June 21

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

New-York Journal (June 18, 1772).

Those advantages cannot be obtained on carriages imported.”

Advertisers began encouraging consumers to “Buy American” before the American Revolution.  Such was the case in an advertisement that coachmaker William Deane placed in the New-York Journal for several weeks in May and June 1772.  He advised “the public in general and his customers in particular” that he made all sorts of carriages and did all of the painting, gilding, and japanning.  With an attention to detail, Deane “finishes all carriages whatever in his own shop without applying to any other,” utilizing his “considerable stock of the best of all materials fit for making carriages.”  Furthermore, the coachmaker declared his determination “to make them as good, sell them as cheap, and be as expeditious as there is a possibility.”

Deane competed with coachmakers in England.  Many colonizers preferred to purchase carriages from artisans on the other side of the Atlantic, but Deane asserted that imported carriages were merely more expensive but not superior in quality or craftsmanship to those he constructed in New York.  He proclaimed that he could “make any piece of work that is required equal to any imported from England, and will sell it at the prime cost of that imported.”  That accrued various benefits to his customers.  Deane explained that they “will save the freight, insurance, and the expences naturally attending in putting the carriages to right after they arrive.”  Why incur those addition expenses and risk purchasing carriages that needed repairs after shipping when Deane made and sold carriages of the same quality in New York?

In addition, Deane offered a guarantee, stating he “will engage his work for a year after it is delivered.”  That meant that “if any part gives way or fails by fair usage, he will make it good at his own expence.”  What did prospective customers have to lose by purchasing one of Deane’s carriages?  They paid less for the same quality, plus they had easy access to the maker for repairs, including repairs undertaken for free if the result of some defect.  “Those advantages cannot be obtained on carriages imported,” Deane trumpeted as he concluded making his case that consumers in the market for carriages should “Buy American” by choosing his carriages over any that they would import from England.  Two centuries later, car manufacturers deployed “Buy American” marketing campaigns as they competed in an increasingly globalized economy, but that strategy did not emerge from developments in the twentieth and twenty-first century.  Coachmakers like William Deane encouraged consumers to “Buy American” long before the creation of the modern automotive industry.

January 12

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (January 9, 1772).

“Friends to American Manufactures will give the preference to his Parchment.”

Advertising campaigns that encouraged consumers to “Buy American” predate the American Revolution.  During the period of the imperial crisis that eventually culminated in thirteen colonies declaring independence, advertisers promoted “domestic manufactures” as alternatives to goods imported from England.  Robert Wood did so in the early 1770s.  He drew attention to “PARCHMENT MADE and SOLD by ROBERT WOOD” in an advertisement in the January 9, 1772, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  Several printers also stocked and sold Wood’s parchment, making it convenient for consumers to acquire.

Producing parchment in Philadelphia might not seem like a significant act itself, but Wood insisted that “EVERY Manufacture carried on among us, however small,” yielded “good consequences to the country in general.”  He did his part to support the local economy and resist the abuses of Parliament (including duties on imported paper and other goods that had only recently been repealed) by making and selling parchment, but he needed consumers as partners to complete the transaction and truly make an impact.  For those who had concerns about the quality of his parchment compared to what they might acquire from merchants and shopkeepers who imported parchment, he asserted that “several of the most eminent Conveyancers in this city” had been purchasing from him “for some time past” and they considered his product “superior to the generality of what is imported.”  Furthermore, he set prices “as low as that imported,” yet another reason to purchase his parchment.

Wood concluded by reminding consumers that their choices in the marketplace had consequences.  He requested that the “friends to American Manufactures … give the preference to his Parchment” over any other, especially imported parchment.  In deploying such a title, “friends to American Manufactures,” Wood implicitly suggested to consumers that making other choices made them opponents of goods produced in the colonies and the welfare of their community.

November 10

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

Pennsylvania Journal (November 8, 1771).

American FLINT GLASS.”

When Parliament repealed most of the duties on imported goods imposed by the Townshend Acts, leaving only the duty on tea in place, most American merchants counted it as a victory that merited bringing their own nonimportation agreements to end in favor of resuming regular trade with Britain.  Some colonists objected, insisting that they should hold out until Parliament met all of their demands by repealing the duty on tea as well, but they were in the minority.  Merchants and consumers alike welcomed the return to transatlantic business as usual.

