November 13

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

Connecticut Journal (November 13, 1772).

“Will alter any Fault (if observed within Twelve Months) gratis.”

Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, Edward Hart, a “WIG-MAKER,” described himself as “Lately from London” when he introduced himself to prospective customers in a newspaper advertisement.  Realizing that readers were unfamiliar with him and his work, he sought to use his origins to suggest a certain level of skill and, especially, knowledge of current fashions in the cosmopolitan center of the empire to convince clients in Wallingford and nearby towns to give him a chance.  In an advertisement in the November 13, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Journal, he declared that he made “Lady’s Hair Rolls … in the best Manner.”  He also boasted that his customers would “be served with all Sorts of Wigs, made in the present Taste.”

Hart did not confine his marketing efforts to those appeals.  He also offered free repair services for a year, pledging that he would “alter any Fault (if observed within Twelve Months) gratis.”  Knowing that he could not yet depend on his reputation to sell his wigs, Hart likely hoped that providing that warranty would persuade prospective customers that they had nothing to lose when they purchased his wares.  If they discovered any defects, the wigmaker pledged to correct them without charge.  Customer service extended beyond the initial purchase, aiding Hart in cultivating a clientele in a new location.

At a glance, Hart’s advertisement may look like little more than a dense block of text to modern readers, but it was not a mere announcement that he made and sold wigs.  Instead, he advanced several appeals intended to entice consumers to acquire their wigs from him rather than other sources.  He promoted his origins in London, the quality of his work, and his knowledge of the latest trends.  In case that was not enough, he also provided a warranty to reassure customers still hesitant after his other marketing appeals.  Rather than inserting an announcement in the newspaper, Hart devised a strategy for attracting customers to his new shop.