December 7

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

Dec 7 - 12:7:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (December 7, 1767).

LABRADORE TEA.”

An advertisement in the December 7, 1767, issue of the Boston-Gazette announced “LABRADORE TEA, by the Hundred, Dozen, or less Quantity, to be Sold at Edes and Gill’s Printing-Office.” The bulk of the advertisement consisted of a testimonial that first outlined the medical and dietary benefits of drinking Labrador tea and then focused on the taste, acknowledging that the flavor differed from other popular teas but “a little Perseverance will render it very acceptable.”

By the time this advertisement appeared in early December, readers of Boston’s several newspapers had already been exposed to commentary about Labrador tea on multiple occasions, though in news items and editorial pieces rather than commercial notices. In the wake of a Boston town meeting that resolved to encourage consumption of domestic products rather than imported goods, several colonists noted the political benefits of Labrador tea. On November 2, Edes and Gill published a list of local manufactures in the Boston-Gazette. In addition to “Thirty thousand Yards of Cloth … Manufactured in one small Country Town in this Province” and “upwards of Forty Thousand Pair of Womens Shoes” made in Lynn, Massachusetts, in the past year, they described “a certain Herb, lately found in this Province, which begins already to take place in the Room of Green and Bohea Tea, which is said to be of a very salutary Nature, as well as a more agreeable Flavour – It is called Labrador.”

Two weeks later, both the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston Post-Boy inserted a letter addressed to “My Dear Countrymen” that outlined a strategy for depending less on imported goods. The prescription included Labrador tea: “we think it our duty to add, the most sincere recommendation of the disuse of the most luxurious and enervating article of BOHEA TEA, in which so large a sum is annually expended by the American colonists, altho’ it may be well supplied by the Teas of our own country, especially by that called Labrador, lately discovered to be a common growth of the more northern colonies, and esteemed very wholesome to the human species, as well as agreeable.”

A poem, “Address to the LADIES,” from the November 16 edition of the Boston Post-Boy and reprinted in other newspapers in the city discouraged purchasing and wearing imported textiles and adornments and also advised women to “Throw aside your Bohea and your Green Hyson Tea, / And all things with a new fashion duty; / Procure a good store of the choice Labradore, / For there’ll soon be enough here to suit ye.”

By the time the advertisement for “LABRADORE TEA” appeared in the Boston-Gazette in early December, colonists had already been encouraged to consume it as part of a political strategy intended to address both an imbalance of trade between the colonies and England and Parliament’s imposition of new duties in the Townshend Act. A series of news items and editorials primed consumer interest in Labrador tea, but some colonists may have been skeptical that they would enjoy the local alternative as much as their favorite imported varieties. This new advertisement assumed readers were already aware of the political ramifications of purchasing Labrador tea, so instead addressed any concerns about health and taste in order to convince consumers who may have been wavering in their commitment to adopt this new product.

November 30

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

Nov 30 - 11:30:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (November 30, 1767).

“The Manufacturers of PAPER at Milton, beg the Favor of the Public, to furnish them with what Linnen Rags they can spare.”

In the wake of the Townshend Act assessing new duties on imported paper, colonists set about manufacturing their own. Just ten days after the act went into effect, this advertisement appeared in the Boston-Gazette. In it, the “Manufacturers of PAPER at Milton” called on colonists to send their “Linnen Rags” to be made into paper. In return, they would receive payment, “the greatest possible Allowance.”

To that end, the Manufacturers at Milton established a network for collecting the rags. They listed five locations in Boston, including the printing office where Edes and Gill published the Boston-Gazette. Bulkeley Emerson, a stationer, also received castoff rags in Newburyport, while Daniel Fowle, one of the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, accepted them in Portsmouth. In addition, they had local agents in Salem and Marblehead. Yet the Manufacturers at Milton wished to further expand their network, requesting that volunteers “send their Names to Edes and Gill’s Printing-Office.”

New duties on paper threatened the livelihoods of colonial printers and stationers, one of the reasons why so many members of the network came from those trades, but Parliament’s actions also infringed on the liberties of all colonists. The network included a shopkeeper and a tobacconist, both apparently concerned about the Townshend Act. The Manufacturers at Milton presumably welcomed new agents from various occupations, hoping to establish a united front in the domestic production of paper as an alternative to imports.

