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.

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 14

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

Massachusetts Spy (March 11, 1773).

“The Fishermen who made trial of his Hooks last season, found them to correspond with his former advertisement.”

Even before thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain, entrepreneurs encouraged consumers to support American industry.  Abraham Cornish, for example, marketed “New England COD and MACKREL FISH HOOKS” produced at “his Manufactory at the head of Hutchinson’s wharf, North End, Boston” in the early 1770s.  When he commenced advertising in the Massachusetts Spy in March 1772, Cornish proclaimed that his hooks were “warranted in every respect equal to any, and superior to most.”  In particular, he singled out hooks “marked IP” to declare that every fisherman who tried his hooks and “every impartial person on examining” them “will soon discover their superiority.”  Nearly a year later, Cornish reported that “the Fishermen who made trial of his Hooks last season, found them to correspond with his former advertisement,” that they were indeed “superior to those imported from England.”

Cornish’s hooks, however, were not produced from start to finish in the colonies.  Instead, he imported the “best STEEL WIRE” from London and then used that material to make the hooks at his manufactory in Boston.  What mattered, Cornish asserted to prospective customers, was the final stage of production combined with the superior quality of his hooks and his low prices.  He confidently boasted that he made “the best Cod and Mackerel Hooks.”

In his effort to supply the fishing industry with hooks, Cornish simultaneously ran the same advertisement (with variations in spelling) in the Essex Gazette, promoting his product to prospective customers in Salem and other maritime communities served by that newspaper.  He added two notes, one identifying William Vans as the local agent who carried his hooks.  Customers did not need to visit or contact Cornish in Boston if they found it more convenient to deal with Vans in Salem.  Given that those buyers would not interact directly with Cornish, he advised that his hooks “are all marked A.C. on the Flat of the Stem of each Hook.”  That helped customers verify their authenticity when they acquired the hooks from sellers beyond Cornish’s manufactory.  Such maker’s marks served as perpetual advertisements for the hooks.

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 5

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

Essex Gazette (January 5, 1773).

“Strangers among us who import and sell English Plate, to the great Hurt and Prejudice of the Townsmen who have been bred to the Business.”

During the first week of 1773, Daniel Henchman, a silversmith, launched an advertising campaign intended to encourage consumers to support what colonizers called domestic manufactures.  In other words, he wanted them to purchase goods made in the colonies rather than items imported from England.  To disseminate his message to prospective customers “in Town & Country,” he placed a notice in the January 4 edition of the Boston Evening-Post and the January 5 edition of the Essex Gazette, published in Salem.

Henchman explained that he “makes with his own Hands all Kinds of large and small Plate Work, in the genteelest Taste and newest Fashion.”  By invoking both taste and fashion, the silversmith primed readers to think of his work as equivalent to imported goods before he even mentioned “English Plate.”  He also underscored the quality of his work, stating that it “has hitherto met with the Approbation of the most Curious.”  Furthermore, Henchman challenged others to compare his work to imported items, proclaiming his confidence that “he shall have the preference, by those who are Judges of Work, to those Strangers among us who import and sell English Plate.”  Only then did he cast aspersions on the importers, asserting that their actions caused “great Hurt and Prejudice [to] the Townsmen who have been bred to the Business.”  Consumers had a duty, Henchman suggested, to support their neighbors and to bolster the local economy through the choices they made in the marketplace.

To that end, the silversmith pledged to do his part if given the opportunity.  He declared that “he will make any Kind of Plate [his customers] may want, equal in Goodness and cheaper than any they can import from London.”  If his other appeals did not sway them, Henchman hoped that low prices would seal the deal with prospective customers.  He deployed some of the most common marketing strategies in use during the era of the American Revolution, making appeals to price, quality, and fashion, while also enhancing them within the context of supporting domestic manufactures.

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.

July 25

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (July 25, 1772).


