June 21

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

Jun 21 - 6:19:1767 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (June 19, 1767).

“Will be sold 10 per cent. under the common advance.”

John Davies paid attention to quality and, especially, price in his advertisement for imported Irish linens and other textiles in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. He encouraged customers to buy in volume as a means of lowering prices as he targeted retailers who needed “to supply themselves … to sell again.” Although he did not specify specific rates for most of his goods, he did offer some numbers that would have been attractive to potential customers looking to acquire inventory and turn a profit themselves.

For instance, he stated that he “sold 10 per cent. under the common advance.” He assumed that potential customers already had a general sense of the going rates for the various sorts of textiles he sold, enticing them with the savings he offered compared to what they otherwise expected to pay. To sweeten the deal, he also promoted “the advantage of 5 per cent. being allowed in the purchase of them for prompt payment.” In other words, as he stated later in the advertisement, those “who purchase with cash” rather than credit stood to enjoy an additional discount that made his prices even more competitive. Davies implied further discounts for buying in bulk – “still greater allowance that will be made in taking a quantity” – although he did not offer specifics. The size of the subsequent discount may have been tied to the quantity purchased, subject to negotiations between Davies and his customers at the time of sale.

How was Davies able to offer low prices and significant discounts? He had cultivated relationships directly with the manufacturers, sidestepping English merchants who usually supplied American wholesalers and retailers. There had been “no charge of commissions” to other parties to drive up Davies’s prices. He also kept costs down by making his own purchases in cash rather than credit that accumulated interest. He passed his savings on to his customers in Charleston.

February 16

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

feb-16-2161767-boston-evening-post
Boston Evening-Post (February 16, 1767).

Any of those with this Mark (*) may be had by the Dozen, at a small Advance.”

Like other colonial booksellers, M. Williams imported from London most of the “good Assortment of Books” he sold. His newspaper advertisements amounted to miniature catalogs that listed dozens of titles. In most regards, his notice looked little different from those published by his competitors. To make it easier for potential customers to read and identify items of interest, each title occupied its own line. To increase the number of titles that could be listed, the advertisement was divided into two columns, making it dense yet still readable. Williams also hawked a variety of other goods (“Stationary Wares,” including paper, inkpots, quills, penknives, and sealing wax) and services (blank books made and ruled and “old Books new bound”).

In one regard, however, Williams’ advertisement differed from most others. A printing ornament preceded the majority of titles. Williams explained its meaning in a nota bene that concluded his notice: “Any of those with this Mark (*) may be had by the Dozen, at a small Advance.” This reveals that the bookseller did not operate merely as a retailer of individual books one at a time but instead sold in volume to others that then retailed the books themselves.

Given that Williams’ shop was in Salem, he most likely did not intend his advertisement to address readers of the Boston Evening-Post who resided in Boston itself. After all, residents of Boston could conveniently purchase “Books and Stationary Wares” from several local printers and booksellers. Instead of soliciting their patronage, Williams depended on the dissemination of the Boston Evening-Post throughout the city’s hinterland, which included Salem as well as smaller towns and villages. While some of the books he stocked would have been appropriate for schoolmasters to purchase in volume, Williams likely anticipated that others might find their way into shops in surrounding villages, where they would supplement other sorts of merchandise. Stressing that he sold books by the dozen may have allowed him to capture some of the market among these shopkeepers that otherwise prominent printers and booksellers in Boston would have dominated.

July 27

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

Jul 27 - 7:26:1766 Connecticut Gazette
Connecticut Gazette (July 26, 1766).

“Proper allowance will be made to those who take a Quantity.”

Shopkeeper John MacCrackan promoted a deal, first on “BEST Bohea Tea” and later on all the merchandise he stocked and advertised, a “general Assortment of European and East-India GOODS.”

Eighteenth-century advertisements rarely listed prices (with the exception of subscription notices for books, magazines, and other printed items), but occasionally shopkeepers and others inserted the price of one or two items. MacCrackan led his advertisement with “BEST Bohea Tea at 6s. per pound.” Readers likely took note of the price; tea was such a popular commodity in the 1760s that many potential customers probably knew the going rate in their community, just as many modern Americans can recite the price of a gallon of gas on any given day. Accordingly, MacCrackan indicated the price of tea at his shop in order to announce that his customers got a deal. (Perhaps MacCrackan’s tea was even a so-called loss leader, an item priced below market value as a means of getting customers into the shop to then tempt them into purchasing other, more expensive wares.) At the very least, MacCrackan wanted readers to know that his price for tea was both reasonable and competitive.

The shopkeeper also made it attractive for customers to buy in bulk (thus increasing his revenue and turning over his inventory) when he noted that the price for tea would be “lower by the Quantity.” Near the end of the advertisement, he extended this offer to all of his merchandise: “Proper allowance will be made to those who take a Quantity.” Purchasing in volume yielded savings for customers.

This may have been most attractive to those who planned to purchase their own stock to resell, perhaps other shopkeepers in New Haven’s hinterland, some of the customers who may have paid in “Some Kinds of Country Produce.” However, MacCrackan sold goods both “Wholesale or Retail.” His advertisement suggest he was willing to negotiate with customers purchasing solely for their own household needs as well as those who intended to resell and further distribute this merchandise.