October 27

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

Essex Gazette (October 27, 1772).

“A fine Assortment of ENGLISH & INDIA GOODS and HARD-WARE.”

When John Appleton advertised the merchandise available at his shop in Salem in the fall of 1772, he resorted to two of the most common appeals deployed by merchants and shopkeepers.  He emphasized price and selection.  In his advertisement in the October 27 edition of the Essex Gazette, he asserted that he was “determined to sell” his wares “at such very low Rates … as cannot fail to give full Satisfaction to every reasonable Purchaser.”  He offered those low prices “by WHOLESALE or RETAIL,” extending the benefit to both consumers and retailers looking to expand their own inventory.  Low wholesale prices meant that shopkeepers who acquired goods from Appleton could pass along the bargains to their own customers.

Appleton devoted significantly more space to developing his appeal about selection.  He announced that he carried a “fine Assortment of ENGLISH & INDIA GOODS and HARD-WARE” and then provided a lengthy list of goods to demonstrate the range of choices his customers enjoyed.  Although he enumerated scores of items, everything from “black & white, plain and flower’d Sattins” to “children’s red Morocco Shoes,” he did not have space in a newspaper advertisement to include everything.  The clarification “Some of which are as follows” preceded Appleton’s list of goods.  In addition, Appleton mentioned categories of goods, such as “linen, silk and cotton Handkerchiefs of all sorts” and “Door Locks, Hinges and Latches of all sorts,” to further suggest ample choices.  He also inserted “&c.” (an abbreviation for et cetera) several times to indicate that he sold even more of certain types of items.  The length of the dense advertisement, the longest notice in that issue of the Essex Gazette, also testified to the selection at Appleton’s shop.

Appleton was not alone in making an appeal about consumer.  In the same issue, Samuel Flagg promoted a “General Assortment of English and India GOODS,” Stephen Higginson hawked a “Large and general Assortment of English and India GOODS,” and Campbell and Duncan marketed a “compleat Assortment of GOODS.”  Five other merchants and shopkeepers used similar phrases to describe their inventory, some of them also mentioning low prices.  Appleton distinguished his advertisement from others with a brief elaboration on his low prices and a lengthy catalog of his merchandise.

October 22

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 22, 1772).

“CHEAP GOODS.”

In the fall of 1772, David Sears joined other advertisers in Boston who used borders composed of decorative type to enclose either the headline or their entire newspaper notice.  Sears proclaimed that he sold “CHEAP GOODS,” that headline surrounded by printing ornaments that called attention to his advertisement and prompted subscribers of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter to read more about the “fresh Assortment of Gall and Winter Goods” he recently imported from London.  His advertisement in the October 26 edition of the Boston-Gazette included the same headline within a decorative border.  In with instances, the headline and its border directed prospective customers to his bold claim that he set “such Prices that is not possible to be conceived of without Trial.”  In other words, it would take some effort to even imagine such low prices.

Sears certainly was not the first advertiser in Boston to incorporate a border into a newspaper advertisement.  As early as 1766, Jolley Allen made borders around his entire notices a signature element of his marketing.  Occasionally other advertisers deployed borders as well, but greater numbers did so simultaneously in the summer and fall of 1772.  Jolley Allen and Andrew Dexter both published advertisements with borders in May, though the Massachusetts Spy seemingly rejected any requests or instructions to include a border around Allen’s advertisement.  Martin Bicker ran an advertisement surrounded by a border in August.  Jonathan Williams, Jr., also did so in September.  Other merchants and shopkeepers opted for borders around just the headlines.  The week before Sears ran his advertisement on October 22, William Jackson introduced his notice with a border around the headline, “Variety Store.”  A few days later, Herman Brimmer and Andrew Brimmer had a border enclosing “Variety of Goods” at the top of their advertisement in Supplement to the Boston-Gazette.  The printers of that newspaper had recently used a decorative border for their own notice calling on subscribers with overdue accounts “to make immediate Payment.”

