August 20

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

Aug 20 - 8:17:1769 New-York Chronicle
New-York Chronicle (August 17, 1769).

“A very curious Address to the Patriotic Ladies of New-York.”

John Keating’s advertisements for the “NEW-YORK PAPER MANUFACTORY” became a familiar sight in the New-York Chronicle and other newspapers printed in the city in the late 1760s. Keating marketed the goods produced at the manufactory – “Sheathing, packing, and several Sorts of printing Paper” – but he also solicited the supplies necessary for making paper. He regularly called on colonists to turn in clean linen rags “(for which ready Money will be given)” that would then be made into paper.

Keating’s advertisements had a political valence, sometimes explicitly, but always implicitly. Through the Townshend Acts, Parliament imposed duties on imported paper and other goods, prompting merchants and shopkeepers in several colonies to devise nonimportation agreements as a means of exerting economic pressure to achieve political ends. In addition to boycotts, advocates for American liberty encouraged domestic manufactures and the consumption of goods produced in the colonies as an alternative to imported wares. Keating’s “PAPER MANUFACTORY” resonated with political purpose even when he did not directly connect the enterprise to the ongoing dispute between Parliament and the colonies.

This iteration of Keating’s advertisement included a brief note that framed the paper manufactory in political terms: “A very curious Address to the Patriotic Ladies of New-York, upon the utility of preserving old Linen Rages, will make its Appearance in the next Chronicle.” No such article appeared in the next several issues, but a note from the editors indicated that “Several Entertaining Pieces from our Ingenious Correspondents” did not run “for want of room.” The “curious Address” likely rehearsed similar appeals to those that Keating and other colonists previously advanced in the public prints. Manufacturing paper in the colonies was a patriotic act. Participating in the production of paper gave colonists, including women, an opportunity to give voice to their own political sentiments. Although women neither voted nor served as elected officials in eighteenth-century America, they participated in politics through other means. Men often endorsed such acts and encouraged women to think about the political ramifications of their actions, as Keating did in this advertisement. Even without publishing the entire “curious Address,” Keating made it clear that women played a critical role in the political contest over taxes on paper.

May 26

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

May 26 - 5:26:1769 Detail New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (May 27, 1769).

“Books given at the Printing Office for clean white Linen RAGS.”

The May 26, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette concluded with a notice quite familiar to readers: “Books given at the Printing Office for clean white Linen RAGS.” The printers, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, frequenlty inserted some sort of call for linen rags for use in making paper. The format of the May 26 issues suggests that the Fowles’ regular supply of paper had been disrupted, making it even more important that colonists turn over their rags. This was not the first time something of the sort had happened that year. The Fowles opened the first issue of 1769 with a notice explaining why they printed it “on so small a Paper.” They had not been able to acquire the usual size, but they were determined to print their newspaper “on Paper made in New-England … some of it out of the very Rags collected in Portsmouth.” The printers explicitly stated that they refused to purchase imported paper due to the duties leveled by the Townshend Acts and “spared no Pains to get such as is manufactured here.”

In late May, they did not print on smaller sheets but instead on larger. A standard issue of the New-Hampshire Gazette, like most other newspapers published in the colonies in 1769, consisted of four pages of three columns each (created by folding in half a broadsheet with two pages printed on each side). The May 26 edition, as well as the next seven, had only two pages of four columns. Although the metadata for digital surrogates does not include the dimensions of the sheets, examining the masthead and colophon clearly reveals that the substituted paper was wider. The masthead ran across only three of the four columns on the front page. Other content ran the entire length of the page in the fourth column. Similarly, the colophon ran across three of the four columns on the other side of the broadsheet, with other content again extending the entire length of the fourth column. This format suggests that the Fowles made the masthead and colophon, used from week to week and from issue to issue, fit the available paper rather than setting new type to conform to a different size.

This significantly changed the appearance of the New-Hampshire Gazette for two months in 1769 as the Fowles and others collected rags to transform into paper of the usual size for the publication. This time around the Fowles did not offer an explanation about the change, perhaps assuming that since they had so recently undertaken another substitution that subscribers would readily recognize the cause this time. Even without additional comment in late May, their offer to exchange books “for clean white Linen RAGS” reverberated with political meaning.

