September 24

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (September 24, 1770).

“He has made a considerable Improvement in the Construction of those Shears.”

When he started a new business in 1770, Cornelius Atherton placed an advertisement to alert prospective customers.  He deployed several appeals to entice them to purchase the clothier’s shears that he manufactured.

Readers of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury learned that Atherton claimed his shears were “equal in Goodness to any imported, and are sold upon as good Terms.”   New York’s merchants had resumed trading with their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic earlier in the year, following the repeal of most of the duties imposed on imported goods by the Townshend Acts.  Entrepreneurs like Atherton, however, did not surrender to the influx of manufactured goods from England, often perceived as being higher quality, but instead defended their role in the American marketplace.  A movement to encourage “domestic manufactures” accompanied the nonimportation agreements adopted in the late 1760s.  Atherton and others who made goods in the colonies heeded that call and then continued to promote their wares when trade resumed.  When it came to quality and price, Atherton proclaimed, his clothier’s shears could not be beat by imported alternatives.  He hoped that would be “an Inducement” to buy from him.

If that was not sufficient, Atherton offered another reason.  He devoted the second half of his advertisement to describing an innovation in the construction of his shears.  Emphasizing innovation was the most innovative part of his advertisement.  Atherton explained that he “has made a considerable Improvement in the Construction of these Shears, so that they may be taken a part with a Screw, to be ground without putting them out of their proper Order.”  This required “additional Workmanship” (that did not make the shears more expensive than imported ones), but resulted in “great Conveniency” when it came to maintenance and durability.  This innovative construction made Atherton’s shears “something higher than the Common.”  Such ingenuity merited attention from prospective customers.

In as short advertisement for clothier’s shears made in the colonies, Atherton brought together multiple marketing appeals.  He resorted to some of the most common, quality and price, but expressed them in comparison to imported alternatives.  In turn, this supported an implicit “Buy American” argument that would have been familiar to consumers in the late 1760s and early 1770s because it had been so frequently made, both implicitly and explicitly, in the public prints, including in advertisements.  Atherton may have considered the innovation in constructing his shears the most compelling of the appeals he presented to prospective customers.  That innovation contributed to quality and durability while also yielding greater convenience for his customers.

July 23

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

Jul 23 - 7:23:1770 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (July 23, 1770).

American Manufacture.”

Cyrus Baldwin divided his advertisement in the July 23, 1770, edition of the Boston-Gazette into two parts.  The first part, much longer than the second, looked much like other advertisements placed by shopkeepers during the period.  It listed a variety of items for sale at Baldwin’s shop.  The second part included a separate headline.  That alone made the entire advertisement distinctive compared to others that ran in the Boston-Gazette and other newspapers.

The headline announced that the second part listed goods of “American Manufacture.”  Baldwin carried “WORSTED Wilton, Middlesex Serge and plain Cloth, Shoe and Coat Bindings, Knee Garters, [and] Basket Buttons” made in the colonies.  He concluded the list with “&c.” (the eighteenth-century abbreviation for et cetera) to suggest that he stocked even more items produced locally rather than imported.  By inserting this headline and highlighting a second category of merchandise available at his shop, Baldwin both offered consumers an opportunity to practice politics when they shopped and encouraged them to do so.

The nonimportation agreement adopted to protest duties on certain imported goods imposed by the Townshend Acts was still in effect in Boston.  At the time that merchants and traders adopted the measure, residents of the city also advocated that colonists encourage “domestic manufactures” through the production and consumption of goods in the colonies.  Such goods provided an alternative to imported goods that became politically toxic, yet the repeal of the Townshend duties was not the only reason to buy American products.  Colonists also worried about a trade imbalance with Britain.  Encouraging domestic manufactures provided employment for colonists while reducing reliance on imported goods.  Yet such encouragement could not be confined to production alone.  Retailers and consumers had to play their parts as well.  Baldwin did so by stocking goods produced in the colonies and calling particular attention to them in his advertisements.  Consumers then had a duty to heed the call by choosing to purchase “American Manufacture[s].”  Baldwin made it easy for them to identify goods that fit the bill.

July 5

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

Jul 5 - 7:5:1770 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (July 5, 1770).

“Manufactured at the MANHEIM GLASS WORKS, in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania.”

