February 23

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

New-York Journal (February 20, 1772).

“Watches regulated, and such alterations which don’t require much time; gratis.”

For the past three years, the Adverts 250 Project has tracked newspaper advertisements placed by John Simnet, a “WATCH-FINISHER, and Manufacturer, of London,” first in the New-Hampshire Gazette during the period that he lived and worked in Portsmouth in 1769 and 1770 and then in newspapers published in New York after he migrated to that city.  Simnet often promoted his years of experience working in London in his advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette, but he also pursued a nasty public feud with one of his competitors.  That may have contributed to his decision to leave Portsmouth in favor of New York.

In a new city, Simnet adopted a much less aggressive approach in his advertising.  He deployed a variety of marketing strategies that did not focus on denigrating other watchmakers, though he did suggest that he possessed greater skill than any of his rivals.  In an advertisement that ran for the first time in the February 20, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, for instance, he trumpeted that he “had more practice, and general knowledge on new work [the mechanisms in watches] than any yet in this country could have.”  Drawing on his long experience and superior expertise, he provided a service to anyone considering buying, selling, or repairing watches.  Simnet offered to examine watches and inform the owners or prospective buyers of “the first cost, or value of any new, or old watch.”  Once they knew the value of watches “with certainty,” they could make informed decisions about buying, selling, or repairing watches.

To generate business and enhance his reputation, Simnet also declared that he made “such alterations which don’t require much time; gratis.”  For those jobs that did involve more time and attention, he stated that he “will clean them, fit glasses, springs, inside chains; and perform every particular article in repairing, at half the price, charg’d by any other.”  Perhaps Simnet discovered that bargain prices brought more customers to his shop “At the Dial … beside the Coffee-House Bridge” than cantankerous diatribes that insulted his competitors.  In this advertisement, he focused on his own skill, asserting that customers could depend on his work keeping their watches in good order for quite some time instead of having them become “an annual or continual expence.”  Simnet attempted to leverage his skill and experience “To the Advantage of those who wear WATCHES” as well as his own benefit in earning a livelihood through providing various services.

September 26

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

Pennsylvania Journal (September 26, 1771).

“The newest fashionable muffs.”

In the fall of 1771, the partnership of Fromberger and Siemon took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Journal to promote a “Very large assortment of Russia and Siberia fur skins” which they intended to make into muffs, tippets, and linings for cloaks.  They deployed a variety of marketing strategies to capture the attention of consumers in Philadelphia and its environs.

For instance, the partners informed readers that they sold “the newest fashionable muffs, tippets, and ermine, now worn by the ladies at the courts of Great Britain and France.”  Fromeberger and Siemon attempted to incite demand by educating their prospective clients.  Ladies who feared they were unfamiliar with the latest trends on the other side of the Atlantic as well as those who merely wanted to confirm that they had indeed kept up with the latest styles could visit Fromberger and Siemon’s shop to outfit themselves.

Even as the partners emphasized European tastes, they also promoted “American manufacture.”  In the process, they suggested to “the ladies” that they could play an important role in supporting the commercial and politic interests of the colonies in the wake of recent meddling by Parliament that had resulted in nonimportation agreements in response to the Stamp Act and the duties imposed on certain goods in the Townshend Acts.  All but the duty on tea had been repealed and merchants returned to importing vast arrays of goods, but some American entrepreneurs continued to advocate for “American manufacture.”  Consumers did not have to sacrifice quality when supporting those entrepreneurs, at least according to advertisers like Fromberger and Siemon who promised they made muffs and tippets “superior to that which is manufactured in England.”

In addition to those appeals, the partners also offered a free ancillary service to their customers.  “Ladies who purchase any manufactured furs of great value” could wear them in the fall, winter, and spring and then “send them to our manufactory” where they would “be taken care of gratis for the summer season.”  Fromberger and Siemon cultivated relationships with customers that did not end when making a sale but could instead continue for years as they assisted in the care and maintenance of expensive garments.

A woodcut depicting a muff and tippet may have drawn the attention to Fromberger and Siemon’s advertisement, but they did not rely on the visual image alone to market their wares.  Instead, they incorporated several appeals to “the ladies” they hoped would visit their shop, order garments, and make purchases.  They invoked current fashions in England and France, the importance of supporting “American manufacture,” and free services to convince readers to become customers.

June 2

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

Maryland Gazette (May 30, 1771).

“The newest and neatest Fashion, either in Europe or America.”

In the spring of 1771, Peter Sinnott, a “TAYLOR, from Dublin,” introduced himself to the residents of Annapolis in an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette.  He advised prospective clients, both “Gentlemen” and “Ladies,” that he “carries on his Trade in all its Branches.”  The tailor also pledged that his customers “may depend on having their Cloaths well made.”  Like many other artisans, Sinnott incorporated the combination of quality, skill, and expertise into his newspaper notices.

He also included an appeal to fashion, another common marketing strategy for tailors, milliners, and others who made garments.  Sinnott proclaimed that he produced clothing “in the newest and neatest Fashion, either in Europe or America.”  In so doing, he demonstrated that he expected anxieties about wearing the latest styles resonated even in smaller ports.  Simultaneously, he attempted to stoke those anxieties.  Annapolis was not nearly as large as Boston, Charleston, New York, or Philadelphia, but that did not mean that consumers there could not be as cosmopolitan in their appearances as their counterparts in those major urban ports.  Yet that was not the extent of the promise that Sinnott made.  His clients in Annapolis could not only keep pace with fashionable gentlemen and ladies throughout the colonies but also with trendsetters on the other side of the Atlantic.

Sinnott realized that it would take time to establish his reputation and cultivate a clientele for his garments.  In order to earn a living while he did so, he also promoted an ancillary service, declaring that he “scours and cleans Cloaths in a superior Manner than has hitherto been done in this Place.”  Furthermore, he had perfected a method for “taking Spots and Stains out of Scarlet Cloth.”  Each time he interacted with clients who hired him to clean their garments, Sinnott had an opportunity to offer his services as a tailor.  One branch of his business supported the other, possibly resulting in new commissions.

In a short advertisement, Sinnott presented “the PUBLICK” with several reasons to him.  He emphasized his skill and the quality of his garments while reassuring prospective clients that he would outfit them in the latest styles.  He also provided additional services for the benefit of his clients.  As Sinnott’s advertisement demonstrates, eighteenth-century newspaper notices did not merely announce the availability of consumer goods and services.  Instead, advertisers constructed appeals intended to incite demand and convince readers to visit their shops.