July 18

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

Jul 18 - 7:18:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (July 18, 1766).

“He leaves Shopkeeping soon.”

Richard Wescott was having a “going out of business” sale, though he did not announce it with the same fanfare as modern advertisers. Indeed, he only mentioned this information at the very end of his notice, followed only by a nota bene about a particular kind of handkerchiefs he stocked. Even though much of the advertisement was understated in the appeals it made, Wescott did mobilize several methods of attracting potential customers.

In contrast to many shopkeepers who promoted extensive consumer choices inherent in their lengthy lists of merchandise, Wescott instead stated that he carried “a small Assortment of Summer Goods” at the beginning of the advertisement. This worked well with his note that all of his merchandise would be “Sold very Cheap for Cash, as he leaves Shopkeeping soon” at the conclusion. In combination, this gave the impression of scarcity (get them while they last!) and a willingness to charge lower prices in order to reduce his investment tied up in inventory (rock bottom prices!). He quietly made the appeals that advertisers two centuries later would pronounce as loudly as possible.

In addition, Wescott made limited appeals to the quality of his goods, particular when he described his “blew and green Shalloons” as “Best.” He also specified a particular price for his “Womens English Shoes.” Shopkeepers rarely indicated prices in their advertisements. Wescott may have been willing to part with these shoes at such a discount that he expected that listing this price would incite demand.

From a modern perspective, Wescott’s advertisement appears dense and drab. Upon closer examination, however, we see that it featured nascent innovations in advertising methods that subsequent advertisers further developed and made ubiquitous.