These examples may seem scattered, but considering how infrequently borders adorned advertisements in Boston’s newspapers (or newspapers printed elsewhere in the colonies) they suggest a trend among advertisers in 1772.  Sears may have observed that others included borders in their notices and determined that he desired the same for his advertisement, combining a pithy headline and graphic design to demand the attention of readers.

October 18

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

Massachusetts Spy (October 15, 1772).

“The least favours gratefully acknowledged.”

John Langdon deployed a variety of strategies for marketing his inventory at the “New Book-Store” in Boston in the fall of 1772.  Like many other retailers, he emphasized the choices that he provided for consumers.  In an advertisement in the October 15 edition of the Massachusetts Spy, the bookseller informed prospective customers that he recently imported a “LARGE and Grand Assortment of BOOKS in all Arts and Sciences.”  Those new titles supplemented those he already had in stock.  He confidently proclaimed that he now offered “as large a collection as is to be found at any Store in America.”  His selection supposedly rivaled what consumers would encounter in shops in urban ports like Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia as well as in the shops operated by local competitors.  Langdon intended for that bold claim to double as an invitation for prospective customers to browse in his shop and discover titles of interest among his extensive inventory for themselves.

In addition, thew bookseller made appeals to price and customer service.  He explained that he planned to depart for England in the spring.  As a result, he wished to sell his inventory over the course of the next several months.  To do so, he set low prices.  Langdon pledged that “every Gentleman who may please to favour him with their custom may depend on purchasing at a little more than the sterling cost and charges.”  In other words, he did not mark up the prices exorbitantly but instead sought to make only a small profit on each book he sold.  Langdon concluded his advertisement with a note that the “least favours [are] gratefully acknowledged.”  He appreciated any business, no matter how large or small the transaction.  Even though he had such a large inventory, no purchase … and no customer … was insignificant. Langdon intended to cultivate relationships with everyone who entered his shop.

Langdon’s advertisement for the New Book-Store was no mere announcement that he sold books.  Instead, he crafted a notice that incorporated multiple marketing strategies.  He emphasized the size of his inventory, his motivation for setting low prices, and the importance of every customer in his effort to encourage consumers to acquire books from him.

October 11

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

Massachusetts Spy (October 8, 1772).

“He has almost every Article usually enquired for in that way.”

In the fall of 1772, Duncan Ingraham, Jr., took to the pages of the Massachusetts Spy to promote “a very Large and Elegant Assortment of ENGLISH, India and Scotch GOODS, which are now ready for Sale, at his Shop” on Union Street in Boston.  In an advertisement that ran in the October 8 edition, he made appeals to both price and choice in his efforts to entice consumers to shop at his establishment.  Ingraham made bold claims in both regards.  He trumpeted that he would “sell Wholesale and Retail as cheap for Cash [as] at any Store in America,” comparing his prices to those in other shops in Boston as well as Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, and other ports throughout the colonies.  Ingraham confidently stated that “His Prices will show the Goods well charged.”  In turn, he “doubts not of giving satisfaction to all who please to favour him with their custom.”

He had many competitors in Boston, including several who advertised in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on the same day.  Herman Brimmer and Andrew Brimmer, Caleb Blanchard, Joshua Gardner, and William Jackson all placed advertisements that listed dozens of imported items available at their shops, demonstrating an array of choices for prospective customers.  The partnership of Amorys, Taylor, and Rogers also published what amounted to a catalog of their merchandise under a headline that promised “GOODS EXTREMELY CHEAP.”  Ingraham adopted a different strategy, choosing instead to market his “very Large and Elegant Assortment” of goods with a nota bene in which he declared that he “has almost every Article usually enquired for in that way.”  He left it to readers to imagine his merchandise on their own.  Even if he did not happen to carry an item a shopper desired, if such a bold claim managed to get them into his store, then he still had an opportunity to make a sale by recommending alternatives.

Ingraham may not have wished to pay to insert a lengthy list of his inventory in the public prints, but that did not mean that he did not attend to consumer choice in an effort to make himself competitive with other merchants and shopkeepers.  In some ways, he invocation of “almost every Article usually enquired for” made even bigger claims than the extensive lists in other advertisements.

August 18

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

Essex Gazette (August 18, 1772).

