What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Sold … by Samuel Loudon, in New-York.”
In his efforts to attract customers for the “Ship-Chandlery, Books, and Stationary” he stocked at his shop in New York, Samuel Loudon placed advertisements in the New-London Gazette in the fall of 1772. For each category of merchandise, he provided a short list, concluding each with one or more “&c.” (the abbreviation for et cetera commonly used in the eighteenth century) to indicate even more choices. He also stated that he carried “a great Variety of other Books, Divinity[, and] History” beyond the titles in his list.
Although Loudon may have welcomed retail customers for his wares, he most likely intended for his advertisement to capture the attention of masters of vessels who needed to outfit their ships and shopkeepers in New London and other towns in Connecticut interested in augmenting their inventory. In a note near the end of the advertisement, Loudon stated that “Country Stores are supplied at the lowest Prices with Bibles, Testaments, Common Prayer Books, Spelling-Books, Entick’s Dictionary, Primmers, Bed Cords, Trace Rope, Gunpowder, Brimstone, &c.” Loudon promised bargains to shopkeepers when they bought popular books and other items usually purchased in quantity.
Loudon could have confined his advertising to any of the three newspapers published in New York at the time. After all, each of those publications enjoyed circulations far beyond the busy port. Doing so, however, would have kept him in competition with others who also advertised in those newspapers. Instead, Loudon sought to expand the market in which he operated by placing advertisements in the nearest newspaper published outside New York. Although circulation of the New-London Gazette and New York’s newspapers overlapped, this strategy introduced him to new prospective customers. It also gave his advertisements greater prominence. All of the newspapers published in New York overflowed with advertising. The New-London Gazette, a more modest publication, featured significantly less advertising. It contained much less advertising, giving Loudon’s notice greater visibility. Even if country shopkeepers in Connecticut perused any of the New York newspapers, they were much more likely to spot Loudon’s advertisement in the New-London Gazette. Loudon apparently decided that advertising in large newspapers in his own city did not offer the only or even the best route to success. Advertising in a smaller newspaper in a neighboring colony had its own advantages he considered worth the investment.