In the summer of 1772, William Trautwine, a barber who ran a shop “at the sign of the Bleeding Lady and Barber’s Pole” in Philadelphia, took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Chronicle to advertise the “BEST of AMERICAN HAIR-POWDER.”  In an age when many entrepreneurs promoted domestic manufactures, goods produced in the colonies, as alternatives to imported items, hairdressers and barbers frequently joined the chorus.  For his part, Trautwine encouraged “those gentlemen and ladies who are wellwishers to their country” to “favour him with their custom.”  Such “wellwishers” might have had the commercial and economic interests of the colonies in mind, yet such appeals usually had a political valence as well.  Especially when colonizers enacted nonimportation agreements in protest of new regulations and taxes passed by Parliament, advertisers editorialists, and others encouraged colonizers to participate in both the production and consumption of domestic manufactures.  Such appeals continued during periods of relative calm.  Trautwine’s reference to “wellwishers to their country” would not have seemed out of place to readers in July 1772.

Like others who promoted goods produced in the colonies, the barber believed that he needed to convince prospective customers that his product was as good as any they might acquire from merchants and shopkeepers who imported their goods.  Consumers did not need to sacrifice quality when they supported domestic manufactures.  The barber made his hair powder from “the very best of materials.”  Trautwine also proclaimed that his customers “may depend on being supplied with Hair-Powder in quality not inferior to the best which is imported from Europe.”  Indeed, it was Trautwine himself who made sacrifices to supply consumers with the “BEST of AMERICAN HAIR-POWDER,” assuming “considerable expence, in providing himself with a mill for that purpose.”  He suggested that his investment in support of the political and economic interests of the colonies merited the patronage of consumers in Philadelphia and other readers of the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  Trautwine acted on his civic duty when he produced an American alternative to an imported item.  In turn, he suggested, consumers had an obligation to do the same by purchasing his product.

July 9

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

New-York Journal (July 9, 1772).

“Promote the interest of America.”

John Keating operated “PAPER MANUFACTORIES, At and near New-York” in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  He regularly advertised “ALL sorts of paper and paste board,” usually enhancing his newspaper notices with commentary intended to convince consumers to purchase goods produced in the colonies.  In an advertisement in the July 9, 1772, edition of the New-York Journal, for instance, he asserted that his paper “and other articles manufactured here, make a clear saving to this country of all the money that would have been sent out to purchase them from abroad.”  A greater number of advertisers promoted domestic manufactures when nonimportation agreements remained in effect, providing alternatives for consumers who wished for their shopping habits to match their politics, but such appeals tapered off when trade resumed.  Keating, on the other hand, remained adamant in calling on “all those who really wish to promote the interest of America” to “contribute their aid to the success of this undertaking.”

Keating imagined readers as more than consumers who would purchase his paper.  He also envisioned them as partners in producing it.  He needed resources, especially linen rags, “which are generally destroyed or thrown away as useless, tho’ they are absolutely necessary to a paper manufactory, which cannot be carried on without them.”  Colonizers played a vital role in supporting the production of paper in New York, “with which their own interest is closely connected.”  Some colonizers discarded rags that could have been transformed into paper at one of Keating’s “MANUFACTORIES.”  Others sent “considerable quantities … to other colonies,” prompting Keating to lament that the “the legislature have not yet thought proper to prohibit the exportation” of rags.  Even though the colonial assembly refused to act on that matter, colonizers in New York could choose to collect and send rags to Keating on their own.  He expressed his desire that “a due regard to their own interest will incline the inhabitants of this country to supply a manufactory among themselves.”

Keating invited colonizers to participate in both the production and consumption of paper made at his “MANUFACTORIES” in and near New York.  He reiterated that in doing so they not only supported a local business but also attended to “their own interest” in making goods produced in the colonies more widely available at lower prices than imported alternatives.  Doing so corrected trade imbalance that resulted from the colonies exporting resources and importing finished goods.  Keating advocated for the colonies producing more of the goods they consumed, but doing so required widespread cooperation.

May 5

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

Essex Gazette (May 5, 1772).


Loammi Baldwin did much more than advertise mulberry trees for sale in Woburn, Massachusetts, in a notice that ran in the May 5, 1772, edition of the Essex Gazette.  He advocated for colonizers in New England to more firmly establish a silk industry and, to that end, offered advice for cultivating mulberry trees.

