What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The above Goods were Chose by ourselves and on the Lowest Terms.”
Douglas Heron and Company advertised “An Assortment of Scotch and English GOODS” recently imported from Glasgow in the May 27, 1771, edition of the Boston Evening-Post. Their inventory included a variety of textiles, including “Scotch & Manchester Linen, and Cotton Checks,” a “Variety of plain, flower’d and stript Lawns,” and a “large Assortment of printed” handkerchiefs. In addition, they stocked accessories and adornments, such as “Ivory and Horn Combs,” “Mens and Womens leather Gloves,” and a “neat Assortment of coloured Ribbons of the newest Patterns.” In their advertisement, Heron and Company provided an abbreviated catalog of their merchandise to demonstrate the choices available to consumers. They concluded their litany of goods with “&c. &c.” (the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) to suggest to prospective customers that they would encounter an even greater array of goods when they shopped at Heron and Company’s store.
The partners also appended a brief nota bene to explain that “The above Goods were Chose by ourselves and on the Lowest Terms.” The invocation of “Lowest Terms” was the second invocation of price in the advertisement. Before listing their wares, Heron and Company first assured consumers of their “exceeding Reasonable” prices. Those prices were so reasonable because they negotiated the “Lowest Terms” with their suppliers and then passed along the savings to their customers. In stating that they selected the merchandise themselves, Heron and Company made implicit pledges about quality and fashion. They played an active role in choosing the goods rather than accepting whatever leftovers merchants on the other side of the Atlantic decided to send to faraway associates to attempt to sell in their local markets. Heron and Company knew that colonial customers desired the latest fashions and would not purchase items they considered out of style. At the same time, those consumers depended on both correspondents in Britain and local merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans to keep them apprised of the newest tastes. In proclaiming that they chose the items listed in their advertisement, Heron and Company suggested that prospective customers could trust them in offering advice and guidance. Heron and Company staked their own reputation for understanding the market and assisting customers in outfitting themselves fashionably when they implied that customers should have confidence in the decisions they made when placing orders with their suppliers.