“His utmost Abilities will be exerted to give Satisfaction to his Customers.”

In August 1772, George Deblois alerted readers of the Essex Gazette that he “has received, in the last Ships from LONDON, and has now for SALE … A Good and general Assortment of Hard-Ware and ENGLISH GOODS” at his shop in Salem.  The merchant boasted that he purchased this merchandise “in England on the best Terms.”  As a result, he “is enabled, and is determined to sell them, by Wholesale and Retail, at the very lowest Advance.”  Deblois hoped to hook “his Customers and others” with lots of choices and low prices.

He did not, however, catalog his inventory in an attempt to demonstrate the many choices he made available to consumers, a popular strategy among eighteenth-century advertisers.  Instead, he suggested that doing so “would be only tedious” because “his Assortment consists of a great Variety.”  Rather than publish a dense list of his wares, he encouraged prospective customers to visit his shop, browse his merchandise, and see for themselves that they would “find almost every Article usually enquired for, and on as low terms as can be purchased in the Province.”  He pledged that “those who please to call and look” at his imported goods would not be disappointed.  Deblois also emphasized customer service in his efforts to encourage colonizers into his shop, declaring that “His utmost Abilities will be exerted to give Satisfaction to his Customers, and to use them in such a Manner as to encourage them to call again, or to recommend any of their Friends.”  In addition, he added a nota bene to underscore that “Constant Attendance will be given, and the Favours of his Customers gratefully acknowledged.”

Many merchants and shopkeepers focused primarily on their merchandise when they advertised in colonial newspapers.  Deblois took a different approach, treating shopping as an experience to be enjoyed by consumers in Salem and nearby towns.  He invited colonizers to browse in his shop, encountering items they wanted or needed on their own instead of finding them in a list in the public prints.  That experience included customer service as well as the “Hard-Ware and ENGLISH GOODS” offered for sale.  Deblois seemed to understand that cultivating relationships with “his Customers and others” who had not yet visited his shop would likely yield subsequent sales over time.  Accordingly, he emphasized more than moving merchandise in his advertisement.

June 17

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

Supplement to the Pennsylvania Packet (June 15, 1772).

“Sweeping brushes as 19 s. per dozen, and lower by the half or whole gross.”

John Hannah described himself as a “WHOLESALE AND RETAIL BRUSHMAKER” in an advertisement that appeared in the supplement that accompanied the June 15, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet.  Although he stocked “a good assortment of painting brushes” and “a general assortment of bone brushes” that he “imported in the last vessels from England and Holland,” he focused on the items that he produced in his own shop “AT THE HOG, … At the north-east corner of Second and Chestnut Streets” in Philadelphia.  A woodcut depicting a boar, the bristles on the crest of its back evident, adorned his advertisement.

Hannah declared that he “made and manufactured” all kinds of brushes “in the best manner” at his shop, assisted by “the best hands in the city.”  The quality of his brushes derived from both the materials, “a large and general assortment of Bristles” imported from Europe, and the skills of those who worked in his shop.  In addition to quality, Hannah promoted low prices, especially for wholesale transactions.  He proclaimed that he “can sell on as reasonable terms as any manufacturer in the province,” challenging prospective customers to compare his prices to those set by his competitors. To demonstrate that he did indeed offer good bargains, he listed some of his prices.  Hannah sold a dozen sweeping brushes for nineteen shillings.  He offered discounts to buyers who purchased in greater volume.  Similarly, he charged four shilling for a dozen “weavers brushes” and “lower by the half or whole gross.”  That he did not specify how deeply he discounted such purchases suggested that customers could negotiate the prices.

Hannah incorporated several appeals into his advertisement.  He emphasized the quality of his finished product as well as the skills of the workers who labored in his shop.  He promoted the range of choices available to customers.  He also promised the lowest prices in the colony, listing his prices and offering discounts to retailers and others who purchased large quantities of brushes.  To draw attention to his advertisement, he included a woodcut that resembled the sign that marked the location of his shop, a rudimentary form of branding his business.

June 9

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

Essex Gazette (June 9, 1772).

