What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Goldsmith and Jeweller, At the Sign of the Tea-pot, Tankard, and Ear-ring.”
When Charles Oliver Bruff, a goldsmith and jeweler, advertised in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, he described his location to prospective clients. They could find him “opposite to the Fly-Market, and but two Doors from the main Street.” Giving these directions was imperative since he had moved from his prior location on Rotten Row. Although his location had changed, another significant means of identifying his shop had not. Customers could continue to find the goldsmith and jeweler “At the Sign of the Tea-pot, Tankard, and Ear-ring.” Bruff had moved and the shop sign had moved with him.
It seemed that no matter where he set up shop in New York that Bruff continued to associate the same image with his business. In previous advertisements he listed his location as “the Corner of King-street, near the Fly-market,” though he also instructed clients to look for “the Sign of the Tea-pot, Tankard, and Ear-ring.” Taking into account his shops on King Street, Rotten Row, and, in the summer of 1769, “opposite to the Fly-Market, and but two Doors from the main Street,” Bruff displayed the same sign at three different locations. He “removed” his shop from one place to another, but the image he used to identify his business remained constant.
Bruff created a logo that made his merchandise and services more memorable by consistently using “the Sign of the Tea-pot, Tankard, and Ear-ring” to identify his business. Residents of New York spotted the image that marked his various locations, a familiar sight to those who regularly navigated the streets of the city in the late 1760s. This lent a sense of continuity to his enterprise even as Bruff moved from place to place. The image on the sign also helped to differentiate Bruff from competitors who did not make similar investments in marketing their merchandise and services.
Regularly advertising in the city’s newspapers would have increased Bruff’s visibility beyond relying on word of mouth to attract customers, but combining a recognizable image with newspaper advertisements enhanced that visibility. Over time, the “Sign of the Tea-Pot, Tankard, and Ear-ring” was not associated with a particular location but instead with the artisan who kept shop at several different locations in New York.