September 19

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 19, 1772).

“John White Stay-Maker”

Most advertisements in colonial newspapers did not feature visual images.  Those that did usually used a stock image provided by the printer, such as a ship at sea, a house, a horse, or an enslaved person liberating him- or herself by “running away.”  Never elaborate in the scenes depicted, such woodcuts could be used interchangeably in advertisements from the appropriate genre.  Some advertisers, however, commissioned images that corresponded to the shop signs that marked their locations or illustrated one or more items available among their merchandise.

Two such images appeared in the September 19, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Robert Parrish once again included the woodcut depicting a “ROLLING SCREEN for cleaning wheat and flaxseed,” though he did not use a woodcut showing a Dutch fan or winnowing fan that previously appeared with it.  Perhaps he did not wish to incur the additional cost for the space required to publish two images.

Another entrepreneur, John White, adorned his advertisement with an image of a stay (or corset), the body and holes for the laces on the left and the laces on the right.  Readers would have easily recognized the garment and understood how it wrapped around and confined a woman’s body.  The words “John White” and “Stay-Maker” flanked the woodcut.  The image accounted for half of the space for the advertisement, an additional investment beyond commissioning the woodcut.

White announced that he moved to a new location where “he continues to carry on the Staymaking business as usual.”  He pledged “to give satisfaction to all who are pleased to employ him.”  He also solicited “orders from any part of the country” and provided mail order service, making it unnecessary for clients to visit his shop in Philadelphia.  Instead, they could send measurements “in respect to length and width of the Stays, both at top and bottom exactly, in the front and back parts.”  The staymaker warned that customers who opted for that convenience needed to pay postage for such orders rather than expect him to take responsibility for those charges.

The woodcut depicting a stay, its body and laces unfurled, almost certainly helped attract attention to White’s advertisement, his promises of customer satisfaction, and the option for submitting orders “by the post” rather than visiting his shop.  Most newspaper advertisements consisted solely of text, so any sort of visual enhancement, whether an image or decorative type, distinguished those advertisements from others.

August 29

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (August 29, 1772).

“FISHING TACKLE.”

In the summer of 1772, Edward Pole advertised a variety of items available at his ‘GROCERY STORE” on Second Street in Philadelphia.  He stocked everything from wines and spirits to “Green, Bohea, Hyson and Soushong Teas” to raisins and currants to “mustard by the bottle or pound.”  Pole declared that he would “make it his chief study to merit” repeat business from his customers “by keeping an assortment of the best kind of GROCERIES, and selling them on the lowest terms.”

Yet Pole stocked more than just groceries.  His advertisement in the August 29 edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle included a headline and a section for “FISHING TACKLE” available at his store.  He carried “Fishing rods of various kinds, best Kerby and common hooks of all sizes, artificial flies, wheels, silk, hair and trolling lines of every kind, length, and goodness, deapseas, casting, minnow and scoop nets,” and other items.  He made a point of promoting “the best kind of fish-hooks, made by ROBERT CARTER, fish-hook maker, from Trenton.”

Over time, the appropriately-named Pole placed greater emphasis on marketing fishing supplies.  By 1781, he was placing advertisements for “Fishing Tackle Of all sorts, for Use of either SEA or RIVER, MADE AND SOLD By Edward Pole” in the Pennsylvania Packet.  A woodcut depicting a fish adorned those advertisements.  He commissioned another woodcut of a fish, this one with a decorative border, for his advertisement in the March 24, 1784, edition of the Freeman’s Journal.  At about the same time, he made an even greater investment in a trade card engraved by David Tew.  A vignette showed two gentlemen fishing, one with a rod and the other with a net.  The gentleman with the rod had a fish on the line, its head sticking out of the water, while the gentleman with the net attempted to scoop up the fish.  An ornate cartouche, complete with fishing lures dangling from it, served as border for the text of this advertisement.  The trade card announced that “Edward Pole FISHING-TACKLE-MAKER … es & Sells all kinds of the best Fishing Tackle for the use of either Sea or River.”  A nota bene advised, “Gentlemen going on parties, in the Fishing Way Compleatly fitted out on the shortest notice.”

