January 11

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

Georgia Gazette (January 11, 1769).

“Just imported … and to be sold by JOHN HIGGIN.”

In January 1769, John Higgin advertised a variety of goods “Just imported, from Liverpool and Corke, and to be sold … At Mr. Moore’s Store opposite the Exchange.” Unlike Inglis and Hall, whose advertisement from the previous week appeared in the Georgia Gazette once again, Higgin did not regularly insert advertisements for consumer goods in the colony’s only newspaper. The shipping news suggests that may have been because Higgin was not a resident of Savannah but instead a ship captain who sometimes did some trading on his own.

According to the shipping news in the January 4 edition of the Georgia Gazette, the “Snow Ann,” captained by John Higgins “ENTERED INWARDS at the CUSTOM-HOUSE” from Montserrat and St. Martin’s that very day. A week later, Higgin published an advertisement for “IRISH linens,” “Cheque, silk, and muslin handkerchiefs,” “Tin saucepans,” and an assortment of other textiles, garments, and housewares. Like many other advertisements, it ran in three consecutive issues (January 11, 18, and 25) before being discontinued. Higgin, however, did not disappear from the pages of the Georgia Gazette. The following week, the “Snow Anne, John Higgin,” headed for Montserrat was listed among the vessels “ENTERED OUTWARDS” at the customhouse. Preparations for departure took some time. Higgin and his vessel remained on that list for nearly two months. In the March 29 edition, the shipping news reported that the “Snow Anne, John Higgin” had “CLEARED” on March 23.

While it is possible that the John Higgin who commanded the Anne and the John Higgin who sold imported goods were two different people, the evidence in the Georgia Gazette suggests otherwise. That the advertisement stated Higgin’s goods came from Liverpool and Cork likely indicated their origins rather than suggesting that they had been transported directly from the British Isles to Georgia. Higgin would have had plenty of opportunities to pursue side ventures on his own while sailing the Anne in the Caribbean. When competing against other purveyors of imported goods in Savannah, he would have been at a disadvantage if he reported that his merchandise from Liverpool and Cork made a detour to the sugar islands first. After all, colonial consumers demanded the newest fashions when it came to clothing and housewares. Selling his wares “At Mr. Moore’s Store” rather than a shop of his own would have been appropriate for someone only in Savannah briefly.

Higgin’s advertisement occupied more space than most advertisements for consumer goods and services that ran in the Georgia Gazette. Although this suggested the array of choices available to prospective customers, Higgin likely envisioned an additional strategy when he composed the advertisement. Unlike Inglis and Hall and other local merchants and shopkeepers already familiar to residents of the colony, Higgin was unknown and in port for a limited time. Especially if he wished to acquire new wares for further trading before departing, he needed to sell as quickly as possible. An advertisement of such length certainly made his presence known.