May 14

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

May 14 - 5:12:1766 New-York Gazette
New-York Gazette (May 12, 1766).

“The whole are made from Patterns of the newest Fashion.”

Last week I argued that when Stephen Hardy introduced himself as “TAYLOR from LONDON” that he suggested to potential customers that they could depend on him to outfit them in the latest fashions from the cosmopolitan center of the British Empire. Joseph Beck, “STAYMAKER, from LONDON,” deployed the same strategy, though he did so much more explicitly. Rather than expect readers to make the connection on their own, he stated that the stays (eighteenth-century undergarments similar to corsets) he made were of a fashion “now preferred by Ladies of the first Distinction in London.”

An ocean separated Beck and other New Yorkers from London, but the staymaker assured potential customers that all of his wares were “made from Patterns of the newest Fashion.” This was possible because he remained in contact with others who pursued his occupation in the empire’s largest city: the patterns were “constantly sent him by some of the most eminent Staymakers in London.” Beck had connections. Those connections gave him access to the latest fashions and, in turn, gave cachet to the stays he made and sold.

After establishing that his stays were quite fashionable, Beck made an interesting pivot. He combined a “Buy American” appeal with his promises of London cosmopolitanism. Not only did he sell his stays at a lower price than those imported from England, since they were “made in this City, and the Stuff mostly of the Product of America, it’s hoped the Ladies will give the Preference on that Account.”

American colonists did not smoothly break away from Britain, politically, economically, or culturally. Beck’s advertisement transmitted competing messages about the economic independence of the colonies while shoring up British identity and fashion.

May 9

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

May 9 - 5:9:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (May 9, 1766).

Stephen Hardy, TAYLOR from LONDON.”

Stephen Hardy did not indicate how long he had lived and worked in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but his advertisement made it clear that he had migrated from London.

In yesterday’s advertisement blacksmith Daniel Offley played on the fact that he had lived in Philadelphia and practiced his trade there for many years. His familiarity with, as well as service to, the community, Offley stated, justified potential customers choosing him over his competitors.

In contrast, it likely worked in Stephen Hardy’s favor if he had only recently crossed the Atlantic to take up residence in New Hampshire. Portsmouth was a small city in 1766 – barely a village compared to the booming population of London. Colonists in Portsmouth and throughout the colonies felt anxious that they lived in tiny backwater outposts of the empire.

By underscoring that he was from London (and presumably trained there in the tailoring trade), Hardy linked himself, his business, and the “Gentlemen’s Cloaths of all Sorts, Ladies Riding Habbits, &c.” he made and sold with the cosmopolitanism of the empire’s metropolitan center of fashion and culture.

In the decades before the Revolution, several English travelers registered their shock – and sometimes annoyance – that colonists dressed in the latest London fashions. Engaging a “TAYLOR from LONDON” would have helped colonial consumers assert their identity as Britons and as genteel participants cognizant of the latest trends in the heart of the capital and cultural center of the empire.