What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Newest fashionable muffs, tippets and ermine.”
In the fall of 1771, furrier Fromberger and Siemon placed newspaper advertisement in their efforts to entice customers to visit their new shop on Market Street in Philadelphia. They adopted several strategies that may have served them well, though their effectiveness may have been mitigated by an uneven rollout of the furriers’ advertising campaign.
Fromberger and Siemon commenced advertising in the Pennsylvania Journal in late September. They incorporated a variety of appeals into their notice. They informed customers that they catered to the latest tastes, stating that they carried “the newest fashionable muffs, tippets, and ermine, now worn by the ladies at the courts of Great Britain and France.” They also called on consumers “to encourage their American manufacture” rather than purchase imported items. In addition, the furriers sought to establish ongoing relationships with their customers by providing ancillary services. Their customers could send their furs to Fromberger and Siemon to have them “taken care of gratis for the summer season.” To draw attention to these various marketing strategies, the furriers adorned their advertisements with a woodcut depicting a muff and tippet.
That advertisement did not last long in the Pennsylvania Journal before it appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Fromberger and Siemon commissioned only one woodcut, so they arranged to have it transferred from one printing office to another. Once again, their advertisement quickly lapsed. They revived it in the Pennsylvania Journal on December 5, though without the woodcut. The following week, it ran once again, this time with the image of the muff and tippet. The woodcut made its way back to William Bradford and Thomas Bradford’s printing office. On December 19, however, Fromberger and Siemon’s advertisement appeared once more without the image that made it so distinctive. Why, after investing in the woodcut, did the furriers deploy it so haphazardly? Was it a tradeoff against the expense of purchasing the additional space? Did the printers play any role in deciding that they needed the space for other content? What other factors played a role in how Fromberger and Siemon executed their advertising campaign?