What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“At his SHOP in PITT-STREET.”
Advertisements for consumer goods and services in the August 3, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette included addresses of various sorts. James McMasters sold English good at his store “on Spring Hill.” Stephen Hardy stocked a similar inventory at his shop “in PITT STREET.” Breeches makers James Haslett and Mathew Haslett pursued their trade “in King Street,” while Samuel Foster made boots and shoes at his shop “in Queen-street.” Thomas Achincloss sold textiles and hardware at his shop “at the Sign of the Marquis of Rockingham, King street.”
With the exception of Spring Hill, each of these landmarks invoked political figures in England. King Street and Queen Street made general reference to the monarchy, but also evoked images of George III and Queen Charlotte. Residents of Portsmouth named Pitt Street for William Pitt the Elder, the prime minister from July 30, 1766, through October 14, 1768. Pitt was a popular figure among American colonists as a result of his leadership during the Seven Years War and his opposition to the Stamp Act. Similarly, Charles Watson-Wentworth, the second Marquess of Rockingham and former prime minister, earned acclaim in America due to his support for constitutional rights for the colonies. He immediately preceded Pitt as prime minister, serving from July 13, 1765, through July 30, 1766. During his brief time in office, he oversaw the repeal of the Stamp Act.
These street names and shop signs testify to the expectations that many colonists had of their relationship to Great Britain throughout much of the imperial crisis that eventually culminated in the American Revolution. Many colonists, most even, did not originally conceive of separating from the British Empire and the many advantages it bestowed upon them. Instead, they sought redress of grievances, hoping to exercise traditional English rights on the other side of the Atlantic. Many simultaneously asserted their allegiance to the monarchy and revered members of Parliament who defended American interests. The location of Achincloss’s shop “at the Sign of the Marquis of Rockingham, King street” encapsulated the sentiments of those coloniosts.
What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Stephen Hardy, Taylor from London.”
This advertisement starts off with the words: “Stephen Hardy, Taylor from London.” It originally caught my attention because it mentioned a specific line of products. Many newspaper advertisements were from the equivalent of general stores, shops where a variety of goods — from agricultural tools to alcohol to handkerchiefs — could be purchased. Yet this one is an advertisement for a very specific line of goods and services. Hardy “Makes Gentlemens Cloaths of all sorts” and “He has just Imported A variety of Remnants of Cloth.” The advertisement made me curious about clothing and fashions in Colonial America. I looked at the different terms used in the advertisement, including “Breeches,” “Ladies Riding Habets,” and “strip’d Linnen.”
Those lines got me thinking about what the everyday wear for colonists was and how clothing was important to colonial society. Even in the modern day, clothing can be interpreted as a symbol of socioeconomic status. This also proved true for the 1700s. Typically men of the middle to upper class wore breeches and shirt, not necessarily with a jacket nor necessarily of a matching pattern. Women’s fashions varied with social class in regard to fabric and style.
In addition, another thing very important to note about clothing and fashion during this time was the complex etiquette associated with clothes. There was a specific protocol, especially with the social elite, about what was acceptable in informal and formal situations. There were informal everyday garments, the “undress,” and formal garments, the “dress” clothing. In addition different accessories and fabrics were included in this silent protocol. A consumer from the upper classes who read the advertisement would know right away which things were appropriate for everyday use and what needed to be worn. These choices would not only appease their peers but showcase to the others that they enjoyed a privileged social position. This idea of social status and acting in a way that befits one’s station was an important component of early American society. Understanding colonial clothing helps modern day people understand colonial society overall.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes
Given the size of Portsmouth relative to other colonial cities, the New-Hampshire Gazette published fewer advertisements than newspapers from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. In any of those urban ports, Stephen Hardy’s advertisement would have competed with several others that offered similar goods and services. In the October 24, 1766, issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette, however, only one other advertisement bore any sort of resemblance to Hardy’s notice. Samuel Cutts promoted an array of imported textiles, but also listed “All sorts of Nails; Frying Pans; Shovels and Tongs, &c. &c. &c. &c.”
Hardy and Cutts certainly competed for some of the same customers, but several aspects of Hardy’s advertisement suggest that he enticed Portsmouth’s more genteel consumers (or those who aspired to gentility). Perhaps most significantly, Hardy, a “Taylor from London,” offered services to accompany the goods he sold. He not only imported textiles but also “punctually served” his clients who visited him to have “Gentlemens Cloaths of all sorts” and “Ladies Riding Habets” made to specification. Cutts, on the other hand, sold textiles but did not assist customers in transforming them into finished apparel. Cutts did sell pins and sewing needles so his customers could make their own clothing out of the fabrics they purchased from him.
In listing his occupation as a “Taylor” rather than a shopkeeper, Hardy also underscored that he was “from London.” He did not indicate how recently he had migrated to the colonies (though many readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette would have known approximately how long he had resided in Portsmouth), but listing his origins affiliated him with the Britain’s largest city and the cosmopolitan center of the empire. By implication, his textiles and the clothing he made from them aligned with the latest fashions of the transatlantic elite.
Hardy also addressed his prospective clients as gentlemen and ladies, suggesting the status of those who visited his shop. When customers did call on Hardy they found themselves surrounded with fine textiles and adornments, rather than the diversity of qualities (or the hardware and housewares) listed in Cutts’ advertisement. As Megan notes, Hardy specialized in his trade; the inventory in his advertisement and shop reflected his work as a tailor rather than a shopkeeper.
What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Stephen Hardy, TAYLOR from LONDON.”
Stephen Hardy did not indicate how long he had lived and worked in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but his advertisement made it clear that he had migrated from London.
In yesterday’s advertisement blacksmith Daniel Offley played on the fact that he had lived in Philadelphia and practiced his trade there for many years. His familiarity with, as well as service to, the community, Offley stated, justified potential customers choosing him over his competitors.
In contrast, it likely worked in Stephen Hardy’s favor if he had only recently crossed the Atlantic to take up residence in New Hampshire. Portsmouth was a small city in 1766 – barely a village compared to the booming population of London. Colonists in Portsmouth and throughout the colonies felt anxious that they lived in tiny backwater outposts of the empire.
By underscoring that he was from London (and presumably trained there in the tailoring trade), Hardy linked himself, his business, and the “Gentlemen’s Cloaths of all Sorts, Ladies Riding Habbits, &c.” he made and sold with the cosmopolitanism of the empire’s metropolitan center of fashion and culture.
In the decades before the Revolution, several English travelers registered their shock – and sometimes annoyance – that colonists dressed in the latest London fashions. Engaging a “TAYLOR from LONDON” would have helped colonial consumers assert their identity as Britons and as genteel participants cognizant of the latest trends in the heart of the capital and cultural center of the empire.