August 13

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

New-York Journal (August 13, 1772).

“J. BAILEY, Cutler. from Sheffield.”

Several cutlers in New York competed for customers by inserting advertisements with elaborate woodcuts depicting an array of items available at their shops in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury in the summer of 1772.  James Youle, “CUTLER FROM SHEFFIELD,” adapted an image that he and former partner J. Bailey previously ran in that newspaper a year earlier.  Lucas and Shephard, “WHITESMITHS and CUTLERS, From BIRMINGHAM and SHEFFIELD,” ran their own advertisement adorned with an image of many items included among their merchandise.

Bailey apparently determined that his competitors had an advantage, so he commissioned his own woodcut that featured both text, “J. BAILEY, Cutler. from Sheffield,” and an image that included two swords among a variety of cutlery.  The advertisement stated that Bailey was located “At the Sign of the CROSS SWORDS,” indicating that he sought to increase the effectiveness of the image beyond the efforts of his competitors with their woodcuts by closely associating it with the sign that marked his shop in addition to the goods he made and sold.  He also enhanced his advertisement by incorporating another image, that one depicting shears, below a note that he “has now for sale fullers shears.”

Those did not constitute Bailey’s only innovations relative to the advertising campaigns of his competitors.  Those advertisements all ran in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  On August 13, Bailey expanded the number of colonizers who saw his advertisement by inserting it in the New-York Journal.  That advertisement featured the same two woodcuts and the same copy that appeared in the other newspaper, giving Bailey an advantage over his former partner and other competitors who invested in woodcuts for their advertisements.  Some or all of these cutlers may have also advertised in another newspaper, the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy.  Unfortunately, issues of that newspaper from 1771 through 1773 have not been digitized, so I have not been able to consult them as readily as the other two newspapers published in New York City in 1772.  Whether or not any of these cutlers advertised in the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, Bailey was the first to seek customers among the readers of the New-York Journal.  That meant arranging to have his woodcuts transferred from one printing office to another.  The available evidence suggests that Bailey put even more thought into his advertising campaign than his competitors who already made efforts to distinguish their notices from others in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.

July 27

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 27, 1772).

“J. BAILEY. Cutler. from Sheffield.”

In the early 1770s, cutlers in New York competed with each other not only for customers but also in producing elaborate images to accompany their advertisements in the city’s newspapers.  It began in the spring of 1771 with Bailey and Youle, “Cutlers for Sheffield,” running an advertisement with a woodcut depicting more than a dozen items made and sold at their shop, enhancing their list of “surgeons instruments, … knives, razors, shears, and scissors.”  Not long after, Richard Sause followed their lead with an advertisement featuring a woodcut depicting more than a dozen items available at his shop.  Two items, a knife and a sword, had his name on them, suggesting that he marked his wares so consumers would recall who produced them and, if satisfied with the quality and durability, buy from him again.  In that regard, Sause improved on the image distributed by Bailey and Youle, although his competitors may have also marked their cutlery even if the woodcut in the newspaper did not indicate that was the case.

When Bailey and Youle dissolved their partnership a year later, Youle retained the woodcut and modified it to remove any reference to his former associate.  Not long after Youle disseminated that image in the public prints, Lucas and Shephard, WHITESMITHS and CUTLERS, From BIRMINGHAM and SHEFFIELD,” published their own advertisement with a woodcut showcasing many of the items they made and sold.  Bailey apparently considered that strategy effective for attracting customers (or at least not losing them to his competitors) because he devised his own woodcut that enclosed “J. BAILEY.  Cutler.  from Sheffield” and several cutlery items within a decorative border.  The copy of his advertisement gave his location as “the Sign of the Cross Swords, the Corner House opposite the Merchant’s Coffee-House.”  A pair of crossed swords appeared at the center of the woodcut.  A second woodcut appeared at the end of the advertisement, under a nota bene that advised that Bailey “has now for sale fullers shears.”  The cutler used the additional image to distinguish his notice from those of his competitors.  All three advertisements ran in the July 27, 1772, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (Bailey’s on the third page, Youle’s on the first page of the supplement, and Lucas and Shephard’s on the second page of the supplement).  Given the prevalence of images in advertisements placed by his competitors, Bailey may have considered it imperative to get his own woodcut depicting his wares into circulation among consumers in New York.

Left: New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (March 4, 1771); Right: Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 27, 1772).