June 16

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Jun 16 - 6:16:1770 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (June 16, 1770).

They may depend on having their Commands executed after the newest and most genteel Fashions.”

When Daniel Stillwell, a tailor, placed an advertisement in the June 16, 1770, edition of the Providence Gazette, he made one of the most common and important appeals deployed by colonists who followed his trade.  He pledged that clients “may depend on having their Commands executed after the newest and most genteel Fashions.”  Tailors and others in the garment trades often made appeals to price, quality, and fashion in their advertisements.  Stillwell, like other tailors, believed that price and quality might not have mattered much to those who wished for their clothing to communicate their gentility if their garments, trimmings, and accessories did not actually achieve the desired purpose.  Reasonable prices and good quality were no substitute for making the right impression.  Stillwell’s work as a tailor required a special kind of expertise beyond measuring, cutting, and sewing.  He had to be a keen observer of changing tastes and trends so he could deliver “the newest and most genteel Fashions” to his clients.

To that end, Stillwell informed prospective customers that he “has had great Opportunities of seeing the different Methods of working.”  Although he did not elaborate on those experiences, this statement suggested to readers that Stillwell refused to become stagnant in his trade.  Rather than learning one method or technique and then relying on it exclusively, he consulted with other tailors and then incorporated new and different techniques, further enhancing his skill.  In so doing, he joined the many artisans who asserted that their skill and experience prepared them to “give Satisfaction” to those who employed them or purchased the wares they produced.  Stillwell was no novice; instead, he “carries on his Business in all its Branches,” proficiently doing so because of the care he had taken in “seeing the different Methods of working.” Simply observing current fashions was not sufficient for someone in his trade who was unable to replicate them.  Stillwell sought to assure prospective clients that he possessed two kinds of knowledge necessary for serving them, a discerning knowledge of the latest styles and a thorough knowledge of the methods of his trade that would allow him to outfit customers accordingly.

February 21

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Feb 21 - 2:21:1770 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (February 21, 1770).

“The Taylor’s Business is carried on in all its branches.”

When Jonathan Remington, a tailor, moved to a new location early in 1770, he placed an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette so prospective clients would know where to find him.  Although he devoted much of the notice to giving directions, he also incorporated, though briefly, several marketing appeals.  “The Taylor’s Business,” he proclaimed, “is carried on in all its branches, in the genteelest manner, and with the utmost dispatch.”  Remington deployed formulaic language, though its familiarity to consumers may have been an asset.  Such brevity may have also allowed the tailor to keep down the costs of advertising while still promoting several aspects of his services.

In that single sentence, he communicated that he possessed a range of skills associated with his trade, declaring that he was qualified to pursue “all its branches.”  Prospective clients need not worry that they might present him with requests too difficult or beyond his experience.  He also made a nod to fashion, asserting that he did his work “in the genteelest manner.”  That appeal also implied the quality of his work.  Prospective customers would not look as though they had visited a second-rate tailor.  They could don his garments and confidently go about their daily interactions with other colonists without fearing that careful observation resulted in damaging judgments.  Remington’s pledge to tend to clients “with the utmost dispatch” testified to the customer service he provided.

Remington also attempted to attract new customers by leveraging his former customers as evidence of his abilities.  He expressed gratitude to “his friends and good customers for their past favours, and hopes for the continuance of them.”  In making that acknowledgment, Remington sought to maintain his current clientele while implicitly extending an invitation to new customers to visit him at his new location.  He reported that his services were already in demand, hoping to incite additional demand among readers of the Georgia Gazette who had not previously employed his services.  He played on consumer psychology that demand, or even the appearance of demand, could create additional demand.

Although not extensive, Remington’s advertisement delivered several marketing appeals intended to make his services attractive to prospective clients.  He relied on standardized language that allowed him to deliver messages grounded in the consumer culture of the period in relatively few words.

January 29

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Jan 29 - 1:29:1770 Connecticut Courant
Connecticut Courant (January 29, 1770).

“Any gentlemen … may depend upon being served as well as in Boston.”

