July 22

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

Jul 22 - 7:22:1768 Connecticut Journal
Connecticut Journal (July 22, 1768).

“John Astle, Stay-Maker, & Taylor, directly from London.”

When John Astle, a tailor and staymaker, set up shop in New Haven in the summer of 1768, he placed an advertisement in the Connecticut Journal to inform prospective clients that he made and repaired all sorts of garments, including “Cloaks, and Huzzas,” “Riding-Habits for Ladies,” and corsets (stays). He also pledged to deliver exemplary customer service: “Whoever will be kind enough to favour him with their Custom, may depend upon the best Usage in his Power.”

In the process of introducing himself to readers he hoped would become customers, Astle also noted his origins. He stated that he had arrived in New Haven “directly from London.” (The tailor may have requested that “London” appear in italics to garner more attention, but more likely the compositor made this decision without consulting the advertiser.) In so doing, he adopted a common marketing strategy, one that was especially popular among members of the garment trades. The frequency of styles changing dramatically accelerated in the eighteenth century as part of the consumer revolution. Colonists looked to London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire, for the latest fashions. Some advertisers explicitly stated that they made or sold garments, housewares, and other goods according to the most current tastes. Others asserted connections to London or other places in England or continental Europe as a means of suggesting that they had acquired both skill in crafting apparel and knowledge of the newest fashions.

Stating that they were “from London,” however, left room for interpretation. That description did not specify how recently advertisers had worked in London or migrated to the colonies. Astle apparently realized that some prospective clients would be skeptical. To answer any objections, he modified the standard phrase “from London” to “directly from London,” communicating to readers that he had not been working in the English provinces or other colonies immediately prior to arriving in New Haven. Months or years had not passed since he had actively made garments in the city at the center of the empire. Instead, potential customers could depend on him having knowledge of current styles and outfitting them accordingly. Many eighteenth-century advertisements deployed formulaic phrases, but advertisers like Astle sometimes modified them to suit their needs and deliver better marketing appeals.

May 4

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

May 4 - 5:4:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (May 4, 1768).

“They intend carrying on their business in all its branches, as they have brought proper tools for that purpose.”

According to an advertisement they placed in the May 4, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette, William Sime and Jacob Moses had recently arrived in Savannah and planned to open their own shop in the small port city. They described themselves as “Goldsmith and Jewelers, from LONDON,” but did not indicate if they had migrated directly from the largest city in the empire or if they had practiced their trades in other cities before arriving in Georgia.  For the purposes of marketing their services, establishing a connection to the cosmopolitan center of the British Atlantic world mattered most.  It implied skill that arose from training and experience as well as familiarity with the most popular fashions.

Sime and Moses informed prospective customers that they were prepared for “carrying on their business in all its branches.”  They had “brought proper tools for that purpose” when they moved to Savannah. That they considered it necessary to make this point in their brief advertisement suggests that they anticipated potential clients might be concerned not only about their skill but also whether they possessed the necessary implements to follow through on their pledge of “having their work executed in the neatest manner,” a standard appeal made by artisans of all sorts throughout the eighteenth century.

Many advertisements for consumer goods and services from the period appear indistinguishable at first glance, in part because many incorporated formulaic language to make many of the most common appeals to price, quality, fashion, or skill.  Sime and Moses merely reiterated some phrases used in countless other advertisements:  “in the neatest manner” and “at the shortest notice.”  Yet their notice was not completely unoriginal. Although artisans frequently trumpeted their skill and the quality of their work, very few made reference to the set of specific tools they needed to pursue their craft “in all its branches.” Sime and Moses adapted other advertisements to suit their purposes by adding unique content specific to their trade and their personal circumstances.