September 26

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 26, 1772).

Woollen-Drapery and Hosiery WAREHOUSE, At the sign of the GOLDEN FLEECE’S HEAD.”

In the fall of 12772, George Bartram advertised a “very large assortment of MERCHANDIZE” recently imported via “the last vessels from Britain and Ireland.”  To entice prospective customers, he provided a list that included “Dark & light drabs or cloth colours, suitable for women’s cloaks,” “Cinnamon, chocolate and snuff colours, with a variety of mixed elegant coloured cloths,” “Scotch plaid, suitable for littler boys short cloths, gentlemen’s morning gowns,” “A COMPLETE assortment of man’s wove and knit silk, silk and worsted, worsted, cotton and thread HOSE,” and “Men & women’s silk, thread and worsted gloves.”  The extensive list, however, did not exhaust Bartram’s inventory.  He proclaimed that he carried “a great variety of other articles in the woollen and linen drapery, and hardware branches.”

With such an array of goods, Bartram did not purport to run a mere shop.  Instead, he promoted his business as a “Woollen-Drapery and Hosiery WAREHOUSE, At the sign of the GOLDEN FLEECE’S HEAD” on Second Street in Philadelphia.  The header for his advertisement in the September 26, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle had the appearance of a sign, with Bartram’s name and address within a border of decorative type.  The merchant already had a record of using visual devices to draw attention to the name he associated with his store.  In the January 22, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet, for instance, the words “GEORGE BARTRAM’s WOOLLEN DRAPERY AND HOSIERY WAREHOUSE” flanked a woodcut depicting a “GOLDEN FLEECE’S HEAD.”  He previously kept shop “at the Sign of the Naked Boy.”  Newspaper advertisements Bartram placed between 1767 and 1770 featured a woodcut of a shop sign with a naked boy holding a length of cloth in a cartouche in the center, rolls of textiles on either side, and “GEORGE” and “BARTRAM” flanking the bottom of the cartouche.

Many merchants and shopkeepers published lists of their merchandise.  Bartram enhanced such marketing efforts by associating a distinctive device, first the Naked boy and then the Golden Fleece’s Head, with his business, giving his shop an elaborate and memorable name, and using visual images, both woodcuts and decorative type, to distinguish his advertisements from others.  He did not merely announce goods for sale.  Instead, he experimented with marketing strategies.

September 19

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 19, 1772).

“John White Stay-Maker”

Most advertisements in colonial newspapers did not feature visual images.  Those that did usually used a stock image provided by the printer, such as a ship at sea, a house, a horse, or an enslaved person liberating him- or herself by “running away.”  Never elaborate in the scenes depicted, such woodcuts could be used interchangeably in advertisements from the appropriate genre.  Some advertisers, however, commissioned images that corresponded to the shop signs that marked their locations or illustrated one or more items available among their merchandise.

Two such images appeared in the September 19, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Robert Parrish once again included the woodcut depicting a “ROLLING SCREEN for cleaning wheat and flaxseed,” though he did not use a woodcut showing a Dutch fan or winnowing fan that previously appeared with it.  Perhaps he did not wish to incur the additional cost for the space required to publish two images.

Another entrepreneur, John White, adorned his advertisement with an image of a stay (or corset), the body and holes for the laces on the left and the laces on the right.  Readers would have easily recognized the garment and understood how it wrapped around and confined a woman’s body.  The words “John White” and “Stay-Maker” flanked the woodcut.  The image accounted for half of the space for the advertisement, an additional investment beyond commissioning the woodcut.

White announced that he moved to a new location where “he continues to carry on the Staymaking business as usual.”  He pledged “to give satisfaction to all who are pleased to employ him.”  He also solicited “orders from any part of the country” and provided mail order service, making it unnecessary for clients to visit his shop in Philadelphia.  Instead, they could send measurements “in respect to length and width of the Stays, both at top and bottom exactly, in the front and back parts.”  The staymaker warned that customers who opted for that convenience needed to pay postage for such orders rather than expect him to take responsibility for those charges.

The woodcut depicting a stay, its body and laces unfurled, almost certainly helped attract attention to White’s advertisement, his promises of customer satisfaction, and the option for submitting orders “by the post” rather than visiting his shop.  Most newspaper advertisements consisted solely of text, so any sort of visual enhancement, whether an image or decorative type, distinguished those advertisements from others.

