What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Will engage to make any Piece of Work as compleat as can be imported.”
In December 1769, Daniel MacNeill, a “Saddler and Cap-maker from DUBLIN,” turned to the Boston-Gazette to advise residents of Boston and its environs that he operated a shop in King Street. He made and sold a variety of items, including “Neat welted and plain Hunting Saddles,” “Pistol Cases & Holsters,” “Portmanteaus and Saddle Baggs,” and “every Article in the Sadlery Branch.” In addition to offering low prices, he assured prospective customers that he served them “with Fidelity and Dispatch.” He also made appeals to quality and fashion, proclaiming that he constructed these items “in the neatest and genteelest Manner.” MacNeill incorporated many of the most common marketing appeals of the eighteenth century into his advertisement.
As a relative newcomer to the city, MacNeill deployed another strategy that often appeared in newspaper notices placed by artisans who migrated across the Atlantic. He provided an overview of his work history as a means of convincing prospective customers of his competence. MacNeill asserted that he “had the Advantage of many Years Practice in the most principal Shops in Dublin and Towns adjacent.” In so doing, he attempted to transfer the reputation he established in one location to another, asking prospective customers to credit him for his years of experience. Although items he made during that time had not circulated for inspection in Boston, MacNeill hoped that his affiliation with “the most principal Shops” in one of the largest cities in the empire testified to his skill and expertise.
To that end, he pledged that he made saddles and other items “as compleat as can be imported.” Realizing that colonists sometimes had a preference for imported goods with an expectation of higher quality or better craftsmanship, MacNeill promised that his clients did not have to fear that they purchased inferior goods from his workshop. This appeal likely resonated with colonists who adhered to the nonimportation agreements and sought “domestic manufactures,” goods produced in the colonies, as alternatives to those transported across the Atlantic. An article on the first page of the December 18, 1769, edition of the Boston-Gazette proposed bringing artisans and their families to the colonies, suggesting that those migrants were much more welcome than imported goods that Parliament taxed. MacNeill’s advertisement reverberated with political implications, even as he made standard appeals to price, quality, and fashion.