September 18

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

Sep 18 - 9:15:1768 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 15, 1768).

“Broadcloth from the New-York MANUFACTORY.”

At the same time that Enoch Brown was placing advertisements addressed to “those Persons who are desirous of Promoting our Own Manufactures” in multiple newspapers published in Boston, shopkeepers and artisans in other cities placed their own notices to promote “domestic manufactures” over imported goods. In the September 15, 1768, edition of the New-York Journal, for instance, several advertisers offered alternatives to the merchandise that competitors had imported in ships from London and other English ports.

Hercules Mulligan offered the starkest of these advertisements. In its entirety, it announced “Broadcloth from the New-York MANUFACTORY, TO BE SOLD, BY HERCULES MULLIGAN, TAYLOR, in CHAPEL-STREET.” In contrast, Samuel Broome and Company listed more than a dozen textiles “imported in the Mercury, from London, and the last Vessels from Bristol, Liverpool, and Scotland.” Similarly, an advertisement for “WILLIAMS’S STORE” once again underscored “the greatest variety and newest patterns; lately imported in the last ships.” These advertisements resorted to popular appeals, an explicit appeal to consumer choice and implicit appeals to fashion and quality through invoking the origins of the textiles. Given the political atmosphere in 1768, especially the movement to boycott British goods in the wake of the Townshend Acts, Mulligan did not consider it necessary to be any more verbose than simply proclaiming that he sold locally produced fabric at his shop.

In addition to Mulligan’s notice, the supplement to the September 15 issue featured two advertisements that had been running since July, one for the New-York Air Furnace Company and another for the New-York Paper Manufactory. The former hawked “a large Assortment of the following cast Iron Ware, which is allowed by proper Judges to be equal, if not superior to any made in Europe or America.” It then listed dozens of items that consumers could choose over those enumerated in advertisements by Broome and Company, Williams, and others. The latter made an unequivocal appeal related to current conversations about politics, commerce, and the colonies’ relationship with Britain. In it, John Keating advised “All those who have the Welfare of the Country at Heart … to consider the Importance of a Paper Manufactory” to the New York colony.

John Facey, a brushmaker from Bristol, was not as bold in his advertisement for the many different sorts of brushed he made and sold, but he did state his hope that “the gentlemen both in town and country will encourage the brush manufactory.” Readers of the New-York Journal certainly encountered familiar advertisements for imported goods, but as the imperial crisis intensified they also increasingly found themselves presented with alternatives. A growing number of advertisers launched “Buy American” campaigns before shots were fired at the Boston Massacre or the battles at Lexington and Concord.

September 17

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

Sep 17 - 9:17:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (September 17, 1768).

“SECOND EDITION … New-England TOWN and COUNTRY Almanack.”

Sarah Goddard and John Carter began advertising the New-England Town and Country Almanack … for the Year of our Lord 1769 in the Providence Gazette in late August 1768, allowing readers a little more than three months to acquire a copy before the new year commenced. Just three weeks later they inserted a substantially revised advertisement to announce that they had “Just PUBLISHED” a “SECOND EDITION.” Either the initial notice had been quite effective and the printers decided they needed to issue a second edition to continue to meet popular demand or they calculated that an advertisement about a second edition would incite demand that had not yet manifested.

In addition to selling the almanac both “Wholesale and Retail” at their printing office at the Sign of Shakespeare’s Head, Goddard and Carter had several agents who peddled it on their behalf, including “the several Gentlemen Merchants of Providence and Newport, and Mr. SOLOMON SOUTHWICK, Printer in Newport.” Goddard and Carter may have sold enough copies and received indications of the almanac’s success from their agents that they quickly decided to issue a second edition. The original advertisement extended three-quarters of a column and advanced several appeals, including one that addressed the current political and economic climate in Rhode Island in particular and the colonies more generally. The advertisement stressed that both the contents and the paper qualified as “domestic manufactures,” drawing on public discourse about the surplus of imported goods that created a trade imbalance with Britain.

That advertisement may have yielded substantial sales of the almanac, especially if Goddard and Carter had been conservative in the number they printed for the first edition. On the other hand, they may have planned from the start to advertise a second edition shortly after promoting the first edition. Doing so would have made the New-England Town and Country Almanack appear especially popular, prompting prospective customers to obtain their own copies now that they were aware of the approval it had received from other consumers.

