January 27

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

Pennsylvania Packet (January 27, 1772).


Much of the content of George Bartram’s advertisement in the January 27, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Packetresembled what appeared in notices placed by other merchants and shopkeepers.  Bartram informed prospective customers that he “Just imported … A very large Assortment” of textiles “from BRITAIN and IRELAND.”  He then listed a variety of fabrics to demonstrate the choices available to consumers.

In addition to providing an overview of his merchandise, Bartram deployed other means of making his business memorable.  For instance, he marked it with a sign that featured a distinctive device, advising prospective customers to visit “the Sign of the GOLDEN FLEECE’S HEAD” on Second Street.  Some colonial entrepreneurs used similar signs, but many did not.  Among the other advertisers in the January 27 edition of the Pennsylvania Packet, John Carnan, a jeweler, ran a shop “AT THE GOLDEN LION,” but Joseph Carson, Francis Hopkinson, William Miller, Alexander Power, John Sparhawk, Mary Symonds, and James Wallace did not mention signs that marked their locations.  Bartram further enhanced his advertisement with an image of a golden fleece’s head that may have replicated his shop sign.  Most advertisers who called attention to their signs did not make the additional investment in woodcuts.  Bartram apparently made the investment only once.  He ran an advertisement with the same copy, but no image, in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on the same day.

Bartram also gave his business a name, another marketing strategy adopted by relatively few advertisers in the eighteenth century.  Some merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans used their shop signs as the names for their businesses, but most advertisers did not give their businesses any sort of name.  Printers and booksellers were the most likely to name their businesses.  Although he did not have a sign with a distinctive device, Sparhawk called his shop the “LONDON BOOK-STORE” in his advertisement.  John Dunlap, printer of the Pennsylvania Packet, advertised books available at the “NEWEST PRINTING-OFFICE.”  Among advertisers from other occupations, Bartram distinguished his shop from others by calling it “GEORGE BARTRAM’s WOOLLEN DRAPERY AND HOSIERY WAREHOUSE, At the Sign of the GOLDEN FLEECE’s HEAD.”  He incorporated his own name, a sign, an image depicting that sign, and a name for his business into his advertisement, distinguishing it from others and making his endeavor more memorable.

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