January 6

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

Jan 6 - 1:6:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (January 6, 1768).

“An Assortment of Delft Ware.”

In the January 6, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette, William Moore advertised several commodities frequently purchased in bulk, including rum, sugar, and nails. He concluded his list with “an Assortment of Delft Ware,” perhaps for sale directly to consumers or perhaps intended for retailers to stock their shops in Savannah and its hinterland.

Delftware, a type of earthenware with an opaque white glaze enhanced with an overglaze decoration (usually done in blue), came in many designs and patterns. According to Amanda E. Lange, delftware was the most common kind of ceramic imported into the American colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. “Produced in a wide variety of forms, ranging from the purely decorative to the decidedly utilitarian, plates, dishes, punch bowls, mugs, tea wares, tiles, apothecary jars, and chamberpots formed the bulk of delftware imported to America.”

Jan 6 - Delftware Plate
Delftware Plate (early 18th century). Courtesy Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium (AC C.1936.17).

Although delftware derived its name from the town of Delft in the Netherlands, the center for delftware production had shifted to England by the eighteenth century. Whether made in England, the Netherlands, France, or elsewhere, delftware represented a less expensive alternative to fashionable Chinese porcelain.

Moore advertised his “Assortment of Delft Ware” in the final years of its popularity. More durable pottery produced in Staffordshire, England, displaced the fragile delftware in the late eighteenth century. Josiah Wedgwood, Lange notes, “perfected his version of creamware in the 1760. Wedgwood’s effective marketing skills and knowledge of current fashions eventually ruined the market for delftware.” Production in England sharply declined in the 1760s; by the end of the century it ceased.

At the time of Moore’s advertisement, however, delftware remained popular in the English colonies. Selecting among a variety of designs, sometimes imitating Chinese patterns and sometimes depicting European scenes, allowed consumers to assert their own tastes as well as demonstrate their knowledge of the latest fashions. Given the costs of Chinese import porcelain, acquiring delftware served as a substitute for displaying gentility on a budget.

September 2

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

Sep 2 - 9:2:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 2, 1767).

“EXCEEDING GOOD OLD BARBADOS RUM, by the hogshead, quarter-cask, or small quantity.”

Horton and Moore placed a fairly simple advertisement in the September 2, 1767, issue of the Georgia Gazette. In it, they announced that they sold a small number of items: rum, sugar, vinegar, and Delftware (a popular blue and white pottery made in the Netherlands and exported to locales throughout the Atlantic world). Compared to the list-style advertisements that crowded the pages of many eighteenth-century newspapers, their notice was relatively short. Yet the simplicity and the length did not mean that Horton and Moore neglected to advance marketing messages in their advertisement. For each item, they offered some sort of commentary intended to entice potential customers to visit Horton and Moore’s wharf to make their purchases.

The partners resorted to some of the most common appeals made to consumers throughout the eighteenth century. They emphasized quality, explicitly and implicitly, to promote both rum and sugar. They described the former as “EXCEEDING GOOD” and the latter as “of an extraordinary good quality.” In noting the places of origin – “BARBADOS RUM” and “JAMAICA SUGAR” – they further testified to quality since those locations were widely recognized for producing the finest examples of their respective commodities.

When it mattered, Horton and Moore made an appeal to consumer choice: they carried a ‘COMPLETE ASSORTMENT” of Delftware. This implied a variety of (fashionable) patterns as well as an array of items, from plates and bowls to canisters and sugar dishes to tiles and tureens for household use and decoration. Horton and Moore invited customers to examine all the possibilities, promising that they would not be forced to choose from a tiny selection. A “COMPLETE ASSORTMENT” meant the freedom to express themselves by identifying their favorites and choosing items that distinguished them from their friends and relations.

Horton and Moore also marketed convenience when they offered to sell their commodities in various quantities. Customers could purchase rum “by the hogshead, quarter-cask, or small quantity,” sugar “by the hogshead, barrel, or small quantity,” and vinegar “in any quantity.” Presumably shoppers were also welcome to select as many or as few pieces of Delftware as they desired.

Finally, the partners made an appeal to price, stating they sold all of their merchandise “on the most reasonable terms.” Combined with the other appeals, this made their wares even more attractive to prospective customers.

Horton and Moore’s advertisement demonstrates that commercial notices aimed at consumers did not need to be elaborate or lengthy to incorporate marketing appeals. In the space of half a dozen lines, the merchants deployed messages about quality, choice, convenience, and price as they attempted to incite demand among customers in Savannah and its hinterland.