What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“They were all imported before the Non-Importation Agreement commenced.”
As fall approached in 1770, Richard Jennys ran advertisement for a “Variety of English, India and Scotch Goods” in the August 30 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter. He informed “his Customers and others” that he intended to sell his entire inventory “at the very lowest Rates.” From “Black, white, and crimson plain Sattin” to “Very handsome Apron Gauz” to “Mens & Womens Hose,” Jennys promised bargains.
He also appended a short note about when these imported goods arrived in the colonies. “They were all imported,” he declared, “before the Non-Importation Agreement commenced.” The merchants and traders of Boston and other towns and cities throughout the colonies previously agreed to boycott imported goods in response to duties imposed on certain goods by the Townshend Acts. They aimed to use economic leverage for political purposes, vowing not to import goods until Parliament repealed all of the duties. Near the end of spring the residents of Boston received word that most of the duties had been repealed, tea excepted. That left them in a quandary. Having mostly achieved their goal, could they relent and resume importing? Or, should the nonimportation pact remain in place until Parliament eliminated the duty on tea as well? Merchants in New York very quickly reverted to their previous practices in May, but debates continued in Boston and Philadelphia. The agreement remained in place in Philadelphia well into September and in Boston into October.
Jennys alerted prospective customers and the entire community that he continued to abide by the agreement while it remained in effect, but he advertisement also suggested that he suspected that trade would resume in the near future, that it was only a matter of time before Boston followed the example of New York. One reason that he offered such low prices was his determination “to sell off his whole Stock in Trade this Fall.” Jennys likely sought to clear out his inventory of goods imported quite some time earlier in order to make room for new goods that he anticipated would be arriving in Boston before the end of the year. His advertisement demonstrated both political savvy and a practical approach to change that Jennys sensed coming.