That did not, however, prevent American producers from promoting their “domestic manufactures” as alternatives to imported goods.  Henry William Stiegel, for instance, advertised “American FLINT GLASS … made at the factory in Manheim in Lancaster county” in Pennsylvania during the summer of 1771 and into the fall.  Stiegel proclaimed that his product was “equal in quality with any imported from Europe,” reassuring prospective customers that they did not have to sacrifice quality when choosing to support American industry.  He also promised that “merchants, store-keepers and others” could acquire his glass “on very reasonable terms.”  In addition to competitive prices, “Wholesale dealers” received discounts for “buying large quantities.”

Pocket Bottle, attributed to American Flint Glass Manufactory, 1769-1774. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Stiegel also framed purchasing his “American FLINT GLASS” as a patriotic duty for both retailers and consumers, even though the situation between the colonies and Britain was relative calm at the moment.  He declared that “as the proprietor” of the factory in Manheim he “well knows the patriotic spirit of the Americans” and “flatters himself they will encourage the manufactories of their own country” whenever possible instead of purchasing or retailing imported goods.  To help consumers and retailers throughout the region submit orders, Stiegel designated local agents in Philadelphia, Lancaster, and York in Pennsylvania as well as Baltimore in Maryland.

Work attributed to Stiegel and the American Flint Glass Manufactory, including this pocket bottle produced at about the same time he advertised in the Pennsylvania Journal, survives in museums and private collections.  Whether attracted by the quality, price, or invitation to “Buy American,” colonial consumers purchased “domestic manufactures” even as they resumed buying imported goods.  Stiegel managed to garner a share of the market amid the array of choices available. The frequency that he placed notices in newspapers suggests that he apparently believed that advertising aided in that endeavor.

October 10

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

New-York Journal (October 10, 1771).

“America is not necessarily obliged to import these articles.”

Many entrepreneurs launched “Buy American” campaigns before the thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain.  Advertisements that encouraged consumers to purchase “domestic manufactures” became a common sight in newspapers during the imperial crisis, increasing in number and frequency when the conflict intensified and receding, but not disappearing, when relations cooled.  During the Stamp Acts crisis, for instance, advertisers encouraged consumers to buy goods produced in the colonies.  They did so again while the nonimportation agreements adopted in response to the Townshend Acts remained in effect.  Even when merchants resumed importing merchandise from England following the repeal of all of the duties except the one on tea, some advertisers continued their efforts to convince consumers to buy goods produced in the colonies.

Such was the case for snuff “MADE AND SOLD By GEORGE TRAILE” on Bowery Lane in New York.  Traile proclaimed that his snuff was “equal to any imported from Europe” and then outlined “the advantages which would evidently result to the Colonies from this branch of business, was it to meet proper encouragement.”  In other words, prospective customers had a duty to make good decisions that took into account the common good for the colonies when they purchased snuff.  He estimated that one in ten of the “three millions of people in British America” spent twenty shillings on snuff annually, calculating that amounted to “three hundred thousand pounds.”  Traile supposed that one-fifth of that amount represented profits for the importers, with the remainder “remitted yearly form this country never to return.”  That imbalance harmed the colonies and, especially, the livelihoods of colonists.  Traile concluded with a “Query” for consumers.  “Would it not be better,” he asked, “to save such an immense sum to the colonies, than to put sixty thousand pounds in the pockets of a few individuals by making that remittance?”  Here he identified another problem, at least from the perspective of an artisan who created goods for the market.  A relatively small number of merchants who imported snuff garnered the profits.  Consumers who purchased tobacco products funneled their money to merchants and the mother country rather than supporting colonists like Traile trying to make an honest living.

Traile declared that “America is not necessarily obliged to import” snuff “from any other country.”  Readers of the New-York Journal had it in their power as consumers to make other choices that would accrue benefits to the colonies and residents who supported local economies by producing domestic manufactures.

April 30

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette (April 30, 1771).

“He already makes what is called QUEEN’S WARE, equal to any imported.”

In the late 1760s, colonists responded to duties on certain imported goods with nonimportation agreements against an even wider array of items, hoping to use economic leverage to pressure Parliament to rescind the Townshend Acts.  Eventually, Parliament relented, repealing all of the duties except for the one on tea.  Although some colonists objected to reopening trade while any duties remained in place, most merchants and shopkeepers eagerly resumed importing goods and consumers returned to purchasing them.  Throughout the period that nonimportation agreements were in effect, some advertisers promoted “domestic manufactures,” items produced in the colonies, as alternatives to imported goods.  Even after trade resumed, some colonists continued to encourage consumers to select domestic manufactures over imported wares.  On April 30, 1771, for instance, Thomas You, a silversmith in Charleston, made the same appeal he had been publishing in advertisements since the original nonimportation agreement inspired by the Stamp Act in 1765.  He requested the patronage of “those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”

