What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House, In King Stret BOSTON.”
As summer turned to fall in 1771, Ebenezer Bridgham, the proprietor of the “Staffordshire and Liverpool Ware House” on King Street in Boston, attempted to cultivate a regional reputation for his store. Not content seeking customers in Boston and the surrounding towns, he also placed advertisements in newspapers published in other places in New England. On September 7, for instance, he inserted an advertisement in the Providence Gazette, informing prospective customers that he stocked “a very large and elegant Assortment of China, Glass, Delph and Stone Ware” that he imported “directly from the several Manufacturers in Staffordshire and Liverpool.” Three days later, the same advertisement also ran in the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, and the Essex Gazette, published in Salem. Bridgham disseminated information about the Staffordshire and Liverpool Warehouse far more widely than if he had placed his notice solely in the several newspapers published in Boston. To entice customers in towns throughout New England to place orders from his store, he pledged to part with his wares “as low as they were ever sold in America.”
The appearance of Bridgham’s advertisement in several newspapers demonstrated a division of responsibilities in the creation of marketing materials in the eighteenth century. As the advertiser, Bridgham supplied the copy. The composition, however, made decisions about the format. In each newspaper, the graphic design of Bridgham’s advertisement looked consistent with other paid notices in that publication. In the Essex Gazette, for example, the advertisement promoted “a very large and elegant Assortment of CHINA, GLASS, DELPH and STONE WARE,” the various categories of goods in capital letters. Other advertisements in the Essex Gazette also featured key words in all capitals. On the other hand, notices in the Connecticut Courant did not tend utilize that means of drawing attention to particular goods, reserving capitals for names of advertisers and towns. Similarly, “Staffordshire” and “Liverpool” appeared in italics in the headline in the Essex Gazette, but “King Street” appeared in italics in the Connecticut Courant. The compositors made decisions independently when they set type. As a result, Bridgham’s advertisement had variations in design, but not copy, when it ran in multiple newspapers.