What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The Sons of Liberty now have an Opportunity of manifesting their Regard for the Encouragement of our Manufactures.”
Just as the Boston town meeting voted to encourage consumption of domestic goods rather than imports on the eve of the Townshend Act going into effect, Peter Etter and Sons placed an advertisement in the Boston-Gazette to promote their stockings and other garments “Manufactured in Braintree.” Two weeks after that advertisement first appeared, Etter and Sons also inserted it in the Boston Evening-Post.
The version in the Gazette remained unchanged, but the Evening-Post included a short addition at the end of the notice. A manicule drew attention to this note: “The Sons of Liberty now have an Opportunity of manifesting their Regard for the Encouragement of our Manufactures, by calling at the above Store, and buying some of the abovementioned Articles.” Just in case the “Manufactured in Braintree” headline was too subtle, Etter and Sons explicitly challenged colonists who considered themselves “Sons of Liberty” to demonstrate their commitment to the cause by purchasing their wares rather than the imported goods that retailers hawked in approximately a dozen other advertisements in the same issue.
Etter and Sons may have benefited from the fortuitous placement of their advertisement. Not only was it at the top of the first column on the third page, it also appeared immediately to the right of a related news item printed in the final column on the second page. It reported that “THE Inhabitants of this Metropolis still persevere in their resolution to discourage the use of foreign Superfluities as the only means of saving the Country from Impending ruin.” The town meeting had authorized non-importation and non-consumption agreements. To that end, subscription lists circulated; colonists publicly pledged to support the boycotts by “subscribing” or signing their names. According to the Evening-Post, many colonists styled themselves “Sons of Liberty” because “it appeared that great Part of the Freeholders had subscribed.” Other colonists still had a chance to join the movement by visiting the Town Clerk’s Office and signing their own names.
With so many Bostonians signing the subscription rolls, Etter and Sons should have benefited from a vastly expanded market for their clothing “Manufactured in Braintree.” It was one thing to pledge not to purchase imported goods, however, and quite another to follow through on that promise. Etter and Sons challenged those who professed to be “Sons of Liberty” to demonstrate their resolve by actually purchasing garments from local producers.