Cotton Murray, “Taylor from BOSTON,” inserted a brief advertisement in the January 29, 1770, edition of the Connecticut Courant “to inform the PUBLIC” that he recently began serving clients in Hartford, though he had not opened his own shop. Instead, he “set up his Business at the Printing-Office, where he makes all sorts of Men’s CLOATHS.” Though an unusual location for a tailor, he pledged that “Any gentleman that please to favour him with their Custom, may depend upon being served as well as in Boston.”

In making that promise, Murray played on anxieties common among colonial consumers. Those in the largest cities looked to London and other major cities on the other side of the Atlantic, comparing the goods and services available in the two locales. Similarly, consumers in smaller cities and towns in the American colonies looked to Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia as centers of fashion and refinement. Yet artisans like Murray assured prospective customers in places like Hartford that their cities and towns need not have the advantage of size in order for consumers to benefit from the same services available in the larger port cities.

Murray exerted some authority in making that claim. After all, he had formerly resided and worked in Boston. He knew the quality of service customers received there and stood ready to transfer the experience to his new clientele in Hartford and the surrounding towns. He may have also expected that his origins, “from BOSTON,” gave his enterprise additional cachet among prospective customers, just as artisans in urban ports frequently proclaimed in their newspapers advertisements that they were “from London.” Doing so simultaneously introduced and promoted artisans by associating them with places considered more cosmopolitan than their new homes. That was the primary appeal to prospective customers Murray made in his advertisement. He presented his case implicitly at the beginning of his notice, stating he was “from BOSTON,” and explicitly at the conclusion to aid readers in making the connection that if they became clients they could “depend upon being served as well” as in the largest city in New England.

August 24

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Aug 24 - 8:24:1769 Boston Chronicle
Boston Chronicle (August 24, 1769).

“Will take back any clothes that may happen not to suit.”

When he arrived in Boston, tailor John Maud placed an advertisement in the Boston Chronicle to announce that he had “just opened SHOP” in King Street near the British Coffee House. He aimed to establish a clientele consisting of both men and women, noting that “He enages to make gentlemens clothes laced or plain in the newest fashion” and “ladies habits laced or plain.” The tailor implied that his mobility in the British Atlantic world helped him keep abreast of current styles; he formerly followed his trade in Dublin, but more recently had worked in Halifax.

Given that he was new to town, Maud had not yet established a reputation among the residents of Boston. This prompted him to publish a return policy as part of his introduction to his new neighbors and prospective clients. Maud pledged to “take back any clothes that happen not to suit,” intending to alleviate the trepidation any readers felt about working with an unfamiliar tailor.   Maud did not elaborate on what constituted legitimate grounds for returning clothes; instead, he made a blanket statement that allowed for objections about fit and fashion as well as other concerns. Presumably Maud and his customers worked out more specific terms during their transactions in his shop.

This sort of return policy was not a standard element of advertisements placed by tailors and others in the clothing trades in the 1760s. Maud apparently believed that he needed an innovative strategy to distinguish himself from other tailors who worked in Boston, tailors who had already cultivated relationships with local clients and benefited from the residents of the city seeing their garments on display as their customers went about their daily lives. To overcome that disadvantage, Maud pursued another means of making his shop competitive with others already established in the city. Offering a return policy also allowed for a second chance to serve dissatisfied customers when they made returns, giving him an opportunity to request a second chance (perhaps at reduced prices) to retain business that they might otherwise take elsewhere. Maud did not merely announce that he ran a new shop in Boston; he presented prospective clients with good reasons to hire his services.

November 9

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Nov 9 - 11:9:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (November 9, 1768).

“He has moved into town, in order to carry on his business as formerly.”

When he placed an advertisement in the November 9, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette, Thomas Morgan relied on readers already possessing some familiarity with the services he offered. In its entirety, his advertisement announced, “THE subscriber gives his friends and former customers notice, that he has moved into town, in order to carry on his business as formerly, and hopes to give them satisfaction when favoured with their commands. He lives at present in the house where Mr. Garratt Allan did live. THOMAS MORGAN.” He did not even mention the type of business he operated but instead expected residents of Savannah to know his occupation. Such was the nature of life in a relatively small town in the middle of the eighteenth century.

