July 8

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

Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer (July 8, 1773).

“He has obtained a certificate from the Queen’s Stay-Maker in London.”

Readers of Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer likely noticed the image that adorned John Burchett’s advertisement in the July 8, 1773, edition.  After all, it was the only image featured throughout the issue, with the exception of a woodcut depicting a ship at sea that appeared in the masthead.  Burchett, a “STAY and RIDING HABIT-MAKER” who kept shop “at the Sign of the Crown and Stays,” led his advertisement with a woodcut that replicated that sign.

Yet Burchett did not rely on the image alone to market his goods and services.  Instead, he incorporated other appeals in his efforts to convince prospective customers to purchase stays from him.  For instance, he invoked his origins and previous experience, describing himself as “From LONDON and PARIS.”  Like others in the garment trades, Burchett suggested to consumers that they would derive additional cachet from hiring someone with connections to such cosmopolitan cities.  Most tailors, milliners, and staymakers who migrated across the Atlantic could claim roots in only one of those capitals of fashion and gentility, yet Burchett asserted ties to both.  He especially emphasized the recognition he gained in London, informing prospective customers that “he has obtained a certificate form the Queen’s Stay-Maker in London.”

That testified to the taste and quality associated with stays made by Burchett.  For those concerned about price, he declared that he “has also a good number of ready made stays of the best quality, cheaper than can be imported.”  He even gave prices so prospective customers could assess the bargains for themselves without having to visit his shop.  In addition, he proposed a payment plan meant to encourage consumers to select him over his competitors.  The staymaker pledged that “any lady who shall employ him” could pay “half cash … and the rest in dry goods.”  That put him in a position to barter with female shopkeepers and the wives and daughters of merchants and shopkeepers.

Burchett did not merely announce that he made and sold stays and then hope that customers would visit his shop at the Sign of the Crown and Stays.  Instead, he deployed an image that corresponded to the sign associated with his business as an invitation to peruse a lively narrative that included a variety of marketing strategies.  He commented on fashion and price while emphasizing his experience working in London and Paris and alternatives to paying with cash or credit.  As a result of such attention to so many aspects of his business, prospective customers could trust that the staymaker would indeed “use all possible endeavours to merit their interest.”

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