What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The Cream of Goods … at his Cheap Shop.”
Customers could expect only the best merchandise when they visited the “Cheap Shop” operated by Gilbert Deblois. In an advertisement in the April 25, 1772, edition of the Postscript to the Censor, Deblois trumpeted that he carried “The Cream of Goods” selected by “the most able merchants in the city of LONDON,” purchased at “the different manufactories in England,” and imported to Boston. His inventory included “a great variety” of “English, Scots, Irish, Dutch & India Goods.”
In describing his business as a “Cheap Shop,” Deblois did not mean that he sold inferior goods. Instead, both buyers and sellers understood “cheap” to mean inexpensive or a good value for the money. They did not associate “cheap” with poor quality. As a result, prospective customers did not notice any contradiction in Deblois’s claim that he sold “The Cream of Goods … at his Cheap Shop.”
The merchant set such good prices for his merchandise, both wholesale and retail, that he refused to haggle with his customers. He declared his determination “to sell very cheap,” but also asserted that he “makes no abatement on the prices first asked.” He expected buyers to be satisfied that they acquired the best possible bargains for “The Cream of Goods” without having to negotiate for further discounts. To that end, he informed readers that his customers “may depend no shop in town shall under sell him.”
Deblois was so confident in this claim that he circulated it widely, placing the same advertisement in the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston-Gazette. Doing so significantly expanded the distribution of his advertisement, especially since the Censor was struggling to attract subscribers and would cease publication less than a month after Deblois submitted his notice to multiple printing offices. A Tory who eventually evacuated Boston with the British in 1776, Deblois may have appreciated the political stance represented in the Censor, but as a man of business he chose to advertise in newspapers that did not share his perspective.