What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“We hope to meet with encouragement from the patriotic gentlemen and ladies of this city.”
In January and February 1771, Russel and Moore ran advertisements informing the residents of Philadelphia and its hinterlands that they had “a fine stocking loom a making, in order to weave silk on, in all its different branches.” That included “breeches and jacket patterns, stockings, mitts, caps, and gloves” adorned with “all different figures and flowers, such as have not heretofore been manufactured in America.”
Russel and Moore launched an enterprise that they framed for consumers as building on other efforts to create commercial opportunities in the colonies. For quite some time, colonists from New England to Georgia attempted to produce silk. According to Russel and Moore, “the inhabitants of this city, and places adjacent, have made satisfactory proof or raising raw silk.” The partners hoped that would inspire others throughout the colonies “to raise such silk in a more extensive manner, which in a short time will find greatly to their advantage.” For their part, Russel and Moore stood ready “to weave in said loom” and they would “engage to make gentlemen and ladies gloves and mitts” that matched the designs and patterns “wove in any mitt or glove imported from any part of the world.” Furthermore, they promised the highest standards and quality for the items they produced, predicting it would be “richer in work than any we have seen imported here.”
The partners sought customers among consumers who had been contemplating the benefits of “domestic manufactures,” goods produced in the colonies, for several years. In response to the Stamp Act and, especially, duties imposed on imported goods by the Townshend Acts, colonists both called for producing more goods in the colonies and encouraged the consumption of those goods as alternatives to imports. Producers and purveyors of those domestic manufactures addressed that discourse in their advertisements, providing further incentive for consumers to follow through on purchasing goods made locally. They reminded consumers of the political meanings attached to goods and offered reassurances that they would not sacrifice quality when they chose to “Buy American.”
Russel and Moore did so when they noted that produced items that “have not heretofore been manufactured in America” and requested “encouragement from the patriotic gentlemen and ladies of this city, and places adjacent.” The partners did their part in producing alternatives to imported goods; in turn, “patriotic gentlemen and ladies” needed to do their part as well. Russel and Moore reiterated the importance of consumers supporting entrepreneurs who produced goods in the colonies. “[A]s we are the first persons,” they proclaimed, “that have erected a machine in America, for making of ribbed stockings, or any kind of figured work in said branch, we hope the public will endeavour to encourage a manufactory.” Russel and Moore promised quality, stating that they would “give full satisfaction to every friend of America.” In making a call for patriotic consumption, the partners joined many other advertisers who promoted domestic manufactures in the late 1760s and early 1770s.