In the same Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette, John Bartlam announced that he had “opened his POTTERY and CHINA MANUFACTORY.”  Echoing the appeals made by others who produced and sold American goods, he proclaimed his pottery “equal to any imported.”  Consumers did not have to sacrifice quality when they chose domestic manufactures over imported goods.  Like other artisans who launched new enterprises in the colonies, Bartlam also suggested that colonists could play an important role in production.  Bartlam called on “Gentlemen in the Country, or others: to send samples “of any Kinds of fine Clay upon their Plantations” so he could identify suppliers of the materials necessary to expand his business.  He believed that with “suitable Encouragement,” in terms of both production and consumption, he would be “able to supply the Demands of the whole Province.”  That was an ambitious goal; in publishing it, Bartlam challenged consumers to consider the ramifications of the choices they made in the marketplace.  He provided an additional reason for supporting his “POTTERY and CHINA MANUFACTORY,” another familiar refrain.  Bartlam employed local workers.  He sought “Good WORKMEN” as well as “Five or Six Apprentices.”  Consumers who purchased his pottery not only supported his business but contributed to the livelihoods of other colonists.

Bartlam and You encouraged colonists to “Buy American” years before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord.  In supporting the local economy, consumers also made choices with political ramifications.  Given You’s extensive history of newspaper advertising, the silversmith very intentionally made that part of his marketing strategy.  For Bartlam, politics may not have been his guiding principle, but rather a welcome means of enhancing his marketing.  Whatever the motivations of the advertisers, they prompted consumers to consider the value of domestic manufactures when deciding between goods produced locally or imported from England.

February 20

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (February 18, 1771).

“We hope to meet with encouragement from the patriotic gentlemen and ladies of this city.”

In January and February 1771, Russel and Moore ran advertisements informing the residents of Philadelphia and its hinterlands that they had “a fine stocking loom a making, in order to weave silk on, in all its different branches.”  That included “breeches and jacket patterns, stockings, mitts, caps, and gloves” adorned with “all different figures and flowers, such as have not heretofore been manufactured in America.”

Russel and Moore launched an enterprise that they framed for consumers as building on other efforts to create commercial opportunities in the colonies.  For quite some time, colonists from New England to Georgia attempted to produce silk.  According to Russel and Moore, “the inhabitants of this city, and places adjacent, have made satisfactory proof or raising raw silk.”  The partners hoped that would inspire others throughout the colonies “to raise such silk in a more extensive manner, which in a short time will find greatly to their advantage.”  For their part, Russel and Moore stood ready “to weave in said loom” and they would “engage to make gentlemen and ladies gloves and mitts” that matched the designs and patterns “wove in any mitt or glove imported from any part of the world.”  Furthermore, they promised the highest standards and quality for the items they produced, predicting it would be “richer in work than any we have seen imported here.”

The partners sought customers among consumers who had been contemplating the benefits of “domestic manufactures,” goods produced in the colonies, for several years.  In response to the Stamp Act and, especially, duties imposed on imported goods by the Townshend Acts, colonists both called for producing more goods in the colonies and encouraged the consumption of those goods as alternatives to imports.  Producers and purveyors of those domestic manufactures addressed that discourse in their advertisements, providing further incentive for consumers to follow through on purchasing goods made locally.  They reminded consumers of the political meanings attached to goods and offered reassurances that they would not sacrifice quality when they chose to “Buy American.”

Russel and Moore did so when they noted that produced items that “have not heretofore been manufactured in America” and requested “encouragement from the patriotic gentlemen and ladies of this city, and places adjacent.”  The partners did their part in producing alternatives to imported goods; in turn, “patriotic gentlemen and ladies” needed to do their part as well.  Russel and Moore reiterated the importance of consumers supporting entrepreneurs who produced goods in the colonies.  “[A]s we are the first persons,” they proclaimed, “that have erected a machine in America, for making of ribbed stockings, or any kind of figured work in said branch, we hope the public will endeavour to encourage a manufactory.”  Russel and Moore promised quality, stating that they would “give full satisfaction to every friend of America.”  In making a call for patriotic consumption, the partners joined many other advertisers who promoted domestic manufactures in the late 1760s and early 1770s.

February 3

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

Maryland Gazette (January 31, 1771).

“AMERICA:  Printed for the SUBSCRIBERS.”

When Robert Bell published an American edition of “THE HISTORY of the REIGN of CHARLES the Fifth, Emperor of Germany” in 1771, he placed advertisements and subscription notices in multiple newspapers in several colonies.  Printer-publishers regularly adopted that strategy, especially prior to the American Revolution, because local markets did not necessarily support the publication of American editions as alternatives to imported ones.  To generate sufficient demand to make American editions viable ventures, Bell and his counterparts had to engage consumers across large regions rather than just in their own towns.

