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