December 12

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

Dec 12 - 12:12:1767 Providence Gazette
Providence Gazette (December 12, 1767).

“LABRADORE TEA … to be sold at EDES and GILL’s Printing-Office, in Boston.”

This notice concerning “LABRADORE TEA” appeared among the news items in the December 12, 1767, edition of the Providence Gazette. The printers, Sarah Goddard and John Carter, republished it word-for-word from the most recent issue of the Boston-Gazette. Its placement blurred the distinction between news and advertising.

The politics of drinking tea at a time when colonists protested the imbalance of trade between the colonies and England explains this testimonial advertisement’s inclusion among news from other colonies in the Providence Gazette. At a town meeting held at the end of October, residents of Boston had resolved to encourage production and consumption of local goods rather than rely on imports from England. Subsequent nonimportation agreements and their coverage in Boston’s newspapers singled out imported tea for particular notice, casting it as an unnecessary luxury that endangered the political and economic welfare of the colonies.

The Providence Gazette had already reported on November 28 that local residents followed the lead of Bostonians when they held a town meeting “to deliberate and agree upon some effectual Measures for promoting Industry, Oeconomy and Manufactures, for the Prevention of Misery and Ruin, as a Consequence of the unnecessary Imports of European Goods.” This gathering produced similar results: “The general Voice was for entering upon some Measures to extend our own Manufactures, and to lessen the Imports from Europe, especially of superfluous Articles; And it was unanimously voted by the Town, that they would take all prudent and lawful Measures to encourage the Produce and Manufactures of this Colony, and of all other the British Colonies in America.” The residents of Newport approved similar measures at their own town meeting the same week.

It seems unlikely that Goddard and Carter received any remuneration for advertising “LABRADORE TEA … to be sold at EDES and GILL’s Printing-Office, in Boston.” Instead, they likely inserted this notice to supplement their coverage of a movement quickly expanding beyond Boston, including into their own colony. In choosing the content for their newspaper, they became active participants and further encouraged these efforts. They devoted almost the entire first page of the December 12 issue to the “Remainder of the PROCESS for making POT-ASH in NORTH-AMERICA,” a feature that continued through multiple issues. In the same column with the commentary on Labrador tea, Goddard and Carter reprinted news from the most recent issues of both the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston Post-Boy: “We hear that the Towns of Brookfield, Spencer, Leicester, Hardwick, and several other Towns to the Westward, have unanimously come into the Measures proposed by this Town, to promote Frugality and Manufactures.” Immediately below that news item, they reported that the town of Middleborough “voted to come into the same measures that the town of Boston had, respecting frugality and manufacture.”

Aware that residents of Providence and other readers of their newspaper had overwhelmingly expressed support for “encourage[ing] the Produce and Manufactures of this Colony, and of all other the British Colonies in America,” Goddard and Carter knew that subscribers would find the description of Labrador tea both relevant and interesting. This merited reprinting the item as news rather than consigning it to the pages reserved for advertising. The printers gave a tacit endorsement of the product when they chose to include the portion of the testimonial advertisement that indicated where consumers could purchase Labrador tea rather than reprinting just the portion that described the taste and medical and dietary benefits of the local alternative to imported tea. Politics and consumer culture overlapped during the era of the imperial crisis, sometimes causing news and advertising to follow suit.

December 7

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

Dec 7 - 12:7:1767 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (December 7, 1767).

LABRADORE TEA.”

An advertisement in the December 7, 1767, issue of the Boston-Gazette announced “LABRADORE TEA, by the Hundred, Dozen, or less Quantity, to be Sold at Edes and Gill’s Printing-Office.” The bulk of the advertisement consisted of a testimonial that first outlined the medical and dietary benefits of drinking Labrador tea and then focused on the taste, acknowledging that the flavor differed from other popular teas but “a little Perseverance will render it very acceptable.”

By the time this advertisement appeared in early December, readers of Boston’s several newspapers had already been exposed to commentary about Labrador tea on multiple occasions, though in news items and editorial pieces rather than commercial notices. In the wake of a Boston town meeting that resolved to encourage consumption of domestic products rather than imported goods, several colonists noted the political benefits of Labrador tea. On November 2, Edes and Gill published a list of local manufactures in the Boston-Gazette. In addition to “Thirty thousand Yards of Cloth … Manufactured in one small Country Town in this Province” and “upwards of Forty Thousand Pair of Womens Shoes” made in Lynn, Massachusetts, in the past year, they described “a certain Herb, lately found in this Province, which begins already to take place in the Room of Green and Bohea Tea, which is said to be of a very salutary Nature, as well as a more agreeable Flavour – It is called Labrador.”

