October 11

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

New-London Gazette (October 11, 1771).

“The Staffordshire and Liverpool WARE-HOUSE In KING-STREET.”

Ebenezer Bridgham launched a regional advertising campaign for his “Staffordshire and Liverpool WARE-HOUSE In KING-STREET” in Boston in the fall of 1771.  Beyond his own city, he began by placing advertisements in the Essex Gazette, published in Salem, and the Providence Gazette, published in the neighboring colony.  Many of the readers of those newspapers resided in the hinterlands around Boston, making them as likely to order merchandise from shops in that busy port as from shops in Salem or Providence.

Bridgham, however, sought to enlarge his market to include prospective customers who resided at much more considerable distances.  Over several weeks, he inserted advertisements in most of the newspapers published in New England outside of Boston.  On October 11, 1771, Bridgham’s advertisement ran in the New-London Gazette, a newspaper just as likely to carry notices from New York as from Boston.  Indeed, another advertisement in that issue promoted the “Passage-Boat” or passenger ferry that Clark Truman operated between New London and Sag Harbor, a village on Long Island, once a week.  That service helped residents of New London other parts of Connecticut keep better connected to New York, facilitating commerce and purchasing goods from merchants and shopkeepers there.

In each instance that Bridgham’s notices ran in additional newspapers, they featured identical copy but unique formats designed by the compositor who labored in the local printing office.  That copy included a pledge that Bridgham was “able and fully inclin’d to sell” his wares “at least as low as they were ever Sold in America.”  In attempting to create a regional market in which he competed with merchants and shopkeepers beyond Boston, Bridgham considered it imperative to assure prospective customers that he offered prices as good as any they might find locally.  In stating that his prices were “at least as low” as others, he hinted at even better bargains for consumers in distant towns and villages who sent away to Boston for their “China, Glass, Delph, and Stone WARE.”

September 10

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

Connecticut Courant (September 10, 1771).

“The Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House, In King Stret BOSTON.”

As summer turned to fall in 1771, Ebenezer Bridgham, the proprietor of the “Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House” on King Street in Boston, attempted to cultivate a regional reputation for his store.  Not content seeking customers in Boston and the surrounding towns, he also placed advertisements in newspapers published in other places in New England. On September 7, for instance, he inserted an advertisement in the Providence Gazette, informing prospective customers that he stocked “a very large and elegant Assortment of China, Glass, Delph and Stone Ware” that he imported “directly from the several Manufacturers in Staffordshire and Liverpool.”  Three days later, the same advertisement also ran in the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, and the Essex Gazette, published in Salem.  Bridgham disseminated information about the Staffordshire and Liverpool Warehouse far more widely than if he had placed his notice solely in the several newspapers published in Boston.  To entice customers in towns throughout New England to place orders from his store, he pledged to part with his wares “as low as they were ever sold in America.”

Essex Gazette (September 10, 1771).

The appearance of Bridgham’s advertisement in several newspapers demonstrated a division of responsibilities in the creation of marketing materials in the eighteenth century.  As the advertiser, Bridgham supplied the copy.  The composition, however, made decisions about the format.  In each newspaper, the graphic design of Bridgham’s advertisement looked consistent with other paid notices in that publication.  In the Essex Gazette, for example, the advertisement promoted “a very large and elegant Assortment of CHINA, GLASS, DELPH and STONE WARE,” the various categories of goods in capital letters.  Other advertisements in the Essex Gazette also featured key words in all capitals.  On the other hand, notices in the Connecticut Courant did not tend utilize that means of drawing attention to particular goods, reserving capitals for names of advertisers and towns.  Similarly, “Staffordshire” and “Liverpool” appeared in italics in the headline in the Essex Gazette, but “King Street” appeared in italics in the Connecticut Courant.  The compositors made decisions independently when they set type.  As a result, Bridgham’s advertisement had variations in design, but not copy, when it ran in multiple newspapers.