August 29

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 29, 1772).


In the summer of 1772, Edward Pole advertised a variety of items available at his ‘GROCERY STORE” on Second Street in Philadelphia.  He stocked everything from wines and spirits to “Green, Bohea, Hyson and Soushong Teas” to raisins and currants to “mustard by the bottle or pound.”  Pole declared that he would “make it his chief study to merit” repeat business from his customers “by keeping an assortment of the best kind of GROCERIES, and selling them on the lowest terms.”

Yet Pole stocked more than just groceries.  His advertisement in the August 29 edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle included a headline and a section for “FISHING TACKLE” available at his store.  He carried “Fishing rods of various kinds, best Kerby and common hooks of all sizes, artificial flies, wheels, silk, hair and trolling lines of every kind, length, and goodness, deapseas, casting, minnow and scoop nets,” and other items.  He made a point of promoting “the best kind of fish-hooks, made by ROBERT CARTER, fish-hook maker, from Trenton.”

Over time, the appropriately-named Pole placed greater emphasis on marketing fishing supplies.  By 1781, he was placing advertisements for “Fishing Tackle Of all sorts, for Use of either SEA or RIVER, MADE AND SOLD By Edward Pole” in the Pennsylvania Packet.  A woodcut depicting a fish adorned those advertisements.  He commissioned another woodcut of a fish, this one with a decorative border, for his advertisement in the March 24, 1784, edition of the Freeman’s Journal.  At about the same time, he made an even greater investment in a trade card engraved by David Tew.  A vignette showed two gentlemen fishing, one with a rod and the other with a net.  The gentleman with the rod had a fish on the line, its head sticking out of the water, while the gentleman with the net attempted to scoop up the fish.  An ornate cartouche, complete with fishing lures dangling from it, served as border for the text of this advertisement.  The trade card announced that “Edward Pole FISHING-TACKLE-MAKER … es & Sells all kinds of the best Fishing Tackle for the use of either Sea or River.”  A nota bene advised, “Gentlemen going on parties, in the Fishing Way Compleatly fitted out on the shortest notice.”

The headline for “FISHING TACKLE” in Pole’s newspaper advertisements published in 1772 foreshadowed the more extensive marketing efforts he launched in the 1780s.  He further enhanced newspaper notices with visual images as he increasingly specialized in fishing supplies.  He also distributed an engraved trade card that featured images that rivaled any on the hundreds of trade cards distributed in London in the eighteenth century, making his business all the more memorable to the gentlemen he aimed to serve.

Edward Pole, Trade Card, engraved by David Tew (Philadelphia, 1780s). Courtesy Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

August 22

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 22, 1772).

“The APPENDIX is not in the London Edition.”

Henry Miller, printer of the Wöchentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote, published and advertised an American edition of A Complete German Grammar by John James Bachmair in 1772.  German-speaking colonizers constituted a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s population, prompting Miller, himself born in the principality of Waldeck on the Upper Rhine, to believe a local market existed for this book.  He informed prospective customers that he charged nine shillings for his edition, compared to fourteen shillings for the London edition.

In addition to declaring that he published the third edition, “greatly altered and improved,” Miller also promoted an Appendix that included “An Index of German Words similar in Sound, but of different Orthography and Signification,” “Names of the most common Occupations and Trades, as also the Names of the Materials and Implements, &c. thereto belonging,” and an “Explication of a German Proverb.”  In a nota bene, Miller underscored that all of those items were bonus materials not included in the London edition.  In addition to the lower price, the useful and entertaining supplemental materials likely made Miller’s American edition seem like an even better choice for colonizers interested in learning German.

Miller also deployed a blurb from the first edition in his efforts to market the book.  He quoted from the preface to the first edition, highlighting Bachmair’s assertion that “those who have a Mind to learn fundamentally the German Language, will find such plain and easy Instructions, that, even without a Master, they may at least attain to read and understand it.”  The blurb simultaneously offered encouragement and set expectations.  With some diligence, those who studied from the book could learn to read and understand German, even if they did not become fluent enough to speak and write the language.  They could achieve that level of proficiency studying on their own rather than working with tutors or schoolmasters.