The new advertisement occupied approximately two-thirds of a column, but it attempted to stimulate demand with new copy. In particular, the advertisement for the second edition focused on the contents other than the astronomical calculations. Like the previous advertisement, it emphasized politics, leading with a description of “a beautiful poetical Essay on Public Spirit, wrote by an American Patriot” and concluding with a description of “a Portrait of the celebrated Mr. WILKES, engraved from an original Painting; to which is prefixed, some Anecdotes of that most extraordinary personage.” The advertisement also included two rhyming couplets devoted to John Wilkes, a radical journalist and politician in England who inspired the colonists in their own acts of resistance in the face of abuses by Parliament. Goddard and Carter devoted nearly half of the page to reprinting a letter by Wilkes. The advertisement for the almanac immediately followed that news item. The printers apparently expected readers to make connections between the two.

The middle of September may have seemed exceptionally early to advertise a second edition of an almanac for the coming year, especially considering that the printers in many American towns and cities had not yet even begun to advertise almanacs. Given that Goddard and Carter faced particularly stiff competition from printers in the Boston, they may have devised a scheme intended to establish their position in the marketplace before other almanacs became available.

September 12

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

Sep 12 - 9:12:1768 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (September 12, 1768).

“Those Persons who are desirous of Promoting our Own Manufactures.”

Enoch Brown mixed politics and commerce when he drew attention to his supply chain in an advertisement in the September 12, 1768, edition of the Boston-Gazette. Eighteenth-century advertisers frequently mentioned and even promoted the origins of the goods they sold, but prior to the 1760s they placed a premium on demonstrating that they carried imported goods. In the advertisement printed immediately above Brown’s notice, John Andrews noted that he had imported his inventory “in the last Ships from London and Bristol.” Further down the column, Moses Deshon announced that a “Variety of European” goods would be sold at public auction later in the week. In several other advertisements spread throughout the rest of the issue merchants and shopkeepers introduced their wares as “Imported from London.”

Brown did not make such proclamations. Instead, he tied his merchandise to recent calls to reduce and eliminate dependence on imported goods as a means of resisting Parliament’s ongoing efforts to raise revenues by imposing taxes within the colonies. In addition, colonists were concerned about an imbalance of trade that benefited Britain at the expense of the colonies. Nearly a year earlier the Boston town meeting had voted to encourage “domestic manufactures” as an alternative to importing goods from London and other English cities. Residents of other cities and towns throughout the colonies followed Boston’s lead, either through formal ballots or newspaper editorials that spread the word. By the fall of 1768, the residents of Boston and other urban ports were preparing for non-importation agreements set to go into effect in January 1769.

In his advertisement, Brown encouraged consumers to get an early start. He requested that “those Persons who are desirous of Promoting our Own Manufactures” supply him with “all Sorts of Country-made Cloths.” Brown would then either sell those items on commission or barter for “West-India Goods,” such as sugar, molasses, and rum. This advertisement also informed prospective customers that they could put their political principles into practice by visiting Brown’s store and purchasing textiles produced locally rather than patronizing the shops of his competitors who were attempting to sell goods imported from England before the new agreement went into effect.

Brown was part of the first wave of marketers who deployed “Buy American” appeals, advancing this strategy even before the colonies declared independence. As the imperial crisis intensified, more advertisers adopted this approach. Once the fighting ended, however, many retailers returned to promoting the European origins of their wares. Yet in the 1780s and 1790s those advertisements increasingly appeared alongside “Buy American” advertisements, following a course first plotted by Enoch Brown and other advertisers in the wake of the Stamp Act, Townshend Act, and other attempts to tax the colonies.

August 27

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

Aug 27 - 8:27:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (August 27, 1768).

“Now in the PRESS … THE N. England Town and Country Almanack.”

During the final week of August 1768, a signal that fall was soon approaching appeared in the Providence Gazette. The printers, Sarah Goddard and John Carter, inserted an advertisement announcing that the New-England Town and Country Almanack … for the Year of Our Lord 1769 was “Now in the PRESS, And speedily will be published.” Goddard and Carter intended to sell the almanac “Wholesale and Retail” at the printing office, but colonists could also purchase copies from “the several Gentlemen Merchants of Providence.”

Like many others who wrote, compiled, or printed almanacs, Goddard and Carter emphasized that the astronomical calculations were specific to the city in which it was published. In this case, the contents were “Fitted to the Latitude of PROVIDENCE, in NEW-ENGLAND.” Hoping to establish a wider marker, however, the printers advised potential customers that the calculations could “without sensible Error, serve all the NORTHERN COLONIES.” They faced competition from the various almanacs published in Boston and New York, but Goddard and Carter made a bid for readers throughout New England to acquire their almanac instead. After all, it carried the name New-England Town and Country Almanack rather than Providence Town and Country Almanack or Rhode Island Town and Country Almanack.

