What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“They have a Number of Pairs of Breeches already made.”
In the fall of 1770, the partnership of Converse and Stone, “Breeches Makers, at the Sign of the Breeches in Hartford,” took to the pages of the Connecticut Courant to inform “Gentlemen” that they had set up shop. They told prospective clients that pursued “the Business of Breeches Making in all its Branches,” intending for that short phrase to provide assurances that they possessed all of the necessary skills of the trade and that they could construct breeches in a variety of styles according to the tastes and budgets of their customers.
In a nota bene, Converse and Stone asked potential clients to take note that they “have a Number of Pairs of Breechesalready made, together with skins of the neatest Kind, so that Gentlemen may suit themselves.” The breeches makers catered to their customers. Although they could measure clients and construct new garments for those who desired such services, Converse and Stone also offered the convenience of an eighteenth-century version of buying off the rack. They already made and had on hand an inventory of breeches for men who wished to acquire them in a single visit to the shop. They adopted business practices and a marketing strategy similar to those that Thomas Hewitt, a wigmaker in Annapolis, described in his advertisement running in the Maryland Gazette at the same time. Hewitt also promoted both custom-made items and “ready made” alternatives.
For those gentlemen who preferred custom-made breeches, Converse and Stone had “Skins of the neatest Kind” that they could examine and choose what suited them when they came to the shop for measurements. In that case, their breeches were tailor-made in a collaboration between the breeches makers and individual patrons. The clients expressed their tastes and preferences and Converse and Stone supplied the skill to create the garments envisioned and commissioned by their customers. In their advertisement, the breeches makers balanced consumer choice and convenience against their abilities and expertise in their trade.