What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“MANTU-MAKER, FROM BOSTON.”
Over the past few days the Adverts 250 Project has examined the manner in which purveyors of goods and services in the colonies incorporated their origins into their advertisements as part of their marketing campaigns. We began with James Yeoman, a clock- and watchmaker “FROM LONDON,” who sought to convince readers of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury that his skills eclipsed those of competitors who had not trained or worked in the largest city in the empire. Next we looked at George Lafong, a “French HAIR-DRESSER,” who informed the ladies and gentlemen of Williamsburg, Virginia, that he styled hair “in the cheapest manner, & TOUT A LA MODE” (all in fashion). Injecting a few words of French into his advertisement in William Rind’s Virginia Gazette underscored the gentility and cachet associated with hiring a hairdresser from France.
Today we consider the advertisement that Lucy Fessenden inserted into the September 7, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. She introduced herself as a mantuamaker “FROM BOSTON,” asserting that she pursued her craft “in the newest and most genteel Mode.” While Yeoman and Lafong’s advertisements testified to migration across the Atlantic, Fessenden’s notice indicated migration within the colonies. In both instances, advertisers sought to use their origins to their advantage. Artisans as well as tailors, milliners, and others in the garments trade, including mantuamakers like Fessenden, frequently noted that they formerly lived and worked in some of the largest port cities when they relocated to smaller towns and advertised their services. Perceptions of skill and associations with gentility seemed to operate on a sliding scale. Residents of Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia looked to London and other places on the far side of the Atlantic as models. Residents of smaller towns did as well, but they also recognized the major ports in the colonies as locations that merited notice. Unable to make a direct connection to London, Fessenden instead leveraged her time in Boston to suggest her familiarity with “the newest and most genteel Mode” and her ability to deliver on it “with Fidelity and Dispatch.”