“He is determined to be undersold by none.”

Philip Godfrid Kast, an apothecary in Salem, regularly placed advertisements in the Essex Gazette in the early 1770s.  He also distributed an engraved trade card that included a depiction of the “Sign of the Lyon & Mortar” that marked his location.  Kast resorted to a variety of marketing appeals in his efforts to convince consumers to give him their business rather than acquire medicines from his competitors.

In an advertisement that ran on June 9, 1772, Kast declared that he “is determined to be undersold by none.”  Purveyors of all sorts of goods frequently promised low prices for their wares, some making similar claims that prospective customers would not find better bargains than they offered.  Kast explained why he was so confident that he could match and beat the prices charged by other apothecaries as well as merchants and shopkeepers who imported and sold various patent medicines.  He stated that he “has a Brother who resides in London, and purchases his Drugs at the cheapest Rate for Cash.”  His competitors may have acquired their medicines through middlemen and marked up their prices accordingly, but Kast had a direct connection that allowed him to set the best rates.  The apothecary presented this as a benefit to all of his customers, but he made a special appeal to “Gentlemen Practitioners in Physick” who were most likely to buy in volume.  That meant greater savings for them as well as greater revenues for Kast.

Yet he did not expect low prices alone would bring customers to his shop.  He also testified to the quality of his medicines and provided a guarantee, proclaiming that they were “warranted to be genuine, and the best of their Kinds.” Furthermore, his new inventory was “fresh,” having been imported from London” via a vessel that “arrived at Boston last Week.”  Kast assured prospective customers that he did not peddle remedies that had lingered on the shelves for months.  He anticipated that a combination of low prices and promises about quality would convince consumers to visit the Lion and Mortar when they needed medicines.

May 30

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

Providence Gazette (May 30, 1772).

“Determined not to be undersold.”

To compete with other shopkeepers and merchants in Providence, Jones and Allen emphasized both low prices and extensive choices in their advertisement in the May 30, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette.  The headline for their notice, “The GREATEST PENNYWORTHS Of ENGLISH and INDIA GOODS,” immediately alerted prospective customers to the bargains they would encounter at the Sign of the Golden Ball.  They elaborated on their low prices in the conclusion to their advertisement.  “Said JONES and ALLEN,” the partners confided, “think it needless to say any thing more urgent to the public, than that they deal for ready money, and are determined not to be undersold by any retailer in Providence.”  Although they did not make any explicit promises, Jones and Allen hinted that they would match the prices if customers found better deals in other shops.  They also made a special appeal concerning the prices for tea, sugar, and spices, pledging to part with them “on the lowest terms.”

To demonstrate that they made choices available to consumers, Jones and Allen listed dozens of items from among their inventory of textiles, garments, accessories, and housewares.  In many instances, they deployed language that suggested even more choices, such as “shaloons, tammies and calimancoes, of all colours,” “a large assortment of light and dark patches,” “an assortment of hemp, thread, cotton, worsted, and silk and worsted hose,” “an elegant assortment of ribbons,” and “An assortment of broaches, hair sprigs, ear rings, &c.”  The et cetera (abbreviated “&c.”) implied even more choices.  Jones and Allen also inserted “&c. &c.” and “&c. &c. &c.” to underscore that they stocked an even greater array of merchandise.  In addition, they did not list any of the items from among their “good assortment of hard-ware.”  Instead, they claimed those items were “too tedious to enumerate in an advertisement,” though readers may have suspected that Jones and Allen did not want to incur the additional expense.  After all, the advertisement already filled two-thirds of a column.

Other advertisers claimed to offer “the lowest Prices” in Providence, but did not exert the same effort in making that claim.  Similarly, others declared that they carried a “compleat Assortment of English, India, and Hard-Ware GOODS,” but did not list any of their wares.  Jones and Allen adapted popular marketing strategies, making their advertisement more distinctive than many others that ran in the same issue of the Providence Gazette.

May 16

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

Providence Gazette (May 16, 1772).

“They will sell at as cheap a Raste as any Goods … can be purchased in this Town.”

