What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Leather-Dressers, & Breeches-Makers, in Kingstreet, Portsmouth.”
James Haslett and Mathew Haslett placed an advertisement in the October 30, 1772, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform prospective customers that they made “Leather Breeches of all sorts” at their shop on King Street in Portsmouth. They declared that they made breeches “as neat as cheap & as good as any in New-England,” incorporating appeals to fashion, price, and quality into their short advertisement.
The Hasletts occasionally ran newspaper advertisements in the late 1760s and early 1770s. Sometimes they included other marketing strategies to generate interest in their business. For instance, in previous advertisements they stated that “the Sign of the BUCK and GLOVE” marked the location of their shop. They also listed items for sale other than breeches, such as “all sorts of Wash Leather, Deer, Sheep and Moose Skins for Breeches and Jackets, Sheep Skins for Aprons, [and] Buck and Sheepskin Gloves.” They made bolder claims about the quality of their wares, proclaiming that “the above Articles is Warranted as good as any in Europe or America” rather than narrowing the comparison to their competitors in New England.
The woodcuts that adorned some of the Hasletts’ advertisements were the most distinctive aspect of their marketing efforts. The leather dressers commissioned several variations, but each depicted the Sign of the Buck and Glove along with an image of leather breeches. Some of them included their name within the sign. All of them included “1766,” the year the Hasletts relocated from Boston and established their shop in Portsmouth.
Why did the Hasletts discontinue using woodcuts to draw attention to their advertisements? Why did they run shorter advertisements that gave fewer details about their business? Perhaps they considered advertising a necessity as they sought to build their reputation in a new town, but over time determined that they achieved sufficient name recognition that they did not need more elaborate advertising to earn their livelihood their local market. As consumers became more familiar with the Hasletts and their wares, the “LEATHER DRESSERS from BOSTON” became “Leather-Dressers, & Breeches-Makers, in Kingstreet, Portsmouth,” who may have believed that relatively stark advertisements served their purpose now that they were no longer newcomers in their community.