What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“As the Merchants in the Colonies propose a Manufacture of Cloths, this Soap will be of great Advantage.”
In the months after the colonies received word that the Stamp Act had been repealed the frequency that advertisements for goods and services incorporated explicitly political appeals decreased. Yet those appeals did not disappear completely. After all, the Declaratory Act was in effect and wary colonists continued to eye Parliament with suspicion.
In this advertisement for soaps, Thomas Smith and Company referenced recent conversations about the necessity of the colonies becoming more self-sufficient by developing new industries and improving others rather than rely on imports from England. Domestic manufacture and consumption were presented as complementary means of resistance to Parliamentary abuses.
Smith and Company continued this conversation, noting that “the Merchants in the Colonies propose a Manufacture of Cloths” to reduce or eliminate imported textiles. Smith and Company realized that increasing textile production in the colonies would have ripple effects on related industries, including the production of soap that would then be used for washing wool and fulling cloth. Their advertisement emphasized that the soap they made was “such as is made in London” and “known as to be used by most of the Woollen Manufacturers in England, in their various Branches, likewise by the Linen Factories.” The “Manufacture of Cloths” in the colonies would be most successful, Smith and Company suggested, if supported by related ancillary industries. To that end, they provided the same sort of soap of the same quality and “at the same Price Currency as it is sold in England.” This vision, however, would only be possible with “the Favour and Encouragement of the Public.”
Thomas Smith and Company deployed other appeals in this advertisement for their “SOAP FACTORY,” but the political ramifications of supporting their enterprise received the most sustained attention. Their rhetoric was not as shrill as in advertisements published while the Stamp Act was still in effect, but consumers would have recognized the conversation and understood their intent.