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