Miller incorporated a variety of marketing strategies into advertisements for his American edition of Bachmair’s German Grammar.  He hawked supplementary materials that did not appear in the more expensive London edition, while also including a blurb in which the author gave encouragement and promised “plain and easy Instructions.”  In describing the contents of the appendix and inserting the blurb, Miller sought to help prospective customers imagine themselves learning German with greater ease than they previously anticipated.

August 8

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 8, 1772).

“My wife, HANNAH FREDERICK, did … elope from my bed and board.”

In the eighteenth century, aggrieved husbands often took to the pages of newspapers to warn others not to extend credit to misbehaving wives who “eloped” from them.  Readers regularly encountered “runaway wife” advertisements in newspapers published throughout the colonies.  Those notices continued to appear during the era of the American Revolution and, as Mary Beth Sievens demonstrates, well into the nineteenth century.[1]

Although most notices followed a pattern, each provided details specific to a particular household.  Wives usually “eloped” from their husbands on their own, but in an advertisement in the August 8, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle one husband reported that his wife, Hannah Frederick, “did … elope from my bed and board … with a certain Abraham Hudson.”  The husband believed that the two of them traveled “from Fish-Kills, in Duchess County, in New-York government … to Elizabeth-Town” in New Jersey “and from thence to Philadelphia.”  To aid readers in identifying his wife, the advertiser reported that her “maiden name was Hannah Coleman” and she “served her time,” likely as an indentured servant, “with John Taylor, at Tinicum-Island.”  He concluded with a formulaic statement cutting his wife off from his credit: “these are therefore to forewarn all persons from trusting her on my account, as I shall pay no debts of her contracting after the date hereof.”

Printers published such advertisements without offering commentary of their own, but, in this instance, William Goddard did insert a clarification.  “In the copy of the foregoing Advertisement, which was sent to the Printer,” he explained, “the Advertiser’s name was omitted.”  As a result, the husband’s name appeared as “———- FREDERICK.”  That being the case, how did Goddard handle payment for the advertisement?  Some printers required advertisers to pay in advance, even though they extended credit to subscribers.  After all, advertising comprised a lucrative revenue stream.  Occasional notices in eighteenth-century newspapers, however, make clear that some printers did allow credit for advertisements as well as subscriptions.  This husband may have submitted payment, but not his name, to the printing office … or Goddard may have taken a chance that he would settle up in a timely manner.  Even if that was the case, the printer’s trust only went so far.  The advertisement ran just twice (August 8 and 15), though most newspapers initially published advertisements for three or four weeks for a set fee before charging a lower fee for each insertion.  Goddard may have been carefully managing how much credit he extended to “———- FREDERICK” even as that husband attempted to exert control over his credit when it became clear his wife was beyond his influence.


[1] Mary Beth Sievens, “Female Consumerism and Household Authority in Early National New England,” Early American Studies:  An Interdisciplinary Journal 4, no. 2 (Fall 2006):  353-371.

August 5

Who was the subject of an advertisement in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Pennsylvania Gazette (August 5, 1772).

“Probably will endeavour to pass for a freeman.”

Jem, a “Mulattoe SLAVE,” made his escape during the night of July 15, 1772, liberating himself from Thomas May in Elk Forge, Maryland.  In his efforts to capture Jem and return him to enslavement, May ran an advertisement in which he described Jem as a “cunning ingenious fellow” who “probably will endeavour to pass for a freeman.”  Jem possessed several skills that may have helped him elude May, but those skills also made him even more valuable to the enslaver.  In addition to being able to read “pretty well” and speak Dutch, Jem was a “good workman in a forge, either in finery or chafery, can do any kind of smith’s or carpenter’s work, necessary about a forge, [and] can also do any kind of farming business.”  May also described the clothes that Jem wore when he liberated himself.  No doubt Jem would have offered other details had he been given an opportunity to publish his own narrative.  Even in Jem’s absence, May exerted control over his depiction in the public prints.

Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote (August 4, 1772).

