What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“American FLINT GLASS.”
When Parliament repealed most of the duties on imported goods imposed by the Townshend Acts, leaving only the duty on tea in place, most American merchants counted it as a victory that merited bringing their own nonimportation agreements to end in favor of resuming regular trade with Britain. Some colonists objected, insisting that they should hold out until Parliament met all of their demands by repealing the duty on tea as well, but they were in the minority. Merchants and consumers alike welcomed the return to transatlantic business as usual.
That did not, however, prevent American producers from promoting their “domestic manufactures” as alternatives to imported goods. Henry William Stiegel, for instance, advertised “American FLINT GLASS … made at the factory in Manheim in Lancaster county” in Pennsylvania during the summer of 1771 and into the fall. Stiegel proclaimed that his product was “equal in quality with any imported from Europe,” reassuring prospective customers that they did not have to sacrifice quality when choosing to support American industry. He also promised that “merchants, store-keepers and others” could acquire his glass “on very reasonable terms.” In addition to competitive prices, “Wholesale dealers” received discounts for “buying large quantities.”
Stiegel also framed purchasing his “American FLINT GLASS” as a patriotic duty for both retailers and consumers, even though the situation between the colonies and Britain was relative calm at the moment. He declared that “as the proprietor” of the factory in Manheim he “well knows the patriotic spirit of the Americans” and “flatters himself they will encourage the manufactories of their own country” whenever possible instead of purchasing or retailing imported goods. To help consumers and retailers throughout the region submit orders, Stiegel designated local agents in Philadelphia, Lancaster, and York in Pennsylvania as well as Baltimore in Maryland.
Work attributed to Stiegel and the American Flint Glass Manufactory, including this pocket bottle produced at about the same time he advertised in the Pennsylvania Journal, survives in museums and private collections. Whether attracted by the quality, price, or invitation to “Buy American,” colonial consumers purchased “domestic manufactures” even as they resumed buying imported goods. Stiegel managed to garner a share of the market amid the array of choices available. The frequency that he placed notices in newspapers suggests that he apparently believed that advertising aided in that endeavor.