May 26

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

May 26 - 5:26:1768 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (May 26, 1768).

“FAULKNER’S BOTTLED ALE.”

William Faulkner, a brewer, incorporated several marketing strategies into the advertisement he placed in the May 26, 1768, edition of the New-York Journal. Like other colonists who peddled goods and services, he made appeals to price and quality. However, he did not merely resort to the formulaic language that appeared in countless newspaper advertisements. Instead, he offered additional commentary to convince prospective customers to purchase his product.

Faulkner could have simply stated that “he continues to supply the public with the best of liquor on the most reasonable terms.” Such appeals to price and quality, however, were not sufficient for promoting his “country brew’d ALE” that was only recently ready for the marketplace. Not only was his ale “now fit for use,” but “in the opinion of good judges, equal in quality to any imported.” Faulkner did not reveal the identities of these “good judges,” but he did suggest to potential customers that others had indeed endorsed his product. For those still skeptical, he advanced another strategy for encouraging them to take a chance on his “country brew’d ALE.” He stated that the public had already expressed desire “for bottled Beer of this sort” and then invoked “the laudable encouragement given to our own manufactures at this period.” Faulkner did not rehearse the ongoing dispute between Parliament and the colonies. He did not need to do so. Prospective customers were already well aware of the Townshend Act that went into effect six months earlier as well as the calls for increased production and consumption of goods in the colonies as a means of decreasing dependence on imports. With a single turn of phrase, Faulkner imbued purchasing his ale with political meaning.

He also offered a discount of sorts to return customers, pricing his ale at “10s. per dozen” but noting “3s. per dozen allowed to those who return the bottles.” In other words, customers who brought back their empty bottles paid only seven shillings for a dozen full bottles. Faulkner kept his own production costs down through this design. Of the many choices available to them, the brewer encouraged colonists to enjoy “FAULKNER’S BOTTLED ALE” over any alternatives, especially imported ales. He offered assurances about quality in addition to providing pricing and political considerations to persuade consumers to choose his ale.

February 2

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

Feb 2 - 2:2:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (February 2, 1768).

“They engage to take back every Article from a Customer, that they can make the least reasonable Objection against.”

David Maull and John Wood, “TAYLORS, from LONDON,” incorporated a variety of marketing appeals into their advertisement in the February 2, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. They included some of the most popular marketing strategies deployed in the eighteenth century, but they also devised several innovative strategies that differentiated their commercial notice from others.

Purveyors of goods and services commonly promoted quality and fashion. Maull and Wood did so when they stated that their work represented “the neatest and newest fashion.” Artisans often underscored their competence. Maull and Wood reported that “they carry on the Taylors Business in all its Branches.” Shopkeepers and artisans both proclaimed their origins or other connections to London to give their goods and services more cachet in the transatlantic marketplace. Maull and Wood announced that they had migrated “from LONDON,” where they had presumably received training and previously worked. Invoking some sort of link to London also bolstered their claim to produce garments in the “newest fashion.” Many advertisers made a nod toward customer service, as Maull and Wood did when they pledged to fulfill orders “with quickest Dispatch.” Maull and Wood used stock language in making these common appeals to customers.

Yet the tailors also attempted to entice clients with a series of other marketing strategies in a nota bene that concluded their advertisement. They provided a money-back guarantee, promising “to take back every Article from a Customer, that they can make the least reasonable Objection against.” They also offered reduced rates to customers who paid in cash, vowing to “discount Five per Cent.” On the other hand, they extended “twelve Months Credit” to other customers during a period that most advertisers either demanded cash or allowed only “short credit.” Consumers regularly made purchases on credit in eighteenth-century America, but it was not a method of payment promoted by most purveyors of goods and services in their advertisements in the late 1760s. Maull and Wood made clear that they were willing to work out payment schedules that fit the needs of their prospective clients. John Ward, another tailor who advertised in the same issue, made no mention of how he expected customers to pay. Finally, Maull and Wood doubled the length of their advertisement by publishing a roster of prices to demonstrate their reasonable prices to prospective clients. This eliminated negotiating over the bill and anxieties that a better deal might have been possible by locking in rates from the start.

Maull and Wood distinguished their advertisement from others published in Charleston’s newspapers by augmenting the most common appeals with innovative marketing strategies. They did not invent any of the methods they used, but they effectively amalgamated multiple popular and novel tactics for attracting customers into a single advertisement to an extent not achieved by most other advertisers of consumer goods and services in the 1760s.

December 8

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

Dec 8 - 12:8:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 8, 1767).

“Twenty per Cent cheaper than goods usually imported.”

In a notice that appeared in the advertising supplement that accompanied the December 8, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, William Gowdey relied on appeals to price to move the merchandise he had recently imported and stocked at his shop in Broad Street in Charleston. Before listing his wares he informed potential customers that they would enjoy special bargains when they visited his shop: he set prices “twenty per Cent cheaper” than his competitors usually charged. To demonstrate that was indeed the case, rather than a false promise designed to get customers through the door, Gowdey indicated the prices of several kinds of textiles. Readers could determine for themselves that the shopkeeper offered good deals on “mens worsted hose at 10s. 20s. and 30s. a pair” or “Osnabrughs at 4s. a yard.”