The partnership of Brooks and Sharp injected patriotism into an advertisement for “AMERICAN GLASS WARE” they published in the Pennsylvania Journal for eight weeks in July and August 1770.  When colonists boycotted imported goods of all sorts in response to duties levied on imported glass, paper, lead, paint, and tea by the Townshend Acts, American entrepreneurs set about producing “domestic manufactures” to provide an alternative.  In their advertisements, they stressed the political benefits of acquiring goods made in the colonies, framing such consumption as patriotic duty.  Brooks and Sharp provided an overview of that argument, stating that during “this crisis it is the indispensable duty, as well as interest of every well wisher of America, to promote and encourage manufactures amongst ourselves.”  They were confident that consumers would do their part by purchasing products made at the Manheim Glass Works in Lancaster County, motivated by “the glorious spirit of patriotism at present voluntarily and virtuously existing here.”

Yet they realized that patriotism might not have been sufficient to convince some consumers to buy their wares, especially with the fate of the nonimportation agreement in doubt after the repeal of most of the Townshend duties a few months earlier.  Brooks and Sharp needed to make their glassware as attractive to consumers as imported alternatives now that political justifications for purchasing American manufactures did not have the same urgency.  To that end, they offered bargain prices, proclaiming that they sold their goods “on much lower terms, than such imported from Europe are usually sold.”  They also made an appeal to quality, assuring prospective customers that their glassware was not inferior to items imported from England.  The proprietors had engaged “some of the most ingenious artists in said manufacture, which is now arrived at great perfection.”  Consumers as well as “retailers in Philadelphia” and “country storekeepers” could have it all when buying and selling glassware from the Manheim Glass Works:  high quality, low prices, and the satisfaction of expressing a “glorious spirit of patriotism” in the marketplace.

June 14

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

Jun 14 - 6:14:1770 Virginia Gazette Rind
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (June 14, 1770).
“This mill was erected principally with a view of encouraging our own manufactures.”

Although advertisements promoting local industry and encouraging “domestic manufactures” most often appeared in newspapers published in New England and the Middle Atlantic in the era of the imperial crisis that culminated in the American Revolution, advertisements that made similar appeals also appeared, though less frequently, in newspapers published in the Chesapeake and Lower South.  William Rind’s Virginia Gazette ran just such an advertisement as spring turned to summer in 1770.  Benjamin Brooks operated a fulling mill, cleansing and dyeing cloth for his customers.  He pledged that clients “may depend upon having their cloth finished with the utmost expedition, and in the neatest manner.”  Brooks also rehearsed many of the same appeals linking his enterprise to politics and current events that artisans and others incorporated into advertisements in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Brooks proclaimed that his mill “was erected principally with a view of encouraging our own manufactures at this time, when the use of British is utterly destructive of our liberty.”  In so doing, he invoked disputes between Parliament and the colonies concerning taxation and regulation of commerce as well as the nonimportation agreements first adopted in response to the Stamp Act and later renewed when the Townshend Acts imposed duties on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea.  Colonists vowed to cease importing a vast assortment of goods, not just those enumerated in the Townshend Acts.  As an alternative to imported goods, many called for increased production in the colonies while simultaneously asserting that consumers had a duty to purchase those items.  When it came to domestic manufactures, production and consumption both constituted acts of resistance.  Realizing that some consumers would be skeptical of the quality of goods produced in the colonies, many producers offered reassurances.  In addition to stating that his mill finished cloth “in the neatest manner,” Brooks also declared that he and his workers “dye and dress jeans and fustians to look as well as those from England.”  Producers and retailers often made such pronouncements to convince prospective customers that they would not be disappointed when they acted on their political principles when making choices about consumption.

Brooks also made a less common observation in his advertisement, one that further mobilized colonists to do their part to support American interests.  He noted that “It is impossible to make good work, un less the cloth has been properly managed before it is sent to the mill.”  To that end, he inserted directions that “if complied with, will enable me to give … satisfaction to my customers.”  The fuller encouraged the production of homespun, but also noted that the quality of his finishing work depended in part on the quality of the untreated cloth delivered to him.  He provided a brief primer on spinning and other parts of the process customers undertook on their own before delivering cloth to the mill.  If colonists hoped to produce cloth that rivaled English imports, they all had to do their part.

Politics were not confined to the news items and letters published in the Virginia Gazette and other newspapers in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  Instead, politics overflowed into other parts of newspapers, inflecting advertisements for consumer goods and services with additional meaning.  Brooks did not need to elaborate on what he meant when he stated that “the use of British [manufactures] is utterly destructive of our liberty.”  That simple phrase allowed him to connect his fulling mill to a larger project of American industry that required the active support of all who read his advertisement.