Goddard and Carter further attempted to create an affinity for the New-England Town and Country Almanack among readers throughout the region, especially throughout Rhode Island. They devoted half of the advertisement to reprinting the preface, providing a preview to prospective customers. In it, Abraham Weatherwise, the pseudonymous Benjamin West, underscored that the almanac “is printed on Paper manufactured in this Colony.” He then continued with a plea that mixed politics and commerce, asserting that “those who may be kindly pleased to promote the Sale thereof, will do a singular Service to their Country, by keeping among us, in these Times of Distress, large Sums of Money, which will otherwise be sent abroad.” Both the contents and the paper qualified as “domestic manufactures” that colonists had vowed to consume rather than continuing to purchase goods imported from Britain. The New-England Town and Country Almanack was an American production not only because it was written and printed in Rhode Island; the materials involved in creating it, in addition to the contents and labor, also originated in the colonies.

Extending more than three-quarters of a column, the first advertisement that notified the pubic of the imminent publication of the New-England Town and Country Almanack comprised a substantial portion of the August 27, 1768, edition of the Providence Gazette. In it, the publishers and the author collaborated to convince prospective customers throughout the colony and throughout the region to choose this particular almanac from among the many options. They first advanced a standard appeal to accuracy, but concluded with an argument certain to resonate at a time when colonists continued to protest the Townshend Act and other abuses perpetrated by Parliament.

August 20

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

Aug 20 - 8:20:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (August 20, 1768).

“JUST PUBLISHED … THE Power and Grandeur of GREAT-BRITAIN founded nt he Liberty of the COLONIES.”

Colonial newspapers usually carried very little local news. As they were distributed only once a week, often news of local events carried by word of mouth before they had a chance to appear in print. Accordingly, editors privileged news from faraway places, news that readers had not seen for themselves or already heard about in the course of their daily activities.

Such was the case in the August 20, 1768, edition of the Providence Gazette. Even the scant amount of news published under the header “PROVIDENCE, August 20” relayed a description of events that recently occurred in Boston. “Sunday last being the 14th of August,” the short article began, “the Sons of Liberty at Boston, in order to perpetuate the Anniversary of the first Opposition to the Stamp-Act. Met under Liberty-Tree, when many patriotic and loyal To[a]sts were drank, under the Discharge of 45 Cannon.” The article included details about a procession through town, a bonfire, and fireworks, all in commemoration of resistance to the Stamp Act.

The news from “BOSTON, August 15” summarized a new nonimportation agreement devised by the merchants and traders of Boston. They were concerned about an imbalance of trade that made it difficult to “pay the debts due the merchants in Great-Britain,” prompting them to vote unanimously “not to send any further orders for goods to be shipped this fall; and that from the first of January, 1769, to the first of January, 1770, they will not send for or import … any kind of goods or merchandizes from Great-Britain, except Coal, Salt, and some articles necessary to carry on the fishery.” This decision was not merely about economics. Politics played a role as well: “They likewise agreed not to import any Tea, Glass, Paper, or Painters colours, until the acts imposing duties on those articles are repealed.”

The news from Boston also included a copy of a letter “To the Honourable THOMAS CUSHING, Esq; Speaker of the Honourable House of Representatives of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay” from “P. MANIGAULT, Speaker of the Common House of Assembly of the Province of South-Carolina.” That letter included the instructions sent to South Carolina’s agent in Great Britain, directing him to “join with the Agents of the other provinces in America, in obtaining a repeal of the several acts of Parliament which have lately been passed, laying duties in America, and to endeavour to prevent the clause for billeting soldiers in America from being inserted in the next mutiny act which shall be passed.” These instructions touched on some of the most significant issues that eventually sparked the American Revolution.

The following page of Providence Gazette featured “A SONG” reprinted from the August 4 edition of the Pennsylvania Journal. Written by “A SON of LIBERTY,” the song was “Addressed to the SONS OF LIBERTY on the Continent of America.” Like the toasts and other festivities that recently took place in Boston, the song celebrated acts of resistance that preserved liberty and freedom in the face of Parliament attempting to impose slavery on the colonies.

