Yesterday evening I discovered that the American Antiquarian Society included a newspaper advertisement in its Instagram feed earlier in the day, a delightful surprise made even better by a generous reference to the Adverts 250 Project. Please visit the AAS Instagram feed to see the advertisement and their commentary.
I was also excited because I recognized the advertiser, Edward Pole, a “Fishing-Tackle-Maker” who also operated a wholesale and retail grocery store in Philadelphia in the 1770s and 1780s. Unlike most newspaper advertisements featured in the Adverts 250 Project so far, Pole’s advertisement (from fifteen years later, June 1781) included a woodcut to catch readers’ attention: a striking image of a fish, certainly appropriate for an entrepreneur who peddled fishing tackle. Woodcuts accompanying newspaper advertisements became more common during the last third of the eighteenth century. Some advertisers, like Pole, used them as brands for their products and businesses.
Pole’s woodcut probably looked familiar to consumers in Philadelphia in 1781. It appeared regularly in the Pennsylvania Packet (at least as early as May 1774), but that was not the only newspaper that included a woodcut of a fish with Pole’s commercial notices. Pole placed advertisements for fishing tackle, including a very similar fish (this time with a decorative border), in the Freemen’s Journal in 1784.
In addition,the savvy Edward Pole made use of multiple advertising media. He distributed an engraved billhead for his receipts as early as the 1770s. The billhead’s elaborate engraving featured a triptych logo in the upper left corner of the sheet, complete with rococo-style frames surrounding casks, crates, and scales on the left and right and the words “Edwd Pole’s GROCERY STORE Wholesale & Retail” in the center. This billhead, with manuscript notations from 1771, is part of the Norris Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Sometime in the late 1770s or early 1780s, he also distributed engraved trade cards featuring a rectangular vignette of two gentlemen fishing in a stream above a description of the wares stocked in his shop. Pole eventually resorted to broadsides (or, in modern terms, posters) for his business ventures.
In addition to trade cards, billheads, and broadsides, Pole most prolifically advertised in several of Philadelphia’s newspapers, often distinguishing his advertisements from others on the page by including a woodcut of a fish, as we have seen. Pole’s use of multiple media allowed him to publicize his wares widely. Most advertisements relied exclusively on newspapers for their marketing, but Pole took an innovative approach by experimenting with other forms as he encouraged potential customers to visit his shop.