What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“MUFFTS, TIPPITS, ERMINE.”
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.