What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Painters and Limners Colours, / Dyers and Fullers Articles, / Window Glass of all Sizes.”
Gerardus Duyckinck regularly advertised the “UNIVERSAL STORE” in the New-York Journal in the early 1770s, his notices readily recognizable by the ornate cartouche that surrounded most of the copy. Advertisers who adorned their notices with visual images usually selected woodcuts that appeared either in the upper left corner or above the text. Most visual images were fairly simple, but Duyckinck invested in perhaps the most elaborate woodcut that enhanced an advertisement in an American newspaper prior to the American Revolution. The rococo flourishes that composed the border extended more than half a column. The upper portion featured a depiction of Duyckink’s shop sign, the Looking Glass and Druggist Pot. Unlike any other advertisement in the New-York Journal or other colonial newspapers, this one resembled the trade cards that circulated in London and, to a lesser extent, the largest ports in the colonies.
Even when he did not incorporate that woodcut into his advertisements, Duyckinck often sought to create visually distinctive notices. Such was the case for an advertisement in the October 10, 1771, edition of the New-York Journal. An advertisement featuring his elaborate woodcut ran on the additional half sheet, as it had for many weeks, but the shopkeeper supplemented it with another advertisement, the first among the new notices following the news on the third page. His new advertisement started with a dense block of text, similar to the format in so many other advertisements for consumer goods and services, but approximately half of that copy directed prospective customers to his new location. A large portion of his advertisement, however, listed many of the items available at the Universal Store. Duyckinck apparently arranged for the compositor to include only a couple of items on each line and center them in order to introduce a significant amount of white space. Doing so gave the copy in that portion of the advertisement a unique shape that distinguished it from others in the same issue. Duyckinck did not need an elaborate woodcut to make a memorable impression. He devised other means of being a showman in his supplemental advertisement.