Bell, one of the most famous and influential American booksellers both before and after independence, made innovations to the practice of reprinting the same advertisements and subscription notices from one newspaper to another.  Rather than submitting identical copy to multiple newspapers, updating only the names of the local sellers and subscription agents, he devised a series of notices that varied from publication to publication.  Each contained some of the especially elaborate, even by eighteenth-century standards, language that became one of Bell’s trademarks.  He opened his advertisement in the January 31 edition of the Maryland Gazette, for instance, with a proclamation that he had “Just published … the following celebrated Work – praised – quoted – and recommended in the British House of Lords, by the most illuminated and illuminating of all modern Patriots, WILLIAM PITT, now Earl of Chatham.”  Pitt became popular among American colonists for defending their interests against attempts by Parliament to regulate commerce and other impositions.  In particular, he vigorously opposed the Stamp Act, arguing that it was unconstitutional to impose taxes on the colonies.  It was not merely Pitt’s testimonial regarding “THE HISTORY of the REIGN of CHARLES the Fifth, Emperor of Germany” that Bell expected would resonate with consumers but also his reputation as an advocate for the colonies.

Bell also included a version of the imprint in his advertisement: “AMERICA:  Printed for the SUBSCRIBERS, a Catalogue of whose Names, as Encouragers of this American Edition, will be printed in the Third Volume of this Work.”  He did not follow the usual practice of listing a city.  This was not, after all, a book printed in Philadelphia, but instead an American production that demonstrated the literary culture of the colonies considered collectively.  Bell worked to create a sense of community among subscribers who purchased copies, an imagined community, to use the phrase coined by Benedict Anderson, constructed with print and extending great distances.  Despite those distances, the subscribers had a common meeting place in the “Catalogue” of names printed in the final volume.  Publishing a list of subscribers who made a publication possible was not new, but Bell presented the opportunity for prospective buyers to be included as a testament to their patriotism and support for the American cause rather than merely an indication of their status and good taste.

The advertisement concluded with a quirky nota bene in which Bell recommended a schoolmaster from Philadelphia who recently moved to Baltimore, an endorsement seemingly unrelated to the remainder of notice.  It may have been less expensive for Bell to append the nota bene rather than insert a separate advertisement.  Whatever the reason, the nota bene fit well with Bell’s pattern of deviating from expectations and setting his own standards, both within his advertisements and in his eccentric behavior at book auctions.  His advertisement deployed familiar “Buy American” appeals, but did so in especially exuberant language, invited prospective subscribers to become part of a community of citizen-readers, and ended with a recommendation for a schoolmaster.  Bell presented consumers some of the appeals they came to expect from him as well as at least one surprise, a pattern for engaging with customers and audiences that he further developed over the next several decades.

December 28

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (December 28, 1770).

“Manufactured in AMERICA.”

Even before thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain and formed a new nation, advertisers deployed “Made in America” marketing strategies.  Those efforts gained popularity in the 1760s and 1770s, the period of the imperial crisis that culminated in the American Revolution, as advertisers, producers, and consumers all recognized the political meanings inherent in the buying and selling of goods.  They became especially pronounced whenever the crisis intensified, such as in response to the Stamp Act or the duties imposed on certain imported goods by the Townshend Acts.  In a series of nonimportation agreements, colonists boycotted goods made from Britain with the intention of harnessing commerce to achieve political goals.  They declared that they would resume importing and consuming those goods only once Parliament took the actions they desired, such as repealing the Stamp Act or repealing the Townshend duties.  Simultaneously, colonists sought alternatives and encouraged “domestic manufactures,” the production and consumption of goods made in the colonies.

Newspaper advertisements published in the 1760s and 1770s did not need to be long and elaborate to draw on the discourse of politics and commerce.  After all, news items and editorials rehearsed the disputes with Parliament and debated the appropriate remedies, so readers who encountered “Buy American” advertisements usually did so in the context of politics and current events covered elsewhere in the newspaper.  As a result, advertisers like W. and J. Whipple of Portsmouth did not consider it necessary to explain all the reasons why consumers should purchase their “Choice FLOUR of MUSTARD” when they advertised in the December 28, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  They simply informed prospective customers that their product was “Manufactured in AMERICA.”  Either the Whipples or the compositor considered that an important enough recommendation for “AMERICA” to appear in all capital letters, like other key words in the advertisement.  The Whipples expected that readers of the New-Hampshire Gazette would understand the significance of proclaiming that their flour of mustard was “Manufactured in AMERICA” without needing additional explanation or encouragement to buy it.

