October 28

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

New-York Journal (October 28, 1773).

“Gentlemen’s caps, and gloves, lined with fur, very useful for travelling, and sleighing.”

During the final week of October 1773, John Siemon, a furrier, inserted advertisements in three newspapers published in New York, placing his notices before the eyes of as many readers in and near the city as possible.  He hawked a “General and complete assortment, of new fashion’d muffs & tippets, ermine, cloak linings, … gentlemen’s caps, and gloves, lined with fur,” and other items.  In addition, he “trims Ladies robes and riding dresses” and “faces and lapels Gentlemen’s waistcoats.”  As an ancillary service, Siemon provided directions “to rub the furs in summer” to keep them in good condition when not being worn.

Although Siemon submitted nearly identical copy to the three printing offices, his advertisements had very different formats when they appeared in the newspapers.  Arguably the one that best represented Siemon’s brand, the notice in the New-York Journal featured a woodcut depicting a muff, an image that regularly accompanied the furrier’s advertisements.  Siemon apparently considered it worth the investment to commission a single woodcut for the exclusive use of his business, but did not realize the potential of purchasing multiple woodcuts with the same image in order to achieve visual consistency and product recognition across several publications.

Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer (October 28, 1773).

Siemon’s advertisement in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer had a different kind of visual appeal.  The furrier joined the ranks of advertisers who enclosed their notices within borders comprised of decorative type, including Crommelin and Horsfield, bakers, John J. Roosevelt, a merchant, Richard Sause, a cutler.  James Rivington and the compositors in his printing office made such borders a regular part of advertisements for consumer goods and services.  Those borders helped to draw attention to certain advertisements while also giving the pages of Rivington’s newspaper a distinctive look.  In contrast, no images or decorative type adorned Siemon’s advertisement in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  It consisted solely of text with the typography determined by the compositor to match other advertisements in that publication.

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (October 25, 1773).

In most instances, advertisers submitted copy to printing offices and then compositors determined the format of the advertisements.  Siemon’s advertisements suggest that was indeed the case when advertising in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, yet he offered specific directions, in the form of the familiar woodcut, for his advertisement in the New-York Journal.  His advertisement in Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer demonstrates the greatest level of collaboration between advertiser and compositor.  Siemon either requested or agreed to include a distinctive visual element associated with notices in that newspaper.  The furrier took graphic design into account to varying degrees in his efforts to disseminate his advertisements in multiple newspapers.

December 9

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

Pennsylvania Journal (December 9, 1772).


When furriers John Fromberger and John Siemon formed their partnership, they placed advertisements in newspapers published in Philadelphia.  A woodcut depicting a miff and tippet adorned the notice they placed in the Pennsylvania Journal in September 1771.  Several weeks later, they transferred the woodcut to the printing office of the Pennsylvania Chronicle so it could appear in advertisements they ran in that newspaper.  In December, the furriers once again made arrangements for the image to accompany their advertisements in the Pennsylvania Journal.  Within in a few weeks, it appeared in yet another newspaper, the New-York Journal.  Siemon visited the city, advised prospective customers that “he intends to stay a month only,” and took the woodcut with him to help draw attention to his advertisements.  Given his short stay, Siemon did not manage to transfer the woodcut from one printing office to another.  His advertisements in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury did not feature any image.

Siemon returned to New York in November 1772.  In a new advertisement in the New-York Journal, he informed readers that “he intends settling here” and requested “a further continuance of those Ladies and Gentlemen who were pleased to favour him with their custom last winter.”  That advertisement did not mention any connection to Fromberger; apparently the furriers dissolved their partnership.  The advertisement did include a familiar image, at least a portion of one.  Siemon included the muff, but not the tippet formerly arranged above it.  Perhaps he modified the woodcut to acknowledge his new enterprise.  Perhaps the portion depicting the tippet had been damaged so he had that part removed and salvaged the rest.  Perhaps he had the tippet removed because it occupied so much space.  A smaller woodcut cost less to include in his advertisements.  Whatever the explanation, Siemon had a familiar, but updated, image for customers to associate with his business.

Fromberger apparently thought that was a good idea.  A month after John Siemon and Company advertised in the New-York Journal, John Fromberger and Company placed a notice with an image in the Pennsylvania Journal.  Since Siemon retained the original woodcut, Fromberger commissioned a new woodcut.  He exercised some consistency in selecting what appeared in the image, a muff and a tippet.  This time, however, the muff and the tippet appeared side by side rather than one above the other.  Both items had the same patterns as the muff and the tippet in the original woodcut. Fromberger likely believed that consumers in Philadelphia associated a similar image with the business he operated.  A similar image repeatedly accompanied his previous notices, making a new one that depicted both a muff and a tippet familiar and appropriate for marketing his new enterprise.

November 16

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (November 16, 1772).


When furrier John Siemon returned to New York in the fall of 1772 after having spent several months in Philadelphia, he announced his intention to remain in the busy port with advertisements in at least two of the newspapers published in the city, the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Journal.  (Unfortunately, the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy has not been digitized, making it more difficult to consult.)  Siemon inserted identical copy in the two newspapers, first in the New-York Journal on November 12 and then in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury on November 16, though the compositors in the printing offices made different decisions about the format of the advertisements.

