October 26

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

Oct 26 - 10:26:1769 Boston Chronicle
Boston Chronicle (October 26, 1769).

“Printed in AMERICA.”

John Mein was an ardent Tory. In the late 1760s, he and John Fleeming published the Boston Chronicle, one of the most significant Loyalist newspapers. Merrill Jensen describes the Boston Chronicle as “the handsomest newspaper in America” but “also one of the most aggressive.”[1] Mein and Fleeming made it their mission to contradict and oppose the narrative promulgated by patriot printers Benjamin Edes and John Gill in the Boston-Gazette. Mein opposed the nonimportation agreements ratified by Boston’s merchants in response to Parliament imposing duties on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea. Yet when it came to marketing the wares available at his London Book Store on King Street, Mein sometimes adopted a strategy more often associated with patriots who encouraged resistance to the abuses perpetrated by Parliament. In an advertisement that extended an entire column in the October 26, 1769, edition of the Boston Chronicle, Mein proclaimed that he sold books “Printed in AMERICA.” In this instance, the printer and bookseller managed to separate business and politics, hoping to increase the appeal of more than a dozen titles, including several “Entertaining Books for Children,” by making a “Buy American” appeal to consumers.

In that same issue of the Boston Chronicle, Mein and Fleeming published “Outlines OF THE Characters of some who are thought to be ‘WELL DISPOSED.’” As Jensen explains, the “Well Disposed” was “a name first used by the popular leaders to describe themselves, but which their enemies had turned into a gibe.”[2] The character sketches included “Johnny Dupe, Esq; alias the Milch-Cow of the “Well Disposed” (John Hancock), “Samuel the Publican, alias The Psalm Si[ng]er” (Samuel Adams), “Counsellor Muddlehead, alias Jemmy with the Maiden Nose” (James Otis), and “The Lean Apothecary” (Joseph Warren). Jensen notes, “There were many other nicknames which contemporaries doubtless recognized.” These insults created such an uproar that Mein soon departed from Boston in fear of his life. A mob attacked him, but Mein managed to escape, first hiding in the attic of a guardhouse and eventually disguising himself as a soldier and fleeing to a British warship in the harbor. From there he sailed to England, only to discover that “London booksellers to whom he owed money had given power of attorney to John Hancock to collect from his property in Boston.”[3] On Hancock’s suggestion, Mein was jailed for debt.

Mein’s proclamation that he sold books “Printed in AMERICA” had a political valence, but the politics of the marketing appeal did not necessarily match his own politics. Instead, he appropriated a marketing strategy that resonated with prospective customers rather than reflected his own partisan position. His editorials made clear where he stood when it came to current events and the relationship between the colonies and Britain, but that did not prevent him from making a “Buy American” argument in the service of selling of wares.

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[1] Merrill Jensen, The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution, 1763-1776 (Indianapolis: Hacket Publishing, 1968, 2004), 360.

[2] Jensen, Founding of a Nation, 361.

[3] Jensen, Founding of a Nation, 362.

One thought on “October 26

  1. […] those who were in opposition to the measures of the British administration.  In the Chronicle he abused numbers of the most respectable whigs in Boston; and he was charged with insulting the populace.  To avoid the effects of popular […]

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