[Note:  After working exclusively with the digital surrogates, I had an opportunity to examine the originals at the American Antiquarian Society.  As the visual evidence suggested, the Fowles did temporarily print the New-Hampshire Gazette on a paper of a different size.  Usually a page measured 15 inches by 9.75 inches, with each column 2.75 inches across.  The substitute paper measured 15 inches by 15.5 inches, allowing enough space for a fourth column also 2.75 inches across.]

May 26 - 5:26:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
Note that the colophon runs across only three of four columns. (New-Hampshire Gazette, May 26, 1769).

May 2

GUEST CURATOR: Patrick Waters

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

May 2 - 5:2:1769 Essex Gazette
Essex Gazette (May 2, 1769).

“CASH is given for clean Linen Rags, coarse and fine.”

This was a common advertisement seen in newspapers throughout the eighteenth century. This advertisement published in the Essex Gazette on May 2, 1769, attempted to get people to save their rags. It was a common practice to simply throw away old linen rags; however, they were extremely important in the creation of paper. As the American colonies began boycotting goods from Great Britain, they needed to create their own paper instead of importing it. This put a great stress on newspaper printers who needed sources for paper.

It is easy to take for granted how accessible perfectly white paper is today, but 250 years ago it was not easy to create. In order to produce a piece of paper that was free from spots and speckles, according to “Paper Through Time,” papermakers needed crystal clear water that was free from metals like iron and other debris. In order to filter the water, papermakers needed an abundance of clean linen rags to act as filters. This was the first reason that they needed so many rags; the second is that the rags were also used as part of the paper. Paper products 250 years ago were not wood products as much as they were linen. This makes the advertisement so interesting in American history because it not only shows the types of products they were producing, but also the extent that people were going to in order to keep their money out of English hands.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Advertisements calling on readers to collect clean linen rags did indeed appear in newspapers throughout the eighteenth century, but these familiar notices, as Patrick notes, took on new significance during the imperial crisis. The Revenue Acts of 1767, one of the Townshend Acts, taxed paper, along with glass, paint, and lead. In the late 1760s, collecting rags to produce paper became a political act.

The day before this advertisement ran in the Essex Gazette, a similar notice appeared on the first page of the Newport Mercury. “CASH is given,” it stated, “for clean Linen RAGS, at the Printing-Office, For the PAPER-MANUFACTURE in this Colony.” This advertisement more explicitly invoked local production, perhaps hoping that an additional nudge would prompt greater diligence on the part of concerned readers looking for ways to resist ongoing abuses by Parliament.

A couple of days later, an overview of a nonimportation agreement then in effect ran on the front page of the May 4 edition of Richard Draper’s Massachusetts Gazette. It reminded readers that the “Merchants & Traders in the Town of BOSTON” had met the previous August and “entered into an Agreement not to send for or import any Good from Great-Britain … from January 1769 to January 1770.” Furthermore, the “Merchants and Traders in other Towns in this Province, and at New-York” had devised similar agreements. Draper reprinted the original “ARTICLES of the Agreement entered into by the Merchants in August last,” concluding with the fifth article. It stated, “That we will not from and after the First of January 1769, import into this Province any Tea, Paper, Glass, or Painters Colours, until the Act imposing Duties on those Articles shall be repealed.”

In this context, linen rags were not merely trash to be discarded. They became political symbols. Collecting them allowed colonists from various backgrounds to express political views as they engaged in an act of resistance. Although the gentry dominated colonial assemblies, the laboring poor found their political voices through other means, including collecting rags to encourage the production and consumption of paper produced in the colonies. Women also embraced this means of supporting American interests, transforming mundane housework into acts that reverberated with political meaning. A two-line notice about rags might appear insignificant at first glance, but it was enmeshed in expansive debates about the relationship between Parliament and the colonies.

February 16

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

Pennsylvania Journal (February 16, 1769).

“Their love of liberty … will induce them to give their assistance in supporting the interest of their country.”

On February 16, 1769, readers of both the New-York Journal and the Pennsylvania Journal encountered advertisements that called on them to save “CLEAN LINEN RAGGS” and turn them over to a local “Paper Manufactory.” John Keating’s advertisement largely reiterated a notice that he inserted in the New-York Journal more than six months earlier. In it, he advanced a political argument concerning the production and consumption of paper, made from linen rags, in the colonies, especially while the Townshend Act remained in effect. Colonists could outmaneuver Parliament and avoid paying duties on imported paper by supporting the “NEW-YORK Paper MANUFACTORY.”

