August 4

What was advertised in a colonial America newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Maryland Gazette (August 1, 1771).

“Has been regularly bred to the tailoring Trade in the most capital house for that Business.”

James Logan, a tailor, was an outsider when he arrived in Annapolis.  Like many other artisans who migrated across the Atlantic, he introduced himself to his new community (and prospective clients) in a newspaper advertisement that included an account of his credentials.  Until he had an opportunity to establish a reputation in his new home, he relied on his training and experience to recommend him to potential customers.

Logan’s advertisement ran in the August 4, 1771, edition of the Maryland Gazette.  He informed readers that “not only has [he] been regularly bred to the tailoring Trade in the most capital House for that Business, in the City of Cork, but also worked for a considerable Time with much Applause, with most eminent Masters in England and Ireland.”  Having worked with “eminent Masters” enhanced his training, but also testified to a competence that others who followed his occupation recognized in Logan.  Those experiences prepared him to pursue “his Trade in all it’s various Branches,” capable of completing any task requested by clients in his new city “to give the utmost Satisfaction.”  He also leveraged his connections to “the most capital House” in Cork and “eminent Masters in England and Ireland” to suggest a certain amount of cachet associated with hiring him.

The tailor also sought to convince prospective customers of his commitment to his craft combined with his desire to serve them.  He trumpeted his “superior Ability” and in the same breath promised “constant Adherence to the due Assiduity highly necessary in the Execution” of his new undertaking.  Even more verbose than many artisans who advertised in colonial newspapers, Logan aimed to make himself memorable to readers not yet familiar with the garments he made.  For the moment, words by necessity substituted for the reputation that he hoped to cultivate in Annapolis as he built his clientele.

June 2

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

Maryland Gazette (May 30, 1771).

“The newest and neatest Fashion, either in Europe or America.”

In the spring of 1771, Peter Sinnott, a “TAYLOR, from Dublin,” introduced himself to the residents of Annapolis in an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette.  He advised prospective clients, both “Gentlemen” and “Ladies,” that he “carries on his Trade in all its Branches.”  The tailor also pledged that his customers “may depend on having their Cloaths well made.”  Like many other artisans, Sinnott incorporated the combination of quality, skill, and expertise into his newspaper notices.

He also included an appeal to fashion, another common marketing strategy for tailors, milliners, and others who made garments.  Sinnott proclaimed that he produced clothing “in the newest and neatest Fashion, either in Europe or America.”  In so doing, he demonstrated that he expected anxieties about wearing the latest styles resonated even in smaller ports.  Simultaneously, he attempted to stoke those anxieties.  Annapolis was not nearly as large as Boston, Charleston, New York, or Philadelphia, but that did not mean that consumers there could not be as cosmopolitan in their appearances as their counterparts in those major urban ports.  Yet that was not the extent of the promise that Sinnott made.  His clients in Annapolis could not only keep pace with fashionable gentlemen and ladies throughout the colonies but also with trendsetters on the other side of the Atlantic.

Sinnott realized that it would take time to establish his reputation and cultivate a clientele for his garments.  In order to earn a living while he did so, he also promoted an ancillary service, declaring that he “scours and cleans Cloaths in a superior Manner than has hitherto been done in this Place.”  Furthermore, he had perfected a method for “taking Spots and Stains out of Scarlet Cloth.”  Each time he interacted with clients who hired him to clean their garments, Sinnott had an opportunity to offer his services as a tailor.  One branch of his business supported the other, possibly resulting in new commissions.

In a short advertisement, Sinnott presented “the PUBLICK” with several reasons to him.  He emphasized his skill and the quality of his garments while reassuring prospective clients that he would outfit them in the latest styles.  He also provided additional services for the benefit of his clients.  As Sinnott’s advertisement demonstrates, eighteenth-century newspaper notices did not merely announce the availability of consumer goods and services.  Instead, advertisers constructed appeals intended to incite demand and convince readers to visit their shops.

May 3

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (May 3, 1771).

“Ladies Riding Dresses made at Prices in Proportion to the above.”

Edward Griffiths, a tailor from London who migrated to Portsmouth, advertised his services in the May 3, 1771, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Like many other artisans, he promised “reasonable Rates” for his work.  He did not, however, expect prospective clients to take his word.  Instead, he published a list of what he charged for more than half a dozen items.  A “lappeled Suit,” for instance, cost one pound and eight shillings, as did a “half trimmed Suit.”  A “frock Suit” was slightly less expensive at one pound and four shillings.  Three more items – a pair of breeches, a jacket with sleeves, and a jacket with lapels – all cost four shillings and eight pence.  In contrast, Griffiths charged only four shillings for a jacket without sleeves.  In addition, he made and sold “Ladies Riding Dresses … at Prices in Proportion” to those enumerated in his advertisement.

Prospective clients knew what they should expect to pay even before they visited Griffiths’s shop.  They could assess for themselves whether he did indeed charge “the most reasonable Rates” for his garments.  Furthermore, the tailor facilitated comparison shopping.  Consumers who previously paid other tailors more for the same items could recognize a bargain among his list of prices.  That depended, however, on Griffiths actually setting prices low enough to survive such scrutiny.  Merely naming prices in his advertisement did not necessarily guarantee that he would attract customers, especially if Griffiths misjudged the local market.  This strategy also limited his ability to haggle with customers.  He could still offer discounts at the time of sale, but the published prices prevented him from setting rates any higher on the spot and then allowing clients to feel as though they negotiated significant bargains.  Providing the list of prices in his advertisement had advantages and disadvantages.  Griffiths apparently felt confident enough in his prices that he believed the advantages outweighed the disadvantages.

November 2

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (November 2, 1770).

“Faxson will work very cheap for Cash or other good Pay.”

In the early 1770s, Jospeh Bass sold a variety of goods at his shop next door to the printing office in Portsmouth.  He opened an advertisement in the November 2, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette by noting that he offered his wares “CHEAP for CASH,” a common refrain among shopkeepers from New England to Georgia.  Many specified that they desired cash payments because they had already extended generous amounts of credit to their customers.  Indeed, credit helped make possible the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century, but it also often put retailers and other suppliers of goods and services in precarious positions.  In the same issue that Bass advertised his merchandise, Jacob Treadwell promoted a “General ASSORTMENT of GOODS, at the very lowest Price for Cash.”  William Torrey sold loaf sugar and molasses “for Cash only.”

Yet cash and credit were not the only means of buying and selling goods available to colonists.  Many continued to barter.  James McMaster and Company, for instance, placed a notice seeking pot ash and flax seed.  In exchange, they gave “Cash, or English-Goods,” allowing those who did business with them to select from among textiles, housewares, and hardware in stock at their store.  Christopher Faxson, a tailor, also inserted an advertisement in the same edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  He stated that he charged “sixteen Shillings Lawful Money” for “a plain Suit of Cloaths,” but he did not insist on cash like some of the other advertisers.  Instead, he advised prospective customers that he “will work very cheap for Cash or other good Pay.”  Faxson signaled that he would accept a variety of forms of payment, such as shop goods or produce, from clients willing to negotiate on terms.  Most advertisers preferred cash or credit for their transactions with customers, but others continued to present barter as an option, likely making for interesting bookkeeping practices.

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.