What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Amos Morrisson, Wigg-Maker & Hair-Dresser.”
“Just published … THE MACARONIE JESTER.”
Amos Morrisson may not have been very happy about where his advertisement appeared in the September 3, 1773, edition of the Connecticut Journal. The “Wigg-Maker & Hair-Dresser” likely did not appreciate that an advertisement for “THE MACARONIE JESTER” appeared immediately below his notice directed to fashionable ladies and gentlemen. Eighteenth-century readers would have immediately recognized the derogatory term for a man who took current fashions, both clothing and hair, to absurd and preposterous lengths. The Oxford English Dictionary explains that this synonym for dandy or fop was especially popular in the second half of the eighteenth century to describe “a member of a set of young men who travelled in Europe and extravagantly imitated Continental tastes and fashions.” On both sides of the Atlantic, the term broadened to refer to any man whose overindulgence in fashion suggested idleness and vice.
Given such negative associations with too much luxury, Morrisson may have been dismayed by the proximity of his advertisement and one for The Macaroni Jester, “Just published, And to be sold by the Printers.” The wigmaker and hairdresser promoted “various modes” of wigs and hairstyles for men and women, such as “Bagg Wiggs and Spencer Bobs” and “Ladies Roles and French Curls,” as well as accoutrements to adorn hair, including ribbons. Furthermore, he confided, “If the above Articles should not happen to suit, Gentlemen can be suited in any Taste whatever, in the best Manner and at the shortest Notice.” Morrisson catered to his clients, but the advertisement for The Macaroni Jester raised suspicions about the “Macaroni beau,” others who luxuriated in current fashions and consumerism, and the purveyors of goods and services who outfitted them. According to the staff at the Library of the Society of Friends, the book include “includes a ditty on ‘The Origin of Macaronies,” [but] there’s little else of the Macaroni in it: the word has been used simply as a synonym for humour, satire and above all absurdity.” The “original stories, witty repartees, comical and original Bull’s, [and] entertaining Anecdotes” promised in the advertisement “poke fun at many stock figures.” Still, that would not have been apparent to readers of the Connecticut Journal, especially since the advertisement emphasized that “the origin of a Macaroni” was “illustrated with a curious and neat copperplate frontispiece of a Macaroni beau.”
Morrisson almost certainly did not want such associations with the goods and services he provided as wigmaker and hairdresser. Did he complain to the printing office about the juxtaposition of the two advertisements? In the next issue, Morrisson’s advertisement ran on the front page, while the advertisement for The Macaroni Jester appeared on the final page. That may have been the result of the usual sort of reorganization that took place between issues. Compositors regularly moved around advertisements that ran for multiple weeks. All the same, nothing prevented Morrisson from voicing his concerns about the unfortunate proximity of the two advertisements.