The offer must have been communicated to the offeree, the manner of communication being immaterial, because it is impossible for a person to assent to something of which he did not know. In a New York case A offered a reward of $200 to any person giving information leading to the arrest and conviction of a certain murderer. B gave the information before he knew the reward had been offered; it was held that he could not get the reward since he had not acted in reliance upon the offer. Acceptance of the offer must be established by proving that the act was done in reliance upon the offer. It must be clearly shown also that the alleged offeror actually intended to make an offer. Mere statements of price are not offers which will bind one if accepted by the other party. In a leading case Kershaw & Son wrote to Moulton: "In consequence of a rupture in the salt trade, we are authorized to offer Michigan fine salt at 85 cents per barrel. Shall be pleased to receive your order." Moulton telegraphed that he would take 2,000 barrels, which Kershaw refused to deliver. The court held that there was no offer which bound Kershaw when Moulton telegraphed his order. Kershaw's letter was held to be merely an advertisement or business circular, to call attention to the fact that good bargains in salt could be had by applying to him. As it was not an offer Moulton's rejected order could not unite with it to form a contract. In another case A telegraphed B: "Will you sell Bumper Hall pen? Telegraph lowest cash price." B replied: "Lowest price for Bumper Hall pen $4,500." A telegraphed at once accepting the alleged offer. The court held that no contract had been made, since B's telegram was not an offer. Statements made in the form of an offer may be made under such circumstances that no offer will be held to have been made. In a Tennessee case A, who had just been wounded and his son killed in a shooting affray, exclaimed that he would give $200 for the arrest of the assailants. B later helped arrest the assailant and sued for the recovery of the reward. But since A was greatly excited the court said that his statement should be regarded as a mere exclamation and not as an offer. We have just seen that not all proposals in the form of offers are to be so regarded. Ordinary advertisements are not construed as offers, but merely as invitations to deal with the advertiser. Circular letters sent to the trade by a wholesale merchant fall within the same rule. But it is not impossible to word an advertisement in such a way that it will be an offer, for it may be clear in the advertisement that its author intends it to be an offer. In a famous English case the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company advertised that they would pay $500 reward to anyone who used their smoke ball three times daily for two weeks, and contracted influenza. A purchased one of the balls; used it as directed; contracted influenza; and then sued for the reward. It was held that there was a valid contract and that he could get the $500. The court said the company had plainly meant the advertisement to be an offer, because it stated that there had been deposited $500 in a certain bank as evidence of good faith, and this statement would justify A's belief that this was a real offer and not an ordinary advertisement. An offer may be changed or revoked (withdrawn) before it is accepted. The person to whom the original offer was made must be informed of the revocation. Thus, if A says to B: "I will give you $50 for your watch," he may withdraw this offer any time before B, by words or conduct, signifies that he will accept. Suppose A wrote to B, before the latter had accepted, saying that he withdrew his offer; B would still have the right to accept until he received A's letter. A change in the terms or conditions of an offer is the same as a new offer, but the changed terms must be brought also to the attention of the offeree, or he may accept the old offer. There are, however, some qualifications to the rule that an offer may be changed or revoked before it is accepted. If B gives A $10 to keep a certain offer open for two weeks, then A cannot withdraw his offer before that time. Such arrangements are known as "options." If A had said he would keep the offer open two weeks but had received nothing from B for saying he would, then he can withdraw his offer any time before it is accepted. Where an offer is made to the public generally, as where a reward is offered for the arrest of a criminal, then it will be enough to make the withdrawal in the same way the offer was made (through the newspapers or by circular, etc). The one who makes the offer does not need to notify the offeree himself that he has decided to withdraw his offer; the latter may learn it from a third party and lose his right to accept. An offer will not continue indefinitely where there is no statement that it is limited to a certain time. In such cases the offer is said to expire when a reasonable time has passed; in each case the question of what is a reasonable time is one which depends on the facts. Where the person making the offer dies before it is accepted, the offer is held to have been revoked. It is not necessary to give notice of his death to the offeree. The same rule holds where the person making the offer becomes insane before it is accepted.
Cleveland, Ohio, June 6, 1922.
This agreement witnesseth that George H. Jones promises to pay Ralph Clark One Hundred Dollars ($100) five weeks from today. In consideration whereof, Clark hereby gives Jones an option, good during the remainder of the month of June, 1922, to purchase Clark's farm "Blackacre" for Four Thousand Dollars ($4,000). Unless Jones gives Clark written notice by June 30, 1922, that he will buy the said farm at the said price, this option shall be void. In any event, Jones shall be required to pay Clark the before-mentioned sum of One Hundred Dollars ($100) five weeks from date. If he shall exercise this option, the said sum shall be applied toward the purchase price of the farm "Blackacre."
(Signed) George H. Jones. Ralph Clark.