January 5

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Essex Gazette (January 5, 1773).

“Strangers among us who import and sell English Plate, to the great Hurt and Prejudice of the Townsmen who have been bred to the Business.”

During the first week of 1773, Daniel Henchman, a silversmith, launched an advertising campaign intended to encourage consumers to support what colonizers called domestic manufactures.  In other words, he wanted them to purchase goods made in the colonies rather than items imported from England.  To disseminate his message to prospective customers “in Town & Country,” he placed a notice in the January 4 edition of the Boston Evening-Post and the January 5 edition of the Essex Gazette, published in Salem.

Henchman explained that he “makes with his own Hands all Kinds of large and small Plate Work, in the genteelest Taste and newest Fashion.”  By invoking both taste and fashion, the silversmith primed readers to think of his work as equivalent to imported goods before he even mentioned “English Plate.”  He also underscored the quality of his work, stating that it “has hitherto met with the Approbation of the most Curious.”  Furthermore, Henchman challenged others to compare his work to imported items, proclaiming his confidence that “he shall have the preference, by those who are Judges of Work, to those Strangers among us who import and sell English Plate.”  Only then did he cast aspersions on the importers, asserting that their actions caused “great Hurt and Prejudice [to] the Townsmen who have been bred to the Business.”  Consumers had a duty, Henchman suggested, to support their neighbors and to bolster the local economy through the choices they made in the marketplace.

To that end, the silversmith pledged to do his part if given the opportunity.  He declared that “he will make any Kind of Plate [his customers] may want, equal in Goodness and cheaper than any they can import from London.”  If his other appeals did not sway them, Henchman hoped that low prices would seal the deal with prospective customers.  He deployed some of the most common marketing strategies in use during the era of the American Revolution, making appeals to price, quality, and fashion, while also enhancing them within the context of supporting domestic manufactures.

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