May 21

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

May 21 - 5:21:1770 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (May 21, 1770).

“JOHN GORE, jun. Opposite LIBERTY-TREE, BostonNorth-American Manufactures.”

In the late 1760s and early 1770s, John Gore, Jr., consistently associated his business with the patriot cause by describing its location in relation to the Liberty Tree in Boston.  In an advertisement in the May 21, 1770, edition of the Boston-Gazette, for instance, he listed his address as “Opposite LIBERTY-TREE, Boston,” and did not provide any additional information, not even the name of the street, to assist prospective customers in finding his shop.

The first portion of Gore’s advertisement listed a variety of textiles and adornments, presenting consumers an array of choices.  Gore did not explicitly state that he acquired these items before the nonimportation agreement went into effect.  Perhaps he hoped that readers would reach that conclusion because he so prominently made a connection between the Liberty Tree and his shop.  In the second portion of his advertisement Gore made a distinction between imported wares and those produced in the colonies.  In a header that appeared in larger font than most of the rest of the notice, Gore declared that he stocked “North-American Manufactures.”  That portion of his inventory included “black, pompadore, light and dark mix’d chocolate and drab colour’d Cloths,” “fine Teeth Horn Combs,” and the “best of Lynn Shoes.”  He also carried hose “equally as fine as any Imported from London.”  His customers did not need to fear accepting inferior goods when they selected among the “North-American Manufactures” he presented to them.

The headers in Gore’s advertisement told a story that did not require readers to peruse the rest of the advertisement.  Anyone who quickly looked over the page would see “JOHN GORE, jun. Opposite LIBERTY-TREE, BostonNorth-American Manufactures.”  Even if they did not choose to examine the advertisement more closely, they likely remembered the association among the shopkeeper, his location, and his merchandise produced in the colonies.

May 20

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

May 20 - 5:17:1770 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (May 17, 1770).

“Their ware is equal if not superior to any made in America or imported.”

Odgens, Laight, and Company, proprietors of the Vesuvius Air Furnace in Newark, New Jersey, placed an advertisement in the May 17, 1770, edition of the New-York Journal to inform prospective customers that they produced and sold “all kinds of hollow ware, and other castings.”  Their inventory included forge hammers and anvils, pots, kettles, griddles, “iron stoves for work-shops and ships cabins,” and a variety of other items.  Descriptions of some of their wares testified to their quality, such as “jamb and hearth plates neatly fitting each other,” yet Odgens, Laight, and Company made more extensive appeals to quality as well.

The partners proclaimed that “their metal is of the best quality” and underscored that “the construction of their furnace” as well as “manner of working and moulding” was “the most improved.”  Accordingly, they could claim that the items they manufactured at the Vesuvius Air Furnace were “equal if not superior to any made in America or imported.”  The comparison to imported goods held particular significance.  As colonists adopted nonimportation agreements to protest duties on imported paper, glass, paint, lead, and tea that Parliament levied via the Townshend Acts, they also advocated supporting “domestic manufactures” as an alternate means of acquiring goods they needed and desired.  Even though colonists declared their support for goods made in the colonies, newspaper advertisements suggest that consumers experienced some skepticism that those goods matched imported wares in terms of quality.  Artisans and other who promoted domestic manufactures in the late 1760s and early 1770s frequently reassured prospective customers that they would not have to sacrifice quality in service to following their political principles.  In addition to asserting that their wares were “equal if not superior” to imported goods, Ogdens, Laight, and Company singled out their hammers and anvils, explaining that “the metal … is excellently well tempered, and found on repeated trials to be in general superior English hammers.”  They did not elaborate on who conducted those “repeated trials.”  That claim echoed marketing strategies frequently invoked by other artisans:  proclaiming that others with specialized knowledge of the product vouched for it.

Ogdens, Laight, and Company offered consumers an opportunity to demonstrate their support for the American colonies in their altercation with Parliament by purchasing goods made in the colonies rather than imported from England.  In so doing, they joined other advertisers in the New-York Journal and throughout the colonies who offered domestic manufactures to prospective customers.  The appeals they made in their advertisements resonated with the news that appeared elsewhere in the newspapers.

May 4

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

May 4 - 5:4:1770 South-Carolina Gazette
South-Carolina Gazette (May 4, 1770).

“All American Manufactures.”

