10 February 2014

How to Advertise- Regency Style

Frontispiece from Allin's 1803 advert,
copied by Catherine Hutton Beale. 

From about the 1780s till 1813 there stood an eccentric looking shop at the top of New Street, not far from where Queen Victoria stands gazing across the modern Birmingham landscape (see here). The little shop, named Multum in Parvo, or, 'much in a small place', was run by an equally eccentric proprietor, Mr. John Allin. Allin was a tailor (taylor), but also dabbled in all manner of other lines of business, including pulling your rotten teeth. In 1803 he produced a sixteen page booklet promoting his business, but being John Allin this was not your everyday kind of advert; pictures were rarely used as promotion during this period, but Allin used an alternative method to make the pages come to life. He wrote the entire article in verse. 

He was not alone in using verse to promote either an individual establishment, or the town as a whole; James Bisset was particularly keen on a poem or two, but Allin's lines connect with the seemingly mundane everyday articles that he sold and give a wonderful insight into the retail culture of the time. When describing the tailoring aspect of his business he addresses women, children and men in turn, and the articles described build a fragrant picture of the fashions of the time. He also notes his range for farmers, servants and coachmen, the latter particularly needing good quality coats that could withstand the elements they would have been daily exposed to. His list of children's toys is also fascinating and reveals how their entertainments and home education was not so different. His list of stationary brings the Regency writing desk to life, and the prolific letter writing that marked the time. What is particularly fascinating though is the description of his exhibition, which housed curiosities and novelties galore. The poem has been transcribed below, and has links to find out more about particular articles for sale or on display. 

Hatter, Haberdasher, Hosier, Linen and 
Woollen Draper, Grocer &c. 
Cheap Clothes and York Shoe Warehouse, 

Opposite the TOP of NEW-STREET, 

For the Accommodation of all Sorts of Customers, 
who may be provided with every Necessary of 
 Life; suited Top to Bottom, from Inside 
 to Outside, from right-side to left-side, yes, 
and on ALL SIDES, with every Wearable and 
Tearable, from the Giant of ten Feet high to 
the Infant just popp'd into the World: Sold 

At little more than HALF their VALUE, 
Ready Money only.