The headline for “FISHING TACKLE” in Pole’s newspaper advertisements published in 1772 foreshadowed the more extensive marketing efforts he launched in the 1780s.  He further enhanced newspaper notices with visual images as he increasingly specialized in fishing supplies.  He also distributed an engraved trade card that featured images that rivaled any on the hundreds of trade cards distributed in London in the eighteenth century, making his business all the more memorable to the gentlemen he aimed to serve.

Edward Pole, Trade Card, engraved by David Tew (Philadelphia, 1780s). Courtesy Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

August 19

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (August 19, 1772).

“The FULLING BUSINESS, in all its branches.”

Joseph Blackwood operated a fulling mill “on the north branch of Raccoon creek, in the county of Gloucester,” New Jersey, in the early 1770s.  In an effort to cultivate customers for this enterprise, he ran an advertisement in the August 19, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  Blackwood confidently informed readers that he pursued “the FULLING BUSINESS, in all its branches, in as extensive a manner and at as cheap rates, as at any Mill in New-Jersey or Pennsylvania.”

To convince prospective customers that was the case, the fuller declared that he possessed “all necessary tools and conveniences” for processing any cloth delivered to him.  In addition, he was able to operate the mill throughout the year because it had been “so commodiously constructed, with all the works inclosed in a large stone house, in order to avoid being retarded in the winter season.”  Blackwood believed that the equipment combined with his skill and experience would result in customers “having their cloth dressed in the neatest and best manner, and with the greatest expedition.”  He promised quality as well as a quick turnaround on his services.  Blackwood also made it convenient for prospective customers to hire him by establishing a network of local agents in several towns in New Jersey.  Those associates collected “CLOTH for the Mill” and instructions.  The fuller visited each local agent once a week to collect cloth for new orders and deliver processed cloth.

Blackwood made a variety of appeals, yet he did not rely on advertising copy alone.  A woodcut depicting equipment at the fulling mill occupied nearly half the space he purchased in the Pennsylvania Gazette, making his advertisement the only one adorned with an image not supplied by the printers.  Throughout the remainder of the issue, only two other images appeared, the ornate shield with three balls, the crest of the Penn family, in the masthead and a vessel at sea, a stock image, in an advertisement for a ship departing for South Carolina.  The image of the equipment at the fulling mill likely caught the attention of readers, further enhancing an advertisement that incorporated a variety of marketing strategies.  The woodcut encouraged readers to learn about Blackwood’s low prices, speedy service, notable equipment, and network of local associates.  The image likely prompted some readers to examine the dense text in the fuller’s advertisement more closely than they would have without an image to engage their curiosity.

August 12

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (August 12, 1772).

“He proposes to affix his Name on the Heads of all his Bolts, rolling Screens, and Fans.”

In the summer of 1772, John Sellers of Darby placed advertisements promoting “VARIOUS Kinds of Wire Work” in the Pennsylvania Gazette.  He made and sold “rolling Screens for cleaning Wheat,” “rolling Screens for cleaning Flaxseed from the yellow or wild Seed,” “small Bolts for separating the Cockle from the Flaxseed,” and “common Dutch Fans” for separating wheat from chaff.

Sellers presented a variety of reasons that readers in need of any of those devices should purchase them from him.  He promised that customers who “favour him with their Orders, may depend on their Work being done with Care,” reiterating a description of his products as “made in the neatest and best Manner.”  He also offered a guarantee, stating that “the Work [is] Warranted.  Furthermore, Sellers drew on long experience as an artisan who met the expectations of his clients.  He was “not pretending to perform that which he has not, in a great Number of Instance, given the utmost Satisfaction.”  Over time, he made “upwards of 50 rolling Screens for Wheat, and upwards of 70 for Flaxseed,” establishing his reputation.

Sellers did not expect prospective customers to visit his workshop in Darby, six miles away from Philadelphia, to examine his products or purchase them.  Instead, “for the Conveniency of his Customers,” he arranged to have them on display “in Plumsted’s Stores, in Philadelphia.”  Sellers instructed to customers to ask for John Brown to handle sales.  For those who wished to confer with the artisan directly, he advised that he “attends generally twice a Week, in Philadelphia.”  Anyone interested in contacting him directly could do so by “leaving a Line at the Conestogoe Waggon, in Market-street, or sending by the Post.”

