August 13

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (August 13, 1773).

“Country Traders … will, perhaps, never again have an Opportunity of purchasing so cheap.”

For nearly two years, Ebenezer Bridgham pursued a regional advertising campaign for his “Staffordshire & Liverpool Warehouse, In King-Street, BOSTON.”  In addition to placing notices in newspapers published in Boston, he also advertised in the Essex Gazette (published in Salem), the Providence Gazette, the New-Hampshire Gazette (published in Portsmouth), the Connecticut Courant (published in Hartford), and the New-London Gazette.  He initially ran the same notice in several newspapers, but later his efforts became more sporadic.  An advertisement often appeared in newspapers in one or two towns, but not in all locations that Bridgham attempted to cultivate a clientele among consumers and, especially, retailers.  Overall, he was one of the few advertisers who attempted to serve a regional market by placing notices in newspapers in several towns in the early 1770s.

As fall approached in 1773, he once again advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette, alerting prospective customers to the “very large and full ASSORTMENT of CROCKERY WARE” available at his warehouse.  He stocked “almost every Kind of CHINA, GLASS, DELPH, … and many other Kinds of FLINT WARE” in various colors.  To entice customers, he proclaimed that he set prices “little more than the Sterling Cost.”  In other words, when they made purchases at the Staffordshire and Liverpool Warehouse they did not pay a significant markup for imported goods.  Consumers regularly encountered claims about low prices, so Bridgham demonstrated his motivation to offer bargains.  He announced that he was “Intending soon for GREAT-BRITAIN” and wished to settle accounts before his departure.  That also meant reducing his inventory as much as possible, prompting him to offer good deals to his customers.

Bridgham concluded with a note to “Country Traders” in New Hampshire, informing them that they “would find a very great Advantage in immediately supplying themselves from said Store.”  The merchant asserted that retailers “will, perhaps, never again have an Opportunity of purchasing so cheap.”  With such bargains, they could increase their own sales and generate more revenue as they passed along the savings to their own customers.  Bridgham combined appeals to price and consumer choice in his advertisement in hopes of convincing shopkeepers and others to acquire “CROCKERY WARE” and other items from him rather than other merchants.

June 11

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (June 11, 1773).

“They are determined to sell as low for Cash as can be bought in any Part of the Province.”

George Bell and Company sold a variety of goods at their shop in Newmarket.  In an advertisement in the June 11, 1773, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, Bell and Company promoted a “large and general Assortment of English, India and Scotch Goods” recently imported into the colony.  To entice prospective customers, they listed some of those items, including textiles (“Calicoes, Crapes, Taffity’s, Cambricks, and Lawns, flower’d and plain”), “a fine Assortment of Ribbons of the newest Patterns,” and a “fine Assortment of crockery and hard Ware.”  Bell and Company could have published an even more extensive catalog of their inventory, but they instead confided that they stocked “many other Articles, too tedious to mention” … but not too tedious for consumers to browse in their shop.

In addition to emphasizing such an array of choices, Bell and Company made an appeal to price, asserting that they “are determined to sell as low for Cash as can be bought in any Part of the Province.”  Located in Newmarket, a bit to the west of Portsmouth, they sought to assure prospective customers, especially those in the countryside, that they did not need to visit the colony’s primary port to get the best bargains.  Although Bell and Company may have assumed some additional expenses in transporting the imported goods to Newmarket compared to their competitors in Portsmouth, they aimed to convince consumers that they absorbed those costs rather than passing them along to their customers.  Their proclamation also served as an invitation to haggle over the prices to give Bell and Company opportunities to match the deals offered at shops in Portsmouth and elsewhere in the colony.  They did not explicitly state that they matched prices, but declaring that they “are determined to sell as low … as can be bought in any Part of Province” suggested that they would at least consider adjusting their prices if customers alerted them to better deals.

As was often the case in newspaper advertisements placed by colonial merchants and shopkeepers, appeals to low prices and consumer choice appeared in combination in Bell and Company’s advertisement.  They gave prospective customers multiple reasons to visit their shop as part of their shopping experience.

