What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“A few Casks of Liverpool Ale, imported before the Non-Importations Agreement.”
For four weeks in March and April 1770, John, Thomas, and Samuel Franklin inserted an advertisement for “BEST Spermaceti Candles,” “a few Boxes of Tin Plate,” and “red, green and scarlet Rattinets,” along with other goods, in the New-York Journal. Among their wares, they listed “a few Casks of Liverpool Ale, imported before the Non-Importation Agreement.” In so doing, they acknowledged the political movement to boycott goods imported from Britain for as long as Parliament continued to impose duties on imported paper, glass, paint, lead, and tea. Neither the Franklins nor anyone else in New York knew it for certain at the time, but a partial repeal of the Townshend Acts was in the works on the other side of the Atlantic.
On March 5, Lord North, the new prime minister, presented a motion in the House of Commons. It called for a repeal of the Revenue Act of 1767, eliminating the duties on paper, glass, paint, and lead. When this Repeal Act received royal assent on April 12, only the duty on tea remained in place. It would take weeks for news to arrive in the colonies. When it did, the merchants and traders who signed the nonimportation agreements, associations, and resolutions in New York and other colonies considered this sufficient victory to justify discontinuing the boycott, just as they previously ended another boycott of British goods when Parliament repealed the Stamp Act.
For a time, marketing strategies shifted as purveyors emphasized that their goods had not recently arrived in the latest ships from London but instead had been on hand for months or even years. “Just Imported” had been a standard part of many advertisements for consumer goods prior to the boycotts, a signal that customers did not have to settle for leftover merchandise that had lingered on the shelves. Commentary on nonimportation and domestic manufactures became a familiar aspect of advertising, reflecting the editorials and current events covered elsewhere in newspapers. As the political situation shifted and merchants and shopkeepers once again acquired goods from Britain, the language of advertising reverted back to the appeals that had been much more common before the nonimportation agreement went into effect.