June 10

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

Jun 10 - 6:10:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (June 10, 1768).

“The Particulars would be too tedious to insert in an Advertisement.”

William Appleton, a frequent advertiser in the New-Hampshire Gazette, promoted “A very valuable Collection of BOOKS & STATIONARY” in the June 10, 1768, edition. Appleton did not deploy to a marketing strategy frequently used by booksellers and others who stocked books and stationery in their advertisements published in newspapers throughout the colonies: inserting an extensive list of the titles available and the various sorts of paper and other writing accouterments. Instead, he simply stated that “The Particulars would be too tedious to insert in an Advertisement.” Appleton left it to the imaginations of prospective customers to conjure his wares. He encouraged their curiosity, hoping that he had sufficiently enticed potential patrons to visit his shop.

By the time readers encountered Appleton’s advertisement on the final page of the June 10 issue, they had likely noticed Richard Champney’s lengthy advertisement, extending two-thirds of a column, listing scores of goods on the first page. Elsewhere on the same page as his notice, Thomas Martin ran an advertisement approximately twice as long as Appleton’s, most of it devoted to naming his merchandise. Martin stocked everything from “Loaf Sugar” to “Childrens Shoes and Stockings” to Hollow Iron Ware.” Two advertisements of similar length flanked Appleton’s notice on the right and left. Even in those Henry Appleton enumerated more than a dozen items and Peter Pearce twice that number. Presenting consumers with an array of options intended to please and entertain accounted for one of the most popular marketing strategies in eighteenth-century advertising.

Appleton made a nod in that direction in the second half of his advertisement, noting that he also sold “Silver WATCHES of the best sort – Silver & gilt Shoe and Knee BUCKLES, NECKLASSES, and EARINGS, for the Ladies.” This, however, was a truncated list. Appleton concluded by more broadly invoking “a general Assortment of Jewelry Ware, &c. &c. &c.” Once again, he encouraged prospective customers to imagine the possible treasures among his inventory when he inserted the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera (&c.) three times in succession.

Appleton operated his business in a crowded marketplace. To distinguish his advertisement from others, he departed from one of the most common strategies for inciting demand among potential customers. His competitors and others provided lists of their inventory; no matter how lengthy, however, those lists seemed starkly finite compared to Appleton’s assertion that “The Particulars would be too tedious to insert in an Advertisement.” He made an appeal to consumer choice that required purchasing less rather than more space in his local newspaper.

December 5

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

dec-5-1251766-new-hampshire-gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (December 5, 1766).

“The NEW-HAMPSHIRE ALMANCK, For the Year of our Lord CHRIST 1767.”

With only four weeks remaining until the first day of the new year, it was time for readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette to procure almanacs for 1767. Printers and booksellers in some colonial towns had been advertising their almanacs since early September, giving customers plenty of time to purchase one of the most widely distributed types of publication in colonial America.

Some readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette had apparently already acquired their almanacs by the time today’s advertisement appeared. “Those who are not already supplied,” Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle warned, “must apply speedily, as but few remain unsold, and no more will be printed this Year.”

In making such a statement, the Fowles simultaneously deployed three appeals to potential customers. They made an appeal to scarcity, noting that “but few remain unsold.” The printers had limited stock to offer to those who had not yet bought their almanacs for the new year. They made an appeal to popularity, implying that the scarcity had been caused by the large volume of purchases on the part of customers (rather than the printers producing too limited a quantity). Many other readers apparently trusted David Sewall’s calculations and the other content of the almanac; they had already acquired their copies. Finally, the Fowles made an appeal to potential customers’ sense of urgency. Not only was the new year quickly approaching, those who wanted their own copy of the New-Hampshire Alamanack for reference needed to “apply speedily” because “no more will be printed this Year.” The Fowles had printed enough copies to sell the almanac both “Wholesale and Retail,” but they did not print so many that they would end up with leftover stock that could never be sold. This helped to create a sense of urgency as they cautioned potential customers that they risked being shut out if they waited too long to shop for this particular item.

Almanacs were certainly popular reading and reference material in colonial America. It would be hard to deny that latent demand for them existed. However, the Fowles’ advertisement did more than simply notify the public that they offered a product already in demand. Instead, the Fowles various appeals – scarcity, popularity, sense of urgency – to incite greater demand for the New-Hampshire Almanack for 1767.