September 3

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

Sep 3 - 9:3:1770 Boston Evening-Post
Boston Evening-Post (September 3, 1770).

“It is presumed preference will be given to NAILS manufactured here.”

As fall approached in 1770, the nonimportation agreement remained in effect in Boston.  Parliament had repealed most of the duties on imported goods, but taxes on tea remained.  Although New York already resumed trade with Britain, debates continued in Boston and Philadelphia about whether that partial victory was sufficient to return to business as usual.

It was in that context that Harbottle Dorr advertised nails and other items in the Boston Evening-Post, grounding his marketing appeals in politics.  Like many other merchants and shopkeepers, he listed the various merchandise available at his shop.  He prefaced his list, however, by noting that the items enumerated first were “manufactured in this Town” rather than imported from Britain.  Those goods included “choice hammered Pewter Dishes & Plates, Cod and Mackrel Lines, best Copper Tea Kettles, all sizes of Porringers, Quart Pots, [and] Basons,” yet he started with “10d.* and 20d. Nails, warranted tough.”  The asterisk directed readers to a short sermon that encouraged them to buy goods produced in the colonies that appeared at the end of the advertisement.  “*It is presumed,” Dorr lectured, “preference will be given to NAILS manufactured here, (not only on patriotic Principles, and to discourage the PRESENT Importers, –but) as they really are better in Quality than most English Nails, being far tougher.”  Dorr linked several appeals that supporters of the nonimportation agreement often combined.  Buying American goods, Dorr and others argued, was not merely a statement of political principles but also a smart choice when it came to quality.  Consumers did not need to worry about purchasing inferior goods, in this case nails, when they bought items made in the colonies.

Yet Dorr also stocked imported goods in addition to domestic manufactures, including “all sorts Pad & Door Locks,” “London Pewter Dishes and Plates,” and “good Combs.”  He emphasized, however, that those items “have been imported above THREE YEARS.”  In other words, Dorr acquired them before the nonimportation agreement went into effect.  He had not violated the pact and prospective customers could purchase those items with confidence that they did not act contrary to the nonimportation agreement.

Whether selling domestic manufactures or imported goods, Dorr made politics the focal point of his marketing efforts.  Even as some merchants, shopkeepers, and consumers advocated for following New York’s lead in resuming trade with Britain, he challenged them to consider “patriotic Principles” as they made their decisions about commerce.  Perhaps sensing that it was only a matter of time before the nonimportation agreement came to an end, he also made additional arguments in favor of nails produced in the colonies, noting their superior quality.

May 20

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

May 20 - 5:17:1770 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (May 17, 1770).

“Their ware is equal if not superior to any made in America or imported.”

Odgens, Laight, and Company, proprietors of the Vesuvius Air Furnace in Newark, New Jersey, placed an advertisement in the May 17, 1770, edition of the New-York Journal to inform prospective customers that they produced and sold “all kinds of hollow ware, and other castings.”  Their inventory included forge hammers and anvils, pots, kettles, griddles, “iron stoves for work-shops and ships cabins,” and a variety of other items.  Descriptions of some of their wares testified to their quality, such as “jamb and hearth plates neatly fitting each other,” yet Odgens, Laight, and Company made more extensive appeals to quality as well.

The partners proclaimed that “their metal is of the best quality” and underscored that “the construction of their furnace” as well as “manner of working and moulding” was “the most improved.”  Accordingly, they could claim that the items they manufactured at the Vesuvius Air Furnace were “equal if not superior to any made in America or imported.”  The comparison to imported goods held particular significance.  As colonists adopted nonimportation agreements to protest duties on imported paper, glass, paint, lead, and tea that Parliament levied via the Townshend Acts, they also advocated supporting “domestic manufactures” as an alternate means of acquiring goods they needed and desired.  Even though colonists declared their support for goods made in the colonies, newspaper advertisements suggest that consumers experienced some skepticism that those goods matched imported wares in terms of quality.  Artisans and other who promoted domestic manufactures in the late 1760s and early 1770s frequently reassured prospective customers that they would not have to sacrifice quality in service to following their political principles.  In addition to asserting that their wares were “equal if not superior” to imported goods, Ogdens, Laight, and Company singled out their hammers and anvils, explaining that “the metal … is excellently well tempered, and found on repeated trials to be in general superior English hammers.”  They did not elaborate on who conducted those “repeated trials.”  That claim echoed marketing strategies frequently invoked by other artisans:  proclaiming that others with specialized knowledge of the product vouched for it.

