silks” to “ivory handle and common knives & forks” and “brass furniture for desks and chests of drawers” to “brass and iron chimney hooks” and “mouse & rat traps.”  Two strings of “&c. &c. &c.” suggested an even greater array of goods than Martin could catalog in his newspaper advertisement.

That advertisement accounted for a considerable portion of the content of that issue of the New-Hampshire Gazettedelivered to subscribers and other readers.  Like most American newspapers published prior to the Revolution, a standard issue of the weekly New-Hampshire Gazette consisted of four pages created by printing two pages on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half.  The New-Hampshire Gazette featured three columns per page, for a total of twelve columns of news, editorial, advertisements, and other content in each issue.  Martin’s advertisement extended an entire column, occupying one-twelfth of the space in the September 4 edition.  The printers did use smaller type for news from Rome, London, Williamsburg, Philadelphia, Newport, Boston, Salem, and Portsmouth than for advertisements, delivering as much news as possible to subscribers while still generating revenues from advertisers.

The size of the font, however, did not matter to Martin when it came to the cost of advertising in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Colonial printers did not charge by the word but instead by the amount of space required to publish advertisements.  That meant a substantial investment for Martin when he ran a notice that filled an entire column, not the first time he ran an extensive advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Even with the larger font compared to news items, the amount of space likely helped to communicate the shopkeeper’s message about consumer choice to prospective customers.

June 22

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

Boston Evening-Post (June 22, 1772).

“A great Variety of European & India Goods.”

Many advertisers sought to convince prospective customers that they offered an array of choices to meet their tastes and budgets.  In the June 22, 1772, edition of the Boston Evening-Post, Timothy Newell promoted his “general Assortment of Hard Ware Goods.”  John Nazro hawked a “general Assortment of English, India, Irish and Scotch GOODS” and a “great Variety of Cutlery & Braziery Wares; with all Sorts of West-India Goods, Spices and other Groceries.”  Smith and Atkinson announced that they carried a large and very general Assortment of Piece GOODS.”  William Jackson even named his shop “Jackson’s Variety Store.”

Among the merchants and shopkeepers who made appeals to consumer choice in that edition of the Boston Evening-Post, William Scott published the lengthiest advertisement in an effort to demonstrate many of the different kinds of merchandise available at his “IRISH LINNEN Store.”  He listed dozens of items, from “Strip’d and flower’d bordered Aprons and Handkerchiefs” to “a variety of Ebony and Ivory paddle-stick & Leather Mount Fans” to “blue and white, red and white, green & white Furniture Checks with Nonesopretties to match” to “a variety of plain and striped and sprigg’d Muslins, such as Jaconets, Mull-Mulls, Mainsooks, Golden Cossacs, strip’d Doreas, and Book Muslins.”  The names of some textiles may seem unfamiliar to modern readers, but colonizers immersed in the consumer revolution readily identified Scott’s merchandise.  For some of these items, Scott offered an even larger selection, using descriptions like a “variety,” a “large assortment,” a “great variety,” and an “elegant assortment” to indicate that he often listed categories of goods rather than individual items.

In their advertisement, Smith and Atkinson declared it “would be equally tedious and unnecessary to enumerate” their inventory.  Scott disagreed … and he was willing to pay for the additional space necessary to transform his newspaper advertisement into a miniature catalog that accompanied the news in that issue of the Boston Evening-Post.  That did not stop him from adapting the strategy deployed by Smith and Atkinson.  Scott proclaimed that in addition to those items that he listed in his advertisement he also had “too great a Variety of small Goods to be inserted in this Advertisement.”  Where Smith and Atkinson signaled exasperation with lists of goods, Scott expressed disappointment that he could not provide an even more elaborate accounting of his merchandise for his customers.

Scott apparently considered this strategy worth the investment.  He ran the same advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter and the Massachusetts Spy, thus placing it in three of the five newspapers published in Boston at the time.  He presumably expected an appropriate return on his investment or else he would have followed the lead of competitors who composed much shorter advertisement.  Scott encouraged consumers to imagine the many and varied choices that awaited them at his store, but he did not leave it solely to their imaginations.  He prompted them with a catalog of his wares in hopes that they would visit his shop to see for themselves.

