June 9

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

Jun 9 - 6:9:1766 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (June 9, 1766).

“Sattin … Persians … Taffeties … Patches … Callicoes … Bengals … Ginghams … Cherederies.”

When Jane Gillam announced that she stocked “a Variety of English Goods” she was not exaggerating. The shopkeeper named approximately fifty textiles, but that may not have been an exhaustive list. Even if it was, she offered a dizzying assortment of fabrics, especially considering that some fabrics came in multiple colors or patterns.

To many modern readers, this advertisement may seem disorienting. What’s the difference between “Cherederies” and “Garlicks” or between “Callamancoes” and “Ozenbrigs”? Gillam expected eighteenth-century readers – her potential customers – recognized all the variations, but most of the distinctions are likely lost among modern Americans. Fortunately, historians of material culture have created a variety of resources documenting the different types of fabrics that made their way across oceans and into merchants’ warehouses and retailers’ shops.

Advertisements like those placed by Gillam have aided historians in determining which fabrics were available in early America. Consider the subtitle for one of the standard works in the field, Florence M. Montgomery’s Textiles in America, 1650-1870: A Dictionary Based on Original Documents, Prints and Paintings, Commercial Records, American Merchants’ Papers, Shopkeepers’ Advertisements, and Pattern Books with Original Swatches of Cloth (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984).

Initially I set about providing a short description of each fabric in Gillam’s advertisement as described in Montgomery’s dictionary, but I quickly discovered that the distinctions were too numerous and too complicated to do that here. Instead, how about a quick definition of the four textiles listed above, just to get a sense of what colonial Americans knew about textile that most Americans never learn.

Cherederies = Cherryderry (charadary, carridary): “Striped or checked woven cloth of mixed silk and cotton imported from India from the late seventeenth century.” (199)

Garlicks = Garlick (garlits, garlix, gulick, gulix): “A linen cloth first imported from Goerlitz, Silesia. It could be fully or partially bleached.” (245)

Callamancoes = Calimanco (calamande, calamandre): “A worsted ‘stuff … [with] a fine gloss upon it. There are calamancoes of all colours, and diversly wrought; some ate quite plain; others have broad stripes, adorned with flowers; some with plain broad stripes; some with narrow stripes; and others watered.’” (185)

Ozenbrigs = Osnaburg (oznabrig): “Coarse, unbleached linen or hempen cloth first made in Osnabrück, Germany. It was commonly used for trousers, sacking, and bagging.” (312)

As we can see from the descriptions of just four of the fabrics listed in Gillam’s advertisement, colonial consumers imagined different uses for different kinds of cloth. At a glance, they would have made assumptions about which they desired and which they could afford.

March 23

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Mar 23 - 3:20:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (March 20, 1766).

“She makes up goods in the millinery way.”

Mary Symonds owned a corner shop and placed a very lengthy advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette.   Symonds was a milliner, which is “a person who designs, makes, trims, or sells women’s hats.”

Symonds describes the different materials and trimmings she sold, such as “a great variety of printed calicoes and cottons” and “A great variety of figured and plain ribbons” along with “sattins of different colours.” Unfortunately, I could not identify a lot of descriptive words, but I could tell that all those paragraphs were different trimmings, fabrics, and their descriptions.

In the 1760s all types of people – from the rich to the poor – wore hats. The difference, however, was the material and how much detail was put into them. Hats could be extremely detailed, depending on how much money the colonist could pay. Milliners could add ribbons and other trimmings like the ones in Symonds’ advertisement if customers so chose. Like today, how people dressed was a status symbol that was very important to American colonists. Whether her customers had enough money to wear a different hat every day or wore the same hat every day, they could keep Symonds in business for years to come.

I was curious about how hats in America and England looked in the 1760s. These paintings all show women with hats during the period.

Mar 23 - Copley Portrait of Mary Clarke
John Singleton Copley, Portrait of Mary Clarke, Mrs. Samuel Barrett (Boston, Massachusetts, ca. 1765-1770).
Mar 23 - Boucher Portrait of Madame Bergeret
Francois Boucher, Madame Bergeret (French, possibly 1766).
Mar 23 - Collett - High Life
John Collett, High Life Below Stairs (London, England, 1763).

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

There’s so much going on in this advertisement that it’s hard to know where to begin. Indeed, an entire chapter or more could be devoted to teasing out the various aspects of this advertisement. As Elizabeth notes, average readers today do not recognize the various kinds of textiles and trimming that Symonds listed. Material culture specialists, on the other hand, have written entire books about the quality and characteristics, production and consumption, and social and cultural meanings of these fabrics and accoutrements.

Mary Symonds operated her shop in the same location as William Symonds, but this advertisement suggests that they operated their businesses independently of each other. Although William’s business appeared first in the advertisement, Mary’s list of wares comprised a significantly lengthier section. Mary also noted that she had once been in partnership with “her sister Ann Pearson,” a milliner who ran her own advertisements in Philadelphia’s newspapers. The two sisters ran a series of advertisements in previous weeks announcing that they were dissolving their partnership and dividing the merchandise in anticipation of running separate shops. Such advertisements help to demonstrate that some colonial women operated businesses independently or in partnership with other women. Male relations, including William Symonds, did not necessarily oversee women who acted as retailers.

There’s another reason I was excited when Elizabeth selected this advertisement. I’ve identified only a handful of eighteenth-century trade cards and billheads distributed by women. Mary Symonds is the only female advertiser from Philadelphia with a trade card still extant (as part of the Cadwalader Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania). Her trade card, listed a broad range of millinery supplies similar to what appeared in her newspaper advertisements, circulated in 1770 and perhaps even earlier. It included a border and her name in a rococo-style cartouche. Overall, it was less ornate than some of the trade cards distributed by male advertisers, but it was the most impressive trade card known to have been used by a female advertiser. It appears that Symonds took pride in her business and invested in it accordingly.

Mar 23 - Mary Symonds Trade Card
Trade card (with receipted bill on reverse) distributed  by Mary Symonds in 1770 (Historical Society of Pennsylvania:  Cadwalader Collection, Series II: General John Cadwalader Papers, Box 5: Incoming Correspondence: Pa-Sy, Item 19: Su-Sy).

The copy at the HSP has been dated to 1770 because a receipted bill appears on the reverse. On five different occasions in October and November 1770, somebody – probably Symonds herself – recorded more than a dozen purchases made by “Mrs. Cadwalader” (including “White Gloves,” a “Lace Cap,” and several yards of satin and muslin) amounting to more than £20. This receipted bill indicates that Symonds “Recevd the Contents in full” on November 22, 1770.