What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Just received advice from London of the fashions advanced for the court ladies this year.”
Thomas Hartley made stays or corsets for “the LADIES” of New York in the early 1770s. In his efforts to cultivate a clientele, he placed an advertisement in the February 25, 1771, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, advising prospective customers that “he makes STAYS OF ALL SORTS, in the newest and best fashion.” Staymakers as well as tailors, milliners, and others who made garments frequently emphasized that they followed the latest fashions, assuring clients that they did not need to worry about appearing behind the times and out of style after visiting their shops and hiring their services.
Hartley enhanced such appeals with additional commentary in his advertisement, first describing himself as “LATE FROM LONDON” in a portion of his advertisement that served as a headline. Colonists looked to London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire, for the latest fashions. The gentry in New York and other colonies sought to demonstrate their own sophistication by keeping up with styles popular in London. In proclaiming that he was “LATE FROM LONDON,” Hartley established a connection that suggested he had special insight into the current trends in the metropolis. Later in the advertisement, he extended “humble thanks to all ladies that have favoured me with their commands,” calling into question just how recently he had arrived in New York.
The staymaker, however, suggested that something else mattered more. After migrating across the Atlantic, he maintained contact with correspondents who kept him informed about the newest styles. He trumpeted that he had “just received advice from London of the fashions advanced for the court ladies this year.” As a result, Hartley felt confident that he could “give universal satisfaction” to his clients. In making a pitch to “the LADIES” of New York, he claimed to have access to information about the garments the most elite women in London would be wearing in the coming months. Prospective clients in New York could not expect anything more cutting edge than that!
Fashion often played a role in the appeals made by staymakers, tailors, milliners, and others. In some instances, advertisers included generic statements using formulaic words and phrases, a shorthand intended to reassure prospective clients that they understood their trade and provided satisfactory services. Hartley, on the other hand, elaborated on his appeal to “the very newest and best fashion,” seeking to convince customers that he did indeed possess special insights into current trends in the most cosmopolitan city in the empire.