July 5

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

Jul 5 - 7:4:1766 Virginia Gazette
Virginia Gazette (July 4, 1766).

“I have settled … in Henrico county, where I purpose to carry on the FULLING business.”

Mathew Dick, a fuller, used an advertisement in the Virginia Gazette to announce that he had just set up shop in Henrico county. Dated July 1, his notice appeared in the next issue of the Virginia Gazette. Although his “FULLING business” was a new establishment, Dick relied on many of the advertising appeals that were commonly deployed in the eighteenth century, reassuring potential customers that he knew his craft and could provide quality service.

He opened with appeals to quality and price, promising that he did his work “in the best and cheapest manner ever done in this colony.” That last bit – “ever done in this colony” – was a bit of hyperbole that underscored his confidence and dared potential customers to give him a chance and see for themselves if his work lived up to the advertisement. In addition, all the equipment and supplies were prepared “in the best order.”

He also offered some words of wisdom specific to his occupation, again reassuring potential customers of his expertise even though he operated a new establishment. “[T]he wool from the neck and shoulders is the best for the finest cloth,” he lectured. Furthermore, “all woolen cloth should be wove at least 5 quarters wide.” Dick knew his business and used his advertisement to testify to the fact.

Finally, Dick promised excellent customer service. He offered two different locations where customers could drop off the fabric they wanted him to process. He would see to it that their orders were fulfilled “in the neatest manner” and as quickly as possible, but not at the expense of deviating from their instructions. Dick fulled cloth to his customers’ specifications and satisfaction: “their directions most punctually observed and followed.”

Dick’s fulling mill may have been new, but he leveraged multiple appeals in his advertisement to demonstrate that he knew his craft and potential customers could depend on him.

April 13

GUEST CURATOR:  Kathryn J. Severance

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

Apr 13 - 4:11:1766 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (April 11, 1766).

“John Hickey, SILK-DYER and SCOWERER … continues to carry on his Business.”

In this advertisement John Hickey advertised his silk-dying business to the public. It seems that his shop has been set up for some time “near the Canoe-Bridge in Portsmouth.” This advertisement focuses on the color blue as one of the silk-dyer’s colors that he could dye. As I mentioned in February when I guest curated, the use of indigo allowed for textiles to be dyed blue.

For a period of time, fabrics used to make clothing and other items were imported from Europe. In 1750 however, Americans moved toward becoming more independent and self-sufficient by starting to produce their own fabric on a larger scale. Silk-dying in colonial America was part of the vast textile field that existed at the time. Unlike wool fabric, which was made of thread spun from the wool of sheep, silk was a fabric that had to be imported. For this reason, it was more of a luxury textile. Silk was produced much differently from wool, as it was spun by silk worms. In the eighteenth century, silk was imported mostly from China, where the silk worms are naturally found, but it was also imported from the English, who had ventured into the silk-production trade during the thirteenth century. England’s climate was not as ideal as China’s for the worms and, as a result, they often produced less. For information about how silk was produced, read this article from the Mansfield Historical Society.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

Kathryn has chosen an advertisement that offers glimpses of the production and use of different sorts of textiles in colonial America. In listing his occupation as “SILK-DYER and SCOWERER,” John Hickey announced to potential customers that he was capable of working with fabrics made of both silk and wool. As Kathryn indicates, silk was most often imported, though colonists experimented with cultivating silkworms from the earliest days of settlement. Over time, as Americans gained political independence, they also increased their efforts to achieve commercial and economic independence through producing silk in the late eighteenth century.

Hickey did not work exclusively with silk. In his advertisement he underscored that as a “SCOWERER” he “takes in Cloth, to Full and Dress, and does all other Branches of his Business.” In so doing, he emphasized his extensive expertise and experience. Rather than scowerer, Hickey might have listed his occupation as fuller, tucker, or walker. All of these referenced the fulling business, the part of the process of making woolen cloth that involved cleansing the cloth to eliminate oils and dirt. As a result of fulling, woolen cloth also became thicker. Fullers often operated mills that used water wheels, which helps to explain why Hickey “carr[ied] on his Business near the Canoe-Bridge.”

By stating that “does all other Branches of his Business,” Hickey assured potential customers of his skill and competence in working with both silk and woolen fabrics.