What was the connection between mulberry trees and silk?  As Bob Wyss explains, the silkworm, a type of caterpillar, “prefers a diet of mulberry leaves.  It produces a cocoon which, when unraveled, can be spun into silk thread.”  Colonizers experimented with silk production in Virginia as early as 1613, “but efforts to build businesses around [silkworms] in American colonies such as Georgia, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania were only marginally successful.”  Efforts expanded into New England when the Connecticut Colonial Assembly “passed legislation offering financial incentives for silk growers” in 1734.  Bolstered by those incentives and newspaper advertisements promoting mulberry trees and silk production, some colonizers in Connecticut met with success in their silk ventures in the second half of the eighteenth century.  In the early nineteenth century, “Connecticut was a national leader in silk production and by 1840 was producing three times as much silk as any other state.”

Baldwin believed that silk production had a lot of potential in neighboring Massachusetts.  “I would spare no reasonable pains,” he declared, to encourage and bring to perfection, the production of so valuable an article as silk.”  He explained that he had already raised silkworms for a few years and “made a machine to winde the silk.”  He found the entire process “less difficult than I imagined.”  Yet readers did not need to take his word for it.  “Some of the raw silk,” Baldwin confided, “I sent to the society for encouraging arts, sciences and commerce in Great-Britain, where it was examined, and found equal to the Italian silk.”  As a result, he had a vision that depended on colonizers purchasing the mulberry trees he advertised.  “I am fully of the opinion,” Baldwin asserted, “that the culture of silk may be effected and brought to at least the state of raw silk, which we may export to great advantage.”  Yet he did not confine that vision merely to producing raw materials.  Instead, he believed that colonizers could “then procure Weavers, and other tradesmen, and carry on the whole manufacture amongst ourselves.”

Both politics and commerce likely influenced Baldwin’s vision.  Within the past several years, colonizers objected to new imperial regulations, including the Stamp Act and duties on imported goods imposed in the Townshend Acts.  In response, they adopted nonimportation agreements and encouraged the production and consumption of “domestic manufactures,” goods made in the colonies, as alternatives to imports from Britain.  In an age of homespun cloth signaling resistance to abuses perpetrated by Parliament, cultivating mulberry trees for the purpose of producing silk had the potential to further safeguard both the political and commercial interests of the colonies.

January 28

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 28, 1772).

“Those who are animated by the Wish of seeing Native Fabrications flourish in AMERICA.”

Robert Bell worked to create an American literary marketplace in the second half of the eighteenth century.  The flamboyant bookseller, publisher, and auctioneer commenced his efforts before the American Revolution, sponsoring the publication of American editions of popular titles that other booksellers imported.  His strategy included extensive advertising campaigns in newspapers published throughout the colonies.  He established a network of local agents, many of them printers, who inserted subscription notices in newspapers, accepted advance orders, and sold the books after they went to press.

Those subscription notices often featured identical copy from newspaper to newspaper.  For instance, Bell attempted to drum up interest in William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England in 1772.  Advertisements that appeared in the Providence Gazette, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, and other newspapers all included a headline that proclaimed, “LITERATURE.”  Bell and his agents tailored the advertisements for local audiences, addressing the “Gentlemen of Rhode-Island” in the Providence Gazette and the “Gentlemen of SOUTH-CAROLINA” in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  In each instance, though, they encouraged prospective subscribers to think of themselves as a much larger community of readers by extending the salutation to include “all of those who are animated by the Wish of seeing Native Fabrications flourish in AMERICA.”

Bell aimed to cultivate a community of American consumers, readers, and supporters of goods produced in the colonies, offering colonizers American editions of Blackstone’s Commentaries and other works “Printed on American Paper.”  Given the rate that printers reprinted items from one newspaper to another, readers already participated in communities of readers that extended from New England to Georgia, but Bell’s advertisements extended the experience beyond the news and into the advertisements.  He invited colonizers to further codify a unified community of geographically-dispersed readers and consumers who shared common interests when it came to both “LITERATURE” and “the Advancement” of domestic manufactures.  To do so, they needed to purchase his publications.