Even when they made appeals to price, most shopkeepers did not list prices in their newspaper advertisements during the colonial era. For instance, in the same issue William Glen and Son advertised many of the same textiles, but made only a general statement that they “will dispose of [their inventory] at a low advance.” Similarly, Thomas Radcliffe, Jr., promoted “very reasonable terms” but did not specify any prices. As a result, readers could not compare prices from one advertisement with those in another. Gowdey’s strategy depended on consumers already possessing some sense of the typical prices for popular goods and then recognizing good deals when they saw them. His assertion that his prices were “twenty per Cent cheaper” primed potential customers to imagine bargains, prompting them to become active participants in his marketing strategy when they saw the prices and confirmed for themselves that he did indeed sell at discounted rates. Such methods incited demand in the colonial era, just as they do today, when consumers who previously did not realize that they needed “mens worsted hose” or other goods in Gowdey’s advertisement decided that they could not pass up bargains once introduced to them.

September 22

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

Sep 22 - 9:22:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 22, 1767).

“Yorkshire stuffs, fit for house negroe’s gowns.”

John Davies frequently placed advertisements in Charleston’s newspapers in the 1760s, promoting the “Great variety of sundry merchandize” he imported from England and Ireland. His commercial notices incorporated fairly sophisticated marketing methods. In today’s advertisements, for instance, he offered a discount on Irish linens (“15 per cent. under the common advance”) and “no charge of commissions” because his supply chain eliminated middlemen and buying in credit. To obtain his ware, he “bought of the manufacturers with cash.” Unlike most other advertisers, he specified prices for some of his inventory, including “Yorkshire stuffs … at 8s. 9d. the yard” and blue and white plains at 10s. per yard,” which allowed potential customers to engage in comparison shopping before visiting Davies’s “store in Beadon’s Alley.”

All of these factors made Davies’s advertisements noteworthy, but another element also merits attention for what it reveals about life in eighteenth-century South Carolina. Davies lived and worked in a slave society. In distinguishing between slave societies and societies with slaves, the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative defines slave societies as settlements “where slavery stood at the center of politics, the economy, labor experiences, and social identities. Slaveholders made up the ruling class in these areas and the master-slave relationship shaped all aspects of society and daily life.” (In societies with slaves, on the other hand, “the institution of slavery was relatively peripheral to local economies and white social status.”)

Davies’s advertisement reveals just one of the many ways that slavery shaped commerce and everyday life in colonial South Carolina. Those Yorkshire stuffs that Davies sold at the low price of eight shillings and nine pence per yard were “fit for house negroe’s gowns.” Davies realized that many potential customers owned slaves, some of whom worked in domestic service rather than laboring to raise rice, indigo, or other agricultural commodities. He directed customers to take note of a textile appropriate for clothing enslaved women who worked in the home, a fabric fitting to their station (as opposed to the “negroe cloth” often advertised to clothe most other enslaved men, women, and children) but that also testified to the status of slaveholders who assigned some of their human property to domestic service. Slaveholders needed a fabric that was fine enough, but not too fine, to reflect well on them should visitors glimpse their domestic “servants” at work. He gave that part of the local culture only casual acknowledgment, making no fanfare or otherwise distinguishing that particular appeal from the rest of the advertisement. Instead, the “Yorkshire stuffs, fit for house negroe’s gowns” were sandwiched between descriptions of other textiles.

A nota bene, however, did stand out from the remainder of Davies’s advertisement. In it, he informed readers that “A young Negro Fellow, who is a good Cook, is wanted on hire.” This notice was unrelated to the “Great variety of sundry merchandize” Davies sold at his store, yet he apparently did not believe that it merited a separate advertisement. Instead, he appended it to an advertisement for his business. His own arrangements for domestic labor performed by an enslaved man merged with a commercial notice intended to entice customers to make purchases from him. The institution of slavery was inseparable from commerce and domestic life in Davies’s advertisement.

June 21

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

Jun 21 - 6:19:1767 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 19, 1767).

“Will be sold 10 per cent. under the common advance.”

John Davies paid attention to quality and, especially, price in his advertisement for imported Irish linens and other textiles in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. He encouraged customers to buy in volume as a means of lowering prices as he targeted retailers who needed “to supply themselves … to sell again.” Although he did not specify specific rates for most of his goods, he did offer some numbers that would have been attractive to potential customers looking to acquire inventory and turn a profit themselves.

For instance, he stated that he “sold 10 per cent. under the common advance.” He assumed that potential customers already had a general sense of the going rates for the various sorts of textiles he sold, enticing them with the savings he offered compared to what they otherwise expected to pay. To sweeten the deal, he also promoted “the advantage of 5 per cent. being allowed in the purchase of them for prompt payment.” In other words, as he stated later in the advertisement, those “who purchase with cash” rather than credit stood to enjoy an additional discount that made his prices even more competitive. Davies implied further discounts for buying in bulk – “still greater allowance that will be made in taking a quantity” – although he did not offer specifics. The size of the subsequent discount may have been tied to the quantity purchased, subject to negotiations between Davies and his customers at the time of sale.

