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