April 21

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

Essex Gazette (April 21, 1772).

“It would be expensive to the Advertiser, and troublesome to the Reader, to mention every Article.”

In the spring of 1772, John Appleton took to the pages of the Essex Gazette to advertise a “full Assortment of English and India GOODS” in stock at his store in Salem.  Like many other advertisers who promoted their wares in newspapers throughout the colonies, Appleton sought to demonstrate to prospective customers that he offered them many choices by listing dozens of items.  His inventory included many varieties of textiles as well as “ivory and horn Combs,” “a fine assortment of blonde and bone Laces,” “Knee-Garters,” “white and cloth colour’d silk Mitts,” and “linen, silk and cotton Handkerchiefs of all sorts.”  He even concluded the catalog of his merchandise with “&c. &c.”  In repeating the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera, he suggested that consumers encountered an even greater array of choices at his shop.

Nathaniel Sparhawk, Jr., apparently intended to publish a similar list in his advertisement in the April 21 edition of the Essex Gazette, but something prevented him from going into detail about the “great Variety and elegant Assortment of English and India GOODS” he “IMPORTED in the last Ships from LONDON.”  A note at the end of his advertisement stated that “Particular mist be deferred till next Week.”  Sparhawk may have acquired his good so recently that he did not have an opportunity to make a full accounting in time for his advertisement to appear in the Essex Gazette that week.  Alternately, the printers ran out of space.  A week later, his advertisement filled the first half of the first column on the first page, perhaps a consolation from the printers for not including it in its entirety on April 21.

In contrast to Appleton and Sparhawk, George Deblois chose not to incorporate a catalog of his “English & Hard-ware GOODS” into his advertisement.  Even attempting to provide such a list, he asserted, would not do justice to the choices he made available to consumers.  “As his Assortment consists of a great Variety of Articles,” Deblois declared, “it would be too tedious to enumerate them in an Advertisement.”  John Cabot and Andrew Cabot were even more blunt and probably more honest about their decision to forego a list of merchandise in their advertisement.  They carried a “compleat and elegant Assortment of English and India GOODS … consisting of almost every Article that is necessary for the Consumption of the Country.”  However, they believed it “would be expensive to the Advertiser” as well as “troublesome to the Reader, to mention every Article.”  Instead, they promised that shoppers would not be disappointed at their store.  “Let is suffice to say,” the Cabots confided, “that there is a little of every Thing.”

Merchants and shopkeepers frequently made appeals to consumer choice in their newspaper advertisements, but they adopted different strategies for doing so.  Many resorted to lengthy lists of goods, but others considered such methods “too tedious” and “troublesome” for readers.  In even more rare instances, some even confessed that cataloging their wares in the public prints “would be expensive.”  They found other means of suggesting that they offered plenty of choices for consumers.

January 5

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

New-York Journal (January 2, 1772).

“A large assortment of Goods.”

Earlier this week, the Adverts 250 Project featured several advertisements from the January 3, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy that made appeals to consumer choice by deploying words and phrases like “great assortment,” “general assortment,” “quantity,” and “all kinds.”  None of those advertisements, however, included lists of goods to demonstrate the range of merchandise available.  Almost simultaneously, merchants and shopkeepers in New York ran advertisements in the New-York Journal that not only promoted “a large Assortment of Goods” but also enumerated scores of items.

Such was the case in an advertisement inserted by Hallett and Hazard for their store on Hanover Square.  In a catalog of their merchandise, they listed everything from “Died pillows” and “Table cloths” to “Mens superfine white and marbled ribb’d worsted hose” and “Womens and childrens white and purple mitts and gloves” to “Candlesticks” and “Brass knobs.”  For some items, they used brackets to draw attention to the many varieties in stock.  For instance, Hallett and Hazard offered “Gold basket[,] Campaign and Death head” buttons and “Silk and cotton romal[,] Bandannoe[,] Mallabar[,] Barcelona[,] Printed[,] Ghenting[,] Scots and Black gauze” handkerchiefs.”  The extensive advertisement filled three-quarters of a column.  Elsewhere in the same issue, Thomas Pearsall placed a similar advertisement that also extended three-quarters of a column.  Both advertisers made their notices easier for prospective customers to navigate by creating two columns with only one or two items on each line and a dividing line running down the center.

Such advertisements certainly cost more than making declarations about “a large Assortment of Goods.”  The colophon for the New-York Journal stated that “Advertisements of no more Length than Breadth are inserted for Five Shillings, four Weeks, … and larger Advertisements in the same Proportion.”  For Hallet and Hazard, that meant that their advertisements cost at least three times as much as they would have paid for a standard square of space.  The merchants presumably considered it worth the additional investment to demonstrate all the choices they offered to consumers.

December 28

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

Providence Gazette (December 28, 1771).

“As compleat an Assortment in their Store as any in New-England.”

Nicholas Brown and Company promoted a vast array of imported merchandise in an advertisement in the December 28, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette.  Unlike some merchants and shopkeepers, they did not list their inventory, though they did name a few items that they stocked specifically for “the Whale and Cod Fishery.”  Still, they made an appeal to consumer choice.  Instead of publishing an extensive catalog of goods, they attempted to convince prospective customers that if they did not carry something that no other store or shop in the region stocked it either.