Yet news and entertainment did not comprise the entire August 20 issue of the Providence Gazette. More than a dozen advertisements ran in that issue, including one for a pamphlet on sale at the printing office. The title explained its purpose: “THE Power and Grandeur of GREAT-BRITAIN founded on the Liberty of the COLONIES, and the Mischiefs attending the taxing them by Act of Parliament demonstrated.” The compositor placed this advertisement between the politically charged news items from Boston and the patriotic song from Philadelphia. It was a continuation of the news, but also an encouragement for readers to become even better informed about current events. In this instance, news, entertainment, and advertising worked together to form a cohesive narrative about Parliament overstepping its authority to commit various abuses against the colonies.

July 16

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

Jul 16 - 7:16:1768 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (July 16, 1768).

“They have set up the CUTLERS Business in Providence.”

When Joseph Bucklin and Nicholas Clark opened a new workshop they placed an advertisement to inform prospective customers that they had “set up the CUTLERS Business in Providence.” They called on the residents of the city and its environs to support their new endeavor, explaining the benefits to both consumers and the local economy. The workshop produced “all Sorts of Cutlers Ware used in this Country,” making it unnecessary to rely on imported goods. Indeed, Bucklin and Clark condemned the shoddy cutlery exported to the colonies, a state of affairs that they suggested readers already knew all too well: “When they consider how much this Country hath been abused by bad Wares sent hither for Sale, they are but the more encouraged in their Undertaking.”

In contrast, the workmen who labored in their shop made razors, scissors, knives of various sorts, medical instruments, and “many other Articles” that were “far exceeding in Quality any thing of the Kind imported from Great-Britain.” To that end, they had hired “two Workmen from Europe, who are compleat Masters in the Business” who could “grind and put in Order all the aforementioned Articles, in the best and most expeditiopus Manner.” Bucklin and Clark were so confident of the quality of their wares that they offered a guarantee. The partners pledged that “they will warrant them to be good,” but also promised that if in the instance of any of their products “proving defective” they “will receive them again.”

Bucklin and Clark concluded with an argument simultaneously commercial and political. “It is hoped,” they stated, “that when this Country labours under the greatest Embarrassments and Difficulties, in importing the Manufactures of Great-Britain, their Business will be encouraged, and their Work preferred to such as is imported, as the whole Cost will be saved to the Country.” Bucklin and Clark asserted that the superior quality of their cutlery was only one reason that potential customers should purchase it rather than imported wares. They also declared that consumers had an obligation to make responsible choices that had both commercial and political ramifications. The colonies suffered a trade imbalance with Great Britain; purchasing domestic manufactures helped to remedy that. In addition, passing over imported goods in favor of obtaining locally produced wares made a political statement in the wake of the Townshend Act and other abuses by Parliament. Bucklin and Clark underscored that seemingly mundane decisions about which knives to purchase actually had extensive repercussions.

July 14

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

Jul 14 - 7:14:1768 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (July 14, 1768).

“Ready Money for clean Linen Rags.”

When John Keating placed an advertisement for the New-York Paper Manufactory in the July 14, 1768, edition of the New-York Journal, he did not merely seek customers. Instead, he sought supplies, rags in particular, necessary for the functioning of his enterprise. Throughout the colonies, newspaper readers frequently encountered calls for rags. Printers often inserted brief, generic notices that requested readers submit clean rags that could be made into paper. In the second half of the 1760s, in the wake of the Stamp Act and the Townshend Act, the calls for rags became lengthier and more elaborate, especially as the proprietors of the New-York Paper Manufactory and its counterparts in other colonies linked economic and political purposes to the formerly mundane process of collecting rags for paper production.

Keating made the stakes clear when he addressed “All those who have the Welfare of the Country at Heart.” Rather than think of linen rags as useless or contemplate the small sums they might yield in trade, he insisted that readers consider “the Benefit which will accrue to the Public in general if the Manufactory is supplied with Rags.” Increasing the volume of paper produced locally would reduce dependence on imports. Turning over rags to Keating and the New-York Paper Manufactory would “enable us to make a sufficient Quantity of Paper for our own Consumption, and by this Means keep in the Province the Sums of Money, which is annually remitted for this single Commodity.” In other words, colonists sent too much of their money to England, never to see it again due to an imbalance in trade, when they purchased paper that could otherwise be produced locally. In addition, the New-York Paper Manufactory created jobs: “by manufacturing of it here, Numbers of poor People are daily employ’d.” Overall, supporting the New-York Paper Manufactory amounted to an expression “of public Utility.”

John Keating was part of an incipient “Buy American” campaign that emerged in the 1760s and increasingly found expression in newspaper advertisements as the imperial crisis intensified. Just as consumption practices took on political valences, so too did some of the most mundane of daily activities, such as the decision to save rags for “the Welfare of the Country” rather than discard them.