What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“The newest and neatest Fashion, either in Europe or America.”
In the spring of 1771, Peter Sinnott, a “TAYLOR, from Dublin,” introduced himself to the residents of Annapolis in an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette. He advised prospective clients, both “Gentlemen” and “Ladies,” that he “carries on his Trade in all its Branches.” The tailor also pledged that his customers “may depend on having their Cloaths well made.” Like many other artisans, Sinnott incorporated the combination of quality, skill, and expertise into his newspaper notices.
He also included an appeal to fashion, another common marketing strategy for tailors, milliners, and others who made garments. Sinnott proclaimed that he produced clothing “in the newest and neatest Fashion, either in Europe or America.” In so doing, he demonstrated that he expected anxieties about wearing the latest styles resonated even in smaller ports. Simultaneously, he attempted to stoke those anxieties. Annapolis was not nearly as large as Boston, Charleston, New York, or Philadelphia, but that did not mean that consumers there could not be as cosmopolitan in their appearances as their counterparts in those major urban ports. Yet that was not the extent of the promise that Sinnott made. His clients in Annapolis could not only keep pace with fashionable gentlemen and ladies throughout the colonies but also with trendsetters on the other side of the Atlantic.
Sinnott realized that it would take time to establish his reputation and cultivate a clientele for his garments. In order to earn a living while he did so, he also promoted an ancillary service, declaring that he “scours and cleans Cloaths in a superior Manner than has hitherto been done in this Place.” Furthermore, he had perfected a method for “taking Spots and Stains out of Scarlet Cloth.” Each time he interacted with clients who hired him to clean their garments, Sinnott had an opportunity to offer his services as a tailor. One branch of his business supported the other, possibly resulting in new commissions.
In a short advertisement, Sinnott presented “the PUBLICK” with several reasons to him. He emphasized his skill and the quality of his garments while reassuring prospective clients that he would outfit them in the latest styles. He also provided additional services for the benefit of his clients. As Sinnott’s advertisement demonstrates, eighteenth-century newspaper notices did not merely announce the availability of consumer goods and services. Instead, advertisers constructed appeals intended to incite demand and convince readers to visit their shops.