19th Century Advertisement

AdvSplendidDaguerreotypeAmerOfficeWaterburyCTCirca1840sIt always fascinates me to read materials from the distant past.

During my first job in a law firm I had the chance to read title deeds from the beginning days of Hong Kong’s colonial history. Many of them start with a greeting to “all those whom this document may come into”. Beautiful. Modern legal documents simply go straight to the point.

This is an advertisement of a traveling Daguerreotype photographer (click to enlarge). The date is unknown but it was probably in the 1840s (i.e. only less than 30 years after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo), when Daguerreotype photography was most popular before being replaced by newer photography technologies.

19th century English may seem overly ornate to modern eyes but I find it quite graceful. I especially like the alliteration in the last sentence of the penultimate paragraph: “confident that neither the Pictures nor the Price will fail to suit.” Certainly more stylish than some of the modern marketing cliches.

Life was much slower back then and people had longer attention span. Modern advertisers would probably see such long-winded text a taboo. These days people want immediate impact, sound bites, flashy things. We have become a lot more impatient.

I also have two questions: Why were photos referred to as “miniatures”? And in a world without telephone, what did it mean to “call”? Did that simply mean a visit? Persons are invited to call and attempt guesses.


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