This project has been made possible by a grant from the Creative Arts Council of Brown University.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ABC- Ads, Bonnets, Commerce

In a previous post, I briefly quoted from J. C. Thompson's 1876 Illustrated Hand-Book Providence to illustrate some of the language employed to describe the Arcade. But actually, the most interesting insight that this little publication has to offer is found in the pages before and after the text of the main work. The opening and closing pages contain contemporary advertisements, densely packed up against one another, full of illustrations and eye-catching fonts, and three of them advertise shops located in the Arcade.

The first is found on the first page, and is a full-page ad for H. J. Gould & Co.'s "Dry Goods at Bottom Prices". They were located in "28, 30 and 32 Arcade (up stairs)" and sold all manner of cloths and garments including silks, satins, thibets, bombazine, brilliantines, velveteens, muslins flannels, laces, gloves, corsets, collars, and cuffs. They also specifically advertise that they carried "black goods"- i.e. many of the above came in black for mourning purposes.

On page vii is placed an ad for "Julius Carroll, dealer in Fashionable Millinery" at 27 and 29 Arcade. The motto for this shop was "First Class Goods at low prices".

The third that appears is on page xii: S. H. Adams, at 44 and 46 Arcade on the second floor in the store formerly occupied by E. Mason. The ad is for Cheap Millinery Rooms- spaces to rend for the sale of millinery goods. Also specifically advertised are "medium and elegantly trimmed Hats and Bonnets".

While three examples cannot be taken to be comprehensive, they do suggest that the Arcade at this point in time heavily represented the millinery trade, and there is an emphasis in all three on the ability to find cheap goods. Looking at the other advertisements that surround these ones in the pages of the Hand-Book also give an interesting insight into some of the other businesses that surrounded the Arcade downtown, and nearby on South Main Street. To share a couple of examples, the ad adjacent to S. H. Adams' cries, "Business Men, do your own Printing on the Dunkerly Self-Inking Printing Presses", which were sold at "No. 207 Dyer Street, corner of Dorrance". And at 20 and 24 Westminster Street, just east of the intersection with Weybosset Street, was located Baker, Whitaker & Co., importers and jobbers of Hardware and Cutlery.

Beyond providing exciting information about the specific businesses in the Arcade, the ads in Thompson's Hand-Book also allow us to construct a spatial-commercial conception of the Arcade and its immediate surroundings in the temporal cross-section, or slice, of the year 1876.

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