What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“J. BAILEY, Cutler. from Sheffield.”
Several cutlers in New York competed for customers by inserting advertisements with elaborate woodcuts depicting an array of items available at their shops in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury in the summer of 1772. James Youle, “CUTLER FROM SHEFFIELD,” adapted an image that he and former partner J. Bailey previously ran in that newspaper a year earlier. Lucas and Shephard, “WHITESMITHS and CUTLERS, From BIRMINGHAM and SHEFFIELD,” ran their own advertisement adorned with an image of many items included among their merchandise.
Bailey apparently determined that his competitors had an advantage, so he commissioned his own woodcut that featured both text, “J. BAILEY, Cutler. from Sheffield,” and an image that included two swords among a variety of cutlery. The advertisement stated that Bailey was located “At the Sign of the CROSS SWORDS,” indicating that he sought to increase the effectiveness of the image beyond the efforts of his competitors with their woodcuts by closely associating it with the sign that marked his shop in addition to the goods he made and sold. He also enhanced his advertisement by incorporating another image, that one depicting shears, below a note that he “has now for sale fullers shears.”
Those did not constitute Bailey’s only innovations relative to the advertising campaigns of his competitors. Those advertisements all ran in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury. On August 13, Bailey expanded the number of colonizers who saw his advertisement by inserting it in the New-York Journal. That advertisement featured the same two woodcuts and the same copy that appeared in the other newspaper, giving Bailey an advantage over his former partner and other competitors who invested in woodcuts for their advertisements. Some or all of these cutlers may have also advertised in another newspaper, the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy. Unfortunately, issues of that newspaper from 1771 through 1773 have not been digitized, so I have not been able to consult them as readily as the other two newspapers published in New York City in 1772. Whether or not any of these cutlers advertised in the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, Bailey was the first to seek customers among the readers of the New-York Journal. That meant arranging to have his woodcuts transferred from one printing office to another. The available evidence suggests that Bailey put even more thought into his advertising campaign than his competitors who already made efforts to distinguish their notices from others in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.