To attract notice to the various appeals he deployed in the copy of his advertisement, Sellers adorned it with a woodcut depicting one of the rolling screens he constructed.  He commissioned that image at least five years earlier, having included it in an advertisement that ran in the Pennsylvania Gazette in September 1767.  Just as sellers aimed to make his newspaper notice distinctive, he also marked the items he made in his workshop.  He informed his customers that he “affix[ed] his Name on the Heads of all his Bolts, rolling Screens, and Fans.”  That demonstrated pride in his craft while also marketing his products every time someone encountered his name on this equipment after it left his workshop. Sellers did not limit his marketing strategy to describing his products.  Instead, he used distinctive marks to draw attention, both an image in his newspaper advertisement and his name branding his bolts, screens, and fans.

July 27

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 27, 1772).

“J. BAILEY. Cutler. from Sheffield.”

In the early 1770s, cutlers in New York competed with each other not only for customers but also in producing elaborate images to accompany their advertisements in the city’s newspapers.  It began in the spring of 1771 with Bailey and Youle, “Cutlers for Sheffield,” running an advertisement with a woodcut depicting more than a dozen items made and sold at their shop, enhancing their list of “surgeons instruments, … knives, razors, shears, and scissors.”  Not long after, Richard Sause followed their lead with an advertisement featuring a woodcut depicting more than a dozen items available at his shop.  Two items, a knife and a sword, had his name on them, suggesting that he marked his wares so consumers would recall who produced them and, if satisfied with the quality and durability, buy from him again.  In that regard, Sause improved on the image distributed by Bailey and Youle, although his competitors may have also marked their cutlery even if the woodcut in the newspaper did not indicate that was the case.

When Bailey and Youle dissolved their partnership a year later, Youle retained the woodcut and modified it to remove any reference to his former associate.  Not long after Youle disseminated that image in the public prints, Lucas and Shephard, WHITESMITHS and CUTLERS, From BIRMINGHAM and SHEFFIELD,” published their own advertisement with a woodcut showcasing many of the items they made and sold.  Bailey apparently considered that strategy effective for attracting customers (or at least not losing them to his competitors) because he devised his own woodcut that enclosed “J. BAILEY.  Cutler.  from Sheffield” and several cutlery items within a decorative border.  The copy of his advertisement gave his location as “the Sign of the Cross Swords, the Corner House opposite the Merchant’s Coffee-House.”  A pair of crossed swords appeared at the center of the woodcut.  A second woodcut appeared at the end of the advertisement, under a nota bene that advised that Bailey “has now for sale fullers shears.”  The cutler used the additional image to distinguish his notice from those of his competitors.  All three advertisements ran in the July 27, 1772, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (Bailey’s on the third page, Youle’s on the first page of the supplement, and Lucas and Shephard’s on the second page of the supplement).  Given the prevalence of images in advertisements placed by his competitors, Bailey may have considered it imperative to get his own woodcut depicting his wares into circulation among consumers in New York.

Left: New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (March 4, 1771); Right: Supplement to the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 27, 1772).

July 13

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (July 13, 1772).

“All sorts of knives and forks, pocket and penknives.”

Lucas and Shephard, “WHITESMITHS and CUTLERS, From BIRMINGHAM and SHEFFIELD,” enhanced their advertisement in the July 13, 1772, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury with a woodcut that depicted many of the items they made and sold at their new location in “the shop lately occupied by Messrs. Bailey and Youle.” Lucas and Shephard provided an extensive list of their wares, making the combination of words and image an eighteenth-century precursor to the illustrated catalogs that so significantly shaped consumer culture in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Lucas and Shephard followed the lead of other cutlers in New York.  Previously, Bailey and Youle adorned their own advertisements with a woodcut that depicted more than a dozen items they produced in the shop.  When the partnership dissolved, James Youle retained the woodcut, modified it to remove his former partner’s name, and inserted it in advertisements in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury in June and July 1772.  Lucas and Shepard began running their advertisement two weeks after Youle’s notice ran on June 29.  It was not the first time that the woodcut that accompanied one of Youle’s advertisements may have inspired imitation.  In April 1771, Richard Sause ran advertisements with a woodcut that showed all sorts of cutlery items that he made at his shop just a few weeks after Bailey and Youle’s notice appeared in the public prints.  A sword and a table knife even bore his name, suggesting that he marked his work in some manner.