May 14

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (May 14, 1773).

“Will be sold … as low as at any Store or Shop in America.”

Among the advertisements and notices in the May 14, 1773, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette, John McMaster and Company promoted a “large Assortment of English, India, and Scotch GOODS” recently received via “the last Ships from London.”  They invited prospective customers to visit their store in Portsmouth to examine their “Large Assortment of flower’d Lawns, Cambricks and Muslins,” “striped and plain Lutestrings,” and “Tabby Brocades.”  In addition to textiles, McMaster and Company stocked “Large and Fashionable Ribbons,” “coarse and fine Guns,” and “may other Articles, too tedious to mention.”  Advertisers often used that phrase to entice curious readers to browse their merchandise.

Beyond providing an array of choices to consumers, McMaster and Company called attention to their prices, proclaiming that their customers could acquire these goods “as low as at any Store or Shop in America.”  They did not merely compare their prices to those set by local competitors in and near Portsmouth.  Instead, they boldly declared that neither consumers who purchased on their own behalf nor retailers who bought to sell again would not find better deals anywhere else, not even in the much larger ports of Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia.  McMaster and Company were not alone in making that claim.  In another advertisement, an entrepreneur who identified himself as McIntyre but did not give a first name hawked “CHINA and EARTHEN WARE” available at “his Store near the Market.”  He asserted that he charged prices “as cheap as sold in America.”

Both McMaster and Company and McIntyre attempted to leverage promises of good deals, indeed the best deals possible, to induce prospective customers to imagine themselves purchasing their wares.  They whet readers’ appetites with allusions to a “large Assortment” or “Good Assortment” of merchandise and then presented their low prices, the lowest anywhere, as the means of satisfying those appetites.

April 19

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

Boston Evening-Post (April 19, 1773).

Those who are acquainted with his Prices, will not need to be told that he sells at low Rates.”

Samuel Eliot made consumer choice and low prices the centerpieces of the advertisement he inserted in the April 19, 1773, edition of the Boston Evening-Post.  He first established that he stocked a “very fine Assortment of English and India Piece GOODS.”  He also stated that his inventory included a “Variety of Genteel Looking-Glasses” as well as “Stationary, Cutlery, and Hard Ware.”  He did not provide as extensive a list of individual items as Caleb Blanchard did for his “large and general Assortment of English and India GOODS” or Daniel Waldo did for his “compleat Assortment of London, Bristol, Birmingham, and Sheffield Hard Ware Goods,” but he did conclude with “&c. &c.” (an abbreviation for et cetera) to indicate that he sold goods beyond those that appeared in his advertisement.

Rather than listing dozens of items like some of his competitors, Eliot devoted more attention to promoting his prices.  In a paragraph that appeared in italics, he declared, “Those who are acquainted with his Prices, will not need to be told that he sells at low Rates.”  Even though they did not need to be told, Eliot offered a reminder that simultaneously presented an opening for elaborating on his prices for “those who are not” already aware of the bargains he offered.  He invited them “to call on him,” confidently asserting that once they visited his shop near Dock Square or his store on Wilson’s Lane they “shall be satisfied he makes no idle Profession, when he engages to sell his Goods on the most reasonable Terms.”  Eliot suggested that he set such low prices that many consumers already associated good deals with his merchandise.  For those not already aware, he issued a challenge to confirm his “low Rates” for themselves.  Getting prospective customers into one of his locations, Eliot likely surmised, increased the chances of making sales, especially if his prices were indeed as low as he suggested.  Other merchants and shopkeepers, like Ebenezer Storer, made passing references to “the lowest Rates” for their goods.  Eliot, in contrast, encouraged engagement with readers of the Boston Evening-Post by creating a narrative around his prices.

February 18

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

New-York Journal (February 18, 1773).

“With many other articles too numerous for an advertisement.”

