What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
In the summer of 1772, Edward Pole advertised a variety of items available at his ‘GROCERY STORE” on Second Street in Philadelphia. He stocked everything from wines and spirits to “Green, Bohea, Hyson and Soushong Teas” to raisins and currants to “mustard by the bottle or pound.” Pole declared that he would “make it his chief study to merit” repeat business from his customers “by keeping an assortment of the best kind of GROCERIES, and selling them on the lowest terms.”
Yet Pole stocked more than just groceries. His advertisement in the August 29 edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle included a headline and a section for “FISHING TACKLE” available at his store. He carried “Fishing rods of various kinds, best Kerby and common hooks of all sizes, artificial flies, wheels, silk, hair and trolling lines of every kind, length, and goodness, deapseas, casting, minnow and scoop nets,” and other items. He made a point of promoting “the best kind of fish-hooks, made by ROBERT CARTER, fish-hook maker, from Trenton.”
Over time, the appropriately-named Pole placed greater emphasis on marketing fishing supplies. By 1781, he was placing advertisements for “Fishing Tackle Of all sorts, for Use of either SEA or RIVER, MADE AND SOLD By Edward Pole” in the Pennsylvania Packet. A woodcut depicting a fish adorned those advertisements. He commissioned another woodcut of a fish, this one with a decorative border, for his advertisement in the March 24, 1784, edition of the Freeman’s Journal. At about the same time, he made an even greater investment in a trade card engraved by David Tew. A vignette showed two gentlemen fishing, one with a rod and the other with a net. The gentleman with the rod had a fish on the line, its head sticking out of the water, while the gentleman with the net attempted to scoop up the fish. An ornate cartouche, complete with fishing lures dangling from it, served as border for the text of this advertisement. The trade card announced that “Edward Pole FISHING-TACKLE-MAKER … es & Sells all kinds of the best Fishing Tackle for the use of either Sea or River.” A nota bene advised, “Gentlemen going on parties, in the Fishing Way Compleatly fitted out on the shortest notice.”
The headline for “FISHING TACKLE” in Pole’s newspaper advertisements published in 1772 foreshadowed the more extensive marketing efforts he launched in the 1780s. He further enhanced newspaper notices with visual images as he increasingly specialized in fishing supplies. He also distributed an engraved trade card that featured images that rivaled any on the hundreds of trade cards distributed in London in the eighteenth century, making his business all the more memorable to the gentlemen he aimed to serve.