Like those cutlers who placed advertisements before them, Lucas and Shephard deployed a variety of appeals to entice prospective customers.  They emphasized their skill, promising “great accuracy” in their work, and a “reasonable price.”  They also made a nod to customer services, pledging to “carry on their business with dispatch” in order “to give satisfaction to all who may please to employ them.  The image increased the likelihood that readers would take note of their advertisement, especially considering Youle continued running his own advertisements with depictions of his cutlery ware.  Lucas and Shephard may have considered their own woodcut imperative for competing with Youle, a necessary investment when they chose to advertise in a newspaper in which he already established visibility for his shop.

July 6

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

Boston Evening-Post (July 6, 1772).

“THE STAGE-COACH Between NEW-YORK and BOSTON.”

In the early 1770s, Jonathan Brown and Nicholas Brown placed advertisements seeking “encouragement” for stagecoach service they wished to establish between Boston and New York.  In addition to calling on the public to support them by traveling on their stagecoaches, the Browns sought investors “willing to become adventurers … in said undertaking.”  They outlined the various benefits of this service, including increasing commerce in the Connecticut as colonizers traveled through the province instead of bypassing it by sailing from New York to Providence and then continuing overland to Boston.

When summer arrived, the Browns launched the service on a trial basis.  They initially placed an advertisement in the June 25 edition of the New-York Journal to announce that the “STAGE COACH BETWEEN NEW-YORK AND BOSTON … for the first Time sets out this Day.”  In the following days, they placed additional advertisements in the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, and the Connecticut Journal, published in New Haven.  On July 6, their advertisement from the New-York Journal appeared in the Boston Evening-Post, alerting the public at that end of the line that the stagecoach paused in Hartford for a week and would arrive in Boston on July 11.  The Browns planned for the next trip to depart on July 11, so prospective passengers had nearly a week to make plans if they wished to travel at that time.  If demand warranted, the operators intended to “perform the Stage once a Week.”

The advertisement in the Boston Evening-Post included one element not included in the New-York Journal.  A woodcut depicting horses, a driver, and a stagecoach with a passenger visible inside appeared at the top of the advertisement.  That helped to draw attention to their notice by distinguishing it from others, especially since it was the only advertisement in that issue that incorporated an image (though Jolley Allen’s notice on the following page did feature his trademark border).

In hopes that their “Trial” would find sufficient “Encouragement” to establish a permanent route that ran once a week, the Browns placed advertisements in several newspapers along their route.  They did not, however, advertise as extensively as possible, perhaps due to budgetary constraints.  They could have flooded the market with advertising, placing notices in both newspapers printed in New York, all five in Boston, and even any in Philadelphia for prospective passengers who planned to travel north.  Perhaps they wished to assess the return on their investment for their initial round of advertising before expanding to additional publications.

June 18

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

Massachusetts Spy (June 18, 1772).

“HATS manufactured and sold by the advertiser.”

Of the five newspapers published in Boston in the summer of 1772, the Massachusetts Spy had the most elaborate masthead, but it also had featured the fewest innovations in design for the rest of the contents, including advertisements.  For instance, a decorative border enclosed Jolley Allen’s advertisement when it appeared in each of the other newspapers, but that distinctive format was not incorporated into Allen’s notice when he submitted identical copy to the Massachusetts Spy.

That did not prevent Martin Bicker from attempting to draw more attention to his advertisement with an image of his merchandise in the upper left corner.  Bicker advertised that he “manufactured and sold” hats.  A woodcut depicting a tricorne hat, a popular style at the time, alerted readers to the contents of the advertisement before they read it.  Bicker did not provide many details about his hats, but he did declare that he “hopes he has given such satisfaction to his customers as will induce them to continue their favours.”  In other words, he invited repeat business and recommendations via word of mouth.

New-York Journal (June 18, 1772).

The same day that Bicker’s advertisement ran in the Massachusetts Spy, Nesbitt Deane once again inserted his advertisement for hats in the New-York Journal.  Both the appeals he made to customers and the image that accompanied the notice were more sophisticated.  Deane trumpeted that he made hats “to exceed in Fineness, Cut, Colour and Cock.”  In addition, he devised a means “to turn rain, and prevent the Sweat of the Head damaging the crown.”  Prospective customers would not find that feature in other hats, Deane asserted, because he invented “a Method peculiar to himself. He also gave a discount to retailers who bought in volume, offering “Encouragement to those who buy to sell again.”  Like Bicker, Deane acknowledged his existing customers and asked them to promote his hats.  “Such Gentry and others, who have experienced his Ability, ’tis hoped will recommend.”  The image at the top of Deane’s advertisement included both a tricorne hat and a banner with his name.  Rococo flourishes further enhanced that image.