How was Davies able to offer low prices and significant discounts? He had cultivated relationships directly with the manufacturers, sidestepping English merchants who usually supplied American wholesalers and retailers. There had been “no charge of commissions” to other parties to drive up Davies’s prices. He also kept costs down by making his own purchases in cash rather than credit that accumulated interest. He passed his savings on to his customers in Charleston.

May 3

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

May 3 - 4:30:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (April 30, 1767).

“Other trimmings for hatters.”

Unlike many shopkeepers who advertised their wares almost exclusively to end-use consumers, James Nixon sold an array of imported textiles and ornaments wholesale as well as retail. To be competitive with merchants and other wholesalers, he offered discounts to those who made purchases with the intention of acquiring inventory to resell to consumers. “Great allowance will be made,” Nixon stated, “to town or country stores, taylors, stay-makers, hatters, &c. &c.”

On occasion advertisers made such appeals to potential customers who bought in volume, but rarely did they specifically address members of so many occupations. In his advertisement, Nixon constructed a network of business associates, promoting himself as a supplier to men and women who made and sold apparel. In addition to the “Great allowance” he made to tailors, staymakers, hatters, and others, he also attempted to draw the attention of particular customers to specific goods. For instance, he listed a “great assortment of all sorts of buttons” among the various “trimmings for hatters” in stock, as well as other sorts of “stay-maker’s and breeches-maker’s trimmings.”

Doing so may have had the added advantage of attracting the attention of end-use consumers. By implying that tailors and hatters, whose livelihood depended in part on acquiring the right materials, trusted him to supply a “neat assortment” of “Newest-fashioned” dry goods, Nixon created the illusion of an endorsement from his associates. In the absence of testimonials, he prompted potential customers to imagine that “his Store in KING-STREET” was a hub of activity for members of the clothing trades.

He also suggested an impressive market penetration for his wares, which he sold to both shopkeepers in New York and others who operated “country stores,” some of them in neighboring provinces. “Connecticut lawful mon[e]y will be taken,” he pledged, alerting customers near and far that he was flexible when it came to which sort of currency he would accept.

Although “taylors, stay-makers, hatters, &c. &c.” certainly purchased materials from merchants who imported them, very few advertisers addressed them as an occupational group or promoted their goods specifically to them. Many likely concluded that notices offering goods wholesale were sufficient for their purposes. James Nixon, on the other hand, experimented with addressing various sorts of potential customers, making it clear to those in the clothing trades that he wished to work with them (and offered discounts) in addition to supplying “town or country stores.”

December 9

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

dec-9-1291766-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 9, 1766).

“All Stable and Chair Accounts must be paid Quarterly.”

Eighteenth-century wholesalers sometimes advertised discounts for purchasing in volume, but rarely provided particulars rather than promises. In today’s advertisement, John Marley offered discount pricing for a service he provided, caring for horses at his “Stable Yard” in Charleston. Although his notice was addressed to “those Gentlemen who have Horses and Chairs at his Stable Yard” already, it communicated discounts to anyone who happened to read it, including current and prospective customers.

Marley gave customers three options, listing rates “For a Horse by the Quarter,” “For a Horse by the Month,” and “For a Horse by the Night.”(*) A single night cost 10 shillings, while a month cost 11 pounds and 5 shillings (or 225 shillings, which makes the calculations more intuitive to modern readers accustomed to the decimal system for currency). Since an entire month of single nights would have cost 15 pounds (or 300 shillings) when purchased individually, the customer who contracted by the month saved 25%, certainly a significant discount that also benefited Marley because it guaranteed consistent business.

Similarly, stabling a horse by the quarter cost 30 pounds (or 600 shillings) compared to 11 pounds and 5 shillings (or 225 shillings). Paying for each month separately would have amounted to 33 pounds and 15 shillings (or 675 shillings). The discount for stabling by the quarter rather than by the month was a more modest 11%, but a savings nonetheless. It was certainly a deal compared to paying by the night for an entire quarter. That would have amounted to a total of 45 pounds (or 900 shillings). In other words, “those Gentlemen who ha[d] Horses” stabled by John Marley saved 33% when they contracted for an entire quarter rather than by the night. Once again, customers benefited from the discounts while the hostler increased the likelihood of having horses in his stable over long periods.

These prices may seem deceptive to modern readers with less experience converting pounds, shillings, and pence, but eighteenth-century readers would have recognized the discounts much more readily. Marley did not need to state explicitly that he offered discounts for stabling horses over an extended period. Instead, he allowed the prices to speak for themselves.

(*) Keep in mind that there were 20 shillings in a pound. As was common in eighteenth-century bookkeeping, the list of prices or rates in this advertisement includes three columns: pounds, shillings, and pence. Marley used “round numbers” that did not include any pence, which streamlined the calculations. (There were 12 pence in a shilling and 240 pence in a pound.)