June 29

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

Boston Evening-Post (June 29, 1772).

“Not one single Article in the Store was bought of any Merchant in this Country.”

William Jackson regularly placed advertisements in several newspapers published in Boston in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  In addition to those notices, he distributed a trade card, engraved by Paul Revere, that depicted the “BRAZEN HEAD” that marked his location “next ye Town House.”  He eventually marketed his shop with another name, calling it “Jackson’s Variety Store” to call attention to the array of choices he made available to consumers.  In his newspaper notices and on his trade card, Jackson listed some of his merchandise.  In a notice in the June 29, 1772, edition of the Boston Evening-Post, for instance, he promoted a “full and compleat Assortment of English, India & Hard-Ware GOODS, consisting of Cloths of all Kinds, Linnens of all sorts, Calicoes, … Brass Kettles, London and Bristol Pewter, … an elegant Assortment of Looking-Glasses, Paper Hangings, [and] Wilton and Scotch Carpets.”

In a note at the end of that notice, Jackson assured “Wholesale and Retail Customers” that they “may depend that not one single Article in the Store was bought of any Merchant in this Country.”  Instead, he imported his wares directly “from the BEST Hands in ENGLAND, via LONDON, BRISTOL, and LIVERPOOL.”  That allowed him to sell his inventory “extremely Cheap” because he did not deal with middlemen on either side of the Atlantic.  Going to the manufacturers rather than through merchants meant that he could pass along savings to his customers rather than marking up goods as much as his competitors.  Jackson apparently considered this an effective marketing strategy.  A year earlier, he informed prospective customers that he “has been in England himself the last Winter, and has visited most of the manufacturing towns.”  As a result of that trip, Jackson “flatters himself that he has his Goods upon as good Terms as any Merchant in the Town.”  In a subsequent advertisement, he asserted, “Wholesale and retail Customers may depend upon having goods” at his store “as cheap as at any store or stop in town, without exceptions, as all his goods are from the best hands in England.”  If Jackson did not believe that this appeal resonated with consumers then he probably would not have published so many variations of it.  Many merchants and shopkeepers combined appeals about low prices and extensive choices.  Jackson devised a means of making those appeals distinctive.  He did not merely claim to offer low prices but also explained how he was able to do so.

September 8

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

Sep 8 - 9:8:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 8, 1767).

“Checks by the piece so low as 4s. 6d.”

Robert and Nathaniel Stott advertised a “General assortment” of textiles they imported from Liverpool to Charleston. They informed readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal that they carried “checks, striped hollands, handkerchiefs; India dimothies, figured and plain; counterpanes, black velvets, velverets and jenets” that they “bought from the manufacturers.” Revealing their supply chain allowed the Stotts to more convincingly make an appeal to price. For readers who approached their advertisement with healthy skepticism, the Stotts explained that they could indeed sell imported fabrics for “much lower than the usual advance” because they did not procure their merchandise through fellow merchants on the other side of the Atlantic. Instead, they eliminated the middlemen, reducing prices for their customers in the process.

To demonstrate the veracity of their claim, the Stotts quoted a specific price for checks: “by the piece so low as 4s. 6d. per yard.” Consumers already familiar with the going rate for checks could assess for themselves what kind of bargain the Stotts offered, but those were not the only prospective customers who benefitted. The Stotts made it easier for all readers to compare prices when visiting local competitors, a process that might cause shoppers to visit the Stotts to purchase other items as well. After all, they sold “other widths in proportion” to the low prices for checks and other fabrics “upon very reasonable terms.”

Most eighteenth-century merchants and shopkeepers did not indicate specific prices in their advertisements, though significant numbers made general statements about their “low rates” or deployed other formulaic language. On its own, the Stotts’ invocation of “very reasonable terms” fit that trend, but committing to a specific price – four shillings and six pence per yard – distinguished their advertisement from others by making a concrete promise to consumers. The Stotts replaced vague reassurances with tangible evidence in their efforts to increase sales at their store in Beadon’s Alley.