April 14

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

Apr 14 - 4:14:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (April 14, 1770).

“CORDWAINERS from LONDON.”

When cordwainers Henry Field and Josiah Gifford set up shop in Providence they placed an advertisement in the April 14, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette to inform the community that they made and sold “Mens and Womens Shoes, Slippers, [and] Boots.”  They advanced some of the most common marketing appeals of the era, pledging that their customers benefited from both the quality of their craftsmanship and the customer service they provided.  Field and Gifford asserted that they made footwear “in the strongest, neatest and best Manner.”  They followed their trade “in all its Branches,” suggesting that no request or order was beyond their capability.  They also pledged that patrons “may depend on being served with Punctuality, Fidelity and Dispatch.”  Field and Gifford exercised deference to “such Gentlemen and Ladies, who please to favour them with their Custom.”

Yet before they made any of these appeals Field and Gifford first introduced themselves as “CORDWAINERS from LONDON.”  In so doing, they adopted a strategy commonly invoked by artisans who advertised in eighteenth-century newspapers.  Those who migrated across the Atlantic, especially artisans who had trained or worked in London, often indicated their place of origin, but not merely by way of introduction.  They expected that their connections to the cosmopolitan center of the empire carried a certain cachet that gave them a competitive advantage among colonial consumers … or at least leveled the playing field.  After all, other artisans benefited from long familiarity within their community.  They built relationships with consumers and cultivated reputations over time.  As newcomers, Field and Gifford did not have those advantages.  Instead, they made their recent arrival in the colonies work to their benefit.  Just as colonial consumers tended to look to London and the rest of England when it came to goods, often expressing preferences for imported wares, Field and Gifford encouraged them to express preferences and recognize the value of artisans who also came from the other side of the Atlantic

July 31

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

Jul 31 - 7:31:1769 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (July 31, 1769).

“The Shoe-making Business is still carried on at her Shop.”

Elizabeth Mumford did not insert herself into the public prints until necessity forced her to do so. When her husband Samuel, a cordwainer, passed away in the summer of 1769, she ran advertisements in the Newport Mercury calling on “her late Husband’s Friends and Customers” to continue to patronize the family business. She referred to the shop on New Lane as “her Shop” and reported that she employed John Remmington, “who has work’d with her late Husband several Years.” Former customers may have been familiar with Remmington already, having interacted with him in the shop in the past. Whether or not they had previously made the acquaintance, Mumford underscored that the “Shoe-making Business” continued without disruption and that customers could “depend on being served with as good Work of every Sort as in her Husband’s Life-time.” Remmington’s presence provided continuity in the production of shoes, but Mumford likely made other contributions, such as waiting on customers and keeping accounts.

Mumford, however, downplayed any role that she had played or continued to play in the family business as partner, supervisor, or assistant. Instead, she presented herself as a widow who happened to own the shop yet otherwise depended on the good will of others. She reported that Remmington continued working at her Shop “for the Benefit of her and her Children,” making her appeal to “her late Husband’s Friends and Customers” all the more poignant. Without husband and provider, the widow and children found themselves in a vulnerable new position. Mumford crafted her advertisement to encourage sympathy and a sense of collective responsibility for her family among friends and patrons. She took what steps she could in engaging Remmington’s continued employment at her shop, but that did not matter if their former customers did not return in the wake of Samuel’s death. In other circumstances, the quality of the shoes produced in the shop on New Lane may have been sufficient promotion in newspaper advertisements, but Mumford did not consider that enough following the death of her husband. She crafted a narrative with greater urgency even as she noted the continuities in the shop. As a widow she enjoyed new financial and legal powers, but she tempered her portrayal of herself as an independent entrepreneur in her efforts to retain her husband’s clientele and “the Continuance of their Favours.”