February 11

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (February 11, 1771).

“It is the Book used in Princetown College and Grammar School.”

In the late 1760s and early 1770s, bookseller Garrat Noel frequently placed advertisements in newspapers published in New York.  Sometimes he provided lengthy lists of the titles available at his shop, but on other occasions he instead highlighted select titles for prospective customers.  When he took that approach, Noel offered more extensive descriptions, providing a preview of sorts intended to incite demand.

For instance, Noel included three books in an advertisement that extended half a column in the February 11, 1771, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  He devoted half of that space to “A NEW GEOGRAPHICAL, HISTORICAL, and COMMERCIAL GRAMMAR; AND PRESENT STATE OF THE SEVERAL KINGDOMS of the WORLD” by William Guthrie.  In two columns, he enumerated the contents of the book.  In an eighteenth-century version of “but wait, there’s more,” Noel proclaimed that the book also included “a TABLE of the COINS of all Nations, and their Value in ENGLISH MONEY” and “a new and correct Set of MAPS.”  He apparently expected that an extensive presentation of the various contents would help in selling copies.

Noel took a similar approach in promoting another book, “The MESSIAH.”  He once again focused on the contents, but adopted a different format and style.  The bookseller provided a blurb, a chatty description of what readers could expect to encounter in the book.  Noel presented “The MESSIAH” as “an entertaining and instructive book, chiefly of the religious and moral Kind,” with the narrative “drawn from the Sacred Scriptures.”  Rather than a dry theological treatise, however, Noel promised prospective buyers that they would enjoy a text “set in a plain, rational, useful and interesting Light.”  Many readers likely found the blurb for the “The MESSIAH” more engaging than the list of contents for Guthrie’s historical geography.

The bookseller deployed yet another strategy for cultivating interest in the final book in this advertisement, John Mair’s “INTRODUCTION TO LATIN SYNTAX.”  In this case, Noel commented on the popularity and success of the book in other markets, hoping that would translate into demand among consumers in New York.  He described “Mair’s Introduction to the making of Latin” as “the latest and most improved Book of that Kind, and now in Use in all the principal Schools in Scotland, where the Language is taught with the greatest accuracy.”  Yet prospective customers did not need to look across the Atlantic to witness approval for this book.  Noel also noted that it “is the Book used in Princetown College and Grammar School,” a fact that the bookseller leveraged as a recommendation for others interested in Latin to purchase it.

In a single advertisement, Noel experimented with three different methods for inciting interest in some of the books he sold.  For one, he relied on an extensive recounting of the contents, while for another he commented on the contents in a spirited blurb.  For a Latin textbook, he reported on its use in both Scotland and a nearby college and grammar school.  For each book, he selected a marketing strategy that he anticipated would resonate with the consumers most likely to have incipient interest in acquiring a copy.

January 9

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

Jan 9 1770 - 1:9:1770 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 9, 1770).

“BRIAN CAPE … continues the business as usual.”

The end of the decade saw an end to the partnership between shopkeepers Edward Griffith and Brian Cape. Early in 1770, the shopkeepers turned to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to announce that their “co-partnership” had “expired with the last year.” Not only were they going their separate ways, Griffith was retiring or “declining trade.” Their advertisement thanked patrons who had “favoured them with their custom” and called on anyone indebted to the partnership to settle accounts “as soon as convenient.” Since Cape continued in business, the partnership also took the opportunity to encourage existing customers “to transfer” their patronage to him.

Cape placed a separate but related advertisement that reiterated the notice signed by both partners. The compositor of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal conveniently placed them together and even formatted them to look like one continuous advertisement. Perhaps Cape had submitted copy for both advertisements to the printing office simultaneously. Despite the repetition, Cape’s request for “friends of his late co-partnership” to “favour him their custom” benefitted from appearing immediately after the notice signed by both Griffith and Cape that made the same plea. Griffith endorsed his former partner, making clear that even as they concluded their partnership that he recommended Cape to customers who could expect the same level of service from Cape alone.

Customers could also expect the same quality and variety of goods in Cape’s shop that the partners had formerly provided. Cape had purchased “their STOCK OF GOODS.” He offered an overview of this “neat Assortment,” listing a variety of merchandise from “FASHIONABLE broad cloths, with trimmings” to “sets of table and tea china” to “Ben Kenton’s best porter in bottles and barrels” to “a few of the most useful family and plantation medicines.” For those who previously shopped at Griffith and Cape’s “store on the Bay,” he demonstrated that they could continue to acquire the same goods from him “on as good terms as any in town.” At the same time, he published a rich catalog of goods for prospective customers who had not made purchases from Griffith and Cape. Even as he sought to maintain his existing customer base, Cape invited new customers to browse his wares and buy from him rather than any of his competitors in the bustling port of Charleston.