May 30

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

Providence Gazette (May 30, 1772).

“Determined not to be undersold.”

To compete with other shopkeepers and merchants in Providence, Jones and Allen emphasized both low prices and extensive choices in their advertisement in the May 30, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette.  The headline for their notice, “The GREATEST PENNYWORTHS Of ENGLISH and INDIA GOODS,” immediately alerted prospective customers to the bargains they would encounter at the Sign of the Golden Ball.  They elaborated on their low prices in the conclusion to their advertisement.  “Said JONES and ALLEN,” the partners confided, “think it needless to say any thing more urgent to the public, than that they deal for ready money, and are determined not to be undersold by any retailer in Providence.”  Although they did not make any explicit promises, Jones and Allen hinted that they would match the prices if customers found better deals in other shops.  They also made a special appeal concerning the prices for tea, sugar, and spices, pledging to part with them “on the lowest terms.”

To demonstrate that they made choices available to consumers, Jones and Allen listed dozens of items from among their inventory of textiles, garments, accessories, and housewares.  In many instances, they deployed language that suggested even more choices, such as “shaloons, tammies and calimancoes, of all colours,” “a large assortment of light and dark patches,” “an assortment of hemp, thread, cotton, worsted, and silk and worsted hose,” “an elegant assortment of ribbons,” and “An assortment of broaches, hair sprigs, ear rings, &c.”  The et cetera (abbreviated “&c.”) implied even more choices.  Jones and Allen also inserted “&c. &c.” and “&c. &c. &c.” to underscore that they stocked an even greater array of merchandise.  In addition, they did not list any of the items from among their “good assortment of hard-ware.”  Instead, they claimed those items were “too tedious to enumerate in an advertisement,” though readers may have suspected that Jones and Allen did not want to incur the additional expense.  After all, the advertisement already filled two-thirds of a column.

Other advertisers claimed to offer “the lowest Prices” in Providence, but did not exert the same effort in making that claim.  Similarly, others declared that they carried a “compleat Assortment of English, India, and Hard-Ware GOODS,” but did not list any of their wares.  Jones and Allen adapted popular marketing strategies, making their advertisement more distinctive than many others that ran in the same issue of the Providence Gazette.

April 7

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (April 7, 1772).

“A variety of other articles too tedious to enumerate.”

In the spring of 1772, an advertiser who identified himself simply as “STUKES” (almost certainly William Stukes) advised readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that he imported and sold a “COMPLEAT assortment of millinary, haberdashery, [and] stationary” and “As compleat and large an assortment of RIBBONS as ever was imported into this province at one time.”  As further evidence of the bounty available at his shop, he listed dozens of textiles, garments, and accessories.  Stukes stocked everything from “new fashioned flowered Leghorn hats” to “Ladies Morocco pocket books … with silver French locks” to “fine white linen gloves” to “fashionable fans.”  Like many other eighteenth-century advertisers, he expected such a vast array of choices to entice consumers.

Yet he did not want to overwhelm prospective customers by committing too much to print (or he did not want to pay for additional space that a longer list would occupy in the newspaper).  He concluded his litany of goods with a note that he carried “a variety of other articles too tedious to enumerate.”  Where did Stukes draw the line?  Giving only his last name amounted to an economy of prose, but the lengthy list of goods certainly did not.  Only two other shopkeepers placed advertisements listing a similar number of items in the April 7, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  Stukes apparently did not consider the “blue satin hats” and the “wax ear-rings” and the “Barcelona cravats” and the “womens black calamanco pumps” in his notice to be “too tedious to enumerate” as he competed to attract customers by demonstrating the choices available at his shop.  Proclaiming that listing anything more would become “tedious” was a sly way of encouraging prospective customers to imagine for themselves what else they might discover in Stukes’s shop.  He gained the advantage of cataloging his wares in the public prints while simultaneously suggesting that he exercised restraint in how much he shared about his merchandise.

January 3

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

Connecticut Journal (January 3, 1772).