Thomas Shute’s advertisement occupied a privileged place in the May 4, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  It appeared in the first column of the first page, immediately below the “PRESENTMENTS OF THE GRAND-JURORS.”  A separate headline, “New Advertisements,” introduced Shute’s notice.  Considering that Shute sold “All American Manufactures,” the placement of this advertisement may have been quite deliberate on the part of Peter Timothy, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette.

Shute’s commercial activities addressed political concerns that had been widely reported in newspapers and discussed among colonists for several years.  When Parliament imposed duties on imported paper, glass, paint, lead, and tea, colonists responded by adopting nonimportation agreements for a vast array of goods as a means of exerting economic pressure to achieve political ends.  At the same time, they embraced “domestic manufactures” as alternatives to imported goods, also arguing that producing and purchasing such items provided a variety of benefits.  Producing domestic manufactures provided employment for colonists; purchasing those wares addressed a trade imbalance with Britain and kept specie in the colonies rather than sending it across the Atlantic.

Shute offered an assortment of “American Manufactures” to consumers in South Carolina, all of them imported from Philadelphia rather than from London and other ports in England.  Pennsylvania had long been a source for many of the agricultural items, such as flour, bread, and ham, but Shute also emphasized goods more often associated with manufacturers on the other side of the Atlantic, including “Sundry Kinds of CAST IRON,” “EARTHEN WARE,” and “HORSE COLLARS.”  Shute made a brief appeal to quality, stating that his inventory “may be depended upon as good,” to reassure prospective customers that investing in domestic manufactures did not require them to accept inferior merchandise.

By the time Shute’s advertisement appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette, a partial repeal of the Revenue Act had already been approved by Parliament on March 5 and received royal assent on April 12.  Duties on tea remained in place, but not the duties on other imported goods.  It took some time for word to arrive in the colonies.  Once it did, colonists withdrew from their nonimportation agreements.  For the moment, however, Shute deployed a marketing strategy that gained popularity throughout the colonies over the course of several years.

April 20

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

Apr 20 - 4:20:1770 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (April 20, 1770).

“He makes and sells all Kinds of FELT HATS.”

In the late 1760s and early 1770s the New-London Gazette carried fewer advertisements than most other newspapers printed in the colonies, in large part due to being published in a smaller town than most of its counterparts.  Those advertisements that did appear in the New-London Gazette, however, tended to replicate the marketing strategies deployed in advertisements published in other newspapers.  T.H. Breen asserts that colonists experienced a standardization of consumer goods available for purchase from New England to Georgia.[1]  They also encountered a standardization in advertising practices when they read the notices in colonial newspaper.

Consider an advertisement that Abiezer Smith, “HATTER, at NORWICH-LANDING,” placed in the April 20, 1770, edition of the New-London Gazette.  He informed prospective customers that he had “served a regular Apprenticeship to the FELT MANUFACTURE.”  Artisans frequently listed their credentials, especially upon arriving in town from elsewhere or opening a new business.  Since they did not benefit from cultivating a reputation among local consumers over time, they adopted other means of signaling that they were qualified to follow the trade they advertised.  In addition to consumers, Smith addressed retailers, the “Merchants and Shopkeepers in the Country” that he hoped would stock his hats.

Smith also made an appeal to quality and connected it to contemporary political discourse, just as advertisers in Boston and New York were doing during at the time.  The hatter at Norwich Landing proclaimed that his hats were “equal in goodness to any manufactured in this Country.”  Yet that assurance of quality was not sufficient.  He also declared his wares were preferable to any imported from Europe or elsewhere.”  Although the duties on most imported goods had been repealed, news had not yet arrived in the colonies.  For the moment, Smith stood to benefit from nonimportation agreements that prompted consumers to purchase “domestic manufactures” instead, provided that he made prospective customers aware of his product.  For retailers, he offered a new source of merchandise.  Even though his appeal would have less political resonance in the coming months, the quality remained consistent.  Many colonial consumers tended to prefer imported goods, but Smith offered an alternative that did not ask them to sacrifice the value for their money.

Smith’s advertisement could have appeared in any other newspaper in the colonies.  Indeed, given the scarcity of advertising in the New-London Gazette, he very well may have consulted (or at least had in mind) newspapers from other towns and cities when he wrote the copy for his advertisement.  His appeals that invoked his training, the quality of his wares, and the political significance of purchasing his hats made his advertisement resemble others placed by American artisans in the late 1760s and early 1770s.

