November 23

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

Nov 23 - 11:23:1767 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (November 23, 1767).

“The Sons of Liberty now have an Opportunity of manifesting their Regard for the Encouragement of our Manufactures.”

Just as the Boston town meeting voted to encourage consumption of domestic goods rather than imports on the eve of the Townshend Act going into effect, Peter Etter and Sons placed an advertisement in the Boston-Gazette to promote their stockings and other garments “Manufactured in Braintree.” Two weeks after that advertisement first appeared, Etter and Sons also inserted it in the Boston Evening-Post.

The version in the Gazette remained unchanged, but the Evening-Post included a short addition at the end of the notice. A manicule drew attention to this note: “The Sons of Liberty now have an Opportunity of manifesting their Regard for the Encouragement of our Manufactures, by calling at the above Store, and buying some of the abovementioned Articles.” Just in case the “Manufactured in Braintree” headline was too subtle, Etter and Sons explicitly challenged colonists who considered themselves “Sons of Liberty” to demonstrate their commitment to the cause by purchasing their wares rather than the imported goods that retailers hawked in approximately a dozen other advertisements in the same issue.

Etter and Sons may have benefited from the fortuitous placement of their advertisement. Not only was it at the top of the first column on the third page, it also appeared immediately to the right of a related news item printed in the final column on the second page. It reported that “THE Inhabitants of this Metropolis still persevere in their resolution to discourage the use of foreign Superfluities as the only means of saving the Country from Impending ruin.” The town meeting had authorized non-importation and non-consumption agreements. To that end, subscription lists circulated; colonists publicly pledged to support the boycotts by “subscribing” or signing their names. According to the Evening-Post, many colonists styled themselves “Sons of Liberty” because “it appeared that great Part of the Freeholders had subscribed.” Other colonists still had a chance to join the movement by visiting the Town Clerk’s Office and signing their own names.

With so many Bostonians signing the subscription rolls, Etter and Sons should have benefited from a vastly expanded market for their clothing “Manufactured in Braintree.” It was one thing to pledge not to purchase imported goods, however, and quite another to follow through on that promise. Etter and Sons challenged those who professed to be “Sons of Liberty” to demonstrate their resolve by actually purchasing garments from local producers.

November 9

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

Nov 9 - 11:9:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (November 9, 1767).

“Manufactured in Braintree.”

Most eighteenth-century advertisements for consumer goods and services did not include any sort of headline other than the advertiser’s name in a larger font than the rest of the copy. Peter Etter and Sons, however, published an advertisement with the headline “Manufactured in Braintree” in the November 9, 1767, edition of the Boston-Gazette. Etter and Sons promoted their locally produced stockings, gloves, caps, and thread to consumers primed to purchase goods made by their fellow colonists. They also depended on the politics of the unfolding imperial crisis to make their wares more attractive to colonial consumers.

In placing their advertisement, the Etters took advantage of current events, especially the Boston town meeting that took place on October 28. According to the coverage in the previous issue of the Boston-Gazette, the “Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Town” had determined that they needed to address both the imbalance of trade between Britain and the colonies and the impending duties on certain imported goods once the Townshend Act went into effect on November 20. Bostonians voted to approve non-importation and non-consumption agreements. In order for those measures to succeed, they promised that they would “encourage the Use and Consumption of all Articles manufactured in any of the British American Colonies, and more especially in this Province.” Etter and Sons could hardly have imagined a more effective endorsement for their enterprise!

Notably, their advertisement did not appear in the November 2 issue that carried the news of the town meeting. The Etters inserted it only after the news had spread throughout the colony and beyond via multiple newspapers, realizing that prospective customers would likely be especially amenable to acquiring domestic manufactures. Still, they assured readers of the quality of their stockings and other garments: “the above-mentioned Goods have been sufficiently try’d, and the Goodness and Wear approv’d.” In addition, they revealed their own commitment to purchasing supplies from local producers, as encouraged by the resolutions from the town meeting. “It having been reported that some Families in the Country have rais’d some raw Silk,” Etter and Sons stated, “they will pay Cash for the same, at the Price commonly given in Georgia,” a colony with more experience in its attempts to cultivate silk throughout the colonial period.

Etter and Sons did not explicitly invoke politics in their advertisement, but readers of the Boston-Gazette could hardly have missed the context in which they launched their appeals about garments “Manufactured in Braintree” rather than imported from England. Etter and Sons encouraged readers to consider the political ramifications of the decisions they made when it came to acquiring consumer goods.