What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“WILL BE SOLD … many articles of HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE.”
Advertisements for goods and services, especially newspaper notices, helped to stimulate the consumer revolution in eighteenth-century America. Colonial newspapers featured countless advertisements placed by merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans hawking countless new goods. Yet purchasing those items was not the only manner in which colonists acquired goods. Other advertisements testify to alternate means for participating in the consumer revolution. Many notices promoted vendues or auctions where savvy bidders stood to benefit from even greater bargains than they might experience in shops and warehouses. Customers purchased both new and used goods at auction. Other advertisements announced secondhand goods for sale, often as the result of sellers planning to leave the colony. Some advertisements also alerted colonists about thefts from homes and shops, warning them to be careful when purchasing secondhand goods because they might have been stolen.
When it came to opportunities to obtain secondhand goods, colonists most frequently encountered advertisements for estate sales, such as this advertisement from the May 11, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette in which the executors for “John Maxwell, Esq. deceased, on Great-Ogechee” sought to sell “many articles of HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, amongst which are several very good feather beds, tables, desks, chairs.” Other advertisements in the same issue also promoted secondhand consumer goods that entered the marketplace via estate sales. The executors of “the ESTATE of FREDERICK HOLZENDORFF,” for instance, simultaneously called for his associates to settle accounts and announced the sale of “Household Goods and sundry other Articles.” Compared to newspapers published in Boston, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia, and other larger ports, the Georgia Gazette featured relatively few advertisements placed by merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans looking to sell inventories of new merchandise. In most issues, readers were as likely to find advertisements for estate sales as any other sort of notices presenting opportunities to acquire consumer goods. In eighteenth-century America, buying and selling the baubles of Britain and other items radiated far beyond shops and warehouses.