What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He continues to cut and dress Gentlemen and Ladies Hair in Taste, either antient or modern.”
Amos Morrisson described himself as a “Peruke-Maker and Dresser.” He made wigs and styled hair for colonizers in and near New Haven in the early 1770s. He placed an advertisement in the April 17, 1772, edition of the Connecticut Journal to inform current and prospective clients that he “lately removed from the Place where he formerly work’d, to a new Shop on the Church Land, next to Mr. Fairchild’s.” That amounted to sufficient direction for patrons to find his new location.
Morrisson incorporated several marketing appeals into the remainder of his advertisement. He addressed fashion and customer satisfaction simultaneously when he stated that he “continues to cut and dress Gentlemen and Ladies Hair in Taste, either antient or modern.” In so doing, he hinted at debates about hairstyles that colonizers took seriously during the era of the American Revolution. Men and women who adopted “modern” styles faced accusations that they indulged in luxury at the expense of good character. Women wore high rolls, their hair and extensions elaborately arranged atop their heads. Some men adopted a similar style, prompting critics to refer to them as “macaronis” as a critique of hairstyles, garments, and comportment associated with Italy. Morrisson did not take a position in the debate. Instead, he signaled that he was proficient in the “modern” style for those who wished to wear it, but he also served clients who preferred more conservative or “antient” styles. Either way, his clients could depend on having their hair done “in Taste” at his shop.
In addition to styling hair, Morrisson “carried on Wigg-Making in all its Branches.” He once again emphasized customer service, promising that “Gentlemen (both of Town and Country) … may depend upon being used in the best Manner.” He constructed his wigs “of the best Materials” and set lower prices than prospective clients would find anywhere in the vicinity. Morrisson declared that he sold his wigs “much cheaper … than has formerly been sold in Town.” He also highlighted his experience and roots in the community, referencing clients “that have favoured him with their good Custom” in the past and inviting them to “continue the same.”
Morrisson’s advertisement was not particularly lengthy, but he managed to include a variety of appeals to incite demand for his services. In so doing, he replicated aspects of advertisements placed by his counterparts in larger urban ports like New York and Philadelphia. Fashion was not the province of the elite in those places. Instead, purveyors of goods and services, including a “Peruke-Maker and Dresser” like Morrisson, served consumers throughout the colonies.