What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He has likewise procured an European Blue-Dyer.”
In January 1772, John Nichols placed an advertisement in the Providence Gazette to remind the community that “he carries on the Weaving Business, as usual,” at his house on Broad Street. He devoted most of his advertisement, however, to promoting an ancillary service he recently added to his business. Nichols informed readers that he “procured an European Blue-Dyer, who will warrant his Colours to be equally durable with those from that Country.” Nichols made that appeal to quality in hopes of convincing prospective customers to support services provided in the colonies rather than resort to imported goods. When they did so, the weaver suggested, customers would also save money and reap other benefits. In particular, he pledged that items committed to the care of his dyer would not become saturated with “the (generally detested) Smell of a common Dye-Pot.” Customers could enjoy vivid colors without having to tolerate the unpleasant odors often associated with dyes.
On behalf of his dyer, Nichols also offered advice to prospective customers to help them achieve and maintain those vivid colors. “Those who intend bringing Yarn to dye,” he instructed, “are requested to have it well cleaned.” If they did not, the yarn “will not take the Dye so well.” This made it easier for the dyer, but it also contributed to the quality that Nichols promised. Colors had a tendency to fade over time, so producing colors “equally durable” as imported textiles required careful attention of both the dyer and the customers who delivered yarn for processing.
When it came to textiles, Nichols and his dyer offered alternatives to some of the imported good promoted by other advertisers. Like many others who engaged in domestic manufactures, they attempted to make goods produced in the colonies attractive to consumers by emphasizing both price and quality. Customers would actually pay less, Nichols declared, without sacrificing quality. Consumers still clamored for the imported goods that so many other advertisers hawked in the Providence Gazette, but some may have considered seeking out the services of Nichols and his dyer rather than favoring imported goods over items produced locally.