Posts Tagged ‘Advertising in the 18th century’

Today almost everywhere we turn we are inundated with ads over television and radio, in film theatres, on billboards and our computers, and magazines and store fronts. We simply cannot escape the messages put out by individuals and businesses trying to get us to buy their products and services.

W. H. Pyne, Bill sticker

The situation was the same in Jane Austen’s day. When shoppers walked to a shopping area in a city the streets would be indundated with shop signs, hired walkers wearing advertising boards, and hawkers. Advertising merchants dealt in trades that are both familiar and unfamiliar to us today: silversmiths, coal dealers, shoemakers, scum boilers, boarding houses, brewers, tavern keepers, silk merchants, coffee houses, cabinet makers, bakers, mattress makers, curriers and dealers in grindery, warper, hair dressers, woollen drapers and dealers in trimmings, victuallers, livery stable keepers, grocers, music sellers, linen drapers, beer sellers, dealer in rags, tripeman, tobacconist – well, the list goes on.

This is a raucous street scene in London at night in which the shop signs hanging over the pedestrians seem almost ominous. (Notice the slop being poured out of the window!)

There were leaflets, handbills, posters on bricks walls and glass windows seemingly almost everywhere, and advertisements in newspapers … and of course the inevitable street criers.

The bell and cry of the muffin man

Bill stickers, or external paper hangers plastered blank walls, empty shops and wooden hoards and fences with advertisement bills. But these activities were taxed. And thus enterprising merchants turned to mobile advertising and paid people to wear sandwich boards and hand carry placards. – London Street Advertising

Walking billboards in the 18th century. The young boy is wearing a sandwich board!

Extensive improvements on the printing press meant that newspapers and printed products could be churned out swiftly and more efficiently than before. Bills and posters were printed speedily and cheaply. There were frequent misspelling of words, and if more than one color was used, a frequent misplaced overlay of one color over the other. Printed ads and posters were designed to promote an event or sale, and were meant to be discarded. Bills plastered on walls and fences would soon be covered over by newer announcements.

The apothecary's newspaper advertisement mentioned all the diseases he can cure

Newspapers and advertisers focused on products that appealed to a mass market. They generally targeted themselves to the middle and upper-middle classes. By the mid-eighteenth century, the variety of ads began to increase. Ladies’ fashions as well as silver, brass, and copper items became subjects of advertisements.” – Place an Advertisement

Shop bill from the frock shop. Image @The Works of William Hogarth, 1821

Trade cards were another way that merchants informed the public about their wares. These cards came with a combination of image and text, which provided information about the location, goods and services of an establishment or business. – Eighteenth Century Centre

Wm. Neate goldsmith & jeweller trading card. Image @Bodleian Library

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