November 10

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

Nov 10 - 11:10:1768 New-York Journal Supplement
Supplement to the New-York Journal (November 10, 1768).

“A Large and neat Assortment of Windsor Chairs.”

A woodcut depicting a Windsor chair dominated Jonathan Hampton’s advertisement in the Supplement to the New-York Journal published on November 10, 1768. In that regard, his advertisement deviated significantly from the vast majority of paid notices placed in newspapers throughout the colonies. Most advertisements consisted entirely of text unaccompanied by images, in part because woodcuts required an additional investment. Printers did provide some woodcuts that advertisers could insert in their notices, but they were limited to a narrow selection. The selection was usually limited to depictions of ships, houses, horses, slaves, and runaways (servants and slaves). They were used interchangeably. For instance, a real estate advertisement could incorporate any woodcut depicting a house; the details of the woodcut did not necessarily correspond to the description of the house offered in the copy.

When advertisers desired to include images that represented their shop signs or, as was the case with Hampton, their merchandise, they could not draw from stock images provided by printers. Instead, they incurred the additional expense of commissioning woodcuts that then belonged exclusively to them. Not only did those images not accompany any other advertisements in a particular publication, advertisers could collect them and submit them from the printing office and submit them for inclusion in advertisements they placed in competing newspapers.

Even though it appears to have been damaged as the result of repeated impressions on a hand-operated press, the woodcut depicting a Windsor chair in Hampton’s advertisement would have drawn attention. Except for the masthead, no images appeared in the standard issue of the New-York Journal distributed on November 10, 1768. The supplement included only two images, Hampston’s Windsor chair and the elaborate frame that enclosed Gerardus Duyckinck’s list of goods he sold “At the Sign of the Looking Glass & Druggist Pot.” That frame incorporated both a looking glass and a druggist pot.

Some advertisements deployed typography or ornamental printing to distinguish them from others, yet they still consisted entirely of text and type. Including a woodcut helped some advertisers to even further differentiate their notices as a means of drawing attention to the goods and services they offered to prospective customers.

March 22

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

Mar 22 - 3:22:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 22, 1768.)

“MATTHIAS HUTCHINSON, CAHIR-MAKER, who served his time to Mr. HART.”

Matthias Hutchinson published an advertisement in the March 22, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal “to acquaint the public, and his friends in particular, that he has opened a shop in Queen-street.” Hutchinson, a “CHAIR-MAKER,” proclaimed that he would pursue his occupation “in all its branches,” signaling to prospective customers that he was prepared to undertake jobs involving any aspect of constructing chairs. He also advanced some of the most common appeals made by merchants, artisans, and shopkeepers in their advertisements for consumer goods and services during the eighteenth century. He promised fair prices (“reasonable terms”) and efficient service (“quickest dispatch”).

In addition to those marketing strategies, Hutchinson also adopted an appeal most frequently deployed by artisans: he promoted his qualifications, especially his training. He did not introduce himself to the public merely as a “CHAIR-MAKER” but instead as a “CHAIR-MAKER, who served his time to Mr. HART.” In other words, Hutchinson had completed an apprenticeship in Hart’s workshop. He assumed that readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal were already familiar with Hart’s work and depended on his former master’s reputation as he attempted to cultivate his own professional identity among prospective customers in Charleston and beyond. Hutchinson considered this particularly imperative, opting to establish his credentials before he even mentioned his location or made appeals to price and customer service. Those credentials also enhanced his credibility when he assured potential clients that they “may depend on having their work done in the neatest and strongest manner.” His chairs were both attractive and sturdy, results produced thanks to the skills that Hutchinson developed via his training by Hart.

When he established his own workshop, Hutchinson identified his apprenticeship as an advantage that prospective customers would value when considering whether to entrust their business to the newcomer. Having labored in Hart’s workshop, he had participated in the production of chairs associated with his former master, contributing to the senior artisan’s reputation. Now Hutchinson sought to mobilize Hart’s reputation as a testament to his own qualifications and skill by noting that he had “served his time to Mr. HART.” More than any other appeal to prospective customers, Hutchinson made that the focal point of his identity as an artisan and entrepreneur.