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.

April 5

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

Apr 5 - 4:5:1770 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (April 5, 1770).

“A real good INK.”

When it came to opposing the taxes inflicted on the American colonies by Parliament, every small act of resistance mattered.  That was the message that Benjamin Jackson delivered in a lengthy nota bene to his advertisement for “New invented PHILADELPHIA INK-POWDER” in the April 5, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  Jackson participated in a movement to encourage “domestic manufactures,” goods produced in the colonies as alternatives to items imported from Britain.  This movement gained popularity at the same time as American merchants and traders signed nonimportation agreements in response to the duties placed on imported paper, glass, paint, and tea in the Townshend Acts, hoping to leverage their commercial power to achieve political goals.

“As all our American manufactures (tho’ ever so small),” Jackson proclaimed, “are attended with obvious good consequences to the British colonies in general” consumers had a duty to purchase his ink powder even “tho’ it is but a trifling manufacture.”  He suggested that small and repeated acts of resistance would amount to a bold collective statement.  Furthermore, “some of the chief ingredients of this excellent Ink-Powder, are the produce of this continent.”  Not only did Jackson manufacture his ink powder locally, he also acquired many of the materials he needed from domestic suppliers.  His enterprise had ripple effects that benefited producers and consumers alike.  Like many others who advertised domestic manufactures, Jackson also assured prospective customers that they need not sacrifice quality nor pay premiums for their political principles.  He asserted that he sold his ink powder “as cheap as the European can be imported, and will engage it superior to that in quality.”  In addition to substituting for goods no longer shipped across the Atlantic, domestic manufactures addressed a trade imbalance between Britain and the colonies that resulted in a scarcity of specie circulating in the colonies.  Jackson noted that buying his product would “help to keep and circulate money amongst us.”

Jackson made various arguments in favor of his ink powder, developing a sophisticated “Buy American” marketing campaign before the American Revolution.  Yet his efforts were not themselves innovative.  He joined a chorus or producers and retailers who increasingly encouraged American consumers to choose domestic manufactures in the late 1760s and early 1770s.

March 25

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

Mar 25 - 3:23:1770 Massachusaetts Gazette Extraordinary
Massachusetts-Gazette Extraordinary (March 23, 1770).

“A second-hand Coach, a Variety of second-hand Chaises.”

Adino Paddock, a coachmaker, occasionally advertised in Boston’s newspapers in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  He took to the pages of the public prints to promote his business with an advertisement in an extraordinary issue of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on March 23, 1770.  In it, he proclaimed that “the Coach-making Business in all its Branches is carried on as usual” at his shop “in Common-Street.”

Paddock also extended one of his “usual” appeals to potential customers, informing them that he offered for a sale “a second-hand Coach” and “a Variety of second-hand Chaises.”  He incorporated used carriages of all sorts into most of his marketing, presenting consumers a less expensive alternative to purchasing new coaches and chaises.  As many of his other advertisements made clear, he acquired secondhand carriages by accepting them as partial payment when customers placed orders.  Paddock deployed what would later become familiar marketing and financing strategies in the automobile industry in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  He did so in the early modern era, more than a century before cars were mass produced and sold to consumers.  He anticipated some now-standard strategies for selling transportation to individual customers.

Paddock also made a “Buy American” appeal, though much less explicitly.  The elite who could afford carriages did not have to purchase coaches and chaises imported from England when they could instead acquire the same items made at his shop in Boston.  Furthermore, he sold ancillary goods, including “Worsted Reins,” made locally rather than imported.  Paddock did not name his supplier, but he assured prospective customers that the reins he sold were “made in Town.”  While he did little to underscore the point, it likely would have reverberated all the same considering how much attention residents of Boston and beyond devoted to the nonimportation agreements then in effect to protest duties on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea.  Coverage extended across news items, editorials, and even advertisements.

Consisting solely of text without images, Paddock’s advertisement for carriages is not nowhere near as flashy as print advertisements for automobiles from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries nor, especially, modern television and internet advertisements.  Comparatively humble in appearance, Paddock’s advertisement did, however, pioneer some of the marketing techniques that later became standard practices in the automobile industry.

January 21

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

Jan 21 - 1:18:1770 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (January 18, 1770).

“Every lover of his country will encourage … American manufactures.”

Benjamin Randolph, one of Philadelphia’s most prominent and successful cabinetmakers, was also a savvy advertiser. He inserted notices in the city’s newspapers, but he also distributed an elegant trade card that clearly demonstrated the influence of Thomas Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet-maker’s Director (1754). Known for his furniture, Randolph also promoted other carved items produced in his shop “at the Sign of the Golden Eagle,” including “a quantity of wooden BUTTONS of various sorts.”

Buttons often appeared among the extensive lists of imported merchandise published in advertisements placed by merchants and shopkeepers. When consumers purchased textiles and trimmings to make garments, they also acquired buttons. At a time when colonists participated in nonimportation agreements to protest the duties on imported goods imposed by the Townshend Acts, Randolph offered an alternative to buttons from England. He made it clear to prospective customers that purchasing his buttons served a political function; doing so signaled support for the American cause. Rather than depend on consumer’s familiarity with current events and popular discourse about the political meaning of goods, Randolph plainly stated, “[E]very lover of his country will encourage [his buttons by purchasing them], as well as all other American manufactures, especially at this time, when the importation of British superfluities is deemed inconsistent with the true interest of America.” Randolph encouraged colonists to reject the “Baubles of Britain,” as T.H. Breen has so memorably named the consumer goods produced on the other side of the Atlantic and sent to American markets. Randolph made a bid not only for support of the items he produced but also others made in the colonies, showing solidarity with fellow artisans as they did their part in opposition to Parliament.

Such efforts, however, did not depend solely on Randolph and other artisans. Ultimately, consumers determined the extent of the effectiveness of producing “American manufactures” through the decisions they made about which and how many items to purchase and which to boycott. Randolph had “a quantity” of buttons on hand, but producing more depended on the reception he received from the residents of Philadelphia and its hinterlands. He would “keep a general assortment of them” but only “if encouraged.” Consumers had to demonstrate that they would partner with him in this act of resistance once Randolph presented them with the opportunity.