What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“SABLE Muffs and Tippets.”
When John Siemon, a furrier from London, first arrived in New York in December 1771, he took to the pages of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Journal to alert prospective customers that he “he intends to stay a month only in this city,” encouraging them to acquire “the newest fashion’d MUFFS, TIPPETS, ERMINE and lining for CLOAKS … now worn by the LADIES at the Court of Great-Britain” before he departed. Siemon advised that any milliners and shopkeepers “who intend to purchase after his departure” could direct their orders to “FROMBERGER and SIEMON, in Second Street, Philadelphia.” Rather than arriving in New York directly from London, the furrier had first visited the Quaker City, established a partnership, and set up shop there.
Siemon returned to New York in November 1772. In an advertisement in the New-York Journal, he once again described himself as “from London,” but this time added “but last from Philadelphia.” He reminded readers that he “resided in this city last winter,” but this time he “intends settling here.” He brought with him “to this Metropolis” a “General Assortment of FURS.” Siemon hoped to resume relationships with his clients “who were pleased to favour him with their custom last winter,” pledging that new and returning clients “may depend on” him producing muffs, tippets, and other items “agreeable to fashion and beauty, on reasonable terms.” He did not mention an ongoing partnership with Fromberger; instead, the headline promoted “JOHN SIEMON, and Co.”
Some readers may have remembered Siemon, his furs, and his advertisements. They may have also remembered that an image adorned some of his advertisements. When Siemon ventured to New York, he took with him a woodcut depicting a muff and tippet that previously appeared in advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal. Siemon’s new advertisement included an image of the muff, but the woodcut appears to have been modified to remove the tippet. Eliminating the long scarf significantly reduced the size of the woodcut. Since advertisers paid by the amount of space their notices occupied rather than the number of words, that reduced how much Siemon spent to publish his new advertisement. Reducing costs, however, may not have been the reason for reworking the image. Upon dissolving his partnership with Fromberger, he may have considered the updated image an appropriate representation of his new enterprise. On the other hand, Siemon may not have put that much thought into the image if the woodcut simply broke and he could salvage only the portion depicting the muff.
Whatever the explanation, the woodcut experienced greater mobility than others created for advertisers, transported back and forth between two cities and delivered to three different printing offices. Including the image in his advertisements required some effort by Siemon, suggesting that he considered it effective in attracting clients.