Despite differences in typography, an image of a muff remained consistent between the notices in the two newspapers.  Upon examining digitized editions, it appears that the printing offices used the same woodcut, which suggests that Siemon invested some effort in having that woodcut transferred from one printing office to another.  He may have retrieved it himself or he may have made arrangements with the printers to exchange the woodcut.  Either way, that resulted in some inconvenience in the printing offices, especially since Siemon’s advertisement did not run just once.  A notation at the end of his advertisement in the New-York Journal, “58 61,” indicated that he initially intended for the notice to run for four issues from “NUMB. 1558” to “NUMB. 1561.”  According to the colophon, that was a standard run: “Five Shillings, four Weeks.”  The advertisement actually ended up running through “NUMB. 1566” on January 7, 1773, for a total of nine consecutive weeks.

In contrast, Siemon’s advertisement ran in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury for only four weeks.  After the first insertion, the image no longer adorned the notice, further evidence that the furrier commissioned only one woodcut rather than one for each printing office.  After moving the woodcut from one printing office to another and back again when he first began advertising in the middle of November, Siemon may have decided that he did not have the time to oversee its transfer between the two printing offices twice a week.  Alternately, the printers may have made the decision for the furrier, determining that adding and removing the woodcut from type already set each time they took an issue to press was too disruptive.  Either way, Siemon likely had to settle for the image appearing in his advertisements the first time they ran in each newspaper, drawing attention to his return to New York, and then continuing in only one of those publications.

November 12

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

New-York Journal (November 12, 1772).

“SABLE Muffs and Tippets.”

When John Siemon, a furrier from London, first arrived in New York in December 1771, he took to the pages of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Journal to alert prospective customers that he “he intends to stay a month only in this city,” encouraging them to acquire “the newest fashion’d MUFFS, TIPPETS, ERMINE and lining for CLOAKS … now worn by the LADIES at the Court of Great-Britain” before he departed.  Siemon advised that any milliners and shopkeepers “who intend to purchase after his departure” could direct their orders to “FROMBERGER and SIEMON, in Second Street, Philadelphia.”  Rather than arriving in New York directly from London, the furrier had first visited the Quaker City, established a partnership, and set up shop there.

Siemon returned to New York in November 1772.  In an advertisement in the New-York Journal, he once again described himself as “from London,” but this time added “but last from Philadelphia.”  He reminded readers that he “resided in this city last winter,” but this time he “intends settling here.”  He brought with him “to this Metropolis” a “General Assortment of FURS.”  Siemon hoped to resume relationships with his clients “who were pleased to favour him with their custom last winter,” pledging that new and returning clients “may depend on” him producing muffs, tippets, and other items “agreeable to fashion and beauty, on reasonable terms.”  He did not mention an ongoing partnership with Fromberger; instead, the headline promoted “JOHN SIEMON, and Co.”

Some readers may have remembered Siemon, his furs, and his advertisements.  They may have also remembered that an image adorned some of his advertisements.  When Siemon ventured to New York, he took with him a woodcut depicting a muff and tippet that previously appeared in advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal.  Siemon’s new advertisement included an image of the muff, but the woodcut appears to have been modified to remove the tippet.  Eliminating the long scarf significantly reduced the size of the woodcut.  Since advertisers paid by the amount of space their notices occupied rather than the number of words, that reduced how much Siemon spent to publish his new advertisement.  Reducing costs, however, may not have been the reason for reworking the image.  Upon dissolving his partnership with Fromberger, he may have considered the updated image an appropriate representation of his new enterprise.  On the other hand, Siemon may not have put that much thought into the image if the woodcut simply broke and he could salvage only the portion depicting the muff.

Whatever the explanation, the woodcut experienced greater mobility than others created for advertisers, transported back and forth between two cities and delivered to three different printing offices.  Including the image in his advertisements required some effort by Siemon, suggesting that he considered it effective in attracting clients.

December 22

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

New-York Journal (December 19, 1771).


In the fall of 1771, furriers Fromberger and Siemon placed a series of advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal.  On several occasions, an image of a muff and tippet adorned their notices, helping to draw attention to the various appeals they made concerning fashion, quality, and price.  The partners even offered ancillary services to entice prospective customers, including caring for furs “gratis for the summer season.”

The furriers apparently considered the image of the muff and tippet so effective in promoting their enterprise that when Siemon traveled to New York to conduct business there he took the woodcut with him in order to enhance advertisements he placed in newspapers published in that busy port.  He placed a notice in the December 19, 1771, edition of the New-York Journal that included both the image and copy, effectively doubling the cost.  According to the newspaper’s colophon, John Holt charged five shillings to insert “Advertisements of no more Length than Breadth” for four weeks and “larger Advertisements in the same Proportion.”  The woodcut doubled the length of Siemon’s advertisement, but very well may have been worth the additional expense if it aided in cultivating a clientele previously unfamiliar with the furrier.

