What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He already makes what is called QUEEN’S WARE, equal to any imported.”
In the late 1760s, colonists responded to duties on certain imported goods with nonimportation agreements against an even wider array of items, hoping to use economic leverage to pressure Parliament to rescind the Townshend Acts. Eventually, Parliament relented, repealing all of the duties except for the one on tea. Although some colonists objected to reopening trade while any duties remained in place, most merchants and shopkeepers eagerly resumed importing goods and consumers returned to purchasing them. Throughout the period that nonimportation agreements were in effect, some advertisers promoted “domestic manufactures,” items produced in the colonies, as alternatives to imported goods. Even after trade resumed, some colonists continued to encourage consumers to select domestic manufactures over imported wares. On April 30, 1771, for instance, Thomas You, a silversmith in Charleston, made the same appeal he had been publishing in advertisements since the original nonimportation agreement inspired by the Stamp Act in 1765. He requested the patronage of “those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”
In the same Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette, John Bartlam announced that he had “opened his POTTERY and CHINA MANUFACTORY.” Echoing the appeals made by others who produced and sold American goods, he proclaimed his pottery “equal to any imported.” Consumers did not have to sacrifice quality when they chose domestic manufactures over imported goods. Like other artisans who launched new enterprises in the colonies, Bartlam also suggested that colonists could play an important role in production. Bartlam called on “Gentlemen in the Country, or others: to send samples “of any Kinds of fine Clay upon their Plantations” so he could identify suppliers of the materials necessary to expand his business. He believed that with “suitable Encouragement,” in terms of both production and consumption, he would be “able to supply the Demands of the whole Province.” That was an ambitious goal; in publishing it, Bartlam challenged consumers to consider the ramifications of the choices they made in the marketplace. He provided an additional reason for supporting his “POTTERY and CHINA MANUFACTORY,” another familiar refrain. Bartlam employed local workers. He sought “Good WORKMEN” as well as “Five or Six Apprentices.” Consumers who purchased his pottery not only supported his business but contributed to the livelihoods of other colonists.
Bartlam and You encouraged colonists to “Buy American” years before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord. In supporting the local economy, consumers also made choices with political ramifications. Given You’s extensive history of newspaper advertising, the silversmith very intentionally made that part of his marketing strategy. For Bartlam, politics may not have been his guiding principle, but rather a welcome means of enhancing his marketing. Whatever the motivations of the advertisers, they prompted consumers to consider the value of domestic manufactures when deciding between goods produced locally or imported from England.