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.