**********

[1] T.H. Breen, “‘Baubles of Britain’: The American and Consumer Revolutions of the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present 119 (1988): 81-84

April 15

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

Apr 15 - 4:12:1770 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (April 15, 1770).

“Chisels … superior in Quality to those imported from Great Britain.”

Abeel and Byvanck sold ironmongery and cutlery in New York in the early 1770s.  They listed an array of merchandise in their newspaper notices, but they did not merely inform prospective customers of the goods they offered for sale.  In an advertisement in the April 12, 1770, edition of the New-York Journal, Abeel and Byvanck noted the various ways that their business bolstered the nonimportation agreement adopted to protest duties imposed on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea in the Townshend Acts.

For instance, their inventory included chisels “superior in Quality to those imported from Great Britain, and at a less Price.”  The partners did not explicitly state that the chisels were produced in the colonies, but the implication was clear.  In presenting the chisels for consideration, Abeel and Byvanck made appeals commonly advanced by others who marketed “domestic manufactures” as alternative to imported goods.  They assured consumers that they did not have to sacrifice quality for political principles.  While some artisans and shopkeepers declared their merchandise produced in the colonies equal to any imported, Abeel and Byvanck made an even bolder statement when they asserted their chisels were “superior.”  Yet customers did not have to pay a premium for that quality.  Instead, they could acquire chisels produced in the colonies for lower prices than imported ones.  Everything about these chisels seemed to work to the advantage of both consumers and the American cause.

Those chisels may have come from “the Manufactory in this Province.”  Abeel and Byvanck noted that they would soon stock “a large Parcel of Sithes [Scythes]” currently under production there.  Like the chisels, those scythes were “superior in Quality to those imported.”  The partners did not comment on the price, but they had previously framed their entire advertisement in terms that favorably compared the prices they charged in April 1770 to what they charged prior to the nonimportation agreement going into effect.  They declared that they set prices “Upon as reasonable Terms, as they sold before the Agreement for not importing Goods from Great Britain.”  In other words, Abeel and Byvanck did not engage in price gouging after merchants and shopkeepers ceased replenishing their inventories with imported goods.

Nonimportation agreements ratified in New York and other colonies were the subject of press coverage in the 1760s and 1770s, but that coverage was not confined to news items and editorials.  Instead, advertisements for consumer goods and services also endorsed and promoted nonimportation agreements, encouraging colonists to understand the connections between consumption and politics.

April 12

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

Apr 12 - 4:12:1770 Maryland Gazette
Maryland Gazette (April 12, 1770).

“He purposes to pack it in Country made Pots.”

Richard Thompson, “the Manufacturer of TOBACCO and SNUFF at Blackensburg,” placed an advertisement for his ware in the April 12, 1770, edition of the Maryland Gazette.  He invited “Gentleman Merchants,” factors, and others to submit orders for wholesale purchases quickly or else risk missing out since “it is highly probable he may enter into such Engagements, as will effectually hinder his supplying them with the Quantities that may want.”  He also listed his various products for the benefit of both wholesale and retail customers: “plain Scotch, Rapee, Spanish, and high Toast Snuff, and many Sorts of those different Kinds.”

Thompson also devoted a portion of his advertisement to the packaging for his snuff, noting that out of necessity it might deviate from what consumers expected.  He anticipated that his “present Stock” of snuff bottles would run out, forcing him to “pack [his snuff] in Country made Pots.”  Although that was not the usual or preferred form of packaging, Thompson argued that it should not dissuade customers from acquiring his snuff.  He invoked current events to make his case to principled prospective customers.  “In these Tomes of Oppression, when Patriotism is the Theme of every Lover of his County,” he declared, “it is hoped that the Want of Bottles will be no Obstacle in the Sale of his Snuff.”  Thompson suggested that consumers should accept or even welcome a minor inconvenience if it meant purchasing goods produced in the colonies rather than imported from Britain.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the king gave royal assent to repealing duties on imported glass, paper, paint, and lead on the same day that Thompson’s advertisement first appeared in the Maryland Gazette, but colonists would not learn that news for many weeks.  For the moment, nonimportation agreements adopted in protest of the duties imposed in the Townshend Acts remained in effect, a powerful symbol for both merchants and consumers.  Like others who advertised domestic manufactures as alternatives to imported goods, Thompson offered yet another avenue for practicing politics in the marketplace by purchasing his snuff packed “in Country made Pots.”