What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The FULLING BUSINESS, in all its branches.”
Joseph Blackwood operated a fulling mill “on the north branch of Raccoon creek, in the county of Gloucester,” New Jersey, in the early 1770s. In an effort to cultivate customers for this enterprise, he ran an advertisement in the August 19, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette. Blackwood confidently informed readers that he pursued “the FULLING BUSINESS, in all its branches, in as extensive a manner and at as cheap rates, as at any Mill in New-Jersey or Pennsylvania.”
To convince prospective customers that was the case, the fuller declared that he possessed “all necessary tools and conveniences” for processing any cloth delivered to him. In addition, he was able to operate the mill throughout the year because it had been “so commodiously constructed, with all the works inclosed in a large stone house, in order to avoid being retarded in the winter season.” Blackwood believed that the equipment combined with his skill and experience would result in customers “having their cloth dressed in the neatest and best manner, and with the greatest expedition.” He promised quality as well as a quick turnaround on his services. Blackwood also made it convenient for prospective customers to hire him by establishing a network of local agents in several towns in New Jersey. Those associates collected “CLOTH for the Mill” and instructions. The fuller visited each local agent once a week to collect cloth for new orders and deliver processed cloth.
Blackwood made a variety of appeals, yet he did not rely on advertising copy alone. A woodcut depicting equipment at the fulling mill occupied nearly half the space he purchased in the Pennsylvania Gazette, making his advertisement the only one adorned with an image not supplied by the printers. Throughout the remainder of the issue, only two other images appeared, the ornate shield with three balls, the crest of the Penn family, in the masthead and a vessel at sea, a stock image, in an advertisement for a ship departing for South Carolina. The image of the equipment at the fulling mill likely caught the attention of readers, further enhancing an advertisement that incorporated a variety of marketing strategies. The woodcut encouraged readers to learn about Blackwood’s low prices, speedy service, notable equipment, and network of local associates. The image likely prompted some readers to examine the dense text in the fuller’s advertisement more closely than they would have without an image to engage their curiosity.