What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“All the above articles will be sold lower than can be bought either in [New] York or Boston.”
In the fall of 1772, Ebenezer Backus, Jr., ran multiple advertisements for goods available at his store in Norwich, Connecticut, in the New-London Gazette. One of those advertisements may very well have circulated separately as a broadside or handbill. It occupied almost an entire page in the November 20 edition. An advertisement of that size would have been expensive. In subsequent issues, Backus published another advertisement, one more in line with the length of advertisements published by other purveyors of goods and services.
Like the longer advertisement, the shorter version included a list of goods. To help prospective customers navigate that list, Backus divided his notice into two columns with only one or two items per line rather than including everything in a paragraph of dense text. He stocked a variety of textiles, including checks, ginghams, damasks, “Pelong Sattins,” and “Plain Sattins” as well as accessories like buttons, “Barcelona Handkerchiefs of different colours,” and a “Compleat assortment of Ribbons.” Beyond merchandise intended for making garments, Backus also sold “Cream coloured Ware of all Kinds.”
Although Backus included fewer goods in this advertisement than his previous one, he did add a new marketing appeal with the intention of capturing the attention of prospective customers. In a nota bene that concluded the notice, Backus asserted that “All the above articles will be sold lower than can be bought either in [New] York or Boston.” Consumers in and around Norwich may have expected to pay more to acquire goods in the small town of Norwich than in the region’s major urban ports, but Backus assured them that was not the case. He hoped to entice them with bargains as good or even better than they would encounter elsewhere. In so doing, he demonstrated that the consumer revolution reached even small towns where colonizers had access to the same goods at the same prices as their counterparts in the largest cities in the colonies.