June 1

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

Jun 1 - 6:1:1769 Boston Weekly News-Letter
Boston Weekly News-Letter (June 1, 1769).

North American Manufactures.”

In the late 1760s, shopkeeper John Gore, Jr., became familiar to readers of several of Boston’s newspapers thanks to the steady series of advertisements he ran to promote the goods he sold at “Opposite LIBERTY TREE, BOSTON.” Gore adopted the famous symbol to mark the location of his shop at the time of the Stamp Act crisis, as did several other advertisers. Gore, however, consistently incorporated the Liberty Tree into his advertisements long after Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in response to various resistance efforts mobilized by the colonists. He could have given other sorts of directions, as was the custom for other advertisers. Caleb Blanchard, for instance, noted that his shop was located “In Union-Street.” Joshua Blanchard stated that his “Wine Cellar” was in “Dock-square, Near the Market.” Oliver Greenleaf directed prospective customers to his shop at “the Corner of Winter-Street (Opposite Seven-Star Lane).” Gore could have incorporated street names or other landmarks into his advertisement, but “Opposite LIBERTY TREE” apparently provided sufficient information while also associating his business with political principles that resonated with many consumers.

Often Gore invoked the Liberty Tree and allowed it to stand alone when it came to political discourse in his advertisements, but in early June 1769 he began pairing the popular icon with “North American Manufactures.” In so doing, he indicated to prospective customers that he heeded the calls to encourage greater self-sufficiency within the colonies through the production of more goods locally as a means of addressing a trade imbalance with Britain. Such plans had the additional benefit of avoiding the duties placed on certain imported goods by the Townshend Acts. In his advertisement he also noted that he had on hand “a genteel Assortment of ENGLISH GOODS.” For as long as Boston’s merchants and others had been promoting “domestic manufactures” as well as enforcing a nonimportation agreement, Gore had continued to advertise English goods (apparently imported before the agreement went into effect) in notices that boldly proclaimed his proximity to the Liberty Tree. Only in the late spring of 1760 did he seek to exchange “Mens and Womens Ware manufactured in New-England” for imported English goods. That offer usually appeared as a nota bene at the conclusion of his advertisements. His notice in the June 1, 1769, edition of the Boston Weekly News-Letter was his first that made “North American Manufactures” the focal point for attracting prospective customers. Although he consistently included the Liberty Tree into his advertisements, his understanding of how to most effectively incorporate politics into his marketing efforts slowly evolved. He more explicitly linked his wares to political discourse over time, especially in the wake of news articles that reported on whether merchants and shopkeepers adhered to the nonimportation agreements. The changing emphasis in his advertisements accompanied other advertisers becoming increasingly explicit in their own invocations of the politics associated with purchasing the goods they provided. Advertisers learned from each other as they experimented with mobilizing politics as a means of making sales as the nonimportation agreement continued to have an impact on their inventories.

April 23

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

Apr 23 - 4:23:1767 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (April 23, 1767).

“At his Shop opposite LIBERTY-TREE, Boston.”

Other than his name, “LIBERTY-TREE, Boston” appeared in the largest font in the advertisement John Gore, Jr. placed in the April 23, 1767, issue of the Massachusetts Gazette. For months, in advertisements brief and lengthy, Gore consistently included that landmark in his commercial notices, directing potential customers to “his Shop opposite LIBERTY-TREE, Boston.” That became a distinctive part of his advertisements, making them easy to recognize at a glance. In addition to serving as rudimentary branding, this consistency also informed consumers of his politics. The Stamp Act had been repealed more than a year earlier, but the Quartering Act of 1765 was still in effect. (A letter from London elsewhere in the same issue stated, “EVERY one of the American Provinces have complied, without demur, with the orders of the government, for quartering troops, and all other requisitions, except Boston and New York.”) The Townshend Acts were on the horizon, but neither Gore nor his fellow colonists knew quite yet that they would be enacted.

Still, Gore remained suspicious, rightfully it turned out, about what Parliament might do next. After all, the repeal of the Stamp Act had been accompanied by the passage of the Declaratory Act, asserting that Parliament possessed broad authority to oversee colonies that owed their allegiance to king and Parliament: “the king’s Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right out to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.” Given that he adopted the Liberty Tree as the sigil for his shop, Gore rejected this argument and remained vigilant about protecting the rights of the colonies. Even as he marketed “A large and general Assortment of English and India GOODS” recently “Imported from LONDON,” Gore reminded readers and potential customers that their participation in the extensive consumer culture of the era could be threatened at any time if Parliament again invoked an authority that many colonists did not believe that distant legislative body possessed.