August 18

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

Aug 18 - 8:18:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 18, 1767).

“They will be warranted to be equal, if not superior in quality, to any WINES that has been imported this season.”

Samuel Peronneau advertised “A large parcel of genuine Made[i]ra Wines” in the supplement that accompanied the August 18, 1767, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. On the same page, William Hulme promoted the “MADEIRA, VIDONIA and LISBON WINES, BRANDY and GIN” he sold, along with “RUMS, from Jamaica, Barbados, and the Northward.” Elsewhere in the issue, several shopkeepers advertised other alcoholic beverages. James McCall included “bottled beer, cyder, ale, and perry” among a list of dozens of imported items in stock at his shop. Samuel Grove carried “best Taunton ale, [and] cyder,” while Greenland and Jones sold “best Bristol bottled beer, [and] Philadelphia ditto in whole and half barrels.” Other merchants and shopkeepers regularly advertised beers, wines, and liquors in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers printed in Charleston in the late 1760s. Residents of Charleston had many options when it came to acquiring alcohol.

Amid this sea of choices, Peronneau attempted to distinguish his offerings from those presented by his competitors. He confidently stated that his wines were “Of the best London, York, and Jamaica qualities” and boldly pledged that they “will be warranted to be equal, if not superior in quality, to any WINES that has been imported this season.” Some competitors made passing comments about the quality of their beverages, but Peronneau elaborated on why potential customers could trust his assurances in that regard. He did not sell whatever happened to be shipped to him by faraway associates. Instead, he contracted “a gentleman on the spot” to examine “every pipe.” In each instance, that gentleman “spared no pains in the choice of them.” In effect, Peronneau had a quality control agent overseeing the merchandise that entered his warehouse. Ultimately, that “gentleman” worked on behalf of Peronneau’s clients, his efforts mutually benefitting the retailer and the customers rather than the suppliers.

Whether they sold wine or other imported goods, most advertisers did not provide much information about the processes through which they acquired their inventory. Peronneau, however, had a system that distinguished his wines from others on the market. This allowed him to include specific details that further developed his appeal to quality, one of the most common appeals in eighteenth-century advertisements. Rather than make vague and general statements about the quality of his merchandise, Peronneau offered potential customers specific details explaining why they should believe that he did indeed stock wine “equal, if not superior in quality” to any others they could purchase locally.

August 11

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

Aug 11 - 8:11:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 11, 1767).

“JOSEPH TURPIN, has opened a LIVERY STABLE.”

When he opened a livery stable in Charleston in the summer of 1767, Joseph Turpin turned to the advertising pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to encourage potential customers to contract his services. Most eighteenth-century advertisers rarely mentioned anyone who provided assistance in their shops and other places of business. In general, advertisements obscured the labor of family members, apprentices, indentured servants, and employees, usually equating the operation of businesses exclusively with the proprietors themselves. Turpin, on the other hand, made one of his employees, William Swindle, “an experienced English Groom,” a central feature of his advertisement. It was not the proprietor’s skill, expertise, or experience marketed to potential clients but rather the qualifications and contributions of a subordinate.

To that end, in addition to asserting that Swindle had previous experience that made him “equal to the Task in every respect,” Turpin also included the groom’s recent work history in the advertisement, noting that he had been “lately in the employ of Robert Jones, of North-Carolina.” Although not exactly a reference in the current sense, revealing Swindle’s former employer further established his credentials and suggested that Jones would indeed provide a positive recommendation.

Swindle alone, however, was not responsible for the care horses at Turpin’s stable received. The proprietor did not abdicate other responsibilities; instead, he managed the business, overseeing its employees and operations. Turpin pledged that “those Gentlemen who will intrust the Care of their horses” to his stable “may depend they will be used in the best Manner.” Hiring an experienced groom to care for the horses was only part of fulfilling that promise. Providing “good Provinder” to feed the horses was another part. Swindle might make suggestions on that account, but the proprietor ultimately approved decisions concerning purchasing and paying for supplies.

Turpin crafted an advertisement that credited an employee for the specialized skills and experience he contributed to the business. While that comprised the primary appeal made to prospective clients, the proprietor also marketed his own management and oversight as further assurances of the quality of the services provided.

August 4

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

Aug 4 - 8:4:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (August 4, 1767).

“JOHN GILES … has brought with him, chosen by himself on the spot; A General assortment of European and East-India goods.”

At a glance, John Giles’s advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal closely resembled the notices placed by other merchants and shopkeepers who imported and sold “A General assortment of European and East-India goods” in Charleston. The introductory lines of this list-style advertisement, however, included an important detail that potentially distinguished Giles’s merchandise from the inventory stocked by his competitors.