Samuel Deall sold a variety of merchandise at his shop on Broad Street in New York in 1773.  In an advertisement in the February 18 edition of the New-York Journal, he listed only some of his wares, informing prospective customers that he carried “a large assortment of haberdashery and hosiery of all sort,” “Gentlemen and Ladies gloves of all sorts,” “gilt, bordered and plain message cards,” “Bayley’s boxes of improved soap with brushes for shaving,” “fine tooth brushes,” and “the fine new invented Cakes for shining liquid blacking for shoes and boots.”  The merchant listed a variety of other items and concluded by noting that he stocked “many other articles too numerous for an advertisement.”

In adopting that means of suggesting that he offered a wide array of choices to consumers, Deall deployed a strategy popular among merchants and shopkeepers.  Elsewhere in that issue of the New-York Journal, several other advertisers published short catalogs of their merchandise and added that space did not permit them to go into even greater detail.  For instance, Robert G. Livingston, Jr., stated that he sold “Sundry other goods in the store way, too tedious to mention.”  Similarly, Wigglesworth, Kent, and Company concluded their litany of goods with a promise that they had “many other Articles too tedious to enumerate.”  William Wikoff once again placed his advertisement that enticed consumers with “many more articles, too tedious to insert” in the newspaper.  Gerardus Duycknick ended his advertisement for his Universal Store, so named because he supposedly stocked everything, with a note about “a Variety of other Articles … too tedious to mention.”

Each of these advertisers used lists of goods to demonstrate some of the choices they made available to customers.  To enhance those lists, each also suggested that going into greater detail in a newspaper advertisement was neither practical nor entertaining.  Instead, they implied that prospective would have more satisfying and enjoyable experiences by visiting their stores, browsing their merchandise, and seeing for themselves the many choices that might suit their tastes and budgets.  As colonizers participated in a transatlantic consumer revolution in the eighteenth century, offering choices became one of the most popular marketing strategies deployed by merchants and shopkeepers.

February 14

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

New-York Journal (February 11, 1773).

“And many more articles, too tedious to insert.”

William Wikoff sold a variety of imported goods at his store in Hanover Square in New York in the early 1770s.  In an advertisement in the February 11, 1773, edition of the New-York Journal, for instance, he informed consumers that he stocked “a very handsome Assortment of Dry Goods, suitable for the Season,” and then offered a short catalog of some of those items to demonstrate the array of choices.  Wikoff listed a variety of textiles, including a “beautiful assortment of callicoes and cottons,” as well as “Mens and womens white and beaver gloves of the best kind” and “Childrens yellow and red leather shoes.”  Beyond fabrics and garments, Wikoff also had “Taylors thimbles,” “spelling books,” “knives and forks,” and “Bed furniture.”

To help readers navigate his advertisement, Wikoff opted for two columns with two or three items on each line.  That made it easier to read than advertisements that amalgamated everything together into a dense paragraph of text.  The merchant apparently considered that format effective, having used it on another occasion.  He also incorporated another element from his previous advertisements, asserting that that the list of merchandise did not cover everything available at his shop.  Wikoff confided that he carried “many more articles, too tedious to insert,” echoing his assertion in another advertisement that he sold “many other articles, too tedious to mention.”  Prospective customers, he suggested, would have a much more enjoyable experience browsing at his store than reading through a lengthy catalog in the newspaper.

That strategy allowed him to entice prospective customers who were curious about what else they might encounter at his store.  At the same time, Wikoff limited his advertising expenses.  He could have published an even longer list, but that would have cost more.  He likely aimed for what he considered the right balance between showcasing a good portion of the selection at his store and how much he was willing to spend on the advertisement.  In doing so, he offered enough details to capture readers’ attention and demonstrated that they were likely to find an even greater variety when they shopped at his store.

January 12

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 12, 1773).

“Their Customers may depend on being as well supplied by them as they could be by any House in this Province.”