Further investigation yields two advertisements most likely published by the same Thomas Morgan, advertisements that provided more specific information about how he earned his livelihood. Two years earlier, Morgan and Jonathan Remington stated that they had formed a partnership and proposed “carrying on the TAYLOR BUSINESS.” In an advertisement in the September 24, 1766, edition of the Georgia Gazette, they requested “the continuance of the favours of their former friends and customers, and all others who may be pleased to favour them with their commands. In another advertisement, this one placed in the July 12, 1769, edition, “MORGAN and ROCHE, Taylors,” informed the public that “they have entered into copartnership to carry on the TAYLOR BUSINESS in all its branches.”

In both of these additional advertisements, Morgan and his partner advanced more robust appeals to potential customers. In 1769 Morgan and Roche pledged that “all gentlemen may depend on being served with diligence and quick dispatch.” In 1766 Morgan and Remington proclaimed that their clients “may depend on having their work made in the genteelest and most fashionable manner, with the utmost dispatch and good attendance.” While it is impossible to know who wrote the copy for each advertisement, Morgan’s partners may have had the better instincts when it came to promoting their business in the public prints. This may have been one factor that contributed to Morgan once again entering a partnership just eight months after moving into Savannah to operate a business on his own.

When considered collectively, these advertisements tell a more complete story of Morgan’s business endeavors. Digitization of eighteenth-century newspapers has made telling that story much more viable. Formerly, identifying these advertisements would have required traveling to an archive that possessed the original issues of the Georgia Gazette or a research library that had the newspaper on microfilm, followed by hours of paging through each issue and skimming for Morgan’s name. Thanks to digitization, however, a keyword search efficiently identified advertisements placed Morgan. In Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers database, I limited a search to the Georgia Gazette, set the dates for 1760 through 1775, and selected “Thomas Morgan” as the keyword. This yielded twenty-two results, many of them advertisements for runaway slaves. The others, however, elaborated on Morgan’s business activities as a tailor. An inquiry that formerly would have taken hours in an archive or research library took only minutes with a keyword search of digitized primary sources.

October 14

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Oct 14 - 10:14:1768 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (October 14, 1768).

“A suit of Broad Cloth, full trim’d.”

By the time he “opened a Taylors Shop” in Portsmouth late in the summer of 1768, Richard Lowden was already familiar to many colonists in New Hampshire. More than a year earlier he had advertised that “the Co-Partnership between him and Robert Patterson … was Dissolved,” but Lowden “still continues to carry on the Taylors Business.” At the time, he had his own shop “near the Town-School in Queen-street.” He apparently changed locations in 1768, through he remained on Queen Street, his shop “almost adjoining to that of Messi’rs Williams and Stanwood, Barbers.” Although in a news shop, he continued to pledge that his clients “may depend on being faithfully and punctually served.”

The format of Lowden’s advertisement made it stand out from others published in the same issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette, particularly a table that listed the prices for several of the garments he made. Prospective customers could expect to pay one pound for “A suit of Broad Cloth, full trim’d,” but only eighteen shillings for “A plain suit of Cloaths” and nine shillings for “A Coat only.” These prices set the baseline for children’s apparel. Lowden charged “in the same proportion” for those items.

Relatively few advertisers who offered consumer goods and services published prices in the 1760s, though general appeals to low prices were among he most common marketing strategies throughout the eighteenth century. Sometimes merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans highlighted special prices for particular items, but rarely did they specify how much they charged for everything listed in their advertisements. Taking this approach may have given Lowden an advantage over other tailors in Portsmouth. Publishing his prices served as a guarantee of sorts, a maximum price that prospective clients could expect to pay. This also presented opportunities for Lowden to bestow bargains on some customers, both those who loyally visited his shop and others who negotiated for better deals. Lowden could underscore to both constituencies that they received a deal, though he could also hold the line with the latter by stating that the published price were the final prices.

