September 6

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

Sep 6 - 9:6:1770 Virginia Gazette Rind
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 6, 1770).
TOUT A LA MODE.”

George Lafong introduced himself to the ladies and gentlemen of Williamsburg as a “French HAIR-DRESSER” in an advertisement in the September 6, 1770, edition of William Rind’s Virginia Gazette.  Apparently, he was new in town and had not yet established a clientele; he announced that he “intends carrying on the said business.”  He also made two familiar marketing appeals, though he put a twist on the second one when he proclaimed that he styled hair “in the cheapest manner, & TOUT A LA MODE.”  The hairdresser concluded by inviting “Gentlemen who may please to honour him with their commands” to come to him for shaving.

Extending only eight lines, it was a brief advertisement, but Lafong managed to pack a lot of meaning into it.  Throughout the colonies, newcomers often noted their origins in their advertisements, especially when they thought this signaled greater prestige for their wares or services.  Artisans often described themselves as “from London,” suggesting that they possessed greater skill and had better training.  Apothecaries and others who provided medical treatments and services also emphasized their connections to London and other places on the other side of the Atlantic, often listing their credentials.  For hairdressers, being from London hinted at the cosmopolitanism associated with the thriving metropolis at the center of the empire, but being a “French HAIR-DRESSER” may have been even better since even the genteel denizens of London looked to France for fashion cues.  Hiring a French hairdresser in colonial Virginia could have been an expensive luxury reserved for the elite, but Lafong declared that his prices were not exorbitant.  His clients could have their hair elegantly styled and adorned “in the cheapest manner.”  Hiring a French hairdresser at all alluded to exclusivity, but the newcomer did not seek to become so exclusive that he priced himself out of the market.  He also put his own spin on familiar marketing appeals that emphasized fashion.  Shopkeepers, tailors, milliners, and others who provided consumer goods and services frequently incorporated fashion into their advertisements.  Lafong did so as well, trumpeting that he styled hair “TOUT A LA MODE” or “all in fashion.”  This appeal simultaneously underscored his identity as a French hairdresser and enhanced the aura of exclusivity for prospective clients who learned French to appear more genteel to their friends and neighbors.

Upon arriving in Virginia, Lafong placed a savvy advertisement intended to cultivate a clientele among the “Ladies and Gentlemen” of Williamsburg.  Incorporating several familiar marketing appeals, he also introduced an innovative means of underscoring his origins as a “French HAIR-DRESSER” by making his appeal to fashion in French rather than English.

December 25

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

Dec 25 - 12:25:1769 Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy (December 25, 1769).

“Many Years experience in the most eminent Shops in London.”

As 1769 drew to a close, the residents of Boston and many other cities and towns throughout the colonies were still embroiled in a dispute with Parliament over the duties imposed on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea by the Townshend Acts. Merchants and shopkeepers continued to participate in nonimportation agreements, refusing to order merchandise of all sorts as a means of using economic pressure to achieve political goals. Especially in Boston, newspapers provided updates about traders who either declined to sign or subsequently violated the boycotts. Discourse about the virtues and vices inherent in making or abstaining from certain purchases became a regular feature in the public prints, in advertisements as well as in editorials.

Yet colonists in Boston and other places did not abstain from all things associated with Britain even as they rejected imported goods. They still looked across the Atlantic, especially to London, for cues about fashion. Colonists continued to imbibe British culture and tastes even as they eschewed British goods. Timothy Kelly, “Hair Cutter and Peruke-Maker from LONDON,” depended on that continued allegiance to British styles in his advertisement that ran in the December 25, 1769, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy. This wigmaker leveraged his previous experience serving clients in the most cosmopolitan city in the empire, underscoring to the “GENTLEMEN and LADIES” that he “had the advantage of many Years experience in the most eminent Shops in London.” That alone gave his perukes and other hairpieces cachet not associated with wigs made or styled by competitors whose training and entire careers had been confined to the colonies. Kelly claimed he possessed knowledge of the current styles in London, vowing that he made “any kind Perukes now in fashion” and did so “as genteel as can be had from thence.” Why should colonists import wigs from afar when they could consult with an “eminent” stylist in Boston? After all, this stylist was so eminent that he deployed solely his last name as the headline of his advertisement, expecting that to sufficiently identify him when prospective clients perused the newspaper. Kelly did far more than merely promise that he “dresses Hair in any form in the neatest manner” in his advertisement. He accentuated his connections to London and the fashions there, anticipating that doing so would resonate with residents of Boston even as they continued to boycott goods imported from England. British fashions could still be replicated in the colonies, and Kelly offered his services.

