December 9

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

Pennsylvania Journal (December 9, 1772).


When furriers John Fromberger and John Siemon formed their partnership, they placed advertisements in newspapers published in Philadelphia.  A woodcut depicting a miff and tippet adorned the notice they placed in the Pennsylvania Journal in September 1771.  Several weeks later, they transferred the woodcut to the printing office of the Pennsylvania Chronicle so it could appear in advertisements they ran in that newspaper.  In December, the furriers once again made arrangements for the image to accompany their advertisements in the Pennsylvania Journal.  Within in a few weeks, it appeared in yet another newspaper, the New-York Journal.  Siemon visited the city, advised prospective customers that “he intends to stay a month only,” and took the woodcut with him to help draw attention to his advertisements.  Given his short stay, Siemon did not manage to transfer the woodcut from one printing office to another.  His advertisements in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury did not feature any image.

Siemon returned to New York in November 1772.  In a new advertisement in the New-York Journal, he informed readers that “he intends settling here” and requested “a further continuance of those Ladies and Gentlemen who were pleased to favour him with their custom last winter.”  That advertisement did not mention any connection to Fromberger; apparently the furriers dissolved their partnership.  The advertisement did include a familiar image, at least a portion of one.  Siemon included the muff, but not the tippet formerly arranged above it.  Perhaps he modified the woodcut to acknowledge his new enterprise.  Perhaps the portion depicting the tippet had been damaged so he had that part removed and salvaged the rest.  Perhaps he had the tippet removed because it occupied so much space.  A smaller woodcut cost less to include in his advertisements.  Whatever the explanation, Siemon had a familiar, but updated, image for customers to associate with his business.

Fromberger apparently thought that was a good idea.  A month after John Siemon and Company advertised in the New-York Journal, John Fromberger and Company placed a notice with an image in the Pennsylvania Journal.  Since Siemon retained the original woodcut, Fromberger commissioned a new woodcut.  He exercised some consistency in selecting what appeared in the image, a muff and a tippet.  This time, however, the muff and the tippet appeared side by side rather than one above the other.  Both items had the same patterns as the muff and the tippet in the original woodcut. Fromberger likely believed that consumers in Philadelphia associated a similar image with the business he operated.  A similar image repeatedly accompanied his previous notices, making a new one that depicted both a muff and a tippet familiar and appropriate for marketing his new enterprise.

September 26

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

Pennsylvania Journal (September 26, 1771).

“The newest fashionable muffs.”

In the fall of 1771, the partnership of Fromberger and Siemon took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Journal to promote a “Very large assortment of Russia and Siberia fur skins” which they intended to make into muffs, tippets, and linings for cloaks.  They deployed a variety of marketing strategies to capture the attention of consumers in Philadelphia and its environs.

For instance, the partners informed readers that they sold “the newest fashionable muffs, tippets, and ermine, now worn by the ladies at the courts of Great Britain and France.”  Fromeberger and Siemon attempted to incite demand by educating their prospective clients.  Ladies who feared they were unfamiliar with the latest trends on the other side of the Atlantic as well as those who merely wanted to confirm that they had indeed kept up with the latest styles could visit Fromberger and Siemon’s shop to outfit themselves.

Even as the partners emphasized European tastes, they also promoted “American manufacture.”  In the process, they suggested to “the ladies” that they could play an important role in supporting the commercial and politic interests of the colonies in the wake of recent meddling by Parliament that had resulted in nonimportation agreements in response to the Stamp Act and the duties imposed on certain goods in the Townshend Acts.  All but the duty on tea had been repealed and merchants returned to importing vast arrays of goods, but some American entrepreneurs continued to advocate for “American manufacture.”  Consumers did not have to sacrifice quality when supporting those entrepreneurs, at least according to advertisers like Fromberger and Siemon who promised they made muffs and tippets “superior to that which is manufactured in England.”

In addition to those appeals, the partners also offered a free ancillary service to their customers.  “Ladies who purchase any manufactured furs of great value” could wear them in the fall, winter, and spring and then “send them to our manufactory” where they would “be taken care of gratis for the summer season.”  Fromberger and Siemon cultivated relationships with customers that did not end when making a sale but could instead continue for years as they assisted in the care and maintenance of expensive garments.

A woodcut depicting a muff and tippet may have drawn the attention to Fromberger and Siemon’s advertisement, but they did not rely on the visual image alone to market their wares.  Instead, they incorporated several appeals to “the ladies” they hoped would visit their shop, order garments, and make purchases.  They invoked current fashions in England and France, the importance of supporting “American manufacture,” and free services to convince readers to become customers.