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.

November 6

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

Nov 6 - 11:6:1769 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (November 6, 1769).

“This Work will be committed to the Press, when American Paper can be procured.”

An advertisement for “A REPLY to Dr. Chandler’s ‘Appeal defended’ … By CHARLES CHAUNCY, D.D. Pastor of the First Church in Boston” appeared in the November 6, 1769 edition of the Boston-Gazette. Rather than inviting readers to purchase copies already in stock or encouraging subscribers to reserve their copies in advance, this advertisement stated that the book was “Ready for the PRESS.” Those involved in publishing it had temporarily halted production, noting that “This Work will be committed to the Press, when American Paper can be procured, which it is hoped will be very soon.”

The book did eventually go to press, “Printed by Daniel Kneeland, opposite the probate-office, in Queen-Street, for Thomas Leverett, in Corn-Hill” in 1770. It took Kneeland and Leverett several months to acquire the “American Paper” they desired for this publication. Why insist on paper made in the colonies? The Townshend Acts were in effect, imposing duties on several imported items, including glass, tea, lead, paint, … and paper. Printers and other colonists avoided incurring the additional expense, but they also took a principled stand against the despised legislation. In Boston and other towns throughout Massachusetts, colonists adopted nonimportation agreements, refusing to import a vast array of goods as a means of economic protest to achieve political goals. Many simultaneously vowed to encourage “domestic manufactures” by producing goods in the colonies and consuming them as preferred alternatives to imported wares. It became impossible to overlook the politics of commerce and consumption in the late 1760s and early 1770s.

Advertisements contributed to the public discourse about the benefits of nonimportation and the virtues of domestic manufactures. The frequency of advertisements that advanced “Buy American” appeals increased, especially in Boston’s newspapers, as the boycotts of goods imported from Britain continued. This advertisement for a book “Ready for the PRESS” but not yet printed was part of that movement. It attempted to incite interest in both the contents of the book and its production, placing a premium on “American Paper.” That production temporarily halted due to patriotic considerations increased the visibility of a product that was not yet available in the colonial marketplace.

October 26

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

Oct 26 - 10:26:1769 Boston Chronicle
Boston Chronicle (October 26, 1769).

“Printed in AMERICA.”

John Mein was an ardent Tory. In the late 1760s, he and John Fleeming published the Boston Chronicle, one of the most significant Loyalist newspapers. Merrill Jensen describes the Boston Chronicle as “the handsomest newspaper in America” but “also one of the most aggressive.”[1] Mein and Fleeming made it their mission to contradict and oppose the narrative promulgated by patriot printers Benjamin Edes and John Gill in the Boston-Gazette. Mein opposed the nonimportation agreements ratified by Boston’s merchants in response to Parliament imposing duties on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea. Yet when it came to marketing the wares available at his London Book Store on King Street, Mein sometimes adopted a strategy more often associated with patriots who encouraged resistance to the abuses perpetrated by Parliament. In an advertisement that extended an entire column in the October 26, 1769, edition of the Boston Chronicle, Mein proclaimed that he sold books “Printed in AMERICA.” In this instance, the printer and bookseller managed to separate business and politics, hoping to increase the appeal of more than a dozen titles, including several “Entertaining Books for Children,” by making a “Buy American” appeal to consumers.

In that same issue of the Boston Chronicle, Mein and Fleeming published “Outlines OF THE Characters of some who are thought to be ‘WELL DISPOSED.’” As Jensen explains, the “Well Disposed” was “a name first used by the popular leaders to describe themselves, but which their enemies had turned into a gibe.”[2] The character sketches included “Johnny Dupe, Esq; alias the Milch-Cow of the “Well Disposed” (John Hancock), “Samuel the Publican, alias The Psalm Si[ng]er” (Samuel Adams), “Counsellor Muddlehead, alias Jemmy with the Maiden Nose” (James Otis), and “The Lean Apothecary” (Joseph Warren). Jensen notes, “There were many other nicknames which contemporaries doubtless recognized.” These insults created such an uproar that Mein soon departed from Boston in fear of his life. A mob attacked him, but Mein managed to escape, first hiding in the attic of a guardhouse and eventually disguising himself as a soldier and fleeing to a British warship in the harbor. From there he sailed to England, only to discover that “London booksellers to whom he owed money had given power of attorney to John Hancock to collect from his property in Boston.”[3] On Hancock’s suggestion, Mein was jailed for debt.

Mein’s proclamation that he sold books “Printed in AMERICA” had a political valence, but the politics of the marketing appeal did not necessarily match his own politics. Instead, he appropriated a marketing strategy that resonated with prospective customers rather than reflected his own partisan position. His editorials made clear where he stood when it came to current events and the relationship between the colonies and Britain, but that did not prevent him from making a “Buy American” argument in the service of selling of wares.

**********

[1] Merrill Jensen, The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution, 1763-1776 (Indianapolis: Hacket Publishing, 1968, 2004), 360.

[2] Jensen, Founding of a Nation, 361.

[3] Jensen, Founding of a Nation, 362.