Two weeks later, both the Boston Evening-Post and the Boston Post-Boy inserted a letter addressed to “My Dear Countrymen” that outlined a strategy for depending less on imported goods. The prescription included Labrador tea: “we think it our duty to add, the most sincere recommendation of the disuse of the most luxurious and enervating article of BOHEA TEA, in which so large a sum is annually expended by the American colonists, altho’ it may be well supplied by the Teas of our own country, especially by that called Labrador, lately discovered to be a common growth of the more northern colonies, and esteemed very wholesome to the human species, as well as agreeable.”

A poem, “Address to the LADIES,” from the November 16 edition of the Boston Post-Boy and reprinted in other newspapers in the city discouraged purchasing and wearing imported textiles and adornments and also advised women to “Throw aside your Bohea and your Green Hyson Tea, / And all things with a new fashion duty; / Procure a good store of the choice Labradore, / For there’ll soon be enough here to suit ye.”

By the time the advertisement for “LABRADORE TEA” appeared in the Boston-Gazette in early December, colonists had already been encouraged to consume it as part of a political strategy intended to address both an imbalance of trade between the colonies and England and Parliament’s imposition of new duties in the Townshend Act. A series of news items and editorials primed consumer interest in Labrador tea, but some colonists may have been skeptical that they would enjoy the local alternative as much as their favorite imported varieties. This new advertisement assumed readers were already aware of the political ramifications of purchasing Labrador tea, so instead addressed any concerns about health and taste in order to convince consumers who may have been wavering in their commitment to adopt this new product.

December 4

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

Dec 4 - 12:4:1767 Massachusetts Gazette.jpg
Massachusetts Gazette (December 4, 1767).

“At his Shop between LIBERTY TREE and the Sign of the White Horse.”

During the era of the American Revolution, advertisers had a variety of means for identifying locations in cities and towns. The largest ports began imposing order on urban environments by assigning standardized street numbers at the very end of the eighteenth century. Until then, colonists relied on a variety of landmarks, shop signs, and other devices for giving directions. In the December 4, 1767, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and its supplement, for instance, Thomas Hickling invited potential customers to visit “his Shop at the Corner of Black Horse Lane, leading to Charlestown Ferry.” Samuel Hughes sold maritime supplies “At his Store next to Capt. Chever’s in King-Street, BOSTON.” Jonathan Davis indicated that he sold his wares “Near BULL’s Wharf.” Despite the varying levels of specificity, each advertiser assumed he provided enough information for potential customers to find his place of business.

In giving directions to his shop, John Greenlaw not only named local landmarks but also invoked political attitudes expressed widely throughout the colony in recent months. He informed customers that he ran a shop “between LIBERTY TREE and the Sign of the White Horse, South-End, BOSTON.” The Townshend Act went into effect less than a week before Greenlaw first inserted his advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette in the November 26 issue. In the preceding weeks, all of the Boston newspapers devoted significant coverage to the new duties on imported goods and the local response, including resolutions calling for new non-importation agreements passed at the town meeting at the end of October. Even as he sold “A General Assortment of English and Scotch Goods” imported before the Townshend Act went into effect, Greenlaw associated his business with the Liberty Tree, a symbol of colonial resistance to Parliament.

Colonists like Greenlaw used advertisements to express their political views in the public prints. In the time between the repeal of the Stamp Act and the imposition of the Townshend Act, only John Gore, Jr., consistently incorporated the Liberty Tree into his advertisements. Now that colonists once again experienced Parliamentary overreach, other advertisers in Boston expressed political sentiments by adopting the Liberty Tree as a significant landmark for giving directions to readers. In addition to Greenlaw, another advertiser listed a “handsome Dwelling House” to rent “at the South-End of Boston, near LIBERTY TREE” in the December 4 issue. In an era when advertisers creatively devised a variety of methods for giving directions in print, Greenlaw, Gore, and others could have chosen other landmarks or devices to describe their locations. In selecting the Liberty Tree to include in their advertisements, they communicated more than just where potential customers could find them.

November 27

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

Nov 27 - 11:27:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (November 27, 1767).

At his Shop … in the Street leading from Liberty Bridge to the Mill Dam.”

Like their counterparts in other colonial cities and towns, advertisers in Portsmouth used a variety of landmarks to identify the locations of their shops in the November 27, 1767, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. James McDonogh peddled his wares “At his Store on Spring Hill.” Jonathan and Samuel Sparhawk stocked a variety of goods “At the Sign of the State House, near the Parade.” Edmund Davis ran a shop “next Door to the Sign of the Goldsmiths Arms in Queen Street.”

