November 16

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

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

“SABLE MUFFS and TIPPETS.”

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 25

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (December 23, 1771).

“He intends to stay a month only in this city.”

John Siemon, a furrier, planned to remain in New York for a short time, “a month only,” so he quickly set about introducing himself to prospective clients by placing advertisements in local newspapers.  He commenced with an advertisement in the New-York Journal on December 19, followed by another advertisement in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury on December 23.  In the latter advertisement, he informed the public that he had “Lately arrived from LONDON” and visited New York via Philadelphia.  He brought with him “a general assortment of the newest fashion’d MUFFS, TIPPETS, ERMINES and lining for CLOAKS … now worn by the LADIES at the Court of Great-Britain.”  He also instructed milliners and shopkeepers to contact Fromberger and Siemon on Second Street in Philadelphia if they wished to place any orders following his departure.

Word for word, Siemon’s advertisement in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury replicated the one he placed in the New-York Journal.  One important difference, however, distinguished one notice from the other.  An image of a muff and tippet adorned the advertisement in the New-York Journal, doubling the amount of space it occupied (and its cost).  The same image previously appeared in Fromberger and Siemon’s advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal, transferred from one printing office to another.  Siemon collected the woodcut and took it with him to New York to incorporate into his advertising campaign there, but since he had only one woodcut the image could appear in only one newspaper at a time.  He apparently chose to include it in the advertisement in the first newspaper going to press after his arrival in the city, intending to maximize the number of readers who encountered the image and took note of his advertisement as quickly as possible.  After all, if he planned “to stay a month only in this city” then he needed to make prospective customers aware of his presence as quickly as possible.  Advertising in multiple newspapers helped, but Siemon also strategically selected which newspaper would carry the image that identified his business.

December 22

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

New-York Journal (December 19, 1771).

“MUFFS, TIPPETS, ERMINE and lining for CLOAKS.”

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.