What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He hath newly opened Shop near the North End of the Bridge.”
In an era before standardized street numbers, many advertisers included directions to their businesses in their newspaper advertisements. Amos Throop, for instance, instructed prospective customers that he sold an assortment of medicines “At the Sign of the Pestle and Mortar, in King-street, Providence” in an advertisement in the September 28, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette. Elsewhere in that issue, Edward Thurber promoted a variety of goods “At his Store, the North End of Providence.” In an advertisement for books and stationery, John Carter did not include directions to his printing office, but the colophon that appeared at the bottom of the page featured that information. Each issue concluded with an invocation of Carter’s location, “at Shakespear’s Head, in King-Street, near the Court-House.” Other advertisers, however, were so familiar to prospective customers in Providence and its environs that they did not need to list their locations, including John Brown and Joseph and William Russell.
Out of necessity, advertisers from beyond the city did include directions for finding their shops or directing correspondence. Ebenezer Bridgham did so in his advertisement for imported goods available “At the Staffordshire and Liverpool Warehouse, in King-street, Boston.” In a subscription notice that ran in newspapers throughout the colonies, John Dunlap gave his location as “the Newest Printing-Office, in Market-street, Philadelphia.” Both Bridgham and Dunlap sought customers who would send away for the items in their advertisements. Closer to Providence, Charles Rhodes of Pawtuxet aimed to attract customers to his “newly opened Shop near the North End of the Bridge.” While he may have welcomed orders via letter, he also hoped that customers in and near his village would visit his shop to examine his “fresh and general Assortment of English, East and West India Goods … and many other Articles, too tedious to enumerate” for themselves. Given the size of the village, it may have been sufficient to give his location as “CHARLES RHODES, In Pawtuxet.” The shopkeeper instead elaborated further for the convenience the clientele he wished to cultivate, a down payment on the “good Treatment” he promised to “Those who shall please to favour him with their Custom.” In the end, Rhodes expected good customer service, including directions to find his shop easily, would accrue benefits to his new enterprise.