November 24

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

Nov 24 - 11:24:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (November 24, 1769).

“HAIR ROLLS for LADIES.”

A very short advertisement in the November 24, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette informed readers of “HAIR ROLLS for LADIES, Made by Williams and Stanwood in Portsmouth.” Although brief, this advertisement demonstrated the reach of fashion beyond the major port cities to smaller towns in the colonies on the eve of the American Revolution. In “Fashion and the Culture Wars of Revolutionary Philadelphia,” Kate Haulman documents clothing and hairstyles favored by the elite in the largest urban port, but such styles were not confined solely to places like Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia. Williams and Stanwood made “HAIR ROLLS for LADIES” available to the better sorts (and anyone else willing to pay their fees) in Portsmouth and its hinterlands.

Haulman offers a description of styles adopted by ladies in Philadelphia. “At tea tables, assemblies, and even in city streets, ladies’ hoops grew wider, and heads appeared larger with high rolls. Fashionable hairstyles for women began to grow in the late 1760s, and with them rose the ire of social critics.”[1] The high roll became popular at the same time that many colonists participated in nonimportation agreements as a means of resisting the duties that Parliament imposed on imported paper, glass, tea, and other good in the Townshend Acts. Women who chose high rolls to express themselves emulated fashions “that English ladies all too eagerly copied from their French counterparts.”[2] For many, the high roll became a symbol of luxury that contradicted the spirit of sacrifice that patriots practiced when they abided by nonimportation agreements. Furthermore, the high roll testified to continued cultural dependence on and deference to England. As Haulman notes, residents of Philadelphia “asserted the city’s, and their own, stylish, cosmopolitan character through fashion even as the imperial ties that engendered those cultural forms began to unravel.”[3]

Such inconsistencies did not occur only in Philadelphia, though they may have been most visible in large port cities. Hairdressers, wigmakers, and others did not limit their efforts to market high rolls and other fashionable styles to the gentry in urban centers. Instead, colonists in Portsmouth as well as nearby towns and villages had access to “HAIR ROLLS for LADIES, Made by Williams and Stanwood.” Opportunities to purchase (or not) such items as well as other garments and goods allowed them to express their own personal style and political principles while grappling with any incongruities between the two.

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[1] Kate Haulman, “Fashion and the Culture Wars of Revolutionary Philadelphia,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 62, no. 4 (October 2005): 638.

[2] Haulman, “Fashion and the Culture Wars,” 638.

[3] Haulman, “Fashion and the Culture Wars,” 640.

August 29

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

Aug 29 - 8:29:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (August 29, 1769).

“He proposes to carry on Wig-making and Hair-Dressing.”

Fashion helped to fuel the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century. Consumers devoted great attention to changing styles and purchased garments, accessories, and accouterments to match trends as they changed. Colonists in the largest port cities looked to London for guidance, while colonists in smaller towns looked to both London and urban ports like Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia. Fixations on fashion were not confined to the better sort in urban centers. Middling folk and others in towns from New England to Georgia also participated in the rituals and display that made the consumer revolution a very visible aspect of life in the colonies.

Like others who earned their livelihoods by providing goods and services to consumers, Alexander Cambell realized that markets extended into the countryside. In late August 1769, he inserted an advertisement in the Essex Gazette to announce that he had just opened a shop in Marblehead where he “carr[ied] on Wig-making and Hair-Dressing” for the ladies and gentlemen of that town. Cambell did not elaborate extensively on the services he provided, but he did promise that prospective clients “may depend upon the best Attendance” when they employed him.

Cambell’s wigs were embedded in networks of exchange. Colonists glimpsed those extensive webs of commerce that played such a significant role in the consumer revolution when they read the Essex Gazette and saw Cambell’s advertisement nestled in the middle of a column that began with the shipping news from the customs house for the port of Salem and Marblehead and ended with the shipping news from the customs house in Boston. Cambell’s work as wigmaker and hairdresser did not occur in isolation in Marblehead; instead, his shop was a local manifestation of a consumer revolution that was taking place throughout the British Atlantic world and beyond. The vessels listed in the shipping news carried finished goods or the materials for producing them, but they also carried news and information, including updates about changing fashions. Widespread circulation of these updates cultivated interest in changing trends and other aspects of the consumer revolution in even the smallest towns. As part of that process, Cambell identified a potential market for making and selling wigs and dressing hair in Marblehead; he published an advertisement to offer his services and to incite even greater demand in the summer of 1769.

