What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“As cheap, and equal in goodness to any sold in New York.”
Purveyors of goods in Hartford and nearby towns frequently assured prospective customers that they had the same opportunities to participate in the marketplace as if they lived in bustling urban ports like Boston and New York. Such was the case in two advertisements that ran in the July 9, 1771, edition of the Connecticut Courant. In the first, Barzillai Hudson, a tobacconist, announced that he sold the “best pig tail and paper tobacco in small or large quantities as cheap, and equal in goodness to any sold in New York.” Like other advertisers in smaller towns, Hudson asserted that he offered the same bargains and the same quality that consumers enjoyed in colonial cities.
In another advertisement, Peter Verstille of Weathersfield demonstrated the vast array of choices he made available to consumers. Divided into two parts, that advertisement extended an entire column. The first portion listed a “fine assortment of GOODS” imported from London and Bristol and received via Boston and New London. Verstille enumerated various kinds of textiles, tableware, and housewares before concluding that portion of his notice with “&c. &c. &c.” Invoking the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera three times underscored consumers could expect to discover many more choices when they visited his shop. That portion of the advertisement initially ran on its own, but Verstille later updated it with another litany of imported goods that arrived via Boston. In particular, he listed hardware items that did not appear in the original. That addition meant that his customers enjoyed one-stop-shopping for their various needs and desires. Verstille also promoted prices that matched those in Boston and New York.
The pages of the Connecticut Courant did not overflow with advertising for consumer goods and services like newspapers published in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia. Ebenezer Watson did not need to publish advertising supplements. That did not mean, however, that readers of the Connecticut Courant in the countryside did not participate in the vibrant consumer culture taking place in urban ports. Entrepreneurs like Hudson and Verstille invited and made it possible for even colonists who resided in remote places to participate in the consumer revolution.