Ogdens, Laight, and Company offered consumers an opportunity to demonstrate their support for the American colonies in their altercation with Parliament by purchasing goods made in the colonies rather than imported from England.  In so doing, they joined other advertisers in the New-York Journal and throughout the colonies who offered domestic manufactures to prospective customers.  The appeals they made in their advertisements resonated with the news that appeared elsewhere in the newspapers.

April 20

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

Apr 20 - 4:20:1770 New-London Gazette
New-London Gazette (April 20, 1770).

“He makes and sells all Kinds of FELT HATS.”

In the late 1760s and early 1770s the New-London Gazette carried fewer advertisements than most other newspapers printed in the colonies, in large part due to being published in a smaller town than most of its counterparts.  Those advertisements that did appear in the New-London Gazette, however, tended to replicate the marketing strategies deployed in advertisements published in other newspapers.  T.H. Breen asserts that colonists experienced a standardization of consumer goods available for purchase from New England to Georgia.[1]  They also encountered a standardization in advertising practices when they read the notices in colonial newspaper.

Consider an advertisement that Abiezer Smith, “HATTER, at NORWICH-LANDING,” placed in the April 20, 1770, edition of the New-London Gazette.  He informed prospective customers that he had “served a regular Apprenticeship to the FELT MANUFACTURE.”  Artisans frequently listed their credentials, especially upon arriving in town from elsewhere or opening a new business.  Since they did not benefit from cultivating a reputation among local consumers over time, they adopted other means of signaling that they were qualified to follow the trade they advertised.  In addition to consumers, Smith addressed retailers, the “Merchants and Shopkeepers in the Country” that he hoped would stock his hats.

Smith also made an appeal to quality and connected it to contemporary political discourse, just as advertisers in Boston and New York were doing during at the time.  The hatter at Norwich Landing proclaimed that his hats were “equal in goodness to any manufactured in this Country.”  Yet that assurance of quality was not sufficient.  He also declared his wares were preferable to any imported from Europe or elsewhere.”  Although the duties on most imported goods had been repealed, news had not yet arrived in the colonies.  For the moment, Smith stood to benefit from nonimportation agreements that prompted consumers to purchase “domestic manufactures” instead, provided that he made prospective customers aware of his product.  For retailers, he offered a new source of merchandise.  Even though his appeal would have less political resonance in the coming months, the quality remained consistent.  Many colonial consumers tended to prefer imported goods, but Smith offered an alternative that did not ask them to sacrifice the value for their money.

Smith’s advertisement could have appeared in any other newspaper in the colonies.  Indeed, given the scarcity of advertising in the New-London Gazette, he very well may have consulted (or at least had in mind) newspapers from other towns and cities when he wrote the copy for his advertisement.  His appeals that invoked his training, the quality of his wares, and the political significance of purchasing his hats made his advertisement resemble others placed by American artisans in the late 1760s and early 1770s.

**********

[1] T.H. Breen, “‘Baubles of Britain’: The American and Consumer Revolutions of the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present 119 (1988): 81-84

April 15

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

Apr 15 - 4:12:1770 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (April 15, 1770).

“Chisels … superior in Quality to those imported from Great Britain.”

Abeel and Byvanck sold ironmongery and cutlery in New York in the early 1770s.  They listed an array of merchandise in their newspaper notices, but they did not merely inform prospective customers of the goods they offered for sale.  In an advertisement in the April 12, 1770, edition of the New-York Journal, Abeel and Byvanck noted the various ways that their business bolstered the nonimportation agreement adopted to protest duties imposed on imported paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea in the Townshend Acts.

For instance, their inventory included chisels “superior in Quality to those imported from Great Britain, and at a less Price.”  The partners did not explicitly state that the chisels were produced in the colonies, but the implication was clear.  In presenting the chisels for consideration, Abeel and Byvanck made appeals commonly advanced by others who marketed “domestic manufactures” as alternative to imported goods.  They assured consumers that they did not have to sacrifice quality for political principles.  While some artisans and shopkeepers declared their merchandise produced in the colonies equal to any imported, Abeel and Byvanck made an even bolder statement when they asserted their chisels were “superior.”  Yet customers did not have to pay a premium for that quality.  Instead, they could acquire chisels produced in the colonies for lower prices than imported ones.  Everything about these chisels seemed to work to the advantage of both consumers and the American cause.

