What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“She has had the Honour of being employed by several Ladies in this City.”
In an advertisement that ran in the September 4, 1769, edition of the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, Mary Morcomb, a dressmaker, announced that she made “all Sorts of Negligees, Brunswick Dresses, Gowns, and every other Sort of Lady’s Apparel.” She also applied her skills to covering umbrellas, a fashionable accessory for many women and some men in the 1760s and 1770s.
Morcomb deployed the standard market strategies. She made appeals to price, quality, and fashion, promising prospective customers that she made garments and covered umbrellas “in the neatest, and most fashionable Manner, at the lowest Prices.” Morcomb also realized that reputation was important in attracting clients and building her business. She informed readers that she “has had the Honour of being employed by several Ladies in this City, who have declared their Approbation of her Work.” Given that Morcomb described herself as a “MANTUA-MAKER from LONDON,” she may have arrived in New York relatively recently. The newcomer may not have had time to establish a clientele in the city but had managed to find some work from “several Ladies,” leveraging their approval into a secondhand testimonial. Satisfied customers generated more customers, but word-of-mouth referrals and cultivating a reputation took time. To speed along the process, Morcomb asked the women of New York to trust her that she already served “several Ladies in this City.” In exchange for that trust, Morcomb pledged that new customers “may depend upon having their Work done with all possible Care and Dispatch.” This may not have been enough to convince every prospective client of her skills and the quality of her garments, but it may have been sufficient for some to take a chance with Morcomb. Even if the dressmaker entice only a few more clients with her advertisement, that new business could further enhance her reputation among female consumers in New York.