What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“All Persons are hereby cautioned against buying any Shoes for his, that have not his Name therein.”
Samuel Foster advertised a “good and compleat Assortment of Womens Stuff-Shoes” in the July 20, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. He explained that he “manufactured” his wares “in the neatest and best Manner, at his Shop” in Portsmouth. Foster used “fresh and good” materials, “much better than is usually put to that Use in New England.” By 1770, Lynn, Massachusetts already achieved a reputation for producing shoes; Foster declared that his shoes were superior to those as well as “equal to any imported.”
Asserting the quality of “domestic manufactures,” goods made in the colonies, became a familiar element of advertisements when nonimportation agreements went into effect to protest the duties imposed on certain imported goods. American artisans reassured consumers that they did not have to sacrifice quality once trade with English merchants halted. With the repeal of all of the duties except for the one on tea, colonists debated whether to resume trading or hold out until Parliament repealed that last one. At the time Foster published his advertisements, New York already ended its nonimportation agreement. Philadelphia was on the verge of doing so and Boston would follow in the fall. This gave new urgency to pronouncements that domestic manufactures “will doubtless prove equal to any imported.” Foster sought to secure his position in the marketplace before facing greater competition from imported shoes.
Foster also devised another measure for securing his position in the marketplace. He concluded with a nota bene that included a warning: “All Persons are hereby cautioned against buying any Shoes for his, that have not his Name therein.” Foster insinuated that counterfeit shoes were in circulation … or could be in circulation. He did not explicitly state that unscrupulous retailers passed off other shoes as his, but he did suggest that it could happen. That warning buttressed his claims about the quality of his shoes. The materials and the craftsmanship were so good that it was not outside the realm of possibility that others would produce imitations and pretend Foster made them. He marked his wares with his name to avoid that from happening and encouraged buyers to examine shoes for signs of authenticity before making purchases.