Atkins and Weston informed readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that they carried a “great Variety of GOODS” imported from Glasgow as well as “GOODS from BRISTOL” and “two large Cargoes of Goods” from London.  Their inventory included a “large Supply of SILKS,” a “great Assortment of LINENS of all Sorts,” a “great Variety of flowered, striped, and plain MUSLINS,” a “large Supply of the most fashionable RIBBONS and VELVET COLLARS,” and a “good Assortment of well-chosen BED FURNITURE.”  Throughout their advertisement, Atkins and Weston underscored the array of choices that they made available to consumers.

To make sure that prospective customers did not overlook that fact, the merchants added a note that explained no other shop, store, or warehouse in the colony had a larger selection of merchandise than they did.  “Their late Importations have been very large, and their Assortments general,” Atkins and Weston asserted, adding that “they buy their Goods on the best Terms, and design constantly to keep up a large Stock.”  As a result, “their Customers may depend on being as well supplied by them as they could be by any House in this Province.”  Colonizers might browse elsewhere, but they would not encounter more choices anywhere else.

Other advertisers made similar pronouncements.  Hawkins, Petrie, and Company, for instance, declared that they “keep one of the largest assortments [of goods] in the province.”  Even entrepreneurs located in towns beyond Charleston highlighted the choices they offered and made provisions for keeping local customers supplied with the wares they wanted and needed.  John Tunno and Company in Jacksonburgh promoted a “complete assortment of GOODS” and listed a variety of items in their advertisement.  They pledged that “Should they be out of any article, they will always send to town for it by the first boat, without any extra charge to their friend here.”  Tunno and Company did not explicitly acknowledge that their inventory might not be as extensive as the shops in Charleston, though they presented a workaround in an effort to convince prospective customers that shopping with them would be just as fulfilling as if they were in the bustling urban port.

Advertisers regularly emphasized consumer choice in their newspaper advertisements during the era of the American Revolution.  Many did so by publishing long lists of merchandise.  Some, like Atkins and Westin, Hawkins, Petrie and Company, and Tunno and Company, added other appeals in their efforts to attract customers.  They declared that their inventory rivaled others in the colony or promised that they could quickly acquire whatever merchandise their patrons requested.

October 27

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

Essex Gazette (October 27, 1772).

“A fine Assortment of ENGLISH & INDIA GOODS and HARD-WARE.”

When John Appleton advertised the merchandise available at his shop in Salem in the fall of 1772, he resorted to two of the most common appeals deployed by merchants and shopkeepers.  He emphasized price and selection.  In his advertisement in the October 27 edition of the Essex Gazette, he asserted that he was “determined to sell” his wares “at such very low Rates … as cannot fail to give full Satisfaction to every reasonable Purchaser.”  He offered those low prices “by WHOLESALE or RETAIL,” extending the benefit to both consumers and retailers looking to expand their own inventory.  Low wholesale prices meant that shopkeepers who acquired goods from Appleton could pass along the bargains to their own customers.

Appleton devoted significantly more space to developing his appeal about selection.  He announced that he carried a “fine Assortment of ENGLISH & INDIA GOODS and HARD-WARE” and then provided a lengthy list of goods to demonstrate the range of choices his customers enjoyed.  Although he enumerated scores of items, everything from “black & white, plain and flower’d Sattins” to “children’s red Morocco Shoes,” he did not have space in a newspaper advertisement to include everything.  The clarification “Some of which are as follows” preceded Appleton’s list of goods.  In addition, Appleton mentioned categories of goods, such as “linen, silk and cotton Handkerchiefs of all sorts” and “Door Locks, Hinges and Latches of all sorts,” to further suggest ample choices.  He also inserted “&c.” (an abbreviation for et cetera) several times to indicate that he sold even more of certain types of items.  The length of the dense advertisement, the longest notice in that issue of the Essex Gazette, also testified to the selection at Appleton’s shop.

Appleton was not alone in making an appeal about consumer.  In the same issue, Samuel Flagg promoted a “General Assortment of English and India GOODS,” Stephen Higginson hawked a “Large and general Assortment of English and India GOODS,” and Campbell and Duncan marketed a “compleat Assortment of GOODS.”  Five other merchants and shopkeepers used similar phrases to describe their inventory, some of them also mentioning low prices.  Appleton distinguished his advertisement from others with a brief elaboration on his low prices and a lengthy catalog of his merchandise.