Familiar appeals accompanied the visual image.  Siemon informed “the LADIES and others” that he brought with him “a general assortment of the newest fashion’d MUFFS, TIPPETS, ERMINE and lining for CLOAKS … now worn by the LADIES at the Court of Great-Britain,” echoing appeals to fashion, taste, and gentility advanced in advertisements that ran in newspapers in Philadelphia.  He also encouraged prospective customers to make their purchases soon because he would be in New York for a limited time.  Siemon had plans to return to Philadelphia, so would stay “a month only in this city.”  Milliners and shopkeepers who missed that window of opportunity, however, could direct orders to Fromberger and Siemon in Philadelphia.

Although printers provided stock images of ships, houses, horses, indentured servants, and enslaved men and women, woodcuts with images that represented specific businesses belonged to the advertisers to transfer from newspaper to newspaper as they saw fit.  Some advertisers did indeed deploy the same woodcut in multiple newspapers printed in a city, but it was much more unusual for advertisers to transport an image to newspapers published in other cities. Fromberger and Siemon did so, their advertisement running in the Pennsylvania Journal without an image on the same day that Siemon’s advertisement first appeared in the New-York Journal with an image.  Having gained some visibility in Philadelphia over the course of several months, the furriers likely aimed to achieve maximum effectiveness through using the woodcut to call attention to their advertisements in another city when one of the partners visited and temporarily conducted business there.

December 12

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

Pennsylvania Journal (December 12, 1771).

“Newest fashionable muffs, tippets and ermine.”

In the fall of 1771, furrier Fromberger and Siemon placed newspaper advertisement in their efforts to entice customers to visit their new shop on Market Street in Philadelphia.  They adopted several strategies that may have served them well, though their effectiveness may have been mitigated by an uneven rollout of the furriers’ advertising campaign.

Fromberger and Siemon commenced advertising in the Pennsylvania Journal in late September.  They incorporated a variety of appeals into their notice.  They informed customers that they catered to the latest tastes, stating that they carried “the newest fashionable muffs, tippets, and ermine, now worn by the ladies at the courts of Great Britain and France.”  They also called on consumers “to encourage their American manufacture” rather than purchase imported items.  In addition, the furriers sought to establish ongoing relationships with their customers by providing ancillary services.  Their customers could send their furs to Fromberger and Siemon to have them “taken care of gratis for the summer season.”  To draw attention to these various marketing strategies, the furriers adorned their advertisements with a woodcut depicting a muff and tippet.

That advertisement did not last long in the Pennsylvania Journal before it appeared in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Fromberger and Siemon commissioned only one woodcut, so they arranged to have it transferred from one printing office to another.  Once again, their advertisement quickly lapsed.  They revived it in the Pennsylvania Journal on December 5, though without the woodcut.  The following week, it ran once again, this time with the image of the muff and tippet.  The woodcut made its way back to William Bradford and Thomas Bradford’s printing office.  On December 19, however, Fromberger and Siemon’s advertisement appeared once more without the image that made it so distinctive.  Why, after investing in the woodcut, did the furriers deploy it so haphazardly?  Was it a tradeoff against the expense of purchasing the additional space?  Did the printers play any role in deciding that they needed the space for other content?  What other factors played a role in how Fromberger and Siemon executed their advertising campaign?

October 21

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 21, 1771).

“The newest fashionable muffs [and] tippets.”

A woodcut depicting a muff and tippet adorned the advertisements that the partnership of Fromberger and Siemon placed in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal in the fall of 1771.  The advertisers did not rely on the image alone to market their “large assortment of Russia and Siberia fur skins” and garments made from those furs, but it almost certainly helped draw attention to their advertisements.  That woodcut also represented an additional expense.  Unlike the type used to print the copy in their notices, the woodcut belonged to the advertisers rather than the printers.  That being the case, Fromberger and Siemon collected their woodcut from one printing office and delivered it to another when they expanded their advertising campaign.

The furriers first inserted an advertisement in the September 26 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  It ran again the following week.  Nearly three weeks elapsed before the same advertisement appeared in the October 21 edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  It featured identical copy, though the compositor made different decisions about line breaks, as well as the familiar woodcut that occupied nearly half the space allotted to the advertisement.  Careful examination of the image reveals that it was indeed the same woodcut, not a similar image.  Fromberger and Siemon commissioned only one woodcut, but they aimed to garner a greater return on their investment by disseminating it in more than one newspaper. For many readers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the image would have been new and novel when they encountered it.  Those who also happened to peruse the Pennsylvania Journal, however, would have recognized the woodcut.  The repetition of the image likely helped Fromberger and Siemon achieve greater visibility for their enterprise.  Had they published it more regularly, they might have encouraged readers to consider the image a trademark of sorts, but their notices appeared too sporadically.  Although Fromberger and Siemon did not seize the opportunity to further enhance their marketing efforts through consistent repetition of the image of the muff and tippet in the fall of 1771, they did devise advertisements that stood out from others because of the woodcut that accompanied them.