March 18

What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Mar 18 - 3:17:1766 Newport Mercury
Newport Mercury (March 17, 1766).

“The Encouragement of Manufactures in our own Country is of the greatest Advantage.”

Jonathan Wilson did not sell just any “Packing Paper by the Ream.” His paper was “the Manufacture of this Colony.” As colonists continued to oppose the Stamp Act (as of yet unaware that the king would give royal assent to its repeal the day after this advertisement was published, though it would take several more weeks for word to cross the Atlantic), many advertisers imbued the goods they sold with patriotic value. After all, the success of boycotts and nonimportation agreements depended in part on colonists finding alternate means to supply themselves with goods that previously came from Britain.

In case the initial appeal was too subtle to resonate with some readers, Wilson inserted a final sentence about the value of purchasing domestically produced goods: “As the Encouragement of Manufactures in our Country is of the greatest Advantage, the Paper Mill in this Colony, for which Rags are now wanted, will doubtless be chearfully encouraged by the Public.” In so doing, Wilson not only promoted the paper he sold; he also encouraged consumers to considering buying any sort of “Manufactures” originating in the colonies. He mobilized a “Buy American” message for his own goods, but recommended that consumers should “chearfully encourage” similar endeavors.

Advertisements like this one supplemented public debates about the connections between politics and consumer behaviors that over time forced early Americans to clarify their positions on the relationship between Great Britain and the colonies.

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