Consider the introductory lines in other advertisements in the same issue:

  • “MICHIE & ROBERTSON, Have imported, in the Mary, Capt. Gordon, from London, and in the Live Oak, Capt. Lundberry, from Bristol …”
  • “RICHARD WALTER, & Co. At DORCHESTER; Have just imported in the Live Oak, Capt. Lundberry, from BRISTOL …”
  • “DAWSON and DUDLEY, Have just imported in the Live Oak, Capt. Lundberry, from BRISTOL …”
  • “JUST IMPORTED, By JAMES DRUMMON in the QUEEN CHARLOTTE from LONDON …”
  • “ROBERT & NATHANIEL STOTT, At their Store in Beadon’s Alley, next to Elliott-Street; have just imported in the Mary, Gordon …”

Each of these variations fit a general pattern employed by advertisers throughout the colonies: inform potential customers of the origins of wares offered for sale, including the ship and captain who transported the goods so readers could determine how recently they had arrived. Elsewhere in their notices, advertisers often underscored that they carried the “newest fashions.” This appeal gained credibility when they demonstrated that their supplies had indeed been “just imported” on the most recently arrived vessels from England.

Like several of his competitors, Giles sold goods transported “in the Ship Mary, Capt. Gordon, from London.” However, he did not receive his “General assortment of European and East-India goods” as the result of corresponding with distant suppliers. Instead, he ventured to London himself to examine what was available. The items he imported, advertised, and sold in his shop had been “chosen by himself on the spot,” a claim that none of his competitors could make. Other retailers may have been at the mercy of choices made by their agents and associates in England. On occasion, American shopkeepers voiced concerns that they received castoff goods no longer en vogue in England; consumers similarly worried that they lagged behind the current fashions on the other side of the Atlantic. Giles alleviated this anxiety by traveling to London to select which merchandise he would sell “at his store in Elliott-street” in Charleston.

July 28

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

Jul 28 - 7:28:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 28, 1767).

“GERMAN-TOWN manufactured fine THREAD STOCKINGS.”

American colonists participated in networks of trade that crisscrossed the Atlantic. Many of the advertisements in eighteenth-century newspapers promoted goods imported from England and other faraway places, but others resulted from a vibrant coastal trade that connected Britain’s North American colonies. As part of that coastal trade, merchants shipped agricultural surpluses, especially wheat, from the Middle Atlantic to the Southern colonies. Readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers published in Charleston regularly encountered advertisements for flour and other goods transported from Philadelphia. For instance, in the July 28 edition Godfrey and Gadsden advertised ‘PHILADELPHIA FLOUR, and BAR IRON.” Similarly, Greenland and Jordan announced that hey had “just imported … from PHILADELPHIA” several commodities, including flour, milk, beer, and bar iron.

William Williamson’s advertisement differed from others that marketed goods that originated in Philadelphia and its hinterland. Rather than selling agricultural goods and raw materials produced in the region, Williamson “IMPORTED … fine THREAD STOCKINGS” made in Germantown. Although several competitors advertised clothing, textiles, and adornments imported from London, colonists were in the process of developing their own industries as alternatives, especially in the wake of the Stamp Act and other attempts at taxation and regulation emanating from Parliament. Still, consumers were accustomed to goods imported from Europe; domestically produced stockings and other items were less familiar. Merchants and shopkeepers worked to convince skeptical customers that such products would not disappoint. Williamson testified to the quality of his stockings, underscoring their “durableness” for potential customers who might have been inclined to place more trust in imported wares.

Williamson did not make an explicit “Buy American” appeal in this advertisement, though that sort of marketing strategy had emerged during the Stamp Act crisis two years earlier and became more common as the relationship between Britain and the colonies deteriorated. Instead, he offered consumers an alternative to imported goods without engaging in overt political rhetoric. In that regard, his advertisement educated colonists about the possibilities of American manufactures, paving the way for a turn to homespun during subsequent nonimportation agreements. The availability of durable “GERMAN-TOWN manufactured fine THREAD STOCKINGS” helped colonists imagine the possible alternatives to relying on imports from Britain. They could depend on each other not only for agricultural surpluses and raw materials but also for finished products.

July 21

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

Jul 21 - 7:21:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Supplement
Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 21, 1767).

“A great Variety of new Articles, just arrived in Capt. Gordon.”

Like several other merchants and shopkeepers in colonial Charleston, John Davies advertised in more than one of the city’s newspapers. A variation of today’s advertisement from the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, for instance, previously appeared in both that newspaper and the South-Carolina and American General Gazette a month earlier. This version added a nota bene informing potential customers that Davies had augmented his stock with “A very great Variety of new Articles, just arrived in Capt. Gordon.” On their own, these updates deceptively suggested that consumers could acquire merchandise fresh off a ship that had just arrived in port.

