August 2

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (August 2, 1773).

“He makes all sorts of coaches … equal to any imported from England.”

William Deane made appeals to price and quality in an advertisement for the coaches he constructed at his shop “in Broad-street” in the August 2, 1773, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  Compared to most other advertisers, however, he devised much more elaborate marketing strategies to convince prospective customers of the price and quality he offered.

Deane started by describing the various services in his shop.  He made several different kinds of carriages as well as “all sorts of harness and saddlers work.”  In addition, he also did “painting, gilding and Japanning, in the neatest and most elegant manner.”  Deane emphasized that he achieved a high level of quality while offering the lowest possible prices because he did not outsource any of those jobs to artisans.  Instead, he “finishes all carriages whatever in his own shop, without applying to any other.”  Accordingly, he was “determined to make them as good, sell them as cheap, and be as expeditious as there is a possibility.”

The carriagemaker realized that he needed “to convince the public of the truth of what he asserts.”  To that end, he vowed that he “will 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.”  His customers did not have to sacrifice either price or quality, one for the other, when they supported domestic manufacture by purchasing carriages made in his shop in New York.  Furthermore, they benefitted from additional bargains since they “will save the freight, insurance, and the expences naturally attending to putting the carriages to rights after they arrive.”  In so many ways, purchasing a carriage from Deane was so much easier than importing one made in England.  In addition, he “has now a considerable stock of the best of all materials fit for making carriages,” so he was ready to serve customers who placed orders.

Deane offered a “further inducement,” a one-year guarantee on the carriages made in his shop.  He had been providing guarantees in newspaper advertisements for at least six years (including in an advertisement with nearly identical copy in the New-York Journal more than a year earlier).  The carriagemaker declared that he “will engage his work for a year after it is delivered, that is, if any part gives way, or fails by fair usage, he will make it good at his own expence.”   To make the choice even more clear, he underscored that prospective customers would not have access to that kind of customer service in maintaining their carriages if they opted for ones made in England.  “Those advantages,” Deane intoned, “cannot be obtained on carriages imported.”

The carriagemaker’s advertisement revolved around price and quality.  He did more than make casual reference to them, developing a sophisticated marketing strategy that touted the advantages of purchasing carriages made in his shop.  He used only the best materials and oversaw every aspect of the construction to produce carriages that rivaled in craftsmanship those imported from England.  He also offered competitive prices, especially since his customers saved on shipping and insurance, and a one-year guarantee on any parts that might require repairs.  Deane sought to convince prospective customers that all of this made his carriages the best choice.

June 19

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

Providence Gazette (June 19, 1773).

“Equal to any made in America, and far superior to any imported from Europe.”

For several weeks in the summer of 1773, John Waterman and Company ran advertisements for “Clothiers Press-Papers” in both the Newport Mercury and the Providence Gazette.  Waterman and Company informed prospective customers that they made the press papers “at the Paper-Mill, in Providence.”  Anyone interested in acquiring a supply could make purchases at the mill or, for their convenience, from local agents in three towns in Rhode Island.  Thurber and Cahoon stocked the press papers at their shop at the Sign of the Bunch of Grapes in the north end of Providence.  Thomas Aldrich also carried them in East Greenwich, as did Solomon Southwick in the printing office where he published the Newport Mercury.  Given that both newspapers circulated throughout the colony and beyond, Waterman and Company offered multiple options for clothiers to identify the location that best suited their needs.

In addition to providing convenient options for clothiers to purchase press papers from local agents, Waterman and Company deployed another marketing strategy.  They promoted domestic manufactures, the production of goods in the colonies as an alternative to imported items, in their efforts to convince clothiers to choose their press papers.  Waterman and Company first declared that their press papers were “equal to any made in America” and then added that they were “far superior to any imported from Europe.”  In so doing, they established a hierarchy that suggested that clothiers should consider any press papers made in the colonies better than imported ones.  Furthermore, discerning clothiers did not have to settle for a better product but could acquire the best product when they purchased press papers made by Waterman and Company.  Such “Buy American” appeals appeared regularly in newspapers advertisements in the 1760s and 1770s.  Advertisers most often made such appeals when disputes between the colonies and Parliament intensified, especially when colonizers implemented nonimportation agreements, but they did not disappear during periods of relative calm.  Savvy entrepreneurs often encouraged prospective customers, including clothiers who needed supplies to operate their businesses, to “Buy American” before thirteen colonies declared independence from Britain.

March 28

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

New-York Journal (March 25, 1773).

“The Public will find upon trial, the SNUFF manufactured by them to be equal in Quality, and Flavour, to any imported from Great-Britain.”