The Manufacturers at Milton did not yet offer a product to consumers. In the spirit of the non-importation agreements and resolutions to encourage domestic goods recently passed at the Boston town meeting, however, they presented a plan for achieving those goals. They also offered a means for colonists to become more involved in resistance efforts beyond making decisions about which goods to purchase. Colonists could shape the marketplace by supplying the necessary rags to make paper locally, eventually eliminating the need for additional imported paper once the current supplies that arrived in the colonies “before the Duties could be demanded” had been exhausted. Even if readers of the Boston-Gazette had little cause to obtain much paper themselves, they had acquired the newspaper, making them consumers of paper removed from its initial purchase. By surrendering their rags to the Manufacturers at Milton, colonists participated in a movement that deprived Parliament of new duties on paper and assisted colonial printers in disseminating news about the Townshend Act and resistance to it.

November 9

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

Nov 9 - 11:9:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (November 9, 1767).

“Manufactured in Braintree.”

Most eighteenth-century advertisements for consumer goods and services did not include any sort of headline other than the advertiser’s name in a larger font than the rest of the copy. Peter Etter and Sons, however, published an advertisement with the headline “Manufactured in Braintree” in the November 9, 1767, edition of the Boston-Gazette. Etter and Sons promoted their locally produced stockings, gloves, caps, and thread to consumers primed to purchase goods made by their fellow colonists. They also depended on the politics of the unfolding imperial crisis to make their wares more attractive to colonial consumers.

In placing their advertisement, the Etters took advantage of current events, especially the Boston town meeting that took place on October 28. According to the coverage in the previous issue of the Boston-Gazette, the “Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Town” had determined that they needed to address both the imbalance of trade between Britain and the colonies and the impending duties on certain imported goods once the Townshend Act went into effect on November 20. Bostonians voted to approve non-importation and non-consumption agreements. In order for those measures to succeed, they promised that they would “encourage the Use and Consumption of all Articles manufactured in any of the British American Colonies, and more especially in this Province.” Etter and Sons could hardly have imagined a more effective endorsement for their enterprise!

Notably, their advertisement did not appear in the November 2 issue that carried the news of the town meeting. The Etters inserted it only after the news had spread throughout the colony and beyond via multiple newspapers, realizing that prospective customers would likely be especially amenable to acquiring domestic manufactures. Still, they assured readers of the quality of their stockings and other garments: “the above-mentioned Goods have been sufficiently try’d, and the Goodness and Wear approv’d.” In addition, they revealed their own commitment to purchasing supplies from local producers, as encouraged by the resolutions from the town meeting. “It having been reported that some Families in the Country have rais’d some raw Silk,” Etter and Sons stated, “they will pay Cash for the same, at the Price commonly given in Georgia,” a colony with more experience in its attempts to cultivate silk throughout the colonial period.

Etter and Sons did not explicitly invoke politics in their advertisement, but readers of the Boston-Gazette could hardly have missed the context in which they launched their appeals about garments “Manufactured in Braintree” rather than imported from England. Etter and Sons encouraged readers to consider the political ramifications of the decisions they made when it came to acquiring consumer goods.

October 19

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

Oct 19 - 10:19:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (October 19, 1767).

“We are oblig’d to give a SUPPLEMENT.”

Edes and Gill placed their own announcement immediately before the “New Advertisements” in the October 19, 1767, edition of the Boston-Gazette. In it, they explained that within the last three days three ships had arrived in port from London. The captains brought with them the “Prints to the 19th of August,” which they passed along to the printers. In other words, Edes and Gill had just obtained recent (or as recent as could be expected given the time required to cross the Atlantic) newspapers. As was common practice in the eighteenth century, their method of reporting involved reprinting items directly from other publications.

Edes and Gill did not have much time to scan the London newspapers, choose which items to reprint, set the type, and operate the presses before distributing the Boston-Gazette on Monday, its usual publication day. They might have been able to include news that had arrived the previous Friday, if they were industrious, but it would have been impossible to insert anything delivered by the captain who arrived on Sunday night. Setting type and operating the press by hand required more time, even if they quickly identified which items to reprint in their own newspaper.