Advertisers throughout the colonies realized that making appeals to price made their goods and services more attractive to consumers. Lowden further experimented with that concept, inserting the prices for his garments in order to engage potential clients. He transformed vague assertions about price into specific amounts that he charged for the garments made in his shop.

July 26

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Jul 26 - 7:26:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 26, 1768).

“Mrs. Crane continues to make … the Brunswick dresses, so much esteemed in England.”

In the summer of 1768, John and Sarah Crane placed an advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to inform residents of Charleston and the surrounding area that they had “removed from the house” where they formerly kept their workshop to a new location. The tailor and mantuamaker considered it “their duty, not only to acquaint the gentlemen and ladies of this town” that they had moved but also to express “their sincere acknowledgments for the many favours they have received.” The Cranes wanted their existing clientele to follow them to their new location. They anticipated the “pleasing prospect” of the “continuance” of their business, but acknowledging their customers in the public prints served as more than a means of maintaining those relationships. It also communicated to prospective clients that other consumers in the busy port had already sought out their services.

The Cranes may have considered this especially important since they had only recently arrived in Charleston. They described themselves as “Very Lately arrived from LONDON,” though they had been in town for at least five months. They had previously advertised in February, yet they still considered themselves new to the community. Despite the disadvantages of being newcomers, depicting themselves in this manner worked to their advantage in certain ways. It established a direct connection to the cosmopolitan center of the empire, suggesting that they relied on their own knowledge when they pledged to make garments “in the newest taste.” To further make their case, they noted that “Mrs. Crane continues to make … the Brunswick dresses, so much esteemed in England.” The glossary of “Colonial Lady’s Clothing” compiled by historians at Colonial Williamsburg describes the Brunswick as a “three-quarter length jacket worn with a petticoat” that was worn as “an informal gown or a traveling gown. It had a high neck, unstiffened bodice that buttoned, long sleeves, and frequently had a sack back (loose pleats) and a hood.” The Brunswick reached the height of its popularity in the 1760s, indicating that the Cranes were right on message when they chose it as an example to demonstrate their awareness of the “newest taste” in London.

When it came to stating how long they had been in Charleston, the Cranes tried to have it both ways. They had been in the city just long enough to faithfully serve some of its residents, but not so long that their personal observations of popular styles in London had become outdated. They expected both of these factors to appeal to prospective clients.

July 22

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Jul 22 - 7:22:1768 Connecticut Journal
Connecticut Journal (July 22, 1768).

“John Astle, Stay-Maker, & Taylor, directly from London.”

When John Astle, a tailor and staymaker, set up shop in New Haven in the summer of 1768, he placed an advertisement in the Connecticut Journal to inform prospective clients that he made and repaired all sorts of garments, including “Cloaks, and Huzzas,” “Riding-Habits for Ladies,” and corsets (stays). He also pledged to deliver exemplary customer service: “Whoever will be kind enough to favour him with their Custom, may depend upon the best Usage in his Power.”

In the process of introducing himself to readers he hoped would become customers, Astle also noted his origins. He stated that he had arrived in New Haven “directly from London.” (The tailor may have requested that “London” appear in italics to garner more attention, but more likely the compositor made this decision without consulting the advertiser.) In so doing, he adopted a common marketing strategy, one that was especially popular among members of the garment trades. The frequency of styles changing dramatically accelerated in the eighteenth century as part of the consumer revolution. Colonists looked to London, the cosmopolitan center of the empire, for the latest fashions. Some advertisers explicitly stated that they made or sold garments, housewares, and other goods according to the most current tastes. Others asserted connections to London or other places in England or continental Europe as a means of suggesting that they had acquired both skill in crafting apparel and knowledge of the newest fashions.

Stating that they were “from London,” however, left room for interpretation. That description did not specify how recently advertisers had worked in London or migrated to the colonies. Astle apparently realized that some prospective clients would be skeptical. To answer any objections, he modified the standard phrase “from London” to “directly from London,” communicating to readers that he had not been working in the English provinces or other colonies immediately prior to arriving in New Haven. Months or years had not passed since he had actively made garments in the city at the center of the empire. Instead, potential customers could depend on him having knowledge of current styles and outfitting them accordingly. Many eighteenth-century advertisements deployed formulaic phrases, but advertisers like Astle sometimes modified them to suit their needs and deliver better marketing appeals.

