What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Credit will be given till next crop for the land.”
After acquiring a wharf and storehouse in the summer of 1766, William Moore turned to the Georgia Gazette to advertise the goods that passed through his “factorage business.” His notices usually included several commodities imported from the Caribbean, including sugar, molasses, and “Jamaica, Barbados, and Antiqua Rum,” but he also acquired and sold grocery items, maritime supplies, and other goods from both the mainland and Europe. He did not specify any particular method of payment in his advertisement in the March 9, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette, only mentioning that “The above articles … will be disposed of on very reasonable terms.” By implication, Moore expected to be paid in cash, especially considering the terms he set for the sale of a “TRACT of LAND … about seven miles from town.” However, the structure of the advertisement suggested that there might be room for negotiation.
Moore’s advertisement had three parts. The first announced the land for sale, noting that the parcel consisted of 350 acres “of which about 100 acres are cleared and under good fence.” The second part listed the goods “to be sold by the subscriber, at his wharf” in Savannah. Moore had revised an advertisement he previously inserted in the Georgia Gazette, one devoted exclusively to the commodities available “AT HIS WHARF.” In it, he had specified that he sold these items “on very reasonable terms for cash.” Like many other merchants and shopkeepers, Moore had become wary of extending credit to customers. The third part of his new advertisement consisted of a single line, a nota bene that advised prospective buyers that “Credit will be given till next crop for the land.” Here it seemed as though Moore made a distinction between the terms he was willing to extend to someone who purchased the land and the terms for buying his commodities. He did not explicitly mention paying in cash for those goods, but he also did not make a point of offering the same credit that he was willing to consider for the land.
The structure of the advertisement presented mixed messages, perhaps by design. Why did Moore choose to append a nota bene about credit for the land purchase? Why had he not mentioned this option in the first part of the advertisement, the portion that described the land? It seemed artificial to separate the description of the land and the terms for payment. Perhaps Moore positioned the information about accepting credit for the land immediately after describing the commodities he sold at his wharf as a means of underscoring that he expected to be paid in cash for the latter. On the other hand, even if he preferred cash he may have opted not to mention it explicitly and positioned his comment about credit strategically as a means of inviting those who believed they were in a good position to secure credit to broach the subject. Through the structure of his advertisement, Moore implied the possibility of credit without extending a blanket invitation to every prospective customer who read the Georgia Gazette.