What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Black Velvet Collars, which are now worn instead of Necklaces, with Danglers.”
In the summer of 1772, M. Evans ran advertisements in the Maryland Gazette to announce to “the Ladies in Annapolis, and the Publick in general” that she stocked a variety of millinery and other items at her shop in Baltimore. Her merchandise “Lately arrived from London.” That being the case, she made clear to prospective customers that she carried current styles from the cosmopolitan center of the empire. Her inventory included “the fashionable Net and Gauze Bonnets” and “fashionable Stomachers and Sleeve-knots with Italian Flowers.” In addition, Evans listed many other items, including “Hats and long Cloaks in the French gray Queen’s Silk,” “Bonnets and Tippets” for young ladies, and a variety of combs, pins, earrings, and “Danglers.” She concluded with “&c. &c. &c.” to indicate that she stocked much more than would fit in a newspaper advertisement.
In marketing her wares, Evans presented herself as a guide for prospective customers, not merely a shopkeeper. She was in a position to offer advice and suggestions as well as keep her clients apprised of the latest fashions. For instance, she included “black Velvet Collars … with Danglers” among her catalog of merchandise, explaining that they “are now worn instead of Necklaces.” Some of the “Ladies in Annapolis” may have already been aware of this trend, but Evans apparently believed that many were not yet familiar with it. Acting as a guide helped incite demand, tantalizing prospective customers with news of the latest styles while simultaneously encouraging them to acquire those styles for themselves. Shopkeepers, milliners, and others who sold clothing and accessories were in a position to exert considerable influence over the customers they served, provided that those customers considered them well-informed and trustworthy. Evans aimed to cultivate such relationships, marketing her knowledge of current fashions in her efforts to sell goods imported from London. Her familiarity with new styles and ability to provide guidance to her customers made her more than a mere purveyor of goods.