May also made decisions about how widely to disseminate advertisements describing Jem and offering “FIVE POUNDS REWARD” for capturing him.  His advertisement appeared in both the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal on August 5.  Of the newspapers published in Philadelphia at the time, those had the longest publication history.  That likely gave May confidence that those newspapers circulated to many readers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey.  Apparently, however, he did not consider that sufficient.  May was so invested in capturing and returning Jem to enslavement at the forge that he also placed advertisements in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on August 8 and the Pennsylvania Packet on August 10.  Considering the skills that Jem possessed, May probably thought it well worth the fees to place notices in all four English-language newspapers published in Philadelphia at the time.  He even took advantage of the translation services that Henry Miller, printer of the Wochentliche Pennsylvanische Staatsbote, offered to advertisers in a nota bene that appeared at the bottom of the masthead.  May’s advertisement describing Jem ran in that newspaper on August 4, further increasing the number of colonizers who might read it, carefully observe Black men they encountered, and participate in capturing the fugitive seeking freedom.  Thomas May expended significant money and effort in attempting to re-enslave Jem, using the power of the press to overcome the various advantages Jem sought to use to his own benefit.

July 25

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (July 25, 1772).


In the summer of 1772, William Trautwine, a barber who ran a shop “at the sign of the Bleeding Lady and Barber’s Pole” in Philadelphia, took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Chronicle to advertise the “BEST of AMERICAN HAIR-POWDER.”  In an age when many entrepreneurs promoted domestic manufactures, goods produced in the colonies, as alternatives to imported items, hairdressers and barbers frequently joined the chorus.  For his part, Trautwine encouraged “those gentlemen and ladies who are wellwishers to their country” to “favour him with their custom.”  Such “wellwishers” might have had the commercial and economic interests of the colonies in mind, yet such appeals usually had a political valence as well.  Especially when colonizers enacted nonimportation agreements in protest of new regulations and taxes passed by Parliament, advertisers editorialists, and others encouraged colonizers to participate in both the production and consumption of domestic manufactures.  Such appeals continued during periods of relative calm.  Trautwine’s reference to “wellwishers to their country” would not have seemed out of place to readers in July 1772.

Like others who promoted goods produced in the colonies, the barber believed that he needed to convince prospective customers that his product was as good as any they might acquire from merchants and shopkeepers who imported their goods.  Consumers did not need to sacrifice quality when they supported domestic manufactures.  The barber made his hair powder from “the very best of materials.”  Trautwine also proclaimed that his customers “may depend on being supplied with Hair-Powder in quality not inferior to the best which is imported from Europe.”  Indeed, it was Trautwine himself who made sacrifices to supply consumers with the “BEST of AMERICAN HAIR-POWDER,” assuming “considerable expence, in providing himself with a mill for that purpose.”  He suggested that his investment in support of the political and economic interests of the colonies merited the patronage of consumers in Philadelphia and other readers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Trautwine acted on his civic duty when he produced an American alternative to an imported item.  In turn, he suggested, consumers had an obligation to do the same by purchasing his product.

May 27

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (May 25, 1772).

“Shoemakers may be supplied with tools of every kind used in their business.”

A silhouette of a shoe adorned Robert Loosely’s advertisement in the May 25, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but it was not footwear that the “Shoe Maker” aimed to sell.  Instead, he hawked “Shoemakers Tools, A general assortment lately imported from London.”  His inventory included “BEST London made cast steel knives,” “Pincers of all sizes, Shoe rasps and files of the best kind, Hammers of all sizes,” “An assortment of awl blades and tacks,” “Bend soles,” and much more.  The “&c. &c. &c” (or “etc. etc. etc.”) at the end of his list indicated that he named only a portion of his merchandise.

Loosely leveraged his training and experience as a shoemaker to convince others who followed the occupation that he was indeed qualified to assert that he provided them with “the best goods, on the most reasonable terms.”  He explained that he “served his apprenticeship in England, and for some years carried on a considerable trade there.”  That made him familiar with the equipment and supplies required to make shoes and boots.  He drew on experience in selecting which “Shoemakers Tools” to import and sell, unlike merchants and shopkeepers who treated those tools as general merchandise alongside so many other items they stocked.  Loosely underscored that during his time working in England he “became acquainted with the most reputed manufacturers of tools and leather.”  As a result, he “flatters himself he has it in his power to serve those that please to apply to him.”