Those chisels may have come from “the Manufactory in this Province.”  Abeel and Byvanck noted that they would soon stock “a large Parcel of Sithes [Scythes]” currently under production there.  Like the chisels, those scythes were “superior in Quality to those imported.”  The partners did not comment on the price, but they had previously framed their entire advertisement in terms that favorably compared the prices they charged in April 1770 to what they charged prior to the nonimportation agreement going into effect.  They declared that they set prices “Upon as reasonable Terms, as they sold before the Agreement for not importing Goods from Great Britain.”  In other words, Abeel and Byvanck did not engage in price gouging after merchants and shopkeepers ceased replenishing their inventories with imported goods.

Nonimportation agreements ratified in New York and other colonies were the subject of press coverage in the 1760s and 1770s, but that coverage was not confined to news items and editorials.  Instead, advertisements for consumer goods and services also endorsed and promoted nonimportation agreements, encouraging colonists to understand the connections between consumption and politics.

December 18

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

Dec 18 - 12:18:1769 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (December 18, 1769).

“Will engage to make any Piece of Work as compleat as can be imported.”

In December 1769, Daniel MacNeill, a “Saddler and Cap-maker from DUBLIN,” turned to the Boston-Gazette to advise residents of Boston and its environs that he operated a shop in King Street. He made and sold a variety of items, including “Neat welted and plain Hunting Saddles,” “Pistol Cases & Holsters,” “Portmanteaus and Saddle Baggs,” and “every Article in the Sadlery Branch.” In addition to offering low prices, he assured prospective customers that he served them “with Fidelity and Dispatch.” He also made appeals to quality and fashion, proclaiming that he constructed these items “in the neatest and genteelest Manner.” MacNeill incorporated many of the most common marketing appeals of the eighteenth century into his advertisement.

As a relative newcomer to the city, MacNeill deployed another strategy that often appeared in newspaper notices placed by artisans who migrated across the Atlantic. He provided an overview of his work history as a means of convincing prospective customers of his competence. MacNeill asserted that he “had the Advantage of many Years Practice in the most principal Shops in Dublin and Towns adjacent.” In so doing, he attempted to transfer the reputation he established in one location to another, asking prospective customers to credit him for his years of experience. Although items he made during that time had not circulated for inspection in Boston, MacNeill hoped that his affiliation with “the most principal Shops” in one of the largest cities in the empire testified to his skill and expertise.

To that end, he pledged that he made saddles and other items “as compleat as can be imported.” Realizing that colonists sometimes had a preference for imported goods with an expectation of higher quality or better craftsmanship, MacNeill promised that his clients did not have to fear that they purchased inferior goods from his workshop. This appeal likely resonated with colonists who adhered to the nonimportation agreements and sought “domestic manufactures,” goods produced in the colonies, as alternatives to those transported across the Atlantic. An article on the first page of the December 18, 1769, edition of the Boston-Gazette proposed bringing artisans and their families to the colonies, suggesting that those migrants were much more welcome than imported goods that Parliament taxed. MacNeill’s advertisement reverberated with political implications, even as he made standard appeals to price, quality, and fashion.

October 5

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

Oct 5 - 10:5:1769 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (October 5, 1769).

“For the Encouragement of those who are willing to promote American Manufactories.”

While the Townshend Acts remained in effect, imposing duties on paper, glass, lead, paint, and tea imported in the American colonies, the number and frequency of newspaper advertisements promoting “American manufactories” increased. The partnership of Gilpin and Fisher joined the chorus of advertisers encouraging colonists to “Buy American” in the late 1760s. In an advertisement for their “SNUFF MANUFACTORY” in the October 5, 1769, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, Gilpin and Fisher extolled the quality of their product. They proclaimed that they “spar[ed] no Pains or Expence to render” their snuff “equal to any made here” or, more significantly, “imported from abroad. That was not merely their own puffery but rather the assessment of “some of the best Judges,” though Gilpin and Fisher did not publish their “concurrent Testimonies” nor name those “Judges.” Still, they made their point: consumers did not have to sacrifice quality when purchasing from Gilpin and Fisher’s “SNUFF MANUFACTORY” instead of buying imported alternatives.

Elsewhere in the advertisement, they incorporated another popular element of the “Buy American” motif that emerged in response to an imbalance of trade with Britain, the Townshend Acts, and nonimportation agreements adopted in cities and towns in several colonies. According to many editorials and advertisements, American consumers had a moral imperative to purchase goods produced in the colonies. Doing so would correct the trade imbalance while simultaneously exerting economic resistance to Parliament’s attempts to tax the colonies via import duties. Joshua Fisher and Sons sold the snuff “by the Bottle, Dozen, or Gross,” offering discounts to those who bought in bulk. To convince both consumers and retailers to take advantage of such deals, the tobacconists called on those “willing to promote American manufactories.” The two appeals buttressed each other: purchasing “domestic manufactures” was good politics but also savvy business when getting a bargain for doing so. The “Considerable Allowance” promised to those who purchased by volume likely made products from Gilpin and Fisher’s “SNUFF MANUFACTORY” even more enticing for prospective customers who wanted to practice politics through their decisions in the marketplace.

