May 3

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (May 3, 1771).

“Ladies Riding Dresses made at Prices in Proportion to the above.”

Edward Griffiths, a tailor from London who migrated to Portsmouth, advertised his services in the May 3, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Like many other artisans, he promised “reasonable Rates” for his work.  He did not, however, expect prospective clients to take his word.  Instead, he published a list of what he charged for more than half a dozen items.  A “lappeled Suit,” for instance, cost one pound and eight shillings, as did a “half trimmed Suit.”  A “frock Suit” was slightly less expensive at one pound and four shillings.  Three more items – a pair of breeches, a jacket with sleeves, and a jacket with lapels – all cost four shillings and eight pence.  In contrast, Griffiths charged only four shillings for a jacket without sleeves.  In addition, he made and sold “Ladies Riding Dresses … at Prices in Proportion” to those enumerated in his advertisement.

Prospective clients knew what they should expect to pay even before they visited Griffiths’s shop.  They could assess for themselves whether he did indeed charge “the most reasonable Rates” for his garments.  Furthermore, the tailor facilitated comparison shopping.  Consumers who previously paid other tailors more for the same items could recognize a bargain among his list of prices.  That depended, however, on Griffiths actually setting prices low enough to survive such scrutiny.  Merely naming prices in his advertisement did not necessarily guarantee that he would attract customers, especially if Griffiths misjudged the local market.  This strategy also limited his ability to haggle with customers.  He could still offer discounts at the time of sale, but the published prices prevented him from setting rates any higher on the spot and then allowing clients to feel as though they negotiated significant bargains.  Providing the list of prices in his advertisement had advantages and disadvantages.  Griffiths apparently felt confident enough in his prices that he believed the advantages outweighed the disadvantages.

August 2

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

Aug 2 - 8:2:1768 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (August 2, 1768).

Marblehead, July 25, 1768. Edward Griffiths, Taylor and Habit-maker from LONDON.”

Today the Adverts 250 Project features an advertisement from the Essex Gazette for the first time, an advertisement from the first issue of that newspaper. Samuel Hall commenced publication of the Essex Gazette in Salem, Massachusetts, on August 2, 1768. Hall offered an address “To the PUBLICK” on the first page, explaining the purpose of establishing a printing office and, especially, publishing a newspaper to the residents of Salem and other readers: “there can be no doubt that every Inhabitant is sufficiently sensible that the Exercise of this Art is of the utmost Importance to every Community, and that News-Papers, in particular, are of great publick Utility.” That was because newspapers collected together “miscellaneous Productions, and the Advices from different Parts of the World” in order that “the most useful Knowledge to Mankind, tending to preserve and promote the Liberty, Happiness and Welfare of Civil Society, is, at a trifling Expence, imperceptibly diffused among the Inhabitants of an extensive Country.”

Although Hall assumed primary responsibly for compiling those “miscellaneous Productions” and “Advices from different Parts of the World,” other colonists did play a part in shaping the contents of the Essex Gazette, just as they did newspapers published throughout the colonies, through the advertisements they paid to have inserted alongside news, editorials, prices current, poetry, and other items. Hall did not solicit advertising in his address “To the PUBLICK,” but the colophon at the bottom of the final page did states that “SUBSCRIPTIONS, (at Six Shillings and Eight Pence per Annum) ADVERTISEMENTS, &c. are received for this Paper” at the printing office “a few Doors above the Town-House.” Hall reported that he had issued proposals for publishing the Essex Gazette a month earlier. Those proposals likely included a call for colonists to submit advertisements in advance of the first issue going to press.

Five advertisements, filling, one and a half of the twelve columns, did appear in the inaugural issue. Andrew Oliver,a prominent colonial official, requested that “WHOEVER has borrowed” two books from his library either return them or contact him. The other four advertisements all promoted consumer goods and services. William Vans peddled a “Great Variety of English Goods” at his shop on the “Corner leading from the main Street to the North-River Bridge.” Edward Griffiths, a “Taylor and Habit-maker from LONDON” used a list of prices for suits, jackets, and breeches to attract prospective clients to his shop in Marblehead. William Jones invited travelers and others to the “King’s-Head Tavern, in Danvers, on the Road from Boston to Salem.” In an advertisement that filled an entire column, Philip Godfrid Kast listed and described various patent medicines available at his apothecary shop “at the Sign on the Lyon and Mortar” in Salem. Kast regularly advertised in newspapers published in Boston, but the new Essex Gazette provided an opportunity for him and the other entrepreneurs who inserted notices in the first issue to more directly target local readers who could become customers. That certainly enhanced the “publick Utility” of the newspaper for advertisers.