Still, they wanted to get recently arrived news in print and distributed to their subscribers as quickly as possible. To that end, they determined “to give a SUPPLEMENT at Three o’Clock this Afternoon” and instructed their customers “to call or send for them” at that time if they wished to know the “Articles of Intelligence” delivered on the recently arrived vessels. The Boston Evening-Post and the Boston Post-Boy both also published supplements that day. None of the local newspapers usually published on Mondays allowed the others to scoop them.

Edes and Gill offered an additional explanation for their decision to limit the amount of news from London in the standard issue in favor of filling the supplement with those “Articles of Intelligence.” They reasoned that they needed “to give our Advertizing Customers a good Place.” They considered this a favor and a service to their advertisers, but it also suggested that they realized that even though readers might often be eager to peruse the advertisements that at the moment they prioritized the news, especially since the Townshend Acts were scheduled to go into effect in just a month. Subscribers might (or might not) call or send for a supplement filled with advertisements later in the day, but they would certainly retrieve a supplement that included the most recent political news from London. Edes and Gill implicitly acknowledged that they had a responsibility to place their advertisers’ notices in front of as many eyes as possible rather than consigning them to a separate supplement, distributed at a later time, that might not be read. This was good business that promoted loyalty among their advertisers and encouraged others to consider placing their advertisements in the Boston-Gazette.

October 12

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

Oct 12 - 10:12:1767 Boston-Gazette Supplement
Supplement to the Boston-Gazette (October 12, 1767).

“The Calamitous State of the Enslaved NEGROES in the British Dominions.”

American colonists became increasingly preoccupied with their own liberty and potential enslavement by Parliament in the 1760s and 1770s. Among their many methods of protest, they gave voice to their anxieties in newspapers. For instance, Edes and Gill printed a lengthy letter warning against “parliamentary slavery” resulting from the “corruption of Parliament” alongside the text of the an “ACT OF PARLIAMENT, for granting certain Duties in the British Colonies and Plantations in America,” better known today as the Townshend Act.

Colonists concerns about the enslavement they believed they experienced stood in stark contrast to advertisements concerning enslaved Africans that appeared in newspapers throughout the colonies, including those published in New England. In the same issue of the Boston-Gazette that Edes and Gill paired the Townshend Act with a spirited critique of Parliament, four advertisements presented slaves for sale. Whether for “a very likely Negro Boy” who could “sort & cut & spin all Sorts of Tobacco” or a “healthy, stout Negro Man … who has been in this Country about three Months,” all four advertisements instructed interested buyers to “inquire of Edes and Gill” for more information. A fifth advertisement offered “A fine Negro Male Child, well provided with Cloathing” for free, “To be given away.” Again, the advertisement concluded with “inquire of Edes & Gill.” The printers who gave voice to Anglo-American colonists’ objections to the tyranny of Parliament not only generated revenues by selling advertisements for slaves but also served as agents who facilitated the trade for anonymous sellers.

Edes and Gill could not have been completely oblivious to this contradiction. After all, one additional advertisement mentioned slavery. The printers announced that they sold “A CAUTION and WARNING to Great-Britain and her Colonies, in a short Representation of the Calamitous State of the Enslaved NEGROES in the British Dominions.” Anthony Benezet, a Quaker abolitionist from Philadelphia, penned this pamphlet in 1766. Originally published in Philadelphia, it was reprinted in London the following year. Based on the supplementary materials mentioned in the advertisement, Edes and Gill sold yet another edition, this one printed by Hall and Sellers in Philadelphia in 1767.

As many colonists fretted over the tension between their own liberty and imagined enslavement, some applied such rhetoric more broadly to include enslaved Africans and their descendants in the colonies. Others conveniently ignored any contradictions. Printers like Edes and Gill, through the advertisements and pamphlets they sold and the exchanges they facilitated, stood to gain financially from the activities of slaveholders and abolitionists alike.

October 5

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

Oct 5 - 10:5:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (October 5, 1767).

As the Articles in this Advertisement were very numerous, we are obliged to omit them till the next Week for want of Room.”

Bookseller John Mein frequently placed advertisements in Boston’s newspapers (and sometimes publications in other towns) in the 1760s. Even if they had never visited the “LONDON BOOK-STORE North Side of King-Street,” regular readers of the Boston-Gazette would have been familiar with Mein’s marketing efforts. On occasion his advertisements occupied even more space than those inserted by shopkeepers with the most extensive lists of imported merchandise, extending anywhere from an entire column to an entire page. Mein intended to publish another lengthy advertisement in the Boston-Gazette on the first Monday in October 1767, but had to settle for a shorter notice.

