What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Cash given for POT-ASH … at which Place is sold various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS.”
James McMasters did not have a single purpose for the advertisement he placed in the September 14, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. Instead, he sought to accomplish multiple goals. His advertisement commenced and concluded with short messages calling on readers to supply commodities that McMasters was interested in acquiring. “Cash given for POT-ASH” read the headline. A nota bene also promised “The highest Price for good FLAX SEED” at McMasters’s store. Nestled between the headline calling for potash and the nota bene seeking flax seed, the middle portion of the advertisement offered goods for sale. McMasters declared that he sold “various Sorts of ENGLISH GOODS” at his store on Wallingford’s Wharf. He was especially interested in dealing with retailers who would buy in bulk, promising prices “at so low a Rate as may induce Shopkeepers and Country Traders to purchase.” McMasters anticipated that others would distribute those goods to consumers in Portsmouth and throughout the colony.
Advertisements with multiple purposes frequently appeared in the New-Hampshire Gazette and other eighteenth-century newspapers. Sometimes the various goals were more closely aligned than others. Advertisers on occasion, for instance, inserted real estate notices that described buildings, land, and other amenities in great detail before concluding with a brief nota bene about consumer goods for sale or services offered. In McMasters’s case, the entire advertisement focused on buying and selling. By alternating between the two, his advertisement conjured images of items moving in and out of his store. This gave the impression that the store was a busy site for commercial transactions while simultaneously testifying to McMasters’s skills as an entrepreneur who balanced the acquisition of commodities and sales of consumer goods. McMasters could have placed more than one advertisement, each with its own purpose, but combining them together into one notice better represented the scope of his business interests and commercial savvy.