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