What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Promote the interest of America.”
John Keating operated “PAPER MANUFACTORIES, At and near New-York” in the late 1760s and early 1770s. He regularly advertised “ALL sorts of paper and paste board,” usually enhancing his newspaper notices with commentary intended to convince consumers to purchase goods produced in the colonies. In an advertisement in the July 9, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, for instance, he asserted that his paper “and other articles manufactured here, make a clear saving to this country of all the money that would have been sent out to purchase them from abroad.” A greater number of advertisers promoted domestic manufactures when nonimportation agreements remained in effect, providing alternatives for consumers who wished for their shopping habits to match their politics, but such appeals tapered off when trade resumed. Keating, on the other hand, remained adamant in calling on “all those who really wish to promote the interest of America” to “contribute their aid to the success of this undertaking.”
Keating imagined readers as more than consumers who would purchase his paper. He also envisioned them as partners in producing it. He needed resources, especially linen rags, “which are generally destroyed or thrown away as useless, tho’ they are absolutely necessary to a paper manufactory, which cannot be carried on without them.” Colonizers played a vital role in supporting the production of paper in New York, “with which their own interest is closely connected.” Some colonizers discarded rags that could have been transformed into paper at one of Keating’s “MANUFACTORIES.” Others sent “considerable quantities … to other colonies,” prompting Keating to lament that the “the legislature have not yet thought proper to prohibit the exportation” of rags. Even though the colonial assembly refused to act on that matter, colonizers in New York could choose to collect and send rags to Keating on their own. He expressed his desire that “a due regard to their own interest will incline the inhabitants of this country to supply a manufactory among themselves.”
Keating invited colonizers to participate in both the production and consumption of paper made at his “MANUFACTORIES” in and near New York. He reiterated that in doing so they not only supported a local business but also attended to “their own interest” in making goods produced in the colonies more widely available at lower prices than imported alternatives. Doing so corrected trade imbalance that resulted from the colonies exporting resources and importing finished goods. Keating advocated for the colonies producing more of the goods they consumed, but doing so required widespread cooperation.