Bicker did not deploy as many appeals as Deane in his effort to entice consumers to purchase his hats, but including an image in his advertisement distinguished it from most others in the Massachusetts Spy.  Relatively few advertisements published in the eighteenth-century newspapers featured images of any sort.  Did including images give advertisers an advantage?  Deane apparently thought so.  By the time Bicker placed his notice, Deane had been running his advertisement for nearly a year.  He likely would not have inserted it in the New-York Journal so many times if he did not believe he received a return on his investment.

June 17

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

Supplement to the Pennsylvania Packet (June 15, 1772).

“Sweeping brushes as 19 s. per dozen, and lower by the half or whole gross.”

John Hannah described himself as a “WHOLESALE AND RETAIL BRUSHMAKER” in an advertisement that appeared in the supplement that accompanied the June 15, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet.  Although he stocked “a good assortment of painting brushes” and “a general assortment of bone brushes” that he “imported in the last vessels from England and Holland,” he focused on the items that he produced in his own shop “AT THE HOG, … At the north-east corner of Second and Chestnut Streets” in Philadelphia.  A woodcut depicting a boar, the bristles on the crest of its back evident, adorned his advertisement.

Hannah declared that he “made and manufactured” all kinds of brushes “in the best manner” at his shop, assisted by “the best hands in the city.”  The quality of his brushes derived from both the materials, “a large and general assortment of Bristles” imported from Europe, and the skills of those who worked in his shop.  In addition to quality, Hannah promoted low prices, especially for wholesale transactions.  He proclaimed that he “can sell on as reasonable terms as any manufacturer in the province,” challenging prospective customers to compare his prices to those set by his competitors. To demonstrate that he did indeed offer good bargains, he listed some of his prices.  Hannah sold a dozen sweeping brushes for nineteen shillings.  He offered discounts to buyers who purchased in greater volume.  Similarly, he charged four shilling for a dozen “weavers brushes” and “lower by the half or whole gross.”  That he did not specify how deeply he discounted such purchases suggested that customers could negotiate the prices.

Hannah incorporated several appeals into his advertisement.  He emphasized the quality of his finished product as well as the skills of the workers who labored in his shop.  He promoted the range of choices available to customers.  He also promised the lowest prices in the colony, listing his prices and offering discounts to retailers and others who purchased large quantities of brushes.  To draw attention to his advertisement, he included a woodcut that resembled the sign that marked the location of his shop, a rudimentary form of branding his business.

May 27

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (May 25, 1772).

“Shoemakers may be supplied with tools of every kind used in their business.”

A silhouette of a shoe adorned Robert Loosely’s advertisement in the May 25, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but it was not footwear that the “Shoe Maker” aimed to sell.  Instead, he hawked “Shoemakers Tools, A general assortment lately imported from London.”  His inventory included “BEST London made cast steel knives,” “Pincers of all sizes, Shoe rasps and files of the best kind, Hammers of all sizes,” “An assortment of awl blades and tacks,” “Bend soles,” and much more.  The “&c. &c. &c” (or “etc. etc. etc.”) at the end of his list indicated that he named only a portion of his merchandise.

Loosely leveraged his training and experience as a shoemaker to convince others who followed the occupation that he was indeed qualified to assert that he provided them with “the best goods, on the most reasonable terms.”  He explained that he “served his apprenticeship in England, and for some years carried on a considerable trade there.”  That made him familiar with the equipment and supplies required to make shoes and boots.  He drew on experience in selecting which “Shoemakers Tools” to import and sell, unlike merchants and shopkeepers who treated those tools as general merchandise alongside so many other items they stocked.  Loosely underscored that during his time working in England he “became acquainted with the most reputed manufacturers of tools and leather.”  As a result, he “flatters himself he has it in his power to serve those that please to apply to him.”

Artisans with training or experience in England frequently gave those credentials in their newspaper advertisements when they migrated to the colonies, but they usually did so to convince prospective customers to purchase their wares or prospective clients to engage their services.  Loosely adapted that strategy to his own purposes, signaling to fellow artisans that they could depend on him to supply them with the best tools and materials to use in their own workshops.