7 Old Ads Of New York Businesses From 1874

How Macy’s, Tiffany & Co. And Other New York Firms Advertised Their Businesses In 1874

Macy's Ad 1874 The 1874 book New York Past and Present by Charles Edwin Prescott (Mercantile Publishing) contains interesting advertising which provides a look at how various companies sold their wares.

Some companies or the buildings they occupied in 1874 are still here today, other companies vanished long ago without a trace and are completely forgotten.

Click on any advertisement to enlarge.

R. H. Macy was down on 14th Street at the corner of Sixth Avenue. They had a collection of buildings joined together on 14th Street as the company kept growing throughout the late 1800’s. They moved to their Herald Square location in 1902. I remember up until the 1980’s looking up at some of the buildings on 14th Street and still being able to see the Macy’s red star emblazoned on the facades of a few buildings.

In 1874 Macy’s top line for advertising was that they were “importers and dealers of embroideries and lace goods.” The rest of the ad goes on to describe carrying goods:”various ladies’, gents’ and childrens’ furnishing goods,” “white goods,” “fancy goods” and “kid gloves”

Colton Dental Ad 1874The advertisement for the Colton Dental Association located at 19 Cooper Institute says they originated the use of “laughing gas for the painless extraction of teeth.” Who knew?

In the 19th century, people were really scared of the dentist because it was generally a painful experience. The interesting part of the ad: “77,228 patients without a failure or an accident.”

Zero Refrigerator Ad 1874Seeing the word “refrigerator” in an 1874 ad may cause you to do a double take. But this is not a modern refrigeration system advertised by Alex M. Lesley, the manufacturer of the Zero Refrigerator with offices located at 224 -226 West 23rd Street. The Zero Refrigerator was merely an icebox with “water, wine and milk cooler.” Mr. Lesley simply says the Zero “is the best food and ice keeper in the world.” The world’s first refrigerator was built in 1834. Refrigerators for home use didn’t come into existence until 1913.   

Lord and Taylor 1874 AdLord and Taylor was located at Broadway and 20th Street. In their ad they decided to highlight their “Artistic and Superior Dressmaking” supplied to all the leading artistes in the dramatic and musical world. Emphasizing “prices that are exceedingly reasonable,” one would be challenged today to find exceedingly reasonable prices for anything at the upscale store.

The cast-iron store pictured in the ad was built in 1870. Amazingly, the corner part of the building is still there. Lord and Taylor moved to their current location at Fifth Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets in 1914.

Gorham Ad 1874The Gorham Silver Company in the 19th and early 20th century was considered one of the finest silver companies in the country, catering its wares to high society.

In 1874 the Rhode Island based company had their New York salesroom at 1 Bond Street near Broadway. Eventually in 1884, Gorham moved uptown to Fifth Avenue and 36th Street. That building, modified by architect Stanford White in 1906 is still standing. In 1924 Gorham moved to Ffith Avenue and 47th Street. In 1929 Gorham merged with Black Starr and Frost, emerging as Black Starr & Gorham and moved yet again to Fifth Avenue and 48th Street. The Gorham board sold its holdings in Black Starr in 1962 and effectively left the retail field behind.

Here Gorham advertises their expertise as silversmiths having the “largest stock” using only the “purest silver” with “original designs” which were perfect for “bridal gifts”

The legendary Gorham Co. which once supplied the White House with their silver, is now the Gorham Manufacturing Company, owned by Dept 56, the kitschy makers of Christmas ornaments. How the mighty have fallen.

Eureka Chair Co. Ad 1874The Eureka Chair Seat Co. at 110 Bowery manufacturers of the Eureka Chair Seat – The Cheapest, Handsomest and Most Durable Seat in the Market proclaim “cane seats break. – Eurekas never fail.”

In case you were wondering where you can put their wonderful chairs, the ad tells you they can be used “in the office, sitting or dining room, parlor, nursery etc.”

Tiffany Ad 1874Tiffany & Co. were located at Union Square in 1874 and were advertising that their “silver ware department had prizes appropriate for yachting, racing and sporting, etc. – all of their own design.”

The ad lists many of the features of the watch department with a complete assortment of many kinds of specialty watches.

The original Tiffany Building at 15 Union Square West was built in 1870. Tiffany & Co. moved to Fifth Avenue and 37th Street in 1905 in a building also designed by Stanford White. The Union Square building was remodeled in 1953, stripping off all the original cast-iron ornamentation. In 2006 the building was sold to developers who then stripped it down to the bones. A modern glass condo building with very high priced apartments now occupies the site.

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