What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
Some of Portsmouth’s retailers regularly advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette throughout the winter of 1765 and 1766 while the Stamp Act was still in effect, but it tended to be the same advertisers week after week. In April, the residents of Portsmouth received word of the repeal of the Stamp Act. The news was first published in the April 18 issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette. The newspaper published the following week included several new advertisements from retailers who had not marketed their wares during the winter, including Nathaniel Barrell.
This could simply have been a matter of not needing to advertise. Perhaps Barrell and his counterparts had a surplus of goods in stock before the winter or before the Stamp Act went into effect, making it less necessary to advertise. Indeed, throughout the series of non-importation and non-consumption agreements in the decade prior to the Revolution merchants and retailers seized opportunities to clear out surplus wares.
Perhaps Barrell and his counterparts advertised wares recently imported from England after a lull in transatlantic voyages during the winter months. The same vessels that brought news that the Stamp Act had been repealed also brought consumer goods in their cargo holds. This may have simply been a matter of timing.
On the other hand, it is also possible that news about the Stamp Act played a role in Barrell’s decision to advertise in the April 25 issue. With tensions between England the colonies reduced, he may have had more room to maneuver in the public prints and the marketplace, announcing boldly in the first line of his advertisement that he carried goods “Imported from LONDON.” Given his own politics or the views of neighbors and acquaintances who were also his customers, he might have identified the shift in attitudes toward England in the wake of recent news as a signal that he could promote goods imported from London.
It very well could be that all three of these factors, to greater or lesser degrees, played a role in Barrell’s decision to advertise in the April 25 issues of the New-Hampshire Gazette.