July 9

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Jul 9 - 7:9:1768 New-York Journal Supplement
Supplement to the New-York Journal (July 9, 1768).

“Doubts not to give full Satisfaction to all Gentlemen who please to employ him.”

In the process of announcing that he had moved his workshop to a new location, John Forrest, a tailor, traded on his reputation to attract an even larger clientele. For those who either had not yet employed him or were not yet familiar with his work, he trumpeted “his well known Ability in his Profession,” signaling to “the Public in general” and, especially, “Any Gentleman in City or Army” that they could depend on being well served at his shop.

Forrest pledged “to give full Satisfaction to all Gentlemen who please to employ him.” Yet he did not make general promises. Instead, he explained the various details that he considered essential in achieving customer satisfaction. This began with employing a skilled staff, “the best of Workmen.” He also adhered to deadlines and did not make promises he could not keep when setting dates for completing the garments he made or repaired. Exercising “particular Care that his Work shall be done to the Time limited” further enhanced his reputation since disgruntled clients would not have cause to express their frustration or disappointment on that count when discussing his services with other prospective customers.

At the same time, Forrest sidestepped any suggestions that work done on time might also be work done hastily. He advanced a bold claim about the quality of the garments produced in his shop; they were made “as well and neat as in any Part of Europe.” The tailor did not make comparisons to his competitors in the busy port or to his counterparts in the largest cities in the colonies. Instead, he made a much more expansive claim, one he hoped would resonate with both military officers and the local gentry. Among other markers of status, both constituencies depended on impeccable tailoring to distinguish them as the better sort.

Forrest aimed to please. He informed prospective clients that they “may have laced Work done in any Figure or Taste they please.” Along with his talented staff, his faithfulness to deadlines, and the superior quality of his work, he depicted customer satisfaction as his first priority. Such devotion to his clients may have produced the reputation he invoked in his advertisement, “his well known Ability in his Profession.”

July 6

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Jul 6 - 7:6:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (July 6, 1768).

“EVANS, TAYLOR, HABIT and CLOAK-MAKER, from LONDON.”

Except for the mononym, this advertisement by Evans in the July 6, 1768, edition of the Georgia Gazette was not flashy. Nor was it particularly lengthy. Yet despite the economy of prose, Evans, a “TAYLOR, HABIT and CLOAK-MAKER,” managed to work several appeals into his short advertisement. In that regard, he met the standards for advertising established by many of his contemporaries throughout the colonies.

Like many other artisans, especially those in the garments trades, he first informed prospective clients of his origins. Evans was “from LONDON,” though he did not indicate how long it had been since he had lived there or how long he had pursued his trade in that city. Still, establishing a connection to the cosmopolitan center of the empire likely afforded him some cachet among the residents of Savannah and its environs.

Asserting that connection also provided a foundation for one of his other appeals. He promised potential customers that “he makes every article in the above branches after the newest fashion.” It went without saying that he meant the newest fashion in London. The tailor played on colonists’ anxieties that they lived in a provincial backwater, one separated from the metropole not only by distance but also by taste and style. Evans assured them that when they wore his clothing that they donned the current trends not only in the largest and most sophisticated urban ports on this side of the Atlantic but also the fashions in London. Yet it was not prohibitively expensive to rival the styles in those places. Evans pledged that he charged “the most reasonable rates” for the garments he made.

The tailor incorporated a brief employment advertisement at the end of his notice: “Wanted, Several Men and Women who can sew neatly.” Doing so communicated to readers that his services were in such demand that he needed more help in his shop, not just a single assistant but instead several to handle the volume of clients he served. Just as prospective clients desired to keep up with “the newest fashion” they also derived status from having their apparel made by a popular tailor.

Evans’s advertisement may seem sparse at first glance, but the savvy tailor inserted several appeals that recommended his services to customers. Without going into great detail, he played on several currents in consumer culture already quite familiar to eighteenth-century readers.