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