September 21

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

Providence Gazette (September 20, 1766).

“All Kinds of Hollow and other cast Iron Ware.”

Potash production was a widespread enterprise in the colonial period. Advertisements seeking potash or selling a variety of supplies associated with producing potash (including potash kettles, forms certifying the contents of casks containing potash, and manuals for making potash) frequently appeared in colonial newspapers. Today’s advertisement also offered “Pot-Ash Kettles” for sale, directly from the new blast furnace in Scituate, Massachusetts. The weight and bulk of such items made them particularly expensive to import from England.

In addition to potash kettles, the proprietors also sold “all Kinds of Hollow and other cast Iron Ware.” The volume of production of cookware, tools, nails, and other products at local iron works was not sufficient to meet colonists’ needs. Similar items appeared regularly in the lists of goods imported from England in many advertisements during the late colonial period. Still, the blast furnace at Scituate and other iron works competed with an expanding volume of imported items; locally produced goods could be “supplied on the lowest Terms” because they did not need to be transported across the Atlantic. As the colonies increasingly objected to new imperial regulations, such locally manufactured goods became even more attractive. Many Americans wished to encourage such enterprises, realizing that the colonies were not self-sufficient in this regard but instead depended on British imports. Patronizing the blast furnace in Scituate thus took on political tones in addition to fulfilling commercial and economic needs.

To learn more about iron production in the colonial period, visit the blast furnace at Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, located northeast of Boston.

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