What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
Cyrus Baldwin divided his advertisement in the July 23, 1770, edition of the Boston-Gazette into two parts. The first part, much longer than the second, looked much like other advertisements placed by shopkeepers during the period. It listed a variety of items for sale at Baldwin’s shop. The second part included a separate headline. That alone made the entire advertisement distinctive compared to others that ran in the Boston-Gazette and other newspapers.
The headline announced that the second part listed goods of “American Manufacture.” Baldwin carried “WORSTED Wilton, Middlesex Serge and plain Cloth, Shoe and Coat Bindings, Knee Garters, [and] Basket Buttons” made in the colonies. He concluded the list with “&c.” (the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) to suggest that he stocked even more items produced locally rather than imported. By inserting this headline and highlighting a second category of merchandise available at his shop, Baldwin both offered consumers an opportunity to practice politics when they shopped and encouraged them to do so.
The nonimportation agreement adopted to protest duties on certain imported goods imposed by the Townshend Acts was still in effect in Boston. At the time that merchants and traders adopted the measure, residents of the city also advocated that colonists encourage “domestic manufactures” through the production and consumption of goods in the colonies. Such goods provided an alternative to imported goods that became politically toxic, yet the repeal of the Townshend duties was not the only reason to buy American products. Colonists also worried about a trade imbalance with Britain. Encouraging domestic manufactures provided employment for colonists while reducing reliance on imported goods. Yet such encouragement could not be confined to production alone. Retailers and consumers had to play their parts as well. Baldwin did so by stocking goods produced in the colonies and calling particular attention to them in his advertisements. Consumers then had a duty to heed the call by choosing to purchase “American Manufacture[s].” Baldwin made it easy for them to identify goods that fit the bill.