The imperial crisis and American reactions to it did not unfold solely in the news items and editorials in colonial newspapers. Instead, merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and others addressed the political issues of the day in their advertisements. The appeals they made to consumers helped to shape American resistance to Parliament’s attempts to raise revenues and regulate commerce in the colonies.

July 21

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

Jul 21 - 7:21:1769 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (July 21, 1769).

“BOard and Deck NAILS, here manufactur’d.”

Noah Parker depended on the public’s familiarity with current events when he placed his advertisement for “NAILS” in the July 21, 1769, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. For more than a year, colonists in New England and beyond had been addressing two significant issues at the intersection of commerce and politics: a trade imbalance with Great Britain and new laws enacted by Parliament that levied duties on certain goods imported into the colonies. Merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and others devised remedies for the situation. First, they called for the encouragement of “domestic manufactures” or local production of goods usually imported. To be effective, local production required local consumption, making all colonists responsible for successful outcomes as producers, consumers, or both. Purchasing domestic manufactures kept money within the colonies and prevented funds from flowing to the other side of the Atlantic. These efforts became enmeshed with nonimportation agreements adopted in protest of the Townshend Acts. By refusing to import goods until Parliament repealed the offensive acts, colonists aimed to exert economic pressure to achieve political purposes. Domestic manufactures were an important alternative to imported goods, especially once committees formed to enforce nonimportation agreements.

In the 1760s, nails almost invariably appeared among the imported hardware listed in newspaper advertisements from New England to Georgia. Even merchants and shopkeepers who did not stock much other hardware frequently noted that they stocked nails at their shops and stores. Parker presented an alternative for both retailers and consumers, proclaiming that his “BOard and Deck NAILS” were “here manufactur’d.” Realizing that prospective customers were often skeptical of the quality of locally produced goods, he offered assurances that these nails “have been proved far to exceed any imported.” Not only were these nails as good as any imported from England, they were better! How could customers go wrong by acquiring domestic manufactures that exceeded their imported counterparts in quality? Parker did not belabor the point, likely considering it unnecessary. After all, tensions between Parliament and the colonies were the talk of the town and the subject of article after article in the public prints. Though succinct, Parker’s advertisement resonated with public discussions about the significance of domestic manufacturers and nonimportation agreements.

July 16

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

Jul 16 - 7:13:1769 Massachusetts Gazette Draper
Massachusetts Gazette [Draper] (July 13, 1769).
Confectioner and Distiller from London.”

In the summer of 1769 Peter Lorent, a confectioner and distiller, provided a variety of sweet treats to the residents of Boston. In addition to “Cakes of all kind,” he made and sold macaroons, sugar plums, candied fruits, syrups, and cordials.

As part of his marketing efforts, Lorent underscored the quality of his confections. He introduced himself to prospective customers as a “Confectioner and Distiller from London,” hoping readers would associate him with his counterparts in the most cosmopolitan city in the empire. Advertisers from many occupations, especially artisans and doctors, frequently deployed this strategy, implying that their origins testified to skills and expertise gained from training or employment on the other side of the Atlantic. They also prompted consumers to imbue their goods or services with the cachet of having been acquired from a purveyor “from London.” Advertisers like Lorent invoked their origins as a means of asserting status; they suggested that customers could demonstrate and enhance their own status by making purchases from the right providers of goods and services.

Lorent helped consumers reach the intended conclusions about the cakes, candies, and cordials they could acquire from a confectioner “from London.” He trumpeted that he made all of his treats “in as great Perfection as in Europe” and underscored that he had the requisite exposure to make that claim since he previously “worked in England, France, and Italy.” Lorent aimed to impress prospective customers with his experience that ranged beyond England to other countries often associated with taste and fashion. He also attempted to ease their anxieties about residing far from the center of the empire. Residents of Boston did not need to worry that they lived in a provincial backwater, not when they could consumer confections as fine as those enjoyed by the genteel ladies and gentlemen of London.

July 3

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

Jul 3 - 7:3:1769 Boston-Gazette
Boston-Gazette (July 3, 1769).

“AMERICAN GRINDSTONES.”

Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, operated a partisan press that supported the American cause during the imperial crisis. The news and editorials they presented to readers encouraged resistance to abuses perpetrated by Parliament and played a significant role in shaping public opinion in favor of declaring independence. Yet expressions of political sentiments were not confined to the pages of the Boston-Gazette devoted to news and editorials. Some colonists voiced political views, sometimes explicitly but often implicitly, in advertisements for goods and services they offered for sale.

The first two advertisements in the July 3, 1769, edition relied on popular discourse about boycotting goods imported from Britain and encouraging “domestic manufactures” as an alternative. Henry Bass advertised “AMERICAN GRINDSTONES” for sale “at his Store adjoining the Golden-Ball Tavern” and Peter Etter hawked stockings and other garments that he “manufactured … At his Room over the Dancing-School, near the Custom-House.” Later in the issue, Isaac Greenwood continued promoting umbrellas he “Made and Sold” at his shop in the North End.

Bass’s advertisement demonstrated that colonists thought broadly about what qualified as domestic manufactures. His “AMERICAN GRINDSTONES” were “MAnufactured in Nova-Scotia,” a colony that experienced its own demonstrations against the Stamp Act a few years earlier. Many colonists in Massachusetts and Nova Scotia believed they shared a common cause during the years of the imperial crisis, though the northern province did not ultimately join the thirteen colonies that declared independence. In 1769, however, the ties between the two were strong enough for grindstones produced in Nova Scotia to count as “AMERICAN” in Boston. Bass acknowledged that they were slightly more expensive (or “near as cheap”) as grindstones imported from Britain; whenever possible, advertisers who promoted domestic manufactures assured prospective customers that their wares were less expensive than imported goods. Unable to adopt that strategy, Bass instead chose another means of persuading readers to pay a little bit more for grindstones from Nova Scotia. He emphasized quality, proclaiming that the “best Judges” considered his grindstones “vastly superior” to those imported from Britain. The price may have been nominally higher, but the quality justified the investment in encouraging domestic manufactures. Bass’s advertisement, along with those placed by Etter and Greenwood, prompted readers to consider the relationship between politics and their own participation in commerce and consumption.

June 19

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

Jun 19 - 6:19:1769 New-York Gazette Weekly Post-Boy
New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (June 19, 1769).

“Elegant PICTURES, Framed and glazed in AMERICA.”

Late in the spring of 1769, bookseller Garrat Noel placed an advertisement in the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy to promote a “GREAT Variety of the most elegant PICTURES” available at his shop next door to the Merchant’s Coffeehouse. Like many other booksellers, he supplemented his revenues by peddling items other than books, magazines, and pamphlets. Booksellers sometimes included prints in their advertisements, yet Noel placed special emphasis on them when he placed a notice exclusively about them.

As part of his marketing effort, Noel tapped into discourses about politics and implicitly tied his prints to the nonimportation agreement currently in effect in response to the duties enacted by the Townshend Acts. He proclaimed that his prints were “Framed and glazed in AMERICA.” The success of nonimportation depended in part on encouraging “domestic manufactures” or local production of consumer goods. Yet Noel assured prospective customers that purchasing items produced in the colonies did not mean that they had to settle for inferior craftsmanship. He stressed that “in Neatness of Worksmanship” the frames that encased his prints were “equal [to] any imported from England.” Similarly, they had been glazed (the glass fitted into the frame) in the colonies by an artisan who demonstrated as much skill as any counterpart in England, though the glass itself may have been imported. Furthermore, his customers did not have to pay a premium when they considered politics in their decisions about which goods to purchase. Not only were the frames the same quality as those imported, Noel pledged to sell them “at a much lower Price.” The bookseller may have even hoped that the combination of price, quality, and patriotic politics would prompt consumers who had not already been in the market for prints to consider making a purchase as a means of demonstrating their support for domestic production and the nonimportation agreement.

Notably, Noel did not indicate that the prints or glass had not been imported, only that the frames had been produced and the glass fitted in the colonies. Drawing attention to the fact that they had been “FRAMED and glazed in AMERICA” provided a distraction from the origins of the prints and possibly the glass as well. Especially if the glass had been imported since the Townshend Acts went into effect, Noel attempted to tread a difficult path since glass was among the goods indirectly taxed. Still, this strategy allowed him to suggest that he did his part to support “domestic manufacturers” and provide opportunities for colonists to put their principles into practice by choosing to consume items produced, at least in part, in the colonies.

**********

Many thanks to Cortney Skinner for the clarification concerning glazing in the comments. I have updated this entry accordingly.