Those who consulted the shipping news, however, discovered a rather different story. No ship under the command of a Captain Gordon had arrived in port during the past week, so the nota bene did not deliver the absolutely “freshest Advices” promised in the newspaper’s masthead. Indeed, the June 30 issue indicated that the “Ship Mary, James Gordon” from London had arrived on June 26, nearly a month before today’s advertisement promoted the “very great Variety of new Articles, just arrived in Capt. Gordon.” In that issue, Davies’ advertisement appeared immediately to the left of the shipping news. Readers could verify the information communicated in the larger font used for the nota bene with a quick glance. Davies and the compositor had speedily updated the advertisement.

The revised notice appeared in the next three issues, the verity of the nota bene reduced with each passing week. Careful readers of the July 21 issue would have noticed that Captain Gordon and the Mary had been cleared for departure and a return trip to London by the Customs House on July 18. Careful readers would have also recognized Davies’ advertisement from previous issues, realizing that the information in the nota bene needed to be tempered by acknowledging that the notice had been reprinted several times over the past month. Such careful attention to the shipping news likely would not have been necessary for potential customers to approach this advertisement with some skepticism. Readers were accustomed to advertisements being reprinted for weeks and sometimes months. They would have learned to adjust their expectations when advertisers made claims about goods that had “just arrived” or had been “just imported.”

July 14

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

Jul 14 - 7:14:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 14, 1767).

“JUST IMPORTED, By JAMES DRUMMOND … a large and compleat Assortment of Goods.”

James Drummond obtained a privileged place for his advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. Or did he? The answer depends on how readers engaged with the newspaper when it came into their possession. Drummond’s advertisement appeared in the third and final column on the first page, immediately under a headline that proclaimed “New Advertisement.” An ornamental device separated it from the news item that occupied most of the page, a lengthy “Extract of a Representation from the Board of Trade to his Majesty.” Drummond’s advertisement seemed to have a prime position on the page.

However, that may not necessarily have been the case. The vast majority of the advertising in the July 14 edition appeared on the third and fourth pages of the four-page issue. Although not arranged by any sort of classification on those two pages, dozens of advertisements were grouped together. Readers who perused any particular advertisement would have also noticed the others that surrounded it. From that perspective, Drummond’s notice was isolated from the others and may have received less attention as a result. Having his advertisement inserted in closer proximity to those placed by competitors may have worked to his benefit.

Where within the issue Drummond’s advertisement appeared probably depended on decisions made in the printing office. Given its length relative to the columns of news on the first page, the compositor likely saw an opportunity to fill most of the remaining space once the “Extract” had been set, adding one short real estate announcement to complete the page. For readers who approached this issue intensively – reading straight through from start to finish – Drummond’s advertisement would have been the first commercial notice (and one of the first items of any sort) encountered, making its placement a boon to the shopkeeper. On the other hand, some readers, especially those who did not examine every column of every page, may have overlooked Drummond’s advertisement because it was not included among its counterparts. The front page may not have always been the best place as far as colonial advertisers were concerned.

July 7

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

Jul 7 - 7:7:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 7, 1767).

“If any such Piece should break, he will mend the same Gratis.”

For many eighteenth-century artisans, making a living depended in part on establishing a creditable reputation, both for fair dealing and for skilled craftsmanship. Thomas You, a goldsmith in Charleston, devoted most of his advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to cultivating and maintaining his reputation, hoping to gain new clients as well as repeat business from previous patrons.

He reminded those who had employed him in the past of their “general Satisfaction” with his work, but he also suggested that this merited passing along “their kind Recommendation to others.” You did not believe that he could rely on word of mouth alone to promote his services to new clients; he apparently supposed that newspaper advertising could provoke word-of-mouth endorsements that would supplement notices in the public prints.

You also pursued another means of cultivating his reputation: he was so confident in the quality of his work that he offered a guarantee. “Any Piece of Plate worked up in his Shop,” the goldsmith pledged, “he will warrant as good as Sterling; and if any such Piece should break, he will mend the same Gratis.” In making this promise to fix defective work for free, You offered a blanket guarantee that covered not only the work done by his own hand but also any tasks undertaken by others who labored in his shop, whether journeymen, apprentices, or enslaved artisans.

You incorporated other appeals into his advertisement, including low prices and punctual service on orders sent by mail, but he saved those for after his endeavors to secure his reputation. He revealed what he thought was most important to his customers. Low prices or quick responses hardly mattered if they accompanied inferior work. The goldsmith first needed to establish the quality of his work, reflected in both his existing reputation and a guarantee on future jobs, in order to convince potential customers of the value of the other appeals he advanced.