September 26

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (September 26, 1772).

Woollen-Drapery and Hosiery WAREHOUSE, At the sign of the GOLDEN FLEECE’S HEAD.”

In the fall of 12772, George Bartram advertised a “very large assortment of MERCHANDIZE” recently imported via “the last vessels from Britain and Ireland.”  To entice prospective customers, he provided a list that included “Dark & light drabs or cloth colours, suitable for women’s cloaks,” “Cinnamon, chocolate and snuff colours, with a variety of mixed elegant coloured cloths,” “Scotch plaid, suitable for littler boys short cloths, gentlemen’s morning gowns,” “A COMPLETE assortment of man’s wove and knit silk, silk and worsted, worsted, cotton and thread HOSE,” and “Men & women’s silk, thread and worsted gloves.”  The extensive list, however, did not exhaust Bartram’s inventory.  He proclaimed that he carried “a great variety of other articles in the woollen and linen drapery, and hardware branches.”

With such an array of goods, Bartram did not purport to run a mere shop.  Instead, he promoted his business as a “Woollen-Drapery and Hosiery WAREHOUSE, At the sign of the GOLDEN FLEECE’S HEAD” on Second Street in Philadelphia.  The header for his advertisement in the September 26, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle had the appearance of a sign, with Bartram’s name and address within a border of decorative type.  The merchant already had a record of using visual devices to draw attention to the name he associated with his store.  In the January 22, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Packet, for instance, the words “GEORGE BARTRAM’s WOOLLEN DRAPERY AND HOSIERY WAREHOUSE” flanked a woodcut depicting a “GOLDEN FLEECE’S HEAD.”  He previously kept shop “at the Sign of the Naked Boy.”  Newspaper advertisements Bartram placed between 1767 and 1770 featured a woodcut of a shop sign with a naked boy holding a length of cloth in a cartouche in the center, rolls of textiles on either side, and “GEORGE” and “BARTRAM” flanking the bottom of the cartouche.

Many merchants and shopkeepers published lists of their merchandise.  Bartram enhanced such marketing efforts by associating a distinctive device, first the Naked boy and then the Golden Fleece’s Head, with his business, giving his shop an elaborate and memorable name, and using visual images, both woodcuts and decorative type, to distinguish his advertisements from others.  He did not merely announce goods for sale.  Instead, he experimented with marketing strategies.

January 27

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

Pennsylvania Packet (January 27, 1772).


Much of the content of George Bartram’s advertisement in the January 27, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Packetresembled what appeared in notices placed by other merchants and shopkeepers.  Bartram informed prospective customers that he “Just imported … A very large Assortment” of textiles “from BRITAIN and IRELAND.”  He then listed a variety of fabrics to demonstrate the choices available to consumers.

In addition to providing an overview of his merchandise, Bartram deployed other means of making his business memorable.  For instance, he marked it with a sign that featured a distinctive device, advising prospective customers to visit “the Sign of the GOLDEN FLEECE’S HEAD” on Second Street.  Some colonial entrepreneurs used similar signs, but many did not.  Among the other advertisers in the January 27 edition of the Pennsylvania Packet, John Carnan, a jeweler, ran a shop “AT THE GOLDEN LION,” but Joseph Carson, Francis Hopkinson, William Miller, Alexander Power, John Sparhawk, Mary Symonds, and James Wallace did not mention signs that marked their locations.  Bartram further enhanced his advertisement with an image of a golden fleece’s head that may have replicated his shop sign.  Most advertisers who called attention to their signs did not make the additional investment in woodcuts.  Bartram apparently made the investment only once.  He ran an advertisement with the same copy, but no image, in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on the same day.

Bartram also gave his business a name, another marketing strategy adopted by relatively few advertisers in the eighteenth century.  Some merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans used their shop signs as the names for their businesses, but most advertisers did not give their businesses any sort of name.  Printers and booksellers were the most likely to name their businesses.  Although he did not have a sign with a distinctive device, Sparhawk called his shop the “LONDON BOOK-STORE” in his advertisement.  John Dunlap, printer of the Pennsylvania Packet, advertised books available at the “NEWEST PRINTING-OFFICE.”  Among advertisers from other occupations, Bartram distinguished his shop from others by calling it “GEORGE BARTRAM’s WOOLLEN DRAPERY AND HOSIERY WAREHOUSE, At the Sign of the GOLDEN FLEECE’s HEAD.”  He incorporated his own name, a sign, an image depicting that sign, and a name for his business into his advertisement, distinguishing it from others and making his endeavor more memorable.