What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“PRINTING-OFFICE, AT the Bible-in-Heart.”
In the fall of 1769, William Evitt opened his own printing office, having “just purchased ALL that large and valuable assortment of Printing-Types” and other equipment from the estate of Andrew Steuart. He placed advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the Pennsylvania Journal to inform residents of Philadelphia, the surrounding countryside, and “the neighbouring provinces” that he ran a shop “AT the Bible-in-Heart in Second-street, between Market and Arch-streets.” In addition to “all the necessary utensils fit for carrying on the printing business,” Evitt also acquired both a well-recognized symbol and a location that had been associated with Steuart and his business. Throughout most of the 1760s Steuart operated a printing shop at the Bible-in-Heart on Second Street. The American Antiquarian Society’s catalog includes fifty-nine items with imprints that included some variation of “Printed by Andrew Steuart, at the Bible-in-Heart, in Second-Street” dated between 1760 and 1768.
Evitt, who served an apprenticeship with Steuart, sought to take advantage of his former master’s reputation by associating his new business with one that had been well established in Philadelphia for quite some time. He underscored that the Bible-in-Heart continued to be located “in the house where said office has been kept these some years past.” (Sometime in 1770, however, he moved to Strawberry Alley, according to his imprint.) He also made certain that the Bible-in-Heart remained a visible symbol. In addition to displaying the sign at his shop, he also incorporated the image into the advertisements he inserted in all three newspapers published in Philadelphia. In most instances an advertiser who included a unique visual image in an advertisement incurred additional expense, but Evitt may have had woodcuts of the Bible-in-Heart at his disposal among the “assortment of Printing-Types” and other “necessary utensils” that he acquired from Steuart’s estate. Determining whether Steuart previously used any of the three woodcuts that appeared in Evitt’s advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the Pennsylvania Journal requires additional research. Even if Evitt did not have to commission any of the woodcuts, he still had to pay for the additional space required to include them in his advertisements, apparently an expense that he considered a good investment.
Some advertisers experimented with creating logos in eighteenth-century America, finding it valuable to consistently associate their businesses with particular images. That William Evitt adopted an image previously associated with another printer when he acquired Steuart’s type and equipment suggests that he considered the reputation associated with that logo so powerful that it would work to his advantage to transfer it to his own business. It also suggests that he expected the symbol to resonate with other colonists and attract customers who were previously familiar with Steuart’s work. Evitt experimented with an eighteenth-century version of transferring a trademark from one business to another. He continued to incorporate the Bible-in-Heart into his imprint for at least three years after he opened his own shop.
In his brief biography of Evitt in his monumental History of Printing in America (1810), Isaiah Thomas did not comment on Evitt’s adoption of the Bible-in-Heart as the device to identify his own printing shop. He dismissed Evitt as a journeyman printer, but did note that he “became a soldier in the American army, and died in the service of his country.”