What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Hopes he may meet with Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”
For several years in the 1760s and 1770s, silversmith Thomas You operated a workshop at the Sign of the Golden Cup in Charleston. According to his newspaper advertisements, that does not seem to have been a fixed location. Instead, the sign moved with You, serving as both marker and brand for his business. For a time in the mid 1760s, the Sign of the Golden Cup had adorned his workshop on Meeting Street, but in 1770 it marked his location on Queen Street. You also updated the iconography in his advertisements. He was one of the few advertisers in Charleston who enhanced his notices with images related directly to his business. He previously included a woodcut that depicted a smith at work at an anvil. That image gave way to a cup that corresponded to the sign that identified his shop. Consumers now saw similar images in the public prints and on the city streets when they encountered You’s business. You’s advertisement on the front page of the December 6, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette was the only one in the entire issue that incorporated an image other than a house, a ship, or an enslaved person. Those stock images belonged to the printer rather than the advertiser.
The silversmith deployed this unique image to attract attention to an important message. He called on “those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province” to employ him and purchase his wares. In so doing, he joined the chorus of advertisers and others throughout the colonies who advocated for the production and consumption of “domestic manufactures” as alternatives to goods imported from Britain. Such measures boosted local economies and addressed a trade imbalance, but they also served a political purpose at a time when Parliament sought to regulate commerce and charge duties on imported goods. Most of duties from the Townshend Acts had been repealed earlier in the year, but the one on tea still remained in place. Even though most towns suspended their nonimportation agreements in the wake of that news, colonists continued to debate whether they should have done so since Parliament did not capitulate to all of their demands. A notice at the top of the same page that carried You’s advertisement advised that “The GENERAL COMMITTEE desire a FULL MEETING of the SUBSCRIBERS to the RESOLUTIONS of this Province, at the LIBERTY-TREE” to discuss “IMPORTANT MATTERS.” You did not need to go into greater detail when he expressed his “hopes he may meet with Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.” Such appeals were part of a discourse widely circulating and broadly understood among prospective customers.