In the spring of 1773, the firm of Maxwell and Williams announced that they processed and sold tobacco and snuff to customers in New York.  According to their advertisement in the March 25, 1773, edition of the New-York Journal, the partners formerly “carried on a large and extensive trade in the SNUFF and TOBACCO Manufactories” in Bristol.  Upon relocating their business in the colonies, they supplied the public with “all sorts of best Scotch and Rappee SNUFF, [and] Pugtail, Rag, and fine mild smoaking TOBACCO.”

Although relative newcomers to New York, Maxwell and Williams enthusiastically joined calls to encourage “domestic manufactures” through purchasing goods produced in the colonies rather than imported from England.  Like other artisans who made such appeals, the tobacconists declared that consumers did not have to sacrifice quality when they chose to acquire local goods rather than imported alternatives.  “The Public will find upon trial,” Maxwell and Williams confidently asserted, “the SNUFF manufactured by them to be equal in Quality, and Flavour, to any imported from Great-Britain.”  They invited consumers to make that determination for themselves.

Maxwell and Williams also sought to distinguish their product from any others produced in New York or other colonies.  They not only wished for consumers to support domestic manufactures; they also wanted consumers to support their domestic manufactures in particular.  To that end, Maxwell and Williams stated that they “erected … a complete apparatus for carrying on the said business in all its branches.”  In addition, their snuff was “made of the best materials, and in a manner superior to any thing of the kind yet attempted in this country.”  Only after making all of those pitches did the partners most explicitly call on consumers to purchase goods produced in the colonies rather than imported alternatives, offering competitive prices to make doing so even more attractive.  “[A]s an encouragement to those who are inclined to countenance Manufactories set on foot in AMERICA,” Maxwell and Williams trumpeted, they would sell “their SNUFF on lower terms than any can be imported.”

Many entrepreneurs, including tobacconists, launched “Buy American” campaigns prior to the Revolutionary War.  Some sought to address a trade imbalance between the colonies and Britain.  Others recognized the political dimensions of both production and consumption, leveraging commerce and industry as a means of participating in politics.  All of them wished to create new opportunities for the success of their own endeavors by adding support for domestic manufactures to the array of marketing strategies commonly deployed by advertisers.

March 11

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

Massachusetts Spy (March 11, 1773).

“American Ink-Powder.”

Buy American!  That was the message that many advertisers presented to consumers during the imperial crisis, before the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord.  It was the message that Samuel Norton of Hingham, who made ink powder, and Ann Norton of Boston, his broker in town, proclaimed to prospective customers in the March 11, 1773, edition of the Massachusetts Spy.  Other advertisers made similar appeals, including Abraham Cornish for his “New England COD and MACKEREL FISH HOOKS.”

For their part, the Nortons introduced their product with a headline for “American Ink-Powder” followed immediately by a secondary headline that declared, “Experienced and found to be equal, if not superior to any imported.”  Earlier in the week, Henry William Stiegel made similar assertions about the glassware he made in Manheim, Pennsylvania.  To entice colonizers to try the ink powder made in Hingham, the Nortons listed several of its “excellent qualities.”  They claimed that even when documents written with the ink were “exposed to extreme wet” the ink did not run; instead, it “alters not, but will remain as long as the paper endures.”  Furthermore, the ink powder contained an ingredient that “precents ink from becoming think and mouldy.”  These factors prompted the Nortons to proclaim that this ink powder “makes the best black writing-ink,” doubling down on the secondary headline about it being as good as, or even better than, imported alternatives.

The Nortons also offered practical advice for using the ink powder.  They considered it “very convenient for gentlemen, merchants, attornies and others that travel, it being not cumbersome and liable to those mischances that other ink is.”  Purchasers could choose to mix ink “in large or small quantities, as is most convenient,” and did not have to worry about it freezing if they used “a little brandy or other spirits not liable to freeze” instead of water.  In guiding prospective customers in how to use the product, the Nortons hoped to increase the chances that some of them would purchase their ink powder and follow their directions.

They also benefited from the compositor’s choice about where to place their advertisement within that issue of the Massachusetts Spy.  It appeared immediately below coverage of the annual commemoration of the Boston Massacre. Residents of Boston marked the third anniversary with an oration “on the dangerous tendency of standing armies being placed in free and populous cities” by Dr. Benjamin Church, a lantern with paintings that depicted soldiers firing on colonizers, and the tolling of bells.  The Nortons did not make arguments about consumers’ civic responsibility to practice politics in the marketplace by purchasing domestic manufactures, goods produced in the colonies, as explicitly as some other advertisers.  Given the commemoration of the Boston Massacre that just occurred and other news about current events that crowded the pages of the Massachusetts Spy, they did not necessarily need to do so.  Prospective customers very well understood the context in which the Norton’s hawked their “American Ink-Powder.”

