What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Sundry other Articles, allowed to be imported by the Resolutions.”
Several merchants and shopkeepers placed lengthy advertisements in the September 24, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette. Alexander Gillon’s advertisement on the front page listed dozens of items for sale, as did Isaac Motte’s advertisement. Elsewhere in the newspaper, Benjamin Mathewes, Thomas Walter, and Radcliffe and Shepheard all ran similar notices. In addition to “mens fine beaver hats,” “bordered handkerchiefs,” “gold and silver basket buttons,” “parrot and bird cages,” and a variety of other items that he did name in his advertisement, Mathewes also indicated that he had in stock “a number of other article[s] needless to enumerate.” The purpose of enumerating so many of them was to demonstrate to consumers the wide array of choices available to them. Like their counterparts who advertised in other newspapers in other towns and cities, these merchants and shopkeepers sought to incite demand by inviting prospective customers to imagine the many and varied options available to them.
Not all advertisers took this approach, but that did not mean that their notices lacked appeals meant to engage consumers. In the same issue, Robert Porteous and Company and William and James Carsans placed advertisements that asserted they offered a similar array of choices without listing their inventory. Porteous and Company stated that they sold “AN Assortment of such GOODS as are allowed by the Resolutions,” while the Carsanses similarly promoted textiles, nails, and “sundry other Articles, allowed to be imported by the Resolutions.” Both incorporated consumer choice yet placed as much emphasis on the circumstances of acquiring their merchandise. The merchants and traders in South Carolina adopted “Resolutions” or nonimportation agreements to protest the duties on certain imported goods imposed by the Townshend Acts. Some items, however, were excluded from those resolutions. Porteous and Company and the Carsanses assured prospective customers and the general public that they abided by the agreement, keeping themselves in good standing in the community. Their marketing efforts addressed politics as well as consumer choice.