The short phrase “Manufactured in AMERICA” may seem like a minor component of a relatively short advertisement, but part of its power derived from the brevity of the notice.  The Whipples communicated quite a bit about the intersection of politics and commerce in that short phrase.  The repetition of that phrase and similar phrases was also powerful.  The Whipples were not outliers or extraordinary in resorting to “Made in America” appeals to consumers.  Instead, advertisers in New Hampshire and throughout the colonies regularly incorporated such sentiments into their newspaper notices in the 1760s and 1770s, doing their part to transform decisions about consumption into political acts.

August 6

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

Aug 6 - 8:6:1770 New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury
New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (August 6, 1770).

“He hopes this will be an additional recommendation to every sincere lover of AMERICA.”

In the summer of 1770, Dennis McReady, a tobacconist on Horse and Cart Street in New York, advertised that he had for sale “a large quantity of the choicest snuff.”  To convince prospective customers to buy his product, he made a “Buy American” argument and proclaimed that his snuff was “equal in quality to any that has ever been imported in this city.”  The city’s merchants had withdrawn from their nonimportation agreement a few months earlier, shortly after receiving word that most of the duties imposed on imported goods in the Townshend Acts had been repealed.  With only the tax on tea remaining, New York’s merchants chose to resume trade with their counterparts in Britain.

Not all New Yorkers universally approved of that decision.  For those who had pursued “domestic manufactures” or local production of alternatives to imported goods, the boycott enhanced their ability to market their wares as symbols of patriotism and support for the American cause.  McReady cautioned prospective customers against turning back to imported goods too hastily, challenging them to try his snuff “manufactured in this country.”  In addition to declaring that his product was equal to snuff that had been processed from tobacco on the other side of the Atlantic, he issued a political challenge to “every sincere lover of AMERICA.”  That “AMERICA” was the only word in all capitals in the body of his advertisement made it easy for readers to spot and underscored the emphasis McReady placed on this particular appeal to consumers.  The tobacconist doubled down on his claims about the quality of his snuff and his challenge to choose it over imported snuff; he expressed his “hopes that no person will be persuaded to the contrary until he has made trial of [McReady’s] snuff.”  At least try this product once to test its quality, McReady demanded, rather than assume that “imported” meant “better quality.”  Instead of purchasing imported snuff just because they could, McReady sought to persuade consumers to support domestic manufactures and the patriotic ideals associated with them.

June 7

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

Jun 7 - 6:7:1770 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (June 7, 1770).

“American manufactured, BROWN and mixed coloured THREAD STOCKINGS.”

Advertisers considered “Buy American” a powerful appeal that would resonate with consumers even before the American Revolution.  The number and frequency of newspaper advertisements encouraging readers to “Buy American” increased during the decade of the imperial crisis, especially at times when colonists subscribed to nonimportation agreements as a means of exerting economic leverage to achieve political goals.  Goods produced in the colonies offered an attractive alternative to those made elsewhere and imported.

William Hales apparently considered “Buy American” such a compelling appeal that he made it the centerpiece of the brief advertisement he inserted in the June 7, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  In its entirety, his advertisement announced, “American manufactured, BROWN and mixed coloured THREAD STOCKINGS, very good.  A few Dozen Pair, to be SOLD, by WILLIAM HALES.”  The phrase “American manufactured” served as both headline and the most important descriptor of the stockings, as though Hales expected making such an appeal by itself might be enough to convince prospective customers to make a purchase.  For those anxious that domestic manufactures might be inferior in quality to imported goods, he asserted that the stockings were indeed “very good,” but did not provide further elaboration.  Bales attempted to keep attention focused primarily on the fact that the stockings were “American manufactured.”  The compositor also did Hales a favor by positioning his advertisement at the top of the column, making the “American manufactured” headline all the more visible to readers and perhaps even implicitly suggesting that the advertisement took precedence over any that appeared below it in the same column or elsewhere on the page.

Hales certainly wished to sell the stockings that he advertised, but it is possible that he had additional motivations for inserting his notice in the South-Carolina Gazette.  He announced to the entire community his interest in producing goods in the colonies, enhancing his own standing and reputation.  His advertisement also served as encouragement for readers to make other purchases of “American manufactured” goods.  Readers could not have missed the political implications of his appeal, especially since the same notice concerning violations of the nonimportation agreement that appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal two days earlier also ran in this issue of the South-Carolina Gazette.  Perhaps the political statement inherent in announcing “American manufactured” stockings for sale was just as important to Bales as selling those stockings.