What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”
In an advertisement that appeared in the March 21, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, Thomas You described himself as a “WORKING SILVERSMITH” who ran a workshop “AT THE SIGN OF THE GOLDEN CUP” on Queen Street in Charleston. That he was a working silversmith, as opposed to a purveyor of imported wares, was important to both You’s identity as an artisan and his marketing efforts. He declared that he “carried on the GOLD and SILVERSMITH’s Business in their different Branches,” making claims about his expertise in his craft. He also confided that “his Dependance is entirely in the working Part.” In other words, he earned his livelihood through making what he sold, a shift in his marketing compared to his earlier advertisements that incorporated goods imported from England.
For readers of the South-Carolina Gazette, that proclamation resonated with the politics of the period. Gary Albert traces You’s advertising over several years, noting that before the Stamp Act crisis, the silversmith “advertised six times that he sold goods ‘just imported from London,’” but “You did not advertise recently imported British goods from the enactment of the Stamp Act in the fall of 1765 through the repeal of the Townshend Acts in 1770.” Albert underscores that You embedded politics in his advertisements in the late 1760s and early 1770s: “On six occasions during the term of the Townshend Acts You made a point to tell his customers that his shop was manufacturing silversmith products, not retailing imported goods.”
In so doing, You challenged consumers to practice politics when making choices in the marketplace. He stated that he “hopes he may meet with Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.” He argued that he did his part for the American cause as a “WORKING SILVERSMITH,” but his efforts as a producer required recognition by consumers and commitment on their part in selecting domestic manufactures as alternatives to imported goods. In making that proposition, he echoed appeals made in newspaper advertisements throughout the colonies as artisans, shopkeepers, and others encouraged consumers to “Buy American” several years before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord.