What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“All Sorts of Gold, Silver, and Silk.”
Barnaby Andrews, an “IMBROIDERER,” placed a notice in the October 22, 1770, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury to advertise his many services. He described four different branches of his business to attract prospective customers. Andrews commenced with the most obvious, proclaiming that he “MAKES all Sorts of Gold, Silver, and Silk for Men and Womens Ware” as well as “Pulpit Cloths, Tassels and Fringes.” As a related service, he informed the public that he “cleans all Sorts of Gold and Silver Lace.” These were the types of work expected of embroiderers.
Yet Andrews provided two other services beyond making and maintaining embroidery. He offered to impart his skills to “Any Lady” who wished to take lessons. When it came to leisure activities and household production, after all, embroidery was predominantly a feminine pastime. Prospective pupils had two option when it came to the location for their lessons. They could choose to have Andrews visit them at home, certainly a convenience, but they could also opt for the embroiderer’s lodgings on Broad Street. Either way, the advertisement suggested that they would receive more personalized attention from Andrews than they would from schoolmistresses who included sewing and simple embroidery in their curriculum for girls and young women.
In addition to embroidery, Andrews also made “all Sort of Paper Work” and “Hat, Patch and Bonnet Boxes” for storing some of the items that women used to adorn their faces and heads. Madeline Siefke Estill explains that patch boxes were “indices of gentility” similar to snuff boxes and tobacco boxes. Patches were made from “a wide range of materials – black silk, velvet, paper, or red leather – and cut into a variety of shapes and sizes” to be “applied to the face or bosom with mastic.” Patches served several purposed, including lending “an impression of formal distinction and enhanc[ing] one’s beauty and desirability.” While patches could be used to disguise blemishes, women also wore them to “appear younger and more fashionable.” Andrews asserted that he made his boxes “in the neatest and best Fashion,” suitable accouterments for genteel women to collect, display, or even give as gifts.
Andrews aimed his advertisement primarily at the local gentry, those who had the means to acquire silks and lace as well as the leisure time to learn embroidery as a diversion. Like many other artisans, he provided the means for his clients to perform gentility though he could not claim admission to the ranks of the genteel himself.