January 26

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

New-York Journal (January 23, 1772).

“The newest and neatest manner, either in the French or English taste.”

When John Burcket, a “Stay and Riding Habit-maker,” arrived in New York, he placed an advertisement in the New-York Journal to offer his services to the “ladies of this city.”  Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, he informed prospective clients where he had previously lived and worked, hoping to bolster his reputation among those who had not yet had an opportunity to examine the garments that he made.

In Burcket’s case, he proclaimed that he “lately arrived from London and Paris,” but did not mention where he had been most recently or how long he spent in either city.  What mattered more to him (and what he hoped mattered more to the ladies that he hoped to entice to his shop) was that his connections to two such cosmopolitan cities gave him greater knowledge of the current tastes and styles in both of them.  Burcket proclaimed that made stays (or corsets) and riding habits “in the newest and neatest manner, either in the French or English taste.”  This signaled that he did more than merely produce the garments; he also served as a guide for his clients, keeping them up to date on the latest trends and giving them advice.

Burcket buttressed such appeals with other promises intended to draw prospective clients into his shop.  He pledged that they “may depend on being punctually served.”  In addition to such customer service, Burcket aimed to achieve “utmost satisfaction” among his clients, hoping that “meriting their esteem” would lead to word-of-mouth recommendations.  He was also conscious of the prices he set, stating that he made and sold stays and riding habits “as cheap as can be imported.”  His clients did not have to pay a premium for consultations with an artisan “lately arrived from London and Paris.”  Even as he incorporated several marketing strategies into his notice, he made his connections to those cities the centerpiece of his introduction to the ladies of New York.

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.

December 17

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (December 17, 1770).

“Beds and window curtains in the newest taste, as practised in London.”

An array of merchants and shopkeepers placed advertisements for imported goods in the December 17, 1770, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  For instance, John Schuyler, Jr., announced that he “just imported in the last vessels from London and Bristol, a neat assortment of goods.”  Many of them asserted that their new inventory reflected current fashions in England.  Artisans who offered their services to colonial consumers made similar appeals in their advertisements.

George Richey, who described himself as an “UPHOLSTERER and TENT-MAKER,” did so.  He informed “ladies and gentlemen that will favour him with their custom” that he “MAKES all sorts of upholstery work in the newest fashions” for beds, chairs, couches, and other furniture.  He also made curtains for both windows and beds, stressing that his wares followed “the newest taste, as practised in London.”

Richey and others who advertised consumer goods and services in the 1760s and 1770s frequently assured prospective customers that they provided products that matched current fashions in London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire.  Such appeals tapered off when nonimportation agreements went into effect, but they were quite common at other times.  Even as colonists sparred with Parliament over increased regulation of commerce, collecting duties on certain imported goods, quartering soldiers in port cities, and other matters, they continued to look to London for the latest fashions.

Newspaper advertisements published throughout the colonies made overtures concerning current trends and tastes in London, but such appeals most often appeared in advertisements placed by merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans in the largest port cities.  Residents of Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia experienced urban life, though on a much smaller scale than their counterparts in London.  Still, advertisers sought to assure potential clients and customers that they could acquire the same goods and, in the process, embody the same sophistication even though they lived on the other side of the Atlantic.  Richey the upholsterer joined a chorus of advertisers who invoked “newest fashions” and “newest taste, as practised in London.”