November 8

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Pennsylvania Journal (November 8, 1770).

“Experience has taught him to cut hair according to art.”

Lewis Fay, a “Periwig Maker and Hair Dresser,” offered his services to the residents of Philadelphia, especially “the Ladies,” in an advertisement in the November 8, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  His message to prospective clients was as elaborate as some of the styles that he created.  As a newcomer in the city, he aimed for his advertisement to help establish his reputation.

To that end, he first informed readers that he was “From Paris,” perhaps the most cosmopolitan center of fashion on either side of the Atlantic.  Hiring his services, he suggested, came with some extra cachet.  Thanks to his Parisian origins, he was familiar with the “newest fashion” and had gained the experience “to cut hair according to art.”  Fay proclaimed that he “can dress Ladies in fifty different manners with their own natural hair,” but for those “who have not sufficient hair” he could outfit them “with false curls so well as not to be distinguished from their natural ones.”  He did so with such skill that others would not be able to recognize those “false curls” even “by the nearest inspection.”  He also accepted male clients, stating that he “dresses also Gentlemen’s hair in thirty fashionable and different manners, agreeable to their faces and airs.”  Fay apparently offered advice, consulting with his clients about which styles indeed suited their physical features and the impressions they wished to make on others.  The hairdresser also provided ancillary services, including cutting children’s hair “at a reasonable rate” and selling products like “Pomatum, which changes the red and grey hair into black.”

Although he was new in town, Fay anticipated running a thriving shop in Strawberry Alley.  Expecting that his services would certainly be in demand, the French hairdresser instructed ladies who would “favour him with their commands” to make appointments at least a day in advance.  Otherwise, they might end up being “disappointed” due to “previous engagements” that would prevent Fay from dressing their hair.  He sought to incite demand for his services through puffery that emphasized his origins and skills while lending the impression that his services were already popular among genteel ladies in the city.

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