January 28

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

Georgia Gazette (January 28, 1767).

“INGLIS and HALL, have just imported, In the DIANA, Capt. CHEESEMAN, from LONDON.”

Inglis and Hall, frequent advertisers in the Georgia Gazette, informed potential customers that they “have just imported, In the DIANA, Capt. CHEESEMAN, from LONDON, A general and neat Assortment of EAST-INDIA and EUROPEAN GOODS.” To modern eyes, it may appear quaint that the shopkeepers provided not only the origins of their goods but also the vessel on which they arrived. In the eighteenth century, however, this was vital information that helped readers to determine how they should interpret the claim that the goods had been “just imported.”

To do so, colonists could consult the shipping news that appeared elsewhere in the newspaper, often immediately before the advertisements. According to the January 14 issue of the Georgia Gazette, the “Brigt. Diana, Isaac Cheeseman” from London “ENTERED INWARDS at the CUSTOM-HOUSE in SAVANNAH” the previous day. That did not allow sufficient time for Inglis and Hall to insert an advertisement in the local newspaper that week. One did appear in the next issue, on January 21, just eight days after the Diana arrived in Savannah. That same advertisement repeated on January 28, this time in a column to the left of the shipping news that stated the “Brigt. Diana, Isaac Cheeseman” had “ENTERED OUTWARDS” for Portsmouth sometime during the past week. Even if readers of the January 28 issue did not have access to previous editions to determine exactly when the Diana had arrived in port they could at least surmise that it must have been fairly recently considering that she had just departed.

Inglis and Hall ran this advertisement a third and final time a week later. In the time since the Diana arrived in port, she was the only vessel that sailed directly from London. For colonists who increasingly expressed British identity through participation in the consumer revolution, this may have given accrued additional cachet to the merchandise stocked by Inglis and Hall. When the shopkeepers informed potential customers that their inventory came “from LONDON” they suggested connections to the most recent fashions in the metropolitan center of the empire, a selling point that competitors who had not received goods on the Diana could not associate with their wares.

January 5

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

Boston Evening-Post (January 5, 1767).

“A general Assortment of English and India GOODS, consisting of the following Articles.”

William Palfrey’s lengthy list advertisement, which comprised almost the entire third column of the January 5, 1767, issue of the Boston Evening-Post, fulfilled a promise made in a much shorter advertisement inserted in the previous issue. Confined to a single “square” of advertising space, the earlier advertisement announced that Palfrey had just imported “A general Assortment of English and India GOODS, consisting of many Articles.” The final line of the notice indicated that “[The particular Articles will be in our next].” A week later the same short announcement appeared, though this time as a header for a list of dozens of items divided into two columns. The phrase “consisting of many Articles” had been updated to “consisting of the following Articles,” a more appropriate introduction for the list that followed, but otherwise the content and format for the header remained the same.

It would be reasonable to conclude that the printers of the Boston Evening-Post made a decision to truncate Palfrey’s lengthy advertisement in the interest of space. After all, colonial newspapers often included some sort of notice that due to space restrictions some advertisements that had been omitted would appear in the next issue. That could have been the case in this instance, but another explanation places the decision in the hands of the advertiser rather than the printers.

Perhaps Palfrey decided to insert the first advertisement with its promise of a lengthier catalog of merchandise to appear later as a means of inciting interest and anticipation among prospective customers. The advertisement invited readers to consult the pages of the Boston Evening-Post once again, prompting them to look for Palfrey’s advertisement specifically amid all of those from his competitors. Palfrey may have calculated this as a strategy to overshadow other advertisements, especially if he did not have sufficient time to draw up a list of merchandise that had been “just imported in the Brig Lydia, Captain Scott, from LONDON.” The shipping news supplied by the Customs House in the December 29 issue indicated that the Lydia had arrived only two days earlier. Palfrey likely did not have time to compile a complete inventory of his newly arrived merchandise, but did not want to wait a week to inform potential customers about his “general Assortment of English and India GOODS.” The shorter advertisement simultaneously allowed him to spread the word to eager customers and to encourage anticipation among curious readers who might choose to visit his shop only after previewing the merchandise listed in a subsequent advertisement.

June 2

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

Jun 2 - 6:2:1766 (page 4) Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (June 2, 1766).
Jun 2 - 6:2:1766 (page 2) Boston Post-Boy
Boston Post-Boy (June 2, 1766).

“HAs just imported from London in Capt. Coffin and Capt. Marshall, a fresh and neat Assortment of Goods.”

Fredrick William Geyer wanted to make sure that readers of the Boston Post-Boy were aware of the “fresh and neat Assortment of Goods which he is determined to sell exceeding cheap for Cash only by Wholesale or Retail.” He was so anxious for potential customers to know that he could supply them with “a fresh Assortment of English & India GOODS” that he placed two advertisements in the June 2, 1766, issue of the Boston Post-Boy. One appeared on the second page and the other on the fourth page. Whether by design or coincidence, if a reader held open the broadsheet newspaper to peruse its contents one of Geyer’s advertisements would have been visible.

The advertisement from the second page appears to be an updated version of the one from the fourth page. In the latter, Geyer announced that he had just imported goods via the vessel captained by Shubael Coffin. The other advertisement indicated that he had just received goods shipped by “Capt. Coffin and Capt. Marshall.” According to the shipping news from the Boston Custom House published in this issue of the Boston Post-Boy, “Marshall from London” entered port on May 31. The previous issue, published a week earlier, indicated that Coffin’s ship had just arrived, which probably prompted Geyer to compose the shorter notice (which also appeared in the previous issue, making it as current as possible for a weekly publication). He later updated his advertisement to underscore that he really did sell goods “fresh” from London. (He used the word “fresh” in both advertisements.)

The appeal in Geyer’s advertisement required active reading on the part of potential customers. It worked best if consumers engaged with different parts of the newspaper – the shipping news and the advertisements – simultaneously in order to reach the intended conclusions.