January 4

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

Providence Gazette (January 4, 1772).

“The first Stay-Maker that has ever been so contiguous to the Ladies of this Town.”

With the arrival of a new year, Charles Mahon, a staymaker, opened a new business in Providence.  He placed an advertisement in the January 4, 1772, edition of the Providence Gazette “to inform the Ladies of Providence, and others, that he carries on the Stay-Making Business in said Town.”  Mahon assured prospective clients that he made “all Kinds of Stays” as well as a variety of other items associated with his occupation.

Mahon proclaimed that he was “the first Stay-Maker that has ever been so contiguous to the Ladies of this Town,” suggesting that no staymaker previously resided in Providence and operated a shop there.  If that was indeed the case, then the women of the town previously purchased stays produced elsewhere and imported to Providence, making do with imperfect fits or, if possible, making alterations as necessary.  Mahon asserted that having a staymaker in town who “intends to apply himself chiefly” to that business meant that “the Ladies” benefited from a new convenience.  In turn, his enterprise merited “their Encouragement.”

The newcomer realized that his prospective clients were not familiar with the stays he produced.  As part of his introduction to “the Ladies of this Town,” he offered assurances that they “may depend on having their Work done in the best and most fashionable Manner.”  Mahon paired quality and fashion, promising that he delivered both to his customers.  Such appeals suggested his skill as a staymaker combined with a careful eye that registered changes in taste.  His clients could rely on him to make recommendations and outfit them according to the newest modes, a valuable service that exceeded merely fabricating stays.  Such care for his patrons did not, however, come at exorbitant prices.  Instead, Mahon set “reasonable Terms.”

Mahon provided a convenience that he claimed was new to “the Ladies” of Providence, but he also realized that convenience alone would not necessarily generate business.  To convince prospective clients to give him a chance, he incorporated familiar appeals to quality, fashion, and price into his advertisement.  His customers did not need to sacrifice any of them, Mahon suggested, to enjoy the convenience of acquiring stays from a local staymaker.

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