August 4

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

Aug 4 - 8:4:1769 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (August 4, 1769).

“Good Work … equal to any in Boston.”

The consumer revolution of the eighteenth century extended far beyond major metropolitan centers like London and into the provinces, both the English provinces and the colonies on the other side of the Atlantic. For colonists, participating in consumer culture became part of their identity and a marker of their membership in the vast British Empire. For many, acquiring goods also testified to their status. This sometimes prompted both anxiety and competition among consumers … and advertisers cultivated both for their own purposes. Some deployed an eighteenth-century version of “keeping up with the Joneses” to stimulate demand in their goods and services.

Consider the advertisement John Smith and Company placed in the August 4, 1769, edition of the New-London Gazette. Smith and Company introduced themselves as “Peruke-Makers and Hair-Dressers for Gentlemen and Ladies,” but before they specified their occupation they first proclaimed that they were “From BOSTON.” This inverted the usual order of information that commonly appeared in eighteenth-century advertisements. Most advertisers listed their occupation first and their place of origin or site of significant employment second, but Smith and Company made certain that their affiliation with Boston, the largest and most cosmopolitan city in New England, foregrounded everything else in their advertisement.

Smith and Company had recently opened a new shop at Norwich Landing, a much smaller town than the busy port of Boston. Despite the relatively bucolic setting, Smith and Company’s prospective clients could depend on “having good Work … equal to any in Boston.” This “good Work” presumably applied not only to the quality of the goods and services available from Smith and Company but also to the assistance they provided clients in demonstrating taste through adopting the latest styles, an important aspect of making wigs and dressing hair. Smith and Company encouraged readers of the New-London Gazette to consider current fashions and the services provided by wigmakers and hairdressers in Boston even though they lived at a distance from that busy port, much the same way that their counterparts in Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia urged their prospective customers to look to London or Paris and promised to deliver the current styles from those places. No matter where consumers resided, according to advertisements in colonial newspapers, purveyors of goods and services could help them achieve the fashions currently en vogue in places they considered one rung up the cosmopolitan ladder.

June 14

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

Jun 14 - 6:14:1769 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (June 14, 1769).

“Gentlemen and others … may depend on the greatest punctuality.”

As spring turned to summer in 1769, Robert Gray launched a new business in Savannah. The wigmaker and hairdresser marked the occasion by placing an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette to inform the public that “he intends carrying on his business in this town.” Prospective clients could find him on Broughton Street, “Next door to Mr. Johnston’s.” He was conveniently located next door to the printing office operated by James Johnston, the printer of the Georgia Gazette. Yet Gray did not expect clients to visit his shop; instead, he offered to serve them “either at their lodgings or his shop,” catering to their convenience.

Gray used his advertisement to inform “the publick” of his new enterprise, but he also addressed “Gentlemen and others” when he pledged his “greatest punctuality” in serving his clients. This was a curious phrase, one that also appeared elsewhere on the same page in an advertisement placed by John Beaty, a tailor from London. Beaty proclaimed, “All gentlemen and others who may favour him with their commands shall be waited upon, and have their orders strictly obeyed.” Gray and Beaty attempted to peddle in exclusivity, but they also wanted to have it both ways. They encouraged prospective clients to think of themselves as genteel “gentlemen,” yet they did not want to position themselves as serving only the most elite residents of Savannah. In a small port with relatively few potential patrons compared to larger cities that may have been a practical strategy. The hairdresser and the tailor might have built their businesses around greater exclusivity in Charleston, New York, or Philadelphia, but they had to operate according to the realities of the market in Savannah. Gray and Beaty also implied that they recognized the distinctions between “gentlemen and others,” though neither would have given voice to clients that they considered them in one category or the other. As the consumer revolution gave colonists of various backgrounds greater access to goods and services previously reserved for the upper ranks, hairdressers, tailors, and others carefully presented their services to both the genteel and aspirants to gentility. The “others” might, over time, improve their social standing and become “gentlemen” if they used the services of hairdressers and tailors to their best advantage.

May 6

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

May 6 - 5:6:1769 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (May 6, 1769).

“Will engage to make Wigs as can be had there.”