William Bradford and Thomas Bradford made similar appeals in their advertisement in the Pennsylvania Journal. The “British Parliament having made” manufacturing paper “worthy the attention of every one who thinks his own interest, or the liberty and prosperity of this province and country worth his notice,” the Bradfords proclaimed, “it’s therefore hoped, that all those will consider the importance of a Paper Manufactory carried to its full extent.” They then explained that in the past year colonists had collected “a small quantity of fine rags,” but a sufficient supply to make nearly “a hundred reams of good writing paper” that “sold cheaper than English paper of the same quantity.” The Bradfords challenged readers to consider how much production could increase if colonists made concerted efforts to save their rags in support of the local “Paper Manufactory.”

To that end, the Bradfords envisioned a special role for women in this act of resistance to Parliament overstepping its authority. They noted that “the saving of rags will more particularly fall within the sphere of the Ladies.” Those ladies expressed “their love of liberty” in a variety of ways, including altering their consumption practices by participating in nonimportation pacts, producing garments made of homespun cloth, and drinking Labrador tea. Collecting rags, a seemingly mundane task, presented another means for women “to give their assistance in supporting the interest of their country.” The Bradfords outlined a method for efficiently incorporating this practice into the daily household routine. Given how easy that would be to accomplish, the Bradfords issued another challenge, this one directed explicitly to “those ladies who have a regard for their country.” Which women who purported to support the colonies in their clash with Parliament “would decline taking this inconsiderable trouble, to save the sums of money that will annually be torn from us to maintain in voluptuousness our greedy task masters?” The Bradfords concluded by underscoring how much women could achieve by sacrificing only a small amount of time in collecting rags. They would create jobs for “the industrious poor” who labored in the paper manufactory as well as serve “the public” as colonists continued to voice their opposition to the duties levied by the Townshend Act. Everyday tasks like shopping or disposing of rags took on political meaning during the imperial crisis; women vigorously participated in resistance to Parliament through their participating in those activities.

November 30

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

Nov 30 - 11:30:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (November 30, 1767).

“The Manufacturers of PAPER at Milton, beg the Favor of the Public, to furnish them with what Linnen Rags they can spare.”

In the wake of the Townshend Act assessing new duties on imported paper, colonists set about manufacturing their own. Just ten days after the act went into effect, this advertisement appeared in the Boston-Gazette. In it, the “Manufacturers of PAPER at Milton” called on colonists to send their “Linnen Rags” to be made into paper. In return, they would receive payment, “the greatest possible Allowance.”

To that end, the Manufacturers at Milton established a network for collecting the rags. They listed five locations in Boston, including the printing office where Edes and Gill published the Boston-Gazette. Bulkeley Emerson, a stationer, also received castoff rags in Newburyport, while Daniel Fowle, one of the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, accepted them in Portsmouth. In addition, they had local agents in Salem and Marblehead. Yet the Manufacturers at Milton wished to further expand their network, requesting that volunteers “send their Names to Edes and Gill’s Printing-Office.”

New duties on paper threatened the livelihoods of colonial printers and stationers, one of the reasons why so many members of the network came from those trades, but Parliament’s actions also infringed on the liberties of all colonists. The network included a shopkeeper and a tobacconist, both apparently concerned about the Townshend Act. The Manufacturers at Milton presumably welcomed new agents from various occupations, hoping to establish a united front in the domestic production of paper as an alternative to imports.

The Manufacturers at Milton did not yet offer a product to consumers. In the spirit of the non-importation agreements and resolutions to encourage domestic goods recently passed at the Boston town meeting, however, they presented a plan for achieving those goals. They also offered a means for colonists to become more involved in resistance efforts beyond making decisions about which goods to purchase. Colonists could shape the marketplace by supplying the necessary rags to make paper locally, eventually eliminating the need for additional imported paper once the current supplies that arrived in the colonies “before the Duties could be demanded” had been exhausted. Even if readers of the Boston-Gazette had little cause to obtain much paper themselves, they had acquired the newspaper, making them consumers of paper removed from its initial purchase. By surrendering their rags to the Manufacturers at Milton, colonists participated in a movement that deprived Parliament of new duties on paper and assisted colonial printers in disseminating news about the Townshend Act and resistance to it.