What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Elegant PICTURES, Framed and glazed in AMERICA.”
Late in the spring of 1769, bookseller Garrat Noel placed an advertisement in the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy to promote a “GREAT Variety of the most elegant PICTURES” available at his shop next door to the Merchant’s Coffeehouse. Like many other booksellers, he supplemented his revenues by peddling items other than books, magazines, and pamphlets. Booksellers sometimes included prints in their advertisements, yet Noel placed special emphasis on them when he placed a notice exclusively about them.
As part of his marketing effort, Noel tapped into discourses about politics and implicitly tied his prints to the nonimportation agreement currently in effect in response to the duties enacted by the Townshend Acts. He proclaimed that his prints were “Framed and glazed in AMERICA.” The success of nonimportation depended in part on encouraging “domestic manufactures” or local production of consumer goods. Yet Noel assured prospective customers that purchasing items produced in the colonies did not mean that they had to settle for inferior craftsmanship. He stressed that “in Neatness of Worksmanship” the frames that encased his prints were “equal [to] any imported from England.” Similarly, they had been glazed (the glass fitted into the frame) in the colonies by an artisan who demonstrated as much skill as any counterpart in England, though the glass itself may have been imported. Furthermore, his customers did not have to pay a premium when they considered politics in their decisions about which goods to purchase. Not only were the frames the same quality as those imported, Noel pledged to sell them “at a much lower Price.” The bookseller may have even hoped that the combination of price, quality, and patriotic politics would prompt consumers who had not already been in the market for prints to consider making a purchase as a means of demonstrating their support for domestic production and the nonimportation agreement.
Notably, Noel did not indicate that the prints or glass had not been imported, only that the frames had been produced and the glass fitted in the colonies. Drawing attention to the fact that they had been “FRAMED and glazed in AMERICA” provided a distraction from the origins of the prints and possibly the glass as well. Especially if the glass had been imported since the Townshend Acts went into effect, Noel attempted to tread a difficult path since glass was among the goods indirectly taxed. Still, this strategy allowed him to suggest that he did his part to support “domestic manufacturers” and provide opportunities for colonists to put their principles into practice by choosing to consume items produced, at least in part, in the colonies.
Many thanks to Cortney Skinner for the clarification concerning glazing in the comments. I have updated this entry accordingly.
3 thoughts on “June 19”
Just a note about the term “glaze” – this means the fitting of glass into a window or a frame, but it doesn’t mean the manufacture of the glass. The glass used by Noel may have been imported for England (as so much window glass was at this time in history). Noel was careful about this point, using the word “glazed” and not claiming that the glass was manufactured in America. Thanks for your great articles!
Thank you for the clarification! I’ve updated the original entry. It already looked like Noel was trying to have it both ways in his advertisement; that the glass may quite well have been imported makes it look that way even more so.
Thanks much for your reply! I’m always looking forward to your daily articles. Being an illustrator working on 18th C historical illustration, your coverage of the newspapers of that period provides me with a wonderful daily does of “current” events .