When Benjamin Gladding, a “PERUKE MAKER and HAIR-DRESSER,” advertised in the May 6, 1769, edition of the Providence Gazette, he made multiple appeals to prospective clients. He emphasized both his knowledge of the latest styles and the amenities available at his shop, but he also made a more common appeal to price.

Gladding addressed the public, but he made certain to acknowledge “those Gentlemen who have hitherto honoured him with their Favours.” Doing so made it clear to other prospective customers that Gladding already had an established clientele who placed their confidence in his attention to their hair and wigs. Gladding offered a service that should not be entrusted to some mere novice. To that end, he proclaimed that he “continues to execute the different Branches of his Profession in the most elegant and genteel Manner, and after the newest Fashion.” Experience, skill, and knowledge all played a role as Gladding positioned himself as the wigmaker and hairdresser of choice in Providence. He gained experience and developed skills over time, but maintain knowledge of “the newest Fashion” required constant and immediate attention. Gladding could not rely on what he had learned in years past because his clients certainly would not be satisfied with outdated styles.

Serving them “in the most elegant and genteel Manner” also depended on the setting. In this case, Gladding stressed that he had moved “to the commodious Shop” until recently occupied by his brother. He provided comfortable and spacious accommodation for his patrons. Having sufficient space was even more important because Gladding had a new employee. He reported that he had “procured a Hand from Boston” who assisted in serving his clients. Together, they made wigs “as cheap as can be had” in Boston or elsewhere. Striking a fashionable appearance did not need to be prohibitively expensive, not even in places beyond the largest port cities. Gladding may not have had as much local competition as his counterparts in Boston, but that did not mean that he raised the rates.

To attract existing and new clients to his shop, Gladding resorted to a variety of appeals in his short advertisement. In addition to highlighting his own skill and experience as a wigmaker and hairdresser, he balanced fashion and price as a means of making his services simultaneously exclusive and attainable.

February 28

GUEST CURATOR: Chloe Amour

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

Essex Gazette (February 28, 1769).

“LADIES Hair is dressed in different Manners.”

On February 28, 1769, Samuel Archer advertised his services as a hairdresser for both men and women in the Essex Gazette.

For the men, Archer offered wigs according to the “newest Fashions from London,” especially attractive for “Gentlemen” heavily influenced by their British counterparts. For the “Ladies,” he provided “French Curls,” “Towers and false Curls,” and “Rolls.” For both men and women, fashion played a role in helping to determine status and identity to distinguish among social groups. In “Fashion and the Culture Wars of Revolutionary Philadelphia,” Kate Haulman explains that fashion was “dictated for some colonists by Europe” and “indicated commercial and cultural inclusion in a far wide, cosmopolitan Atlantic world. It suggested connection and distinction, proving essential to expressions of rank and power dependent on performing one’s place in the British Empire.”[1] The British identity important to American colonists was reflected in the sorts of fashion, goods, and styles that were part of their lifestyles, including the hairstyles created at Samuel Archer’s shop.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Samuel Archer proclaimed that the ladies of Salem could visit his shop to have their hair “dressed in different Manners.” He listed a few of the most popular styles, but, like many shopkeepers who listed their wares in their advertisements, he insisted that he had not exhausted the possibilities. There were so many “other Forms” that it was “too tedious to mention” them all. Prospective clients could depend on Archer dressing their hair in practically any manner they desired.

Among the styles that he did include, the hairdresser decided to conclude with “Rolls for Ladies,” perhaps hoping to create a lasting impression by ending with one of the most popular styles adopted by women who wished to assert their status. Kate Haulman relates a description of a high roll taken from the diary of Anna Green Winslow of Boston: “red Cow Tail … horsehair … & a little human hair … all carded together and twisted up.” The roll was often decorated with pearls and flowers. A side curl brought down over one shoulder completed the look, which could take hours to create. As Haulman explains, “The amount of time involved in achieving the elaborate look meant that wearing a high roll signified high social status in two ways: by replicating a style worn at court and the beau monde in England and by requiring plenty of spare time to have it constructed.”[2]

The amount of time that hairdressers spent with their clients, particularly clients of the opposite sex, caused some concern, not unlike the uneasiness sometimes directed at dancing masters. “Anxieties over relationships between men and women of different ranks, the potentially illicit exchanges that were occurring, and the social dependency of women with means on men without informed attacks on hairdressers and their clients,” according to Haulman.[3] Although not genteel themselves, hairdressers assisted their clients in crafting appearances that testified to their gentility, thus inverting the usual positions of authority by conferring power on those who earned their livelihood by providing a service rather than those who purchased the service. As Chloe indicates in her analysis of Archer’s advertisement, hairdressers marketed status. Their efforts to do so, however, were fraught with other challenges.