“He will sell … at least as cheap as any of his Neighbours.”

In 1772, James Lockwood began the new year by placing an advertisement in the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy “to inform the Public, That he is now opening, at a new Store …, a great Assortment of English & India GOODS, BOOKS, and all kinds of STATIONARY.”  The merchant marketed these items “Wholesale or Retail,” seeking both retailers and consumers as customers.  To compete with other merchants and shopkeepers in town, he proclaimed that he set prices “as cheap as any of his Neighbours.”  In other words, he would not be undersold … and might even offer some bargains better than buyers would find anywhere else in New Haven.

In this brief advertisement, Lockwood deployed two of the most common advertising strategies of the era:  an appeal to price and an appeal to consumer choice.  Elsewhere in the same issue, other merchants and shopkeepers did the same.  Roger Sherman, for instance, promoted a “general assortment” of goods, noting that he sold them “cheap.”  Henry Daggett similarly carried a “large Assortment of English and India GOODS” as well as a “Quantity of Queen’s WARE, gilt and plain.”  He also declared that his prices were “cheap,” a word commonly used to mean “low” rather than “lacking in quality.”  None of these advertisers published extensive lists of their merchandise, a common strategy for demonstrating choices to readers, but they used words and phrases like “great assortment,” “general assortment,” “quantity,” and “all kinds” to suggest the choices that awaited consumers.  They also did not elaborate much on price, though Lockwood did attempt to distinguish his store from the others when he asserted that he sold his merchandise “at least as cheap as any of his Neighbours.”

To modern eyes accustomed to much more sophisticated marketing strategies, newspaper notices like the ones placed by Lockwood, Sherman, and Daggett may appear to have been nothing but announcements that they had goods for sale.  Though their advertisements were indeed rudimentary, these merchants and shopkeepers did make some effort to incite demand and entice consumers to shop at their stores.  Each of them underscored choices and promised low prices.  Lockwood even experimented with the appeal to price in his advertisement, assuring prospective customers that if they did some comparison shopping around town that they would not be disappointed with his prices.

December 29

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

Maryland Gazette (December 26, 1771).

“A Variety of other Goods.”

In the final edition of the Maryland Gazette published in 1771, Alexander Ogg informed readers that he carried a “VERY large and general Assortment of European, East and West India Goods, suitable for the Season.”  To demonstrate to consumers that he did indeed offer an array of choices, he listed scores of items in an advertisement that extended more than half a column.  He stocked all kinds of fabrics, including “Sagathies, Durants, Tammies, Camblets and Cambletees, Calimancoes, flowered Queen Stuffs, Velvets and Velverets, Taffaties and Persians.”  He also had “Mens, Womens and Childrens Worsted Hose” as well as “Silk Mittens” and “Mens and Womens Beaver Gloves.”  Beyond textiles and clothing, he listed housewares, saddlery, patent medicines, and a variety of other items.  Customers could acquire “a large Assortment of white Stone Ware, consisting of Dishes, Mugs, Teacups and Saucers, [and] Sauce Boats” or “Silver Buckles both Shoe and Knee” or “Horse and Chair Whips” at his shop.

Ogg’s inventory seemed to rival that of any merchant or shopkeeper in the major ports.  His catalog of goods included the same items that appeared in advertisements in newspapers published in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia, yet he did not serve prospective customers in an urban center.  Instead, he imported these items from London to sell at his shop “at Hunting-Town in Calvert County,” about thirty miles south of Annapolis.  He advertised in the Maryland Gazette, the only newspaper published in the colony at the time.  As such, the Maryland Gazette served as a regional newspaper rather than a local one, so Ogg expected that prospective customers in his area would encounter his advertisement.  The length of the list, as well as references to a “VERY large and general Assortment” and assurances of “a Variety of other Goods,” may have been intended to underscore that he did indeed offer as many choices as merchants and shopkeepers in Annapolis … or Charleston or Philadelphia.  His advertisement also demonstrates that the consumer revolution did not occur solely in urban ports.  Enterprising merchants and shopkeepers advertised and distributed imported goods to rural communities as well.