What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Gibbs makes plated Buckles in the newest Fashions, warranted tough and good.”
John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, limited the number of advertisements in the February 6, 1773, edition in order to make room for political news from Massachusetts. A week later, the final page of his newspaper once again consisted entirely of advertising. Other advertisements appeared on the first and third pages as well. Collectively, paid notices accounted for nearly half the space in the February 13 edition.
Those advertisements included one from John Gibbs. The notice ran for the first time, perhaps delayed by a week when Carter made the editorial decision to focus on the politics of the imperial crisis in the previous issue. Whatever the particulars of the timing, Gibbs, wished to inform prospective customers that he opened a new shop “where he carries on the Goldsmith’s and Jeweller’s Business, in all their various Branches.” In other words, he possessed the skill to undertake any sort of order he received.
In addition to promoting his abilities, Gibbs made other appeals commonly deployed by artisans in their newspaper advertisements. He promised exemplary public service, stating that “Ladies and Gentlemen that please to favour him with their Custom, may depend on being served with Fidelity and Dispatch.” He also promised low prices, declaring that he charged “as low Rates as any can work for in this Colony, or elsewhere.” According to Gibbs, those were not just reasonable prices but the lowest prices that consumers would find in Rhode Island or anywhere else. He also emphasized current trends and quality. In a nota bene, he exclaimed that he “makes plated Buckles in the newest Fashions, warranted tough and good.”
Gibbs purchased a square of advertising, yet in that small amount of space in the Providence Gazette he incorporated multiple appeals intended to entice prospective customers to visit his shop and give him their business. He demonstrated his familiarity with advertising culture by including so many appeals commonly used in notices published by goldsmiths, jewelers, and other artisans during the era of the American Revolution. Given the prevalence of newspaper advertising in the second half of the eighteenth century, both Gibbs and readers recognized the standard elements of such advertisements.