September 13

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letters (September 10, 1772).

“Will be sold (by Wholesale only) at such Rates as may encourage all Retailers in Town and Country.”

The partnership of Smith and Atkinson advertised a “large and very general Assortment of Piece Goods” in the September 10, 1772, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, but they did not seek to sell their wares directly to consumers.  Instead, they addressed retailers, advising them of their intention to deal “by Wholesale only.”  Smith and Atkinson imported such a variety of merchandise that they considered it “equally tedious & unnecessary to enumerate here.”  They may have wished to avoid paying for the amount of space required to catalog their inventory in a newspaper advertisement, but this strategy also had the benefit of prompting “Retailers in Town and Country” to fret about what kinds of goods Smith and Atkinson had on hand that might “compleat their Assortments” that they offered to their own customers.

Shopkeepers considered promoting consumer choice one of the most effective appeals in eighteenth-century advertisements.  Many did publish lengthy lists in the public prints, demonstrating to prospective customers that they could fulfill their needs and desires.  Even those who opted for shorter advertisements often mentioned the “assortment” or “variety” of wares they stocked.  Realizing that retailers so often advanced such appeals to rouse demand among consumers, Smith and Atkinson adapted the strategy to their own purposes in targeting shopkeepers in Boston and surrounding towns.  They proclaimed that they could augment any inventory throughout the year, “there being at all Seasons … a great Variety” of goods at their store.  They also declared that they set low prices for retailers who wished to enhance their inventory, explaining that they could pass along the savings because “these Goods have been purchased on the best Terms.”  In addition, those who paid cash received even better deals.  Smith and Atkinson mentioned that “Due Encouragement will be given to those who pay ready Money” twice.  Many of the advertisements for consumer goods in colonial newspapers targeted consumers themselves, but merchants also resorted to advertising to facilitate wholesale transactions.  When they did so, their appeals about large assortments of goods and low prices simultaneously adapted and reinforced the marketing strategies commonly deployed by retailers who sought to incite demand among consumers.

August 30

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (August 27, 1772).

“Many of the above Articles were bought by himself at London, Bristol and Birmingham.”

John Welsh took to the pages of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter to inform readers that he “Just IMPORTED … An Assortment of English GOODS and HARDWARE” in the summer of 1772.  He made choice a central element of his marketing efforts, providing a list of his merchandise that included “Silk and worsted Mitts and Gloves,” “Silk & Linen Handkerchiefs,” and “Ivory & Ebony Stick Fans.”  He also indicated that he offered choices among certain kinds of goods, including “A good assortment of Hosiery,” “a Variety of other Piece Goods,” “An Assortment of Handles & Escutcheons,” “Files of all sorts,” and “a Variety of other Braziery, and Cutlary.”  In other advertisements, Welsh described himself as a jeweler rather than a merchant or shopkeeper.  He included a separate listing for jewelry in this advertisement, including “A fine Assortment of Cypher, Brilliant, Earing, Button and Ring Stones” and “an Assortment of Jewelry, Stone, Shoe, Knee & Stock Buckles.”

Yet consumer choice was not the only appeal that Welsh made to prospective customers.  He also offered low prices.  A manicule directed readers to a note at the end of his advertisement, a note in which Welsh declared that “Many of the above Articles were bought by himself at London, Bristol and Birmingham, and will be sold low for Cash.”  Welsh suggested that he could offer bargains that customers might not encounter in other shops because he eliminated intermediaries.  Rather than purchase his wares from English merchants who raised the prices that they paid to producers, Welsh traveled to England and purchased much of his inventory directly from the manufacturers in three cities.  He then passed along the savings to his customers.  Merchants and shopkeepers often promoted low prices, but few gave any sort of explanation to convince consumers that they would find the best deals in their shops.  Welsh aimed to give prospective customers a reasonable expectation that he did indeed offer good bargains on an array of merchandise.