Pierse Long included the most elaborate directions in his advertisement: “At his Shop near the Reverend Mr. Haven’s Meeting House, in the Street leading from Liberty Bridge to the Mill Dam.” These directions referenced an important landmark with renewed significance: the Liberty Bridge. The Townshend Act went into effect a week earlier, spurring heightened anxieties and contemplation about the meaning of political and economic liberty among American colonists. Elsewhere in the November 27 issue, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette inserted updates about the actions taken by the Boston town meeting “to discourage the use of foreign Superfluities as the only means of saving the Country from impending ruin.” The first page featured an extensive item reprinted from the Boston Post-Boy. In it, an anonymous author addressed “My Dear Countrymen” and recommended “the disuse of the most luxurious and enervating article of BOHEA TEA” in favor of Labrador tea cultivated in North America. In summation, that author argued, “Thus my countrymen, by consuming less of what we are not really in want of, and by industriously cultivating and improving the natural advantages of our own country, we might save our substance, even our lands, from becoming the property of others, and we might effectually preserve our virtue and our liberty, to the latest posterity.” The Fowles also reprinted a poem “ADRESSED TO THE LADIES” from the Massachusetts Gazette that encouraged wearing homespun instead of imported textiles and instructed female consumers to “Throw aside your Bohea, and your Green Hyson Tea.” Both news and entertainment items addressed the imbalance of trade between Britain and the colonies, a situation that became even more troubling with the imposition of new duties on certain imported goods.

Long found himself in a difficult position. He sold a variety of imported goods, including “BOHEA TEA.” He almost certainly wished to move his merchandise as quickly as possible before local consumers signed on to non-importation agreements. He may have believed that making a nod toward the concerns expressed by so many concerned colonists could help in that endeavor, so even though he continued to sell “BOHEA TEA” and other imported goods he also connected his business to the nearby Liberty Bridge. On occasion, advertisers previously invoked the Liberty Bridge when explaining to potential customers how to find their shops, but doing so had mostly disappeared from advertisements in the New-Hampshire Gazette since the repeal of the Stamp Act. It had been the period that the Stamp Act was still in effect that advertisers in Portsmouth most actively incorporated the Liberty Bridge into their commercial notices. It hardly seems a coincidence that Long revived that method at a time of renewed unrest at the end of November 1767. Doing so may have better positioned his business in the minds of potential customers, perhaps even helping them to justify one last purchase of problematic commodities as long as they did so from a shopkeeper who shared their worries about attempts to curtail their liberty.

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.

November 1

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

Nov 1 - 10:29:1767 Massachusetts Gazette
Massachusetts Gazette (October 29, 1767).

“China Ware and Paper, much cheaper than they will come a little while hence.”

In an advertisement placed in the Massachusetts Gazette at the end of October 1767, Caleb Blanchard “Acquaints his Customers in Town and Country, that he has Just Imported … a LARGE and COMPLEAT ASSORTMENT of GOODS, both English & India” that he sold for low prices at his shop on Union Street in Boston. He also listed several other items that he stocked, including cocoa, sugar, tobacco, nutmegs, and cinnamon. Although he had already announced that he charged “the very lowest advance” for his wares, he concluded with another appeal to price. Blanchard proclaimed that he sold “China Ware and Paper, much cheaper than they will come a little while hence.”

Blanchard implied that the prices of china and paper would soon increase, but he did not explicitly state why he was so certain that customers would soon pay more for those particular items. He did not need to do so. Readers of the Massachusetts Gazette “in Town and Country” already knew that that the Townshend Act was set to go into effect in just three weeks on November 20, 1767. Indeed, residents throughout the colonies were aware of the provisions of the Townshend Act, in large part because newspaper printers from Massachusetts to Georgia had published excerpts of the legislation.

Article I of the Townshend Act assessed duties on dozens of different kinds of imported paper, from twelve shillings “For every ream of paper, usually called or known by the name Atlas Fine” to nine pence “For every ream of paper called Demy Second, made in Great Britain” to ten pence halfpenny “For every single ream of blue paper for sugar bakers.” Article II specified that duties on “all other paper” not specifically mentioned should be calculated on the nearest equivalent. Article III defined how many sheets of paper made a quire and how many quires made a ream.

Articles VII and VIII prohibited drawbacks on “china earthen ware.” In other words, merchants could not expect to receive a refund on any taxes they paid for re-exporting imported china. In the end, this would raise prices for consumers since merchants and shopkeepers would pass along the expense to their customers.

Caleb Blanchard did not name the Townshend Act in his advertisement, but that was not necessary to make his appeal to price resonate with consumers. Readers of the Massachusetts Gazette would have been well aware of the impending duties. They would have made the connection on their own. Blanchard depended on public awareness of politics and imperial economic policy in marketing his wares.