What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The newest fashionable muffs [and] tippets.”
A woodcut depicting a muff and tippet adorned the advertisements that the partnership of Fromberger and Siemon placed in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal in the fall of 1771. The advertisers did not rely on the image alone to market their “large assortment of Russia and Siberia fur skins” and garments made from those furs, but it almost certainly helped draw attention to their advertisements. That woodcut also represented an additional expense. Unlike the type used to print the copy in their notices, the woodcut belonged to the advertisers rather than the printers. That being the case, Fromberger and Siemon collected their woodcut from one printing office and delivered it to another when they expanded their advertising campaign.
The furriers first inserted an advertisement in the September 26 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal. It ran again the following week. Nearly three weeks elapsed before the same advertisement appeared in the October 21 edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle. It featured identical copy, though the compositor made different decisions about line breaks, as well as the familiar woodcut that occupied nearly half the space allotted to the advertisement. Careful examination of the image reveals that it was indeed the same woodcut, not a similar image. Fromberger and Siemon commissioned only one woodcut, but they aimed to garner a greater return on their investment by disseminating it in more than one newspaper. For many readers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the image would have been new and novel when they encountered it. Those who also happened to peruse the Pennsylvania Journal, however, would have recognized the woodcut. The repetition of the image likely helped Fromberger and Siemon achieve greater visibility for their enterprise. Had they published it more regularly, they might have encouraged readers to consider the image a trademark of sorts, but their notices appeared too sporadically. Although Fromberger and Siemon did not seize the opportunity to further enhance their marketing efforts through consistent repetition of the image of the muff and tippet in the fall of 1771, they did devise advertisements that stood out from others because of the woodcut that accompanied them.