July 21

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (July 21, 1773).

“At the Hunting Side Saddle.”

Elias Botner, “Sadler and Harness-maker,” ran a workshop “at the Hunting Side Saddle, next door to the London Coffee-house” in Philadelphia in the early 1770s.  In an advertisement in the July 21, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, he informed prospective customers that he made and sold various kinds of saddles for gentlemen and ladies as well as saddlebags, “jockey caps, of all sizes,” holsters, and fire buckets.  He declared that he made his saddles and “saddle-furniture” (or equipment) “in the newest and neatest fashion” to match the tastes of his discerning customers.  In addition, he marketed his fire buckets as the “strongest perhaps made in this city.”  He offered discounts to customers who purchased “a quantity” of fire buckets, while also promising “the lowest terms” for his other merchandise.

To draw attention to these various appeals, Botner adorned his advertisement with a woodcut that depicted a saddle.  That image distinguished his advertisement from the other paid notices in the same issue.  Four of them featured stock images of ships at sea, supplied by the printers, but all of the other advertisements relied solely on text without images.  Botner’s advertisement was the only one with an image commissioned for the exclusive use of that business.  It was not the first time, however, that the saddler deployed the image, though it had been a while since it appeared in the pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  More than three years earlier, Botner ran an advertisement in the Postscript Extraordinary to the Pennsylvania Gazette on May 3, 1770, adorning his notice with the woodcut and invoking the sign that marked the location of his shop.  That sign remained a constantly visible marker for residents and visitors who traversed the streets of Philadelphia in the intervening years, even though the woodcut disappeared from the public prints during that time.  Like many other entrepreneurs, Botner utilized visual images to promote his business, but used some, like his shop sign, consistently and others, like his woodcut in his newspaper advertisements, sporadically.  Botner and others experimented with the power of images in their marketing efforts, sometimes assuming additional costs for the advertisements they placed in colonial newspapers.

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