Actually, Mein placed two advertisements in the October 5 issue. One appeared at the top of the third column on the second page, to the right of an open letter “To The People of Boston and all other English Americans,” a letter that argued Parliament had renewed its attempts to reduce the colonies to “perfect slavery.” This relatively short advertisement amounted to a single square, the standard length for most paid notices in that issue. The second advertisement, approximately two squares, appeared in the middle of the third column on the third page, less easy to distinguish among the other notices on the page.

Both advertisements announced that Mein stocked “A Grand Assortment Of the most modern BOOKS, In every Branch of polite Literature, Arts and Sciences” (though the typography differed significantly). The shorter notice also indicated that since “the Articles in this Advertisement were very numerous, we are obliged to omit them till the next Week for want of Room.” The second notice focused primarily on a single volume, a new edition of “Dilworth’s Spelling Book” just published on “fine Paper” with new type. It concluded with a brief note that “Printed Catalogues may be had Gratis at the Store” on King Street. Surely Mein’s catalog included many of the books he meant to advertise in the Boston-Gazette that week had space permitted.

Given the placement of Mein’s advertisements within the newspaper, he may not have submitted two separate notices for publication. Instead, the printers may have created the shorter advertisement, with its announcement anticipating a lengthier list of Mein’s titles in the next issue, and given it a prominent place to compensate for not publishing all of the copy Mein submitted. When the advertisement did appear the following week, it filled an entire page. Given the expense that Mein incurred, the printers may have considered a second advertisement promising more information about Mein’s “Grand Assortment Of the most modern BOOKS” the least they could do when they ran out of space to publish the list in its entirety. After all, they wanted to encourage the bookseller to continue (to pay) to insert lengthy advertisements in their newspaper.

Mein intended to attract attention through the volume of his advertising, yet circumstances prompted the printers to deliver an alternate marketing strategy. They incited interest by temporarily withholding the complete advertisement while simultaneously giving the announcement a prominent place in the publication to increase the number of potential customers who would read it.

September 7

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

Sep 7 - 9:7:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (September 7, 1767).

“Now ready for Sale by JOLLEY ALLEN, At his Shop.”

Jolley Allen regularly placed advertisements in the Boston-Gazette and other newspapers published in the port city. On most occasions, readers could readily identify his notices, even at just a glance, because Allen made arrangements with printers to have them enclosed in decorative borders. This was a consistent feature from one newspaper to another, a relatively rare example of an advertiser exerting influence over typographical decisions in the eighteenth century. In most cases, advertisers generated copy but compositors made determinations about format and layout. Realizing the value of making his commercial notices easy to distinguish from others on the page, Allen insisted on retaining control over some of the visual aspects. Distinctive borders created with printing ornaments became his brand in multiple newspapers.

Allen neglected to utilize a border in some of his advertising during the summer of 1767, a decision he reversed in the September 7 edition of the Boston-Gazette. The border around his advertisement in that issue, however, was not its most distinctive element. Except for the colophon, Allen’s advertisement filled the entire final page. Spread over three columns, the merchant listed an assortment of imported goods – from textiles to groceries – that he sold “Wholesale and Retail” to customers in both town and country. Even without the decorative border, the size of the advertisement alone demanded attention. Eighteenth-century newspapers featured few full-page advertisements, each of them all the more noteworthy considering that a standard issue consisted of only four pages. The printers gave over a significant amount of space that might otherwise contain additional advertisements or news items.

Experimenting with a full-page advertisement must have been an expensive investment for Allen. He usually placed identical advertisements in all four of Boston’s newspapers, but not during the week that his full-page advertisement ran in the Boston-Gazette. None of the other local newspapers carried any advertising by Allen. He may have exhausted the money he budgeted for marketing in a single advertisement. He might also have wished to see what kind of response it garnered, waiting to place full-page advertisements in other publications only if he determined doing so was worth the investment.

Historians of advertising and print culture usually describe full-page advertisements as nineteenth-century innovations, but colonial merchants and shopkeepers had already experimented with the format. Though uncommon, such advertisements were not unknown in eighteenth-century America.