July 5

What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Jul 5 - 7:4:1766 Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (July 4, 1766).

“I have settled … in Henrico county, where I purpose to carry on the FULLING business.”

Mathew Dick, a fuller, used an advertisement in the Virginia Gazette to announce that he had just set up shop in Henrico county. Dated July 1, his notice appeared in the next issue of the Virginia Gazette. Although his “FULLING business” was a new establishment, Dick relied on many of the advertising appeals that were commonly deployed in the eighteenth century, reassuring potential customers that he knew his craft and could provide quality service.

He opened with appeals to quality and price, promising that he did his work “in the best and cheapest manner ever done in this colony.” That last bit – “ever done in this colony” – was a bit of hyperbole that underscored his confidence and dared potential customers to give him a chance and see for themselves if his work lived up to the advertisement. In addition, all the equipment and supplies were prepared “in the best order.”

He also offered some words of wisdom specific to his occupation, again reassuring potential customers of his expertise even though he operated a new establishment. “[T]he wool from the neck and shoulders is the best for the finest cloth,” he lectured. Furthermore, “all woolen cloth should be wove at least 5 quarters wide.” Dick knew his business and used his advertisement to testify to the fact.

Finally, Dick promised excellent customer service. He offered two different locations where customers could drop off the fabric they wanted him to process. He would see to it that their orders were fulfilled “in the neatest manner” and as quickly as possible, but not at the expense of deviating from their instructions. Dick fulled cloth to his customers’ specifications and satisfaction: “their directions most punctually observed and followed.”

Dick’s fulling mill may have been new, but he leveraged multiple appeals in his advertisement to demonstrate that he knew his craft and potential customers could depend on him.

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