What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“NO DUTIES HERE!”
It was hard to miss the appeal to patriotism in an advertisement for the “new Glass-House” that ran in the October 9, 1769, edition of the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury. A nota bene proclaimed, in all uppercase letters, “NO DUTIES HERE!” Readers readily understood that the advertisement referred to the Townshend Acts and the taxes it imposed on several imported goods, including paper, lead, paint, tea, and glass. In response to Parliament overreaching its authority, colonists adopted nonimportation agreements that encompassed a wide array of items, not just those targeted by the Townshend Acts. They also encouraged “domestic manufactures,” producing goods in the colonies as alternatives to imported goods. This offered colonists opportunities to practice politics when they made decisions as consumers. Purchasing glass made in the colonies, for instance, became an act of patriotic virtue.
Producers of many domestic manufactures did not look to their fellow colonists solely as consumers. Some also enlisted them as suppliers of the materials they needed to produce their wares and make them available in the American marketplace. Paper manufacturers, for instance, frequently placed advertisements calling on colonists to supply them with rags, an essential component for making linen paper. Garrit Rapalje, the proprietor of the “new Glass-House,” requested that colonists turn over their “Broken FLINT GLASS” so he could melt it down and transform it into new glass. To underscore the political ramifications of the entire enterprise, he directed his notice to “all Lovers of American Manufacture,” informing them that they had a duty to do “do what lies in their Power, and particularly in this Instance save, collect, and send such broken Glass” as described in the advertisement. Rapalje presented an opportunity to move beyond rhetoric and more actively participate in acts of economic resistance to the political controversies of the period. Broken glass, like linen rags, acquired political meaning in the colonies in the wake of the Townshend Acts.