Nathaniel Jacobs advised prospective customers that he stocked a “compleat Assortment of European and East-India GOODS” that he “sold at the lowest Prices” at his shop on the west side of the Great Bridge in Providence.  Other merchants and shopkeepers who also placed notices in the May 16, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette placed even greater emphasis on the bargains they offered.

At their shop at the Sign of the Elephant, for instance, Tillinghast and Holroyd stocked a “Variety [of] ARTICLES … which they will sell at as cheap a Rate as any Goods, of the same Quality, can be purchased in this Town.”  In other words, their competitors did not have lower prices.  To underscore the point, they made an additional appeal to female consumers.  “The Ladies are especially informed,” Tillinghast and Holroyd declared, “that a Part of their Assortment consists of Silks for Gowns, Cloaks, &c. Gauzes, Lawns, &c. for Aprons, &c. which will be sold at the lowest Prices.”  According to the advertisement, women could acquire these goods without paying extravagant prices.

Jones and Allen also emphasized low prices in their lengthy notice that listed scores of “ENGLISH and INDIA GOODS” recently imported.  The headline for their advertisement proclaimed, “The greatest Pennyworths,” alerting prospective customers to bargain prices.  Not considering that sufficient to entice customers into their shop at the Sign of the Golden Ball, they concluded with a note that they “think it needless to say any thing more to the public, than that they deal for ready money, and are determined to be undersold by no retailer in Providence.”  Jones and Allen encouraged comparison shopping, confident that customers would ultimately buy their goods.

Thurber and Cahoon made similar promises concerning their “compleat Assortment of English and India GOODS” at the Sign of the Bunch of Grapes.  They suggested that they already had a reputation for good deals at their store, stating that they were “determined to sell at their usual low Prices.”  In addition, they challenged consumers to make their own assessments, confiding that they “doubt not but all, who will call and examine for themselves, will be convinced [their prices] are as low, if not lower, than are sold by any Person, or Persons, whatever.”  Their advertisement advanced yet another claim to setting the best prices in town.

Tillinghast and Holroyd, Jones and Allen, and Thurber and Cahoon did not merely tell prospective customers that they offered low prices.  They did not make offhand appeals to price.  Instead, they crafted short narratives about the bargains at their shops, pledging consumers would not find better deals elsewhere.  They believed that such narratives would entice customers to visit their shops even if they encountered low prices in other stores.

January 8

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 6, 1772).

“Will sell them cheaper than any in the city.”

Charles Oliver Bruff, a goldsmith and jeweler, operated a shop at “the Sign of the Tea-pot, Tankard, and Ear-ring” on Maiden Lane in New York in the early 1770s.  He regularly placed newspaper notices to advise prospective clients of his services.  In the January 6, 1772, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, for instance, he declared that he “makes or mends any kind of diamond or enamel’d work in the jewellery way” and “makes all sorts of silversmiths work, and mends old work.”  In addition, he mended “ladies fans in the neatest manner and at the lowest price” and sold rings, lockets, “hair jewels,” and a variety of other jewelry.

Bruff sought to draw attention to two other aspects of his business.  He informed readers that he had “just finished some of the neatest dies for making sleeve buttons, with the neatest gold cuts to them to stamp all sorts of gold buttons, silver, pinchbeck, or brass.”  Colonizers who desired such distinctive buttons could acquire them from Bruff … and at bargain prices.  He pledged to “sell them cheaper than any in the city.”  In addition to buttons, Bruff also highlighted his interest in working with “gentlemen merchants that travel the country, or pedlars,” anticipating that they would purchase in quantity for resale.  The goldsmith asserted that peddlers “may depend on being used well.”  That included maintaining good relationships as well as offering low prices.  Bruff confided that for such customers he would “make any kind of work cheaper than they can get it in the city elsewhere.”

Whether hawking buttons, cultivating relationships with retailers, or mending fans for fashionable ladies, Bruff deployed superlatives to compare his prices to those of his competitors in the bustling port city.  He did not merely declare that he offered comparable low prices; instead, he claimed that he undersold other goldsmiths and jewelers in New York, hoping that this strategy would bring customers into his shop.