PERMIT me, with respect to greet
All those who tread thro' New-street,
And humbly beg they'll deign to stop,
And choose some goods at ALLIN'S Shop:
Enough I know, you're sure to find.
To charm the sight, delight the mind;
Great choice for luxury or use,
Such goods few others can produce. 
YE fair, to you my first respects
I'll pay, as gratitude directs.
Cloaks, bonnets, shawls, of highest taste,
With gowns and stays to fit your waist, 
Caps and ribbons, gloves and rings,
With many other pretty things
In mantua-millinery way,
My goods with pleasure I'll display,
Muffs and tippets, fans and feathers,
Parasols, para[pluit], to suit all weathers. 
Velvet collars, edgings, lace,
To improve each pretty face.
Quilts and skirts of [stuff] and silk,
Dimity* coats as white as milk.                                    [*a kind of fabric]
Stockings, black or white, quite fine,
Or some more coarse if you incline,
Seal skin and morocco shoes,
Coarse or fine, just as you choose,
Home-made, false-made, very neat,
To suit the make of all your feet:
And shifts, I make them every day,
And drive a mighty trade that way.
Pockets, purses, too, I sell, 
Both these I finger mighty well.
Do pray walk in, and let me try,
Something you cannot fail to buy;
I love to gain by good behaviour,
The ladies interest and their favour.
And now to clothe the young creation,
I've child-bed things for every station;
Shoes to curious here are sold, 
The infant walks at ten months old;
And then to make the teeth cut easy,
I have a thing I know will please ye.
Corals and necklaces abound,
In which much virtue has been found;
A ribbon there to tie them on,
And now for these I think I've done.
A while I'll leave the female fair,
And make the other sex my care,
To suit you all doth please me well,
And much I wish my goods to sell.
Indulge me, gentle sirs, in this, my pride,
By your consent to let me now provide
And suit you, one & all, with coats and breeches, 
They shall be strong & very neat the stitches.
Waistcoats and drawers, wigs and cravats, 
And pantaloons, and every sort of hats.
Shirts plain or frill'd, fine, good and neat,
Sew'd with strong thread & stitch'd complete.
Handkerchiefs for your neck or nose,
And every sort of curious hose.
Shoes, buckles, garters, boots,
All your mind or wishes suits.
Close coats, top coats, smart and strong,
To fit you now I sadly long.
The prince, the porter and the peasant,
If they but bring the cash so pleasant,
May suited be to admiration,
And fitted to their approbation,
For all's alike to I you know,
If they but leave the ready rhino.
And then for black I have beside,
Enough to clothe old Israel's tribe;
From the bishop to the sexton,
Every man without exception;
From life's first dawning the end,
My services I will extend.
With hatband, favors, gloves, and [pall],
Most cheerfully I'll serve you all
And then to prove myself your friend,
As mourning days will have their end,
I'll buy the very things I sold,
And sell them all again for old.
The farmer, too, I can complete,
With good smock-frock, both strong and neat,
Doe-skin breeches, home-made shoes,
Or boots, if he would rather choose.
Strong shirts for them I too provide,
And every article beside.
And next the gammon of the whip,
Who oft to London take a trip,
Good cheap box-coats of every size,
For those who do their health much prize,
To keep them dry in time of need,
A useful article indeed!
'Twill serve sometimes to lend a friend,
And oft-times gain a private end,
For in the wet I think indeed,
All those you serve should freely bleed,
For then the tapster* will take care,                          [*bartender]
And something warm for you prepare.
Does a good servant want a place?
Or is a master in distress?
If to my office they'll repair,
I'll serve them all with speed and care.
A taylor too I am by trade,
I cut to measure, or fit ready made.
From home I have no time to lose,
And this your goodness will excuse,
But at my shop whoe'er attends,
The price shall make him full amends.
Now to amuse the children's mind,
I have toys of all sorts, and kinds,
Formed of pewter and wooden ware,
And long will last with prudent care.
I've puzzling cards of various rules,
Collected for the use of schools;
Dissected maps and travelling charts,
T'improve the mind, engage the hearts.
Teaching geography while you play,
And learning kingdoms all the way;
Cards framed on purpose to amuse,
T'enforce instruction in the use:
A curious map with plain direction,
Suited to juvenile inspection,
Describing all the English towns,
Their limits, situations, bounds, 
Places held in highest note,
Castles, rivers, lake, or moat,
This map 'tis worth your while to try,
Step in and look, I'm sure you'll buy.
Charming little books for spelling,
Such as children may read well in:
Primes, horn books, little pictures,
Curious toys for infant lectures:
Every work that gains applause,
On literature, state, or laws,
Shall be procured, on application,
That I may gain your approbation,
Thus my address to those who read,
To those who write I now proceed:
And to obtain their kind attention,
There's paper of the first invention:
Marble from the French and Dutch,
Soft and pleasant to the touch;
Brown for packing, purple, green,
Royal, [muslium], magazine,
[Lawn], and music, quite inviting,
Gilt [post], and [foolreap] fit for writing;
Whited brown, and common blue,
Elephant, and cartridge too;
Vellum for the bond and deed,
Postcards when you stand in need;
Fine glaz'd paper for the fair,
The ladies still demand my care;
A beauteous show of quills and pens,
From geese and turkeys, [...], and hens,
Cut to suit the various hands,
Us'd in this or foreign lands.
Ink, like jet 'twill shine to bright,
Sure I am 'twill please the sight,
Ink of glowing ruby red,
And the very best that's made;
Powder ink or made in cake,
Or the genuine Indian make.
Wafers*, every kind and hue                                       [*sealing part of envelope]
Black or white, or red, or blue;
Wax to bear the clear impression,
Which conceals the fond expression.
Seals much used by all descriptions,
Poets, lawyers, and physicians;
Rulers, pounce, and silver sand,
Pen knives fullest to your hand;
Drawing pencils red and black,
Cards, to invite, sold by the pack,;
Indian rubber, and pencil tops,
Shells and cups, and paint in drops;
The best lead pencils clothed in reed,
Or in cedar if you need;
Slates and pencils smooth and clear,
Brushes made with camels hair;
Balls to keep the shoes from cracking,
Curious cakes for liquid blacking.
Music divine has charms to case,
And make despair and madness please.
Would you the marbling plate inspire,
To set the love-sick soul on fire,
Or melancholy fits assivage;
To furnish you I now engage;
Or would you charm with notes now strong,
My clarinet assists your song;
At summer's eve, or wintry morn,
Vow here may find the mellow horn,
And make each valley, hill, and plain,
Re-echo the enchanting strain,
Violins, tenors, violincellos,
To suit all honest fiddling fellows;
Cat-calls, jews-harps, port-boys horns,
Drums and trumpets -- wars alarms!
And every instrument beside,
That is of harmony the pride;
And then a choice of songs you see,
Collected with great nicety;
Solos, symphonies, quartettos,
Trios, overtures, duettos;
Favourite marches for the army,
New concertos for to charm ye;
Country dances, and cotillions*,                                        [*type of dance]
Jigs and minuets by millions.
Glees and catches, merry airs,
Books to guide unpractic'd players;
Cat-gut strings, and strings of wire,
All that music can require;
All to aid soft music's power,
And to cheer the lonesome hour.
Have you need of physic's aid,
Med'cine, too, I make my trade:
Warm-cakes, sure to give you ease,
Sov'reign balm* for all disease;                                         [*a kind of cure-all balm]
For corns, that troublesome disaster,
Why, I have got a certain plaster;
Then soak your feet, and come to me,
Your toes from corns I'll quickly free!
All this and more, I'll undertake,
And draw your teeth if they should ache.


And now, my friends, with gratitude I own
The num'rous favours you've so kindly shown;
Poor, my expressions, I would [again] convey
My hearty thanks your goodness to repay,
And aiming still to please, with due submission,
I've now prepared a beauteous exhibition.
Multum in Parvo! much compriz'd in little,
Curious, tho' small, 'twill please you to a tittle.
Birds of all kinds, and beasts of rare creation,
Shells, medals, foreign coins from every nation.
India, America, Greenland, Iceland too,
And something of the mines of rich Peru.
The Bird of Paradise, the Ruff, the Gull,
The Flying Rat, the Mouse, the Horned Owl.
From Botany Bay, of birds a good collection;
Worthy the coinnoisseur's[sic] minute inspection.
A panorama,* too, I can display,   [*this would have been a miniature panorama]
With different prospects every other day,
And then my little painter wont refuse,
To sketch you any little thing you choose.
Again [...] changes you may see,
By peeping through my Palagree.
And you this moral may receive,
That men each other oft deceive;
Strong facts are over[...] it by fiction,
And reason oft a contradiction:
This fact is true I now relate,
A crooked telescope views straight.
I have a glass too will erase,
The beauties of your neck and face,
And magnify to such a size,
That your own figure you'll despise.
Globes derived to represent,
Bodies celestial, fully bent
In chaos not to keep their station,
But venture on the new creation.
A thousand things I have to show,
Every day I've something new;
At present I no more will mention,
But only crave your kind attention,
And sign myself, as is expedient,
Your humble servant, most obedient.


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