July 23

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

Jul 23 - 7:23:1770 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (July 23, 1770).

American Manufacture.”

Cyrus Baldwin divided his advertisement in the July 23, 1770, edition of the Boston-Gazette into two parts.  The first part, much longer than the second, looked much like other advertisements placed by shopkeepers during the period.  It listed a variety of items for sale at Baldwin’s shop.  The second part included a separate headline.  That alone made the entire advertisement distinctive compared to others that ran in the Boston-Gazette and other newspapers.

The headline announced that the second part listed goods of “American Manufacture.”  Baldwin carried “WORSTED Wilton, Middlesex Serge and plain Cloth, Shoe and Coat Bindings, Knee Garters, [and] Basket Buttons” made in the colonies.  He concluded the list with “&c.” (the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) to suggest that he stocked even more items produced locally rather than imported.  By inserting this headline and highlighting a second category of merchandise available at his shop, Baldwin both offered consumers an opportunity to practice politics when they shopped and encouraged them to do so.

The nonimportation agreement adopted to protest duties on certain imported goods imposed by the Townshend Acts was still in effect in Boston.  At the time that merchants and traders adopted the measure, residents of the city also advocated that colonists encourage “domestic manufactures” through the production and consumption of goods in the colonies.  Such goods provided an alternative to imported goods that became politically toxic, yet the repeal of the Townshend duties was not the only reason to buy American products.  Colonists also worried about a trade imbalance with Britain.  Encouraging domestic manufactures provided employment for colonists while reducing reliance on imported goods.  Yet such encouragement could not be confined to production alone.  Retailers and consumers had to play their parts as well.  Baldwin did so by stocking goods produced in the colonies and calling particular attention to them in his advertisements.  Consumers then had a duty to heed the call by choosing to purchase “American Manufacture[s].”  Baldwin made it easy for them to identify goods that fit the bill.

May 4

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

May 4 - 5:4:1770 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (May 4, 1770).

“All American Manufactures.”

Thomas Shute’s advertisement occupied a privileged place in the May 4, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  It appeared in the first column of the first page, immediately below the “PRESENTMENTS OF THE GRAND-JURORS.”  A separate headline, “New Advertisements,” introduced Shute’s notice.  Considering that Shute sold “All American Manufactures,” the placement of this advertisement may have been quite deliberate on the part of Peter Timothy, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette.

Shute’s commercial activities addressed political concerns that had been widely reported in newspapers and discussed among colonists for several years.  When Parliament imposed duties on imported paper, glass, paint, lead, and tea, colonists responded by adopting nonimportation agreements for a vast array of goods as a means of exerting economic pressure to achieve political ends.  At the same time, they embraced “domestic manufactures” as alternatives to imported goods, also arguing that producing and purchasing such items provided a variety of benefits.  Producing domestic manufactures provided employment for colonists; purchasing those wares addressed a trade imbalance with Britain and kept specie in the colonies rather than sending it across the Atlantic.

Shute offered an assortment of “American Manufactures” to consumers in South Carolina, all of them imported from Philadelphia rather than from London and other ports in England.  Pennsylvania had long been a source for many of the agricultural items, such as flour, bread, and ham, but Shute also emphasized goods more often associated with manufacturers on the other side of the Atlantic, including “Sundry Kinds of CAST IRON,” “EARTHEN WARE,” and “HORSE COLLARS.”  Shute made a brief appeal to quality, stating that his inventory “may be depended upon as good,” to reassure prospective customers that investing in domestic manufactures did not require them to accept inferior merchandise.

By the time Shute’s advertisement appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette, a partial repeal of the Revenue Act had already been approved by Parliament on March 5 and received royal assent on April 12.  Duties on tea remained in place, but not the duties on other imported goods.  It took some time for word to arrive in the colonies.  Once it did, colonists withdrew from their nonimportation agreements.  For the moment, however, Shute deployed a marketing strategy that gained popularity throughout the colonies over the course of several years.

January 31

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

Essex Gazette (January 31, 1769).

“Esteemed by Judges equal in Quality to the best imported from England.”

When Henry Lloyd of Boston placed his advertisement for “CHOICE American manufactured COD and MACKAREL LINES” in the January 31, 1769, edition of the Essex Gazette he participated in the development of the first generation of “Buy American” advertisements. Although brief, his notice favorably compared his product to imported counterparts, asserting that they had been “esteemed by Judges equal in Quality to the best imported from England.” In addition, he sold them “At a reasonable Price.” After taking quality and price into consideration, there was no reason for colonists in the market for these items not to purchase the “American manufactured” version. Implicitly, Lloyd invoked the ongoing dispute between the colonies and Parliament over the Townshend Act and other attempts to regulate colonial commerce and raises revenues through taxes on imported goods. In response to such abuses, merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and others in Boston and beyond had pledged to encourage “domestic manufactures” over imported goods. In turn, they both the press and purveyors of goods stressed the virtues of supporting the local economy. Doing so, they argued, was an inherently political act.

Lloyd did not need to rehearse this recent history in his advertisement. He could depend on readers and prospective customers already being aware of the political meaning associated with acts of purchasing “American manufactured” goods of any sort. The placement of his advertisement on the page only enhanced the connections between politics and commerce. Lloyd’s notice appeared in a column to the right of one that featured news content. That column had a header that proclaimed it contained “Extraordinary Intelligence,” including an “Extract of a letter from London, November 19th, 1768.” The portion of that letter immediately to the left of Lloyd’s advertisement read, in part, “We do not imagine that the parliament will enter into a refutation of all your letters and petitions … but will give the several agents and some of the principal men of your province, and opportunity of explaining and defending their rights.” From there, it continued with rumors “that your town meetings will be abolished,” depriving colonists in Massachusetts of their traditional means of participating in their own governance. Oversight from England looked like it might veer beyond just commerce. It was amid such conversations that Lloyd placed his advertisement. Deceptively simple, it invoked a much more extensive conversation about imperial politics in service of selling “American manufactured COD and MACKAREL LINES.”