What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He purposes to pack it in Country made Pots.”
Richard Thompson, “the Manufacturer of TOBACCO and SNUFF at Blackensburg,” placed an advertisement for his ware in the April 12, 1770, edition of the Maryland Gazette. He invited “Gentleman Merchants,” factors, and others to submit orders for wholesale purchases quickly or else risk missing out since “it is highly probable he may enter into such Engagements, as will effectually hinder his supplying them with the Quantities that may want.” He also listed his various products for the benefit of both wholesale and retail customers: “plain Scotch, Rapee, Spanish, and high Toast Snuff, and many Sorts of those different Kinds.”
Thompson also devoted a portion of his advertisement to the packaging for his snuff, noting that out of necessity it might deviate from what consumers expected. He anticipated that his “present Stock” of snuff bottles would run out, forcing him to “pack [his snuff] in Country made Pots.” Although that was not the usual or preferred form of packaging, Thompson argued that it should not dissuade customers from acquiring his snuff. He invoked current events to make his case to principled prospective customers. “In these Tomes of Oppression, when Patriotism is the Theme of every Lover of his County,” he declared, “it is hoped that the Want of Bottles will be no Obstacle in the Sale of his Snuff.” Thompson suggested that consumers should accept or even welcome a minor inconvenience if it meant purchasing goods produced in the colonies rather than imported from Britain.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the king gave royal assent to repealing duties on imported glass, paper, paint, and lead on the same day that Thompson’s advertisement first appeared in the Maryland Gazette, but colonists would not learn that news for many weeks. For the moment, nonimportation agreements adopted in protest of the duties imposed in the Townshend Acts remained in effect, a powerful symbol for both merchants and consumers. Like others who advertised domestic manufactures as alternatives to imported goods, Thompson offered yet another avenue for practicing politics in the marketplace by purchasing his snuff packed “in Country made Pots.”