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[1] Kate Haulman, “Fashion and the Culture Wars of Revolutionary Philadelphia,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 62, no. 4 (October 2005): 627.
[2] Haulman, 639.
[3] Haulman, 639.

December 21

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

Georgia Gazette (December 21, 1768).

“The gentlemen of this town would be so kind as to come to his shop to be dressed.”

In December 1768, John Roques, a wigmaker and hairdresser in Savannah, informed current and prospective clients that he wished to scale back one of the services he provided. Rather than visit “the gentlemen of this town” at their homes, he requested that they instead “come to his shop to be dressed.” Roques did not apologize or express apprehension about eliminating a service that clients previously found valuable. Instead, he offered an explanation that portrayed his business as thriving and justified his decision.

Roques asserted that he could no longer visit the homes of his clients due to “the great fatigue he was obliged to undergo every day.” The hairdresser was so popular, his services so in demand, that he was being run ragged all over town. He insisted that keeping such a routine had been “very pernicious to his health,” but that was not his primary reason for changing his terms of service. Being away from his shop meant that he “could not give satisfaction” to all of his clients; he did not mean that he provided shoddy assistance but rather that he had to decline to wait on some clients because they sent for him “three or four at once,” making it impossible for him to attend all of them in their homes. Instructing clients to visit his shop allowed Roques to focus his time and energy on dressing hair rather than traveling from home to home around Savannah.

His story of woe, whether or not exaggerated for effect, was also a story of success, one that implicitly testified to his skill. Clients would not have been sending for him “three or four at once” if he had not competently aided them. He did not make appeals to gentility or fashion, as many other wigmakers and hairdressers did in their advertisements. That so many clients simultaneously demanded his services suggested that he more than adequately fulfilled those requirements. In effect, Roques created a narrative about his services that served as an eighteenth-century equivalent of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Prospective clients should hire him because so many of their peers already did.

August 15

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

Aug 15 - 8:15:1768 New-York Gazette Weekly Mercury
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (August 15, 1768).

“I am Master of the new Mode, lately invented in London, of making Wigs.”

In the advertisements they placed in American newspapers in late colonial period, entrepreneurs in occupations tied to fashion often underscored their connections to London, the cosmopolitan center of the Britain’s empire. Tailors, milliners, and others who made apparel often proclaimed that they were “from London.” Hairdressers and wigmakers advanced similar appeals. Even shopkeepers did so when they thought that it might help them to sell imported garments, textiles, and assorted adornments.

John Lewis, a native of New York, could not claim to be “from London,” but his origins mattered less than the time he had spent in that city. The “HAIR-DRESSER, and PERUKE-MAKER” opened his advertisement in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury by informing prospective clients that “after considerable Residence in London” he had returned to New York and set up shop. During the time that he had resided in London Lewis had worked with “the most eminent Masters in the above mentioned Branches of Business” and, as a result, had “acquired Abilities equal to any of my Brethren, in the Professions of Hair-Dressing and Wig-Making.” This made him particularly qualified to serve customers in New York and its environs.

Lewis highlighted his familiarity with current fashions and the most advanced methods of his trade, both acquired during his time in London. To that end, his advertisement served as a primer to newspaper readers about some of styles currently popular on the other side of the Atlantic. “I am Master of the new Mode, lately invented in London,” he proclaimed, “of making Wigs that shall not need dressing for six Months, preserving their Shape and first Appearance during that Time.” For those who were unaware, he firther explained that “This fashion is much esteem’d at present in England [for] its Usefulness and Convenience.” Since such wigs were new to the American marketplace, Lewis proposed another means of helping prospective clients become more familiar with them. In addition to describing the wigs in advertisements, he made several “Specimens” or samples that “Gentlemen” could examine before engaging his services.

Lewis leveraged his connections to London in his advertisement. He not only claimed familiarity with the current styles but also asserted that he was in a position to educate potential customers about new tastes and methods that they had not yet encountered in the colonies. He provided extensive detail in hopes that these factors would distinguish him from local competitors who either had never traveled to London or had not done so recently.