What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He shall receive Encouragement and Assistance from the true Friends of their Country of all Ranks.”
In an advertisement that ran in the New-York Journal for several weeks in January 1772, William Shaffer addressed both the production and consumption of paper. He issued a call for colonizers to provide him with “all Sorts of Linen Rags and old Paper” that he could use in making new paper, offering “Ready Money” in return. Shaffer stated that he “continues to manufacture … All Sorts of Paper … to the general Satisfaction of his Customers.”
In addition, he offered an extensive explanation about why current and prospective customers should buy his paper. The “Establishment of this Manufactory is of great Advantage to the Country,” Shaffer asserted, “by causing the Money that otherwise would be sent out of it, for the Purchase of Paper, imported from abroad, to circulate here, among a great Number of poor People.” In the recent past, colonizers boycotted paper and other goods imported from Great Britain because Parliament imposed duties, but then resumed trade when Parliament repealed all of the duties except the one on tea. For Shaffer and others who encouraged “domestic manufactures,” the production of goods in the colonies, that repeal addressed only one problem. Colonizers continued to face a trade imbalance in which they sent their money across the Atlantic instead of spending it in support of local economies. Colonial consumers, Shaffer argued, had an obligation to purchase paper and other goods produced locally.
They also had a responsibility to contribute to the production of paper by “supplying [Shaffer] with Linen Rags and old Paper, (Articles absolutely necessary to the Support of this Manufactory, and otherwise of little or no Use).” This was an endeavor that could be undertaken by “the true Friends of their Country of all Ranks,” though Shaffer imagined different roles based on status. “Gentlemen and Ladies in Town and Country,” he suggested, should “give proper Orders to their Servants” to collect and save linen rags and old paper and then send it to Shaffer. In turn, he would “supply Country Merchants, Printers and others in this and the neighbouring Governments … with Paper of all Sorts, at the most reasonable Rates.” Colonizers did not need to depend on imported paper, Shaffer proclaimed, when he offered a viable alternative, but the production of paper in New York depended in part on their cooperation in providing the necessary materials. Colonizers could demonstrate that they were “Friends of their Country” by participating in both the production and consumption of paper.