March 10

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

Pennsylvania Journal (March 10, 1773).

“Made it their particular study to encourage their own manufactures.”

Today, collectors consider precious glassware produced in the eighteenth century by Henry William Stiegel at his American Flint Glass Manufactory, but during his own lifetime the German-American glassmaker did not achieve the same renown.  Like many other artisans, he published newspaper advertisements in an effort to entice consumers and improve his prospects.

In many of those advertisements, Stiegel attempted to convince prospective customers to support “domestic manufactures” by purchasing goods produced in the colonies, especially glassware he made at his manufactory in Manheim in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, rather than imported alternatives.  Artisans and others launched “Buy American” campaigns during the imperial crisis, suggesting to colonizers that they had a civic responsibility to practice politics through the decisions they made in the marketplace.  In an advertisement in the March 10, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal, Stiegel and his broker in Philadelphia, William Smith, made the case that the “friends and well-wishers to America have, on all laudable occasions, shewed a spirit of patriotism worthy of themselves, and made it their particular study to encourage their own manufactures in preference to all others.”  Stiegel and Smith reiterated an appeal that Stiegel made in another advertisement in November 1771.

The glassmaker and his broker challenged consumers to take part in “so noble a resolution” to purchase “their own manufactures,” yet that was not the extent of their sales pitch.  They also emphasized price, stating that they sold glassware “on as good terms” as imported goods, and quality, asserting that the “ELEGANT ASSORTMENT” of items was “as neat in their kinds” as “any imported from Europe.”  Prospective customers did not have to take their word for it.  Instead, Stiegel and Smith confidently asserted that if “impartial judges” inspected works from the American Flint Glass Manufactory that they would reach the same conclusion.

Stiegel and Smith presented decisions about consumption as political acts, yet they recognized that politics alone would not motivate some consumers, especially during a lull in tensions between colonizers and Parliament.  That being the case, they assured prospective customers that when they purchased glassware produced by Stiegel that they acquired merchandise equal in quality to items imported from Europe and at the same prices.  They hoped that the combination of appeals would convince consumers to support “their own manufactories” in the colonies.

January 2

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (January 2, 1772).


Pelatiah Webster advertised a variety of goods available at his store on Water Street in Philadelphia at the end of 1772 and the beginning of 1773.  Although he mentioned some imported items, he emphasized that he carried several items made in the colonies.  He deployed a version of “Made in America” or “Buy American” even before the American Revolution.  Purveyors of goods and services did so at various times during the imperial crisis that eventually resulted in thirteen colonies declaring independence from Britain, most frequently during periods when colonizers adopted nonimportation agreements as political leverage.  That did not mean, however, that advertisers did not encourage consumers to purchase “domestic manufactures” at times of relative calm.

Webster apparently believed that highlighting the American origins of many of his wares would aid in attracting customers.  He may have also hoped that this strategy would remind consumers that they could make choices in the marketplace that had political ramifications.  He opened his advertisement with a “NEAT assortment of BOSTON SHOES,” trumpeting their “excellent quality” and the “variety of colours.”  Merchants and shopkeepers throughout the colonies often listed dozens of different kinds of imported textiles, hoping to match the tastes and budgets of prospective customers.  Webster, on the other hand, stocked “a variety of coarse woollens, cottons, check flannels, &c. AMERICAN MANUFACTURE, very serviceable, at 2s. and 2s6 per yard.”  Those textiles were not as fancy as imported alternatives, but Webster considered them both practical and, at two shillings or two shillings and six pence per yard, quire reasonable.  For many colonizers, using such homespun fabrics became a badge of honor, a visible testimonial of their politics or commitment to supporting the local economy or both.

In the January 2, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Chronicle, Webster’s advertisement ran in the first column on the final page, below George Weed’s advertisement for medicines he compounded at shop on Market Street, alternatives to patent medicines imported from London.  The middle column consisted entirely of an advertisement in which Jonathan Zane and Sons cataloged a “large assortment of IRONMONGERY, CUTLERY, BRASS WARE, SADLERY, DYE STUFFS, PAINTERS COLOURS” and more that they acquired “at the manufactories of Great-Britain and imported in the last vessels from London and Bristol.”  In the final column, John Marie’s advertisement ran once again, offering the services of a “TAYLOR, from PARIS” who had previously clothed “some of the most respectable Gentlemen in London.”  That constellation of advertisements and marketing strategies on a single page testified to some of the tension inherent in consumer culture during the era of the American Revolution.  Consumers navigated competing messages about the meanings of goods and services and how they should participate in the marketplace.

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.