May 14

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

May 14 - 5:14:1770 New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (May 14, 1770).

“She has had the honour of being employed by several ladies in this city.”

Mary Morcomb did not indicate how recently she had arrived in New York in her advertisement, but it was recently enough that she described herself as a “Mantua-Maker, from London.”  After migrating to the colonies, she hoped to establish a new clientele.  To that end, she informed readers of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury that she made “all sorts of negligees, Brunswick dresses, gowns, and every other sort of lady’s apparel.”  In addition, she extended her skills working with textiles to “cover[ing] UMBRELLOES in the neatest and most fashionable manner.”  Invoking her London origins testified to her access to the latest styles and taste, reassuring prospective customers that she did indeed produce both garments and umbrellas, a new and exotic accessory in the early 1770s, in the “most fashionable manner.”

As a newcomer who could not depend on a reputation established through interacting with clients and acquaintances over time, Morcomb instead attempted to accelerate the process.  She claimed that she already “had the honour of being employed by several ladies in this city.”  Those ladies, Morcomb reported, were satisfied with the garments she made for them and had “declared their approbation of her work.”  This was a secondhand testimonial, delivered by the provider of the goods and services, yet Morcomb hoped it would be sufficient to garner “encouragement from the ladies, in her business.”  She concluded by pledging that if prospective clients put their trust in her that they “May depend upon having their work done with all possible care and dispatch.”

In her effort to attract new customers, Morcomb deployed strategies often used by artisans, especially those in the garment trades, who only recently arrived in the colonies.  Many emphasized their connections to cosmopolitan cities where they had access to the latest fashions and then suggested that this already translated to serving select clients in their new location.  Although unfamiliar to many residents in their communities, Morcomb and other artisans attempted to incite demand by asserting that their services were already in demand.  Prospective customers should be eager to hire them, they proposed, because they had already successfully demonstrated their proficiency at their trades.

September 4

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

Sep 4 - 9:4:1769 New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (September 4, 1769).

“She has had the Honour of being employed by several Ladies in this City.”

In an advertisement that ran in the September 4, 1769, edition of the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, Mary Morcomb, a dressmaker, announced that she made “all Sorts of Negligees, Brunswick Dresses, Gowns, and every other Sort of Lady’s Apparel.” She also applied her skills to covering umbrellas, a fashionable accessory for many women and some men in the 1760s and 1770s.

Morcomb deployed the standard market strategies. She made appeals to price, quality, and fashion, promising prospective customers that she made garments and covered umbrellas “in the neatest, and most fashionable Manner, at the lowest Prices.” Morcomb also realized that reputation was important in attracting clients and building her business. She informed readers that she “has had the Honour of being employed by several Ladies in this City, who have declared their Approbation of her Work.” Given that Morcomb described herself as a “MANTUA-MAKER from LONDON,” she may have arrived in New York relatively recently. The newcomer may not have had time to establish a clientele in the city but had managed to find some work from “several Ladies,” leveraging their approval into a secondhand testimonial. Satisfied customers generated more customers, but word-of-mouth referrals and cultivating a reputation took time. To speed along the process, Morcomb asked the women of New York to trust her that she already served “several Ladies in this City.” In exchange for that trust, Morcomb pledged that new customers “may depend upon having their Work done with all possible Care and Dispatch.” This may not have been enough to convince every prospective client of her skills and the quality of her garments, but it may have been sufficient for some to take a chance with Morcomb. Even if the dressmaker entice only a few more clients with her advertisement, that new business could further enhance her reputation among female consumers in New York.