What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Weaver’s Reeds or Shuttles.”
Eighteenth-century readers would have recognized the image that adorned George Lechler’s advertisement in the August 11, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, even though it does not possess the same familiarity for modern readers. Lechler described himself as a “WEAVER AND REED-MAKER.” The image that ran across the top of the notice, a long narrow rectangle divided by vertical lines at close intervals, depicted a reed. As described by the Oxford English Dictionary, a reed is “part of a loom consisting of a set of evenly spaced wires known as dents (originally slender pieces of reed or cane) fastened between two parallel horizontal bars used for separating, or determining the spacing between, the warp threads, and for besting the weft into place.” A reed also aids in guiding a shuttle across the loom. Though the woodcut likely looks like a geometric design to most readers today, colonizers easily recognized a piece of equipment used when weaving.
That image helped draw attention to the lively copy that constituted the remainder of the advertisement. Lechler expressed some exasperation that he “F[OU]ND myself once more under the necessity to acquaint the Public where in Philadelphia I live, since there are persons who say that I am removed.” Such stories, he asserted, were “entirely false, as I live in the same house where I have lived these 12 years past, and shall continue in it till I move into eternity.” Lechler had no intention, now or ever, of moving to another location. Furthermore, following his death, “there will be another Lechler, who will continue to live there, as the house is my own, and he will make work as good as his father.” The weaver demonstrated pride in owning his house and workshop, as sign of success, as well as pride in his own abilities and pride in the skills of his son who would continue the family business. Yet he did not consider it necessary to go into greater detail about the “Weaver’s Reeds or Shuttles” that he made, stating that “it is not necessary for me to praise my work, for the work itself will praise the master.” Customers who needed reeds and shuttles, Lechler declared, “may depend on getting them as good of me, as in any part of the world,” whether imported or made in the colonies.
The weaver had “a parcel of good Reeds ready made …for sale” at his house on Market Street, “the third door above the sign of the Three Kings.” He intended for the image of the reed and the slightly cantankerous advertisement to entice weavers to acquire equipment from him at the usual place rather than trust in idle gossip (or perhaps even deliberate attempts to undermine his share of the market) that he had moved to another location. He also encouraged the public to think of his workshop as a family business that would continue after his death, promoting customer loyalty among those satisfied with the reeds they purchased from him.