To make that point, they informed readers which ships and captains transported their goods across the Atlantic, advising them that the company had “imported in the Boston-Packet an additional Assortment” of goods to add to “the Variety imported in the Tristram, Capt. Shand, and the Providence, Capt. Gilbert.”  As a result, that “Assortment” and “Variety” amounted to “as compleat an Assortment in their Store as any in New-England.”  That was a bold claim.  The choices that Brown and Company offered to consumers rivaled not only those available from other merchants and shopkeepers in Providence but also those in Newport, Portsmouth, Salem, and even Boston.

Brown and Company expected that naming those ships and their captains would resonate with prospective customers.  Many of them would have been aware of when the vessels arrived in port from the shipping news in the Providence Gazette, word of mouth, and other advertisements.  Merchants and shopkeepers frequently indicated which ships transported their goods so consumers could confirm that they carried new merchandise as well as compare what they read and heard elsewhere about the cargo of each vessel.  In this case, Brown and Company anticipated that the public already had some idea about the types of goods that arrived on the Boston Packet, Tristram, and Providence, so further elaboration may not have been necessary … or as effective as making a grand statement about offering “as compleat an Assortment in their Store as any in New-England.”

December 6

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (December 6, 1771).

“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.

November 17

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

New-York Journal (November 14, 1771).

A large and neat assortment of Dry Goods.”

William Wikoff advertised a “large a neat assortment of Dry Goods, suitable to the season” in the November 14, 1771, edition of the New-York Journal.  He attempted to entice prospective customers to his shop by demonstrating the range of choices he made available to them, listing everything from “Devonshire kerseys” to “Mens and womens, and childrens gloves & mits” to “Wire and mould shirt buttons” to “Table and tea spoons.”  His inventory appeared in two columns with one or two items per line, arranged in two columns, to make it easier to peruse.  It looked quite different than most of the advertisements for imported consumer goods that ran in the Providence Gazette the same week.  Several advertisers in that town declared that they stocked too much merchandise “to be particularly mentioned in an Advertisement,” deploying a different strategy for invoking choice as a reason to visit their stores.

Even though he concluded his list by claiming that he has “many other articles, too tedious to mention,” Wikoff decided on a more common means of making an appeal about consumer choice in his advertisement, one that many of his competitors used in their advertisements in the same issue of the New-York Journal.  On the same page as his notice, John Morton, John J. Roosevelt, and George Webster all ran advertisements that listed dozens of items arrayed in two columns.  Henry Remsen and Company and Abeel and Byvanck also listed their wares, though they did not resort to columns but instead published dense paragraphs that required even more active reading on the part of prospective customers.  Elsewhere, John Amiel, Hallett and Hazard, Robert Needham, Thomas Pearsall, Daniel Phoenix, Robert Sinclair, Samuel Tuder, and Kelly, Lott, and Company all inserted lists of goods arranged as columns, while William Neilson and Henry Wilmot opted for paragraphs that took up less space (and cost less since advertisers paid by the amount of space rather than the number of word).  Gerardus Duyckinck placed two advertisements for his “UNIVERSAL STORE,” also known as the “Medley of Goods,” that listed his inventory and deployed unique formats.

In yesterday’s entry, I argued that many merchants and shopkeepers in Providence simultaneously deployed an uncommon strategy for suggesting consumer choice in the fall of 1771.  They proclaimed that they carried “a Variety of well assorted GOODS” but asserted that the choices were so vast that they could not print them in newspaper advertisements.  Today, I offer examples of more common formats that traders in other cities used to catalog their merchandise to demonstrate the choices consumers would encounter in their shops.  In each case, advertisers did more than announce they had goods on hand and expect that was sufficient to attract customers.

November 8

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

New-London Gazette (November 8, 1771).

“As compleat an Assortment as is to be met with at any Store in NORWICH.”

As October became November in 1771, John-McClarren Breed continued to advertise an assortment of goods available at his store in Norwich, Connecticut.  His lengthy advertisement extended more than half a column in the New-London Gazette, cataloging an array of textiles, housewares, hardware, books, and other items in his inventory.  Prospective customers could see at a glance that Breed offered many choices to suit their tastes.

Breed was not the only merchant in Norwich who advertised in the New-London Gazette in the fall of 1771.  John B. Brimmer inserted his own notice in the November 8 edition, fortunate enough to have it appear as the first item on the first page.  A few months earlier, Brimmer ran advertisements that rivaled Breed’s in length and the number of goods enumerated, but that was no longer the case in his newest advertisement.  Instead, he “Informs his Customers, That he has just received from LONDON, A further Supply of Fall Goods” and asked readers to take into account his previous notices.  “[W]ith the other GOODS he has lately advertised,” Brimmer asserted, the new items from the latest shipment “make up perhaps, as compleat an Assortment as is to be met with at any Store in NORWICH.”

Even if readers did not recall the advertisements that Brimmer placed during the summer months, he attempted to distract prospective customers from assuming that Breed had a larger inventory just because his advertisement occupied so much space on the page.  Indeed, in the November 8 edition Breed’s advertisement began in one column and overflowed into another, giving the impression that it contained even more than it did.  Even though Brimmer was no stranger when it came to placing such elaborate advertisements, he opted for a less-is-more approach in drawing attention to his “further Supply of Fall Goods,” perhaps depending on his reputation for providing “as compleat an Assortment” to do the rest.