What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The above Goods will be sold as low as at any other Store in Town.”
When shopkeeper Hugh Henderson moved to a new location in Portsmouth, he placed an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette to notify “HIS CUSTOMERS AND OTHERS.” He also took the opportunity to promote the “assortment of English Goods” available at his shop, listing several dozen items. Henderson carried a variety of textiles as well as “Mens and Womens Stockings,” “Trimings for Ladies Cloaks,” lace, ribbons, and “Writing Paper.” Having enticed prospective customers with that catalog of goods, he also offered a “Variety of other Articles, too tedious to mention.” Like many other shopkeepers in New Hampshire and throughout the colonies, Henderson emphasized consumer choice.
He also made note of his prices, deploying another means of luring prospective customers into his shop. In the introduction to the list of goods, Henderson pledged to sell them “very cheap.” He concluded his advertisement with a nota bene that advised readers that “The above Goods will be sold as low as at any other Store in Town.” He called attention to his competitive prices both before and after listing his wares, helping readers to imagine acquiring them at prices they could afford. Henderson even hinted at price matching, inviting customers to haggle for the best deals if they did some comparison shopping around town. Elsewhere in the same issue, Gilliam Butler described his prices for “an Assortment of English GOODS” as “Cheap,” while William Elliot declared that he sold “English and West India GOODS, at a reasonable rate.” Henderson’s nota bene suggested that he stayed informed about prices in the local market in order to set his own as “cheap” and “reasonable” as those charged by Butler, Elliot, and other shopkeepers.
Henderson depended on two of the most common appeals made to consumers in eighteenth-century newspapers: choice and price. He did not, however, make generic appeals. Instead, he enhanced each with additional commentary, asserting that he carried other items “too tedious to mention” and that he sold his entire inventory “as low as at any other Store in Town.” For some readers, such promises may have distinguished Henderson’s advertisement from others in the same issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette.