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.

January 9

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (January 7, 1771).

“ADDRESS To those who possess a PUBLIC SPIRIT.”

When bookseller Robert Bell inserted a notice about upcoming auctions in the January 3, 1771, edition of the New-York Journal, he devoted the second half of the advertisement to promoting an American edition of William Robertson’s multivolume History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V.  He addressed the “real friends to the progress of Literary entertainment, and to the extension of useful Manufactures in a young country.”  Bell advanced a “Buy American” marketing strategy during the period of the imperial crisis that ultimately culminated in the American Revolution.

Later that week, he continued his advertising campaign with another notice in the January 7 edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury.  Bell included some of the copy from the earlier advertisement in this much lengthier iteration.  Both versions highlighted the phrase “THE LAND WE LIVE IN” by printing it in all capitals and centering it on a line of its own within the advertisement, drawing attention to Bell’s proposition that consumers who purchased this work also contributed to the “elevation and enriching” of the colonies.  He enhanced that argument with a headline that described the entire advertisement as an “ADDRESS To those who possess a PUBLIC SPIRIT.”  Potential customers, Bell asserted, had an opportunity to engage in acts of consumption that possessed political significance.

At the same time, the bookseller declared that the American edition was a bargain compared to imported alternatives.  He charged “the moderate price of One Dollar each Volume” for the three volumes, noting that the “British edition cannot be imported for less than Twelve Dollars.”  Colonists could acquire the work at a significant savings, a reward for their role in creating a distinctive American marketplace for the production and consumption of books.  Only the first volume had gone to press, so the advertisement also served as a subscription notice.  Bell encouraged “Gentlemen who have rationality enough to consider they will receive an equivalent” to an imported edition to sign on as subscribers, simultaneously flattering and cajoling prospective customers.

Bell informed the “Encouragers of printing this Grand Historical Work” that they “may depend upon ebullitions of gratitude,” but that was only an ancillary reason for purchasing Robertson’s biography of Charles the Fifth.  He presented their own edification and their responsibility for promoting domestic manufactures in the colonies as the primary reasons for buying the first volume and subscribing for the subsequent second and third volumes.

January 3

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

New-York Journal (January 3, 1770).

“The promotion of which vivifieth individuals, and tendeth towards the elevation and enriching of THE LAND WE LIVE IN.”

Robert Bell was one of the most innovative, industrious, and influential booksellers in eighteenth-century America, known for the larger-than-life personality he cultivated and the entertainment he provided at auctions.  Bell’s auctions were events, public spectacles that amused those in attendance.  The bookseller was also known for his work in creating and promoting a distinctly American market for books, especially after the revolution.  He got started on that enterprise, however, several years before the colonies declared independence from Britain.

In the first issue of the New-York Journal published in 1771, Bell launched a new advertising campaign that announced book auctions on Friday and Saturday evenings.  In addition to giving information about the auctions, he devoted half of the advertisement to a nota bene about the “American Edition of Robertson’s Charles the Fifth.”  Rather than purchase imported alternatives, Bell asserted that the “real friends to the progress of Literary entertainment, and to the extension of useful Manufactures in a young country” would acquire the edition produced in the colonies.  Over the course of his career, Bell became known for the verbose and convoluted prose he deployed in his marketing materials.  He used labyrinthine language even by eighteenth-century standards, including in this advertisement for an American edition.  Consumers were already familiar with arguments in favor of domestic manufactures in the wake of boycotting imported goods, but Bell approached the endeavor with more verve than proponents when he trumped that “the promotion” of American products “vivifieth individuals, and tendeth towards the elevation and enriching of THE LAND WE LIVE IN.”  The bookseller advocated on behalf of American commerce and American culture simultaneously, arguing that consumers could enhance both through the decisions they made when buying books.

Bell did not merely present customers with options for reading “Divinity, History, Novels, and Entertainment.”  Instead, he challenged them to think about how their participation in the marketplace could aid the American cause and contribute to the formation of a distinctly American identity.  He intensified those arguments as his career continued, building on marketing strategies from the early 1770s.

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.

December 20

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

Pennsylvania Gazette (December 20 1770).

“He doubts not but every merchant and shop-keeper in this city, and towns adjacent that regard the good of this oppressed country, will encourage such an undertaking.”

Abraham Shelley, a “THREAD-MAKER, in Lombard-street” in Philadelphia, sought to convince colonial consumers that purchasing his wares amounted to a civic duty.  In an advertisement in the December 20, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, he informed prospective customers that he continued “to make and sell … all sorts of fine coloured thread” that he asserted was “much better, and cheaper, than what is imported from Europe.”  Quality and price were important, but Shelley gave consumers additional reasons to purchase his thread.  He offered alternatives to imported goods to colonists who had widely pledged to encourage “domestic manufactures” as a means of correcting a trade imbalance with Britain as well as practicing politics through commerce in the wake of duties that Parliament imposed on certain imported goods.  Even after colonists ended their nonimportation pacts following the repeal of those Townshend duties, some advertisers continued to proclaim the virtues of domestic manufactures.  More than ever, they depended on consumers making conscientious decisions in the marketplace.

When customers selected Shelley’s thread over imported alternatives, they did not have to sacrifice quality or price.  They also demonstrated support for American efforts to achieve greater self-sufficiency to protect against subsequent attempts by Parliament to harass the colonies.  He asked consumers to take into account “the good of this oppressed country.”  In addition, he underscored that his enterprise “supplies a great number of poor women with market money, who, otherwise, with their children, would become a public charge.”  Civic responsibility inherent in purchasing thread from Shelley extended beyond politics to poor relief.  That meant that consumers could serve their communities in many ways simultaneously when they decided to buy from Shelley, who proclaimed that he “doubts not but every merchant and shop-keeper in this city, and towns adjacent” should acquire thread from him to sell to others.  The civic responsibility he described belonged not only to consumers but also to those who sold goods to them.  Merchants and shopkeepers also made important decisions in choosing which items to stock in their stores and shops.  Quality and price matter, but Shelley believed that civic responsibility further enhanced his appeals to customers.

December 9

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

South-Carolina Gazette (December 6, 1770).

“Hopes he may meet with Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”

For several years in the 1760s and 1770s, silversmith Thomas You operated a workshop at the Sign of the Golden Cup in Charleston.  According to his newspaper advertisements, that does not seem to have been a fixed location.  Instead, the sign moved with You, serving as both marker and brand for his business.  For a time in the mid 1760s, the Sign of the Golden Cup had adorned his workshop on Meeting Street, but in 1770 it marked his location on Queen Street.  You also updated the iconography in his advertisements.  He was one of the few advertisers in Charleston who enhanced his notices with images related directly to his business.  He previously included a woodcut that depicted a smith at work at an anvil.  That image gave way to a cup that corresponded to the sign that identified his shop.  Consumers now saw similar images in the public prints and on the city streets when they encountered You’s business.  You’s advertisement on the front page of the December 6, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette was the only one in the entire issue that incorporated an image other than a house, a ship, or an enslaved person.  Those stock images belonged to the printer rather than the advertiser.

The silversmith deployed this unique image to attract attention to an important message.  He called on “those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province” to employ him and purchase his wares.  In so doing, he joined the chorus of advertisers and others throughout the colonies who advocated for the production and consumption of “domestic manufactures” as alternatives to goods imported from Britain.  Such measures boosted local economies and addressed a trade imbalance, but they also served a political purpose at a time when Parliament sought to regulate commerce and charge duties on imported goods.  Most of duties from the Townshend Acts had been repealed earlier in the year, but the one on tea still remained in place.  Even though most towns suspended their nonimportation agreements in the wake of that news, colonists continued to debate whether they should have done so since Parliament did not capitulate to all of their demands.  A notice at the top of the same page that carried You’s advertisement advised that “The GENERAL COMMITTEE desire a FULL MEETING of the SUBSCRIBERS to the RESOLUTIONS of this Province, at the LIBERTY-TREE” to discuss “IMPORTANT MATTERS.”   You did not need to go into greater detail when he expressed his “hopes he may meet with Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”  Such appeals were part of a discourse widely circulating and broadly understood among prospective customers.

November 25

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

South-Carolina Gazette (November 22, 1770).

“He already makes what is called QUEEN’S WARE, equal to any imported.”

When Parliament imposed duties on certain goods imported into the American colonies in the late 1760s, colonists responded by adopting nonimportation agreements.  They reasoned that they could practice politics via commerce, refusing to purchase all sorts of goods from Britain until Parliament repealed the duties on paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea.  Concurrently, colonists sought to address a trade imbalance and strengthen local economies by encouraging the production and consumption of goods made in the colonies.  They set about encouraging “domestic manufactures.”  Newspaper editorials called on entrepreneurs to produce goods.  Newspaper advertisements called on consumers to purchase those goods and, especially, to select them over imported alternatives.

It was in that context that John Bartlam “opened his POTTERY and CHINA MANUFACTORY” in Charleston in 1770.  There he made and sold “what is called QUEEN’S WARE,” describing it as “equal to any imported.”  Consumers did not have to sacrifice quality when they expressed their political principles in the marketplace.  Bartlam was ambitious.  He proposed that he could “supply the Demands of the whole Province” if given the opportunity by consumers in South Carolina.  That required that consumers recognize their duty to give “suitable Encouragement” to entrepreneurs who produced “domestic manufactures.”  Bartlam offered another means for colonists to support both his enterprise and, by extension the American cause.  He requested that “Gentlemen in the Country, or others” send him “Samples of fine Clay upon their Plantations” so he could identify sources for the materials he needed to expand production.  Production and consumption, Bartlam suggested, were not the only means of encouraging “domestic manufactures.”

In addition to providing an alternative to imported goods, Bartlam’s business also provided training and employment for colonists.  In his advertisement he announced that he needed five or six apprentices.  He also had openings for “Good WORKMEN, in any of the different Branches” associated with producing pottery and china.

Bartlam did not explicitly invoke the Townshend Acts or nonimportation agreements in his advertisement that ran in the November 22, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, but that was hardly necessary.  News items elsewhere in the issue discussed the “General Resolutions” adopted by inhabitants of the colony.  Other advertisements condemned “NON-SUBSCRIBERS” who refused to abide by the nonimportation agreements.  Bartlam did not need to rehearse the history of the dispute between colonists and Parliament.  Readers, both prospective customers and potential suppliers of materials, already understood the politics embedded in Bartlam’s advertisement.

October 1

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

Newport Mercury (October 1, 1770).

“It is hoped he will meet with the Encouragement of the Public in General, and particularly of all true Lovers of their Country.”

Like many other newspapers published in eighteenth-century America, the masthead of the Newport Mercury informed readers that it carried “the freshest Advices, both Foreign and Domestic.”  Starting with the December 18, 1769, edition, Solomon Southwick, the printer, included an additional line in the masthead: “Undaunted by TYRANTS, —– We’ll DIE or be FREE.”  Amid protests over duties on imported goods imposed by the Townshend Acts and other abuses perpetrated by both Parliament and British soldier quartered in the colonies, Southwick asserted that defending the liberty of American colonists was one of the main purposes of publishing his newspaper.

Staying informed about current events was not the only way for readers to support the American cause.  Advertisers argued that colonists could practice politics through the decisions they made as consumers.  Consider the notice that Jonathan Stoddard inserted in the October 1, 1770, edition of the Newport Mercury.  In it, he informed the public that “he has set up the NAIL-MAKING Business.”  He made all sorts of nails “of much better Quality than those imported.”  In addition to quality, he made an appeal to price, pledging to “sell as cheap as any imported Nails of the same Size can be had at any Retail Shop in Town.”

Stoddard hoped to “meet with the Encouragement of the Public in General,” but he also extended a challenge to “all true Lovers of their Country” to acquire nails from him rather than resorting to imported alternatives.  He used patriotism and politics to frame his advertisement, reminding consumers that price and quality were important but not the only factors they should take into account when shopping for nails or any other goods.  Stoddard’s advertisement appeared on the first page of the Newport Mercury, the second item in the first column.  In quick succession, readers encountered Southwick’s rallying cry that “Undaunted by TYRANTS, —– We’ll DIE or be FREE” and Stoddard’s appeal to “all true Lovers of their Country” to purchase goods produced in the colonies.  These messages likely reinforced each other as readers perused them and read more about current events throughout the rest of the newspaper.

Newport Mercury (October 1, 1770).

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.