Artisans with training or experience in England frequently gave those credentials in their newspaper advertisements when they migrated to the colonies, but they usually did so to convince prospective customers to purchase their wares or prospective clients to engage their services.  Loosely adapted that strategy to his own purposes, signaling to fellow artisans that they could depend on him to supply them with the best tools and materials to use in their own workshops.

January 22

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (January 20, 1772).

“All sorts of Chymical and Galenical Medicines (truly prepared).”

When Townsend Speakman opened an apothecary shop on Market Street in Philadelphia in the early 1770s, he took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Chronicle to offer his services.  In an advertisement in the January 20, 1772, edition, he introduced himself as a “Chymist and Druggist, LATE FROM LONDON.”  Like many others who migrated across the Atlantic, he asserted his credentials as a means of establishing his reputation among prospective clients.  Speakman declared that he “served a regular apprenticeship to the business.”  In addition, he “had several years further experience therein, in a house of the first reputation in LONDON.”

That accrued additional benefits for his prospective clients beyond the expertise and experience the “Chymist and Druggist” gained during his apprenticeship and subsequent employment.  His connections to an apothecary shop “of the first reputation” meant that he could “procur[e] articles of the best quality” for the “most reasonable rates” for his customers.  He vowed to pass along the savings, promising to “sell on as low terms as any in this city.”  Speakman also emphasized quality elsewhere in his advertisement.  He assured readers that he sold “all sorts of Chymical and Galenical Medicines (truly prepared).”  That phrase suggested both his skill in compounding medications and the authenticity of the ingredients he used.  To underscore the point, Speakman pledged that “Family receipts [or remedies], and physical prescriptions, are carefully and correctly compounded.”  Furthermore, he carried “the best of Drugs [and] Patent Medicines.”

As a newcomer unknown to the prospective clients that he wished to engage, Speakman sought to convince readers that he merited their trust in preparing and providing medicines.  He emphasized both his formal training through an apprenticeship as well as his additional experience working in an apothecary shop “of the first reputation” in London.  He brought his expertise to Philadelphia, vowing to supply clients with “truly prepared” medicines of the best quality.  The apothecary achieved success in the Quaker City.  In the late 1780s, he supplemented his newspaper advertisements with an engraved billhead for writing receipts for customers.

Billhead, Townsend Speakman, 1789. Courtesy Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

October 21

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (October 21, 1771).

“The newest fashionable muffs [and] tippets.”

A woodcut depicting a muff and tippet adorned the advertisements that the partnership of Fromberger and Siemon placed in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and the Pennsylvania Journal in the fall of 1771.  The advertisers did not rely on the image alone to market their “large assortment of Russia and Siberia fur skins” and garments made from those furs, but it almost certainly helped draw attention to their advertisements.  That woodcut also represented an additional expense.  Unlike the type used to print the copy in their notices, the woodcut belonged to the advertisers rather than the printers.  That being the case, Fromberger and Siemon collected their woodcut from one printing office and delivered it to another when they expanded their advertising campaign.

The furriers first inserted an advertisement in the September 26 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal.  It ran again the following week.  Nearly three weeks elapsed before the same advertisement appeared in the October 21 edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  It featured identical copy, though the compositor made different decisions about line breaks, as well as the familiar woodcut that occupied nearly half the space allotted to the advertisement.  Careful examination of the image reveals that it was indeed the same woodcut, not a similar image.  Fromberger and Siemon commissioned only one woodcut, but they aimed to garner a greater return on their investment by disseminating it in more than one newspaper. For many readers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, the image would have been new and novel when they encountered it.  Those who also happened to peruse the Pennsylvania Journal, however, would have recognized the woodcut.  The repetition of the image likely helped Fromberger and Siemon achieve greater visibility for their enterprise.  Had they published it more regularly, they might have encouraged readers to consider the image a trademark of sorts, but their notices appeared too sporadically.  Although Fromberger and Siemon did not seize the opportunity to further enhance their marketing efforts through consistent repetition of the image of the muff and tippet in the fall of 1771, they did devise advertisements that stood out from others because of the woodcut that accompanied them.