December 10

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

Essex Gazette (December 10, 1771).

“Some of the above-mentioned Lawns and Gauzes are perhaps the most genteel of any ever imported into North-America.”

Several merchants and shopkeepers placed advertisements promoting imported goods in the December 10, 1771, edition of the Essex Gazette.  With the exception of the notice from John Cabot and Andrew Cabot with its text running upward diagonally, most of those advertisements looked quite similar at a glance.  The name of the purveyor of the goods, set in a larger font, functioned as a headline, an introduction outlined the origins of the merchandise and the location of the shop or warehouse, and dozens of items appeared in a catalog of current inventory.

Some advertisers, however, attempted to distinguish their notices from others by incorporating additional appeals to prospective customers.  John Andrew, for instance, informed readers that they could expect good bargains at his shop at the Sign of the Gold Cup.  “Those who favour him with their Custom,” he confided, “may depend upon being served with good Pennyworths, as he is determined to be undersold by none.”  Elsewhere on the same page, Samuel Cottman described his prices as “Extremely cheap,” while John Gould and Company declared that they set prices “as low as at any Store in the Province.”  Andrew made it clear that customers could expect competitive prices from him.

Rather than price, John Grozart made an appeal to fashion in the nota bene that enhanced his advertisement.  He drew attention to certain textiles, declaring that “Some of the above-mentioned Lawns and Gauzes are perhaps the most genteel of any ever imported into North-America.”  Those fabrics were not merely fashionable, Grozart suggested, but superlative in their fashionableness.  Customers could not go wrong in purchasing them, especially if they wanted to impress their friends and acquaintances.  Folsom and Hart advertised wigs “made in the present Taste,” but did not make claims nearly as bold as Grozart did about his wares as he attempted to incite curiosity among readers.

Neither Andrew nor Grozart included images in their advertisements.  The copy had to do all the work of enticing prospective customers to visit their stores.  To that end, they each devised an additional appeal to enhance the otherwise standard format of their newspaper notices, trusting that consumers practiced the close reading necessary to detect the differences among the advertisements in the Essex Gazette.

June 6

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

Jun 6 - 6:6:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (June 6, 1769).

Goldsmith and Jeweller, AT the Sign of the Gold Cup.”

Like many other eighteenth-century advertisers, John Andrew noted the proximity of a landmark to his shop when directing prospective customers to his location. In an advertisement that ran in the Essex Gazette on June 6, 1769, Andrew informed readers that they could find his shop “near the Long-Wharf-Lane” in Salem. Yet he did not rely solely on landmarks and street names to identify his business. Andrew also declared that customers could seek him out at “the Sign of the Gold Cup.” A goldsmith and jeweler, Andrew selected a device that resonated with his occupation to mark his location.

Andrew’s advertisement testifies to an element of the visual landscape that residents and visitors alike encountered in Salem and other towns on the eve of the American Revolution. Merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, tavernkeepers, and others posted signs to identify where they did business. Often these signs featured images that became associated with both entrepreneurs and locations. In Andrew’s case, the “Sign of the Gold Cup” was appropriate for an artisan who “makes all Sorts of Goldsmith’s and Jewellery Ware,” yet others who followed different occupations most likely also made reference to that sign when giving directions. Advertisements from newspapers published in several cities reveal that even when they did not invest in signs themselves, colonists made use of signs posted by others to give directions. In addition to marking the locations of particular businesses, shop signs served as landmarks for navigating the vicinity. Just as Andrew stated that his shop was near Long Wharf Lane, advertisers sometimes invoked nearby signs erected by others as features that would aid prospective customers in finding their shops. Given the frequency that this occurred in newspaper advertisements, colonists likely adopted such strategies in conversation just as regularly. Useful not only for commerce, shop signs aided everyday navigation of the lanes, streets, and alleys in colonial cities and towns.