September 22

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

Sep 22 - 9:22:1768 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (September 22, 1768).

“All the branches of the American stocking manufacture.”

On the first day of fall in 1768 Thomas Bond, Jr., took to the pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette to promote the “STOCKING MANUFACTORY” he operated “at his house in Second-street.” He informed prospective customers that he “carries on all the branches of the American stocking manufacture.” In that regard, his advertisement differed from most others for consumer goods that appeared in the September 22 issue. Many advertisers sought to entice readers to purchase their imported wares, including several whose notices appeared in the same column. Williams and Elridge, for instance, advertised that they stocked “A NEAT and general Assortment of DRY GOODS” imported from London. Jonathan Browne, William and Andrew Caldwell, Maise and Miller, and Randle Mitchell similarly noted that they received their extensive inventories via ships from London and other English ports. Most of those advertisements occupied only half as much space as Bond’s notice.

To compete with merchants and shopkeepers who stocked so many imported goods, Bond purchased additional space in the advertising pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette to convince prospective customers that he offered a selection of stockings and caps that rivaled what they would find in other shops. Bond had “now on hand, a quantity of excellent worsted, cotton, thread, milled yarn, and milled worsted stockings, of various colours and sizes.” In their advertisements, retailers often underscored that they offered a vast array of merchandise to their customers. Appeals to consumer choice became one of the most popular marketing strategies in eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements. Bond applied that strategy to his own “domestic manufactures” as he attempted to carve out his own spot in the local market. Although he did not carry the same “LARGE assortment of Goods” as other retailers, he did offer ample choices among the items that were his specialty. In advancing this claim, he encouraged colonists to conceive of the products of “the American stocking manufacture” as just as appealing as those that came from distant ports in England. He did not belabor the point, perhaps believing that current discourse in newspapers and in the streets already primed prospective customers to think about the advantages of purchasing goods produced in the colonies.

July 28

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

Jul 28 - 7:28:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (July 28, 1767).

“GERMAN-TOWN manufactured fine THREAD STOCKINGS.”

American colonists participated in networks of trade that crisscrossed the Atlantic. Many of the advertisements in eighteenth-century newspapers promoted goods imported from England and other faraway places, but others resulted from a vibrant coastal trade that connected Britain’s North American colonies. As part of that coastal trade, merchants shipped agricultural surpluses, especially wheat, from the Middle Atlantic to the Southern colonies. Readers of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and other newspapers published in Charleston regularly encountered advertisements for flour and other goods transported from Philadelphia. For instance, in the July 28 edition Godfrey and Gadsden advertised ‘PHILADELPHIA FLOUR, and BAR IRON.” Similarly, Greenland and Jordan announced that hey had “just imported … from PHILADELPHIA” several commodities, including flour, milk, beer, and bar iron.

William Williamson’s advertisement differed from others that marketed goods that originated in Philadelphia and its hinterland. Rather than selling agricultural goods and raw materials produced in the region, Williamson “IMPORTED … fine THREAD STOCKINGS” made in Germantown. Although several competitors advertised clothing, textiles, and adornments imported from London, colonists were in the process of developing their own industries as alternatives, especially in the wake of the Stamp Act and other attempts at taxation and regulation emanating from Parliament. Still, consumers were accustomed to goods imported from Europe; domestically produced stockings and other items were less familiar. Merchants and shopkeepers worked to convince skeptical customers that such products would not disappoint. Williamson testified to the quality of his stockings, underscoring their “durableness” for potential customers who might have been inclined to place more trust in imported wares.

Williamson did not make an explicit “Buy American” appeal in this advertisement, though that sort of marketing strategy had emerged during the Stamp Act crisis two years earlier and became more common as the relationship between Britain and the colonies deteriorated. Instead, he offered consumers an alternative to imported goods without engaging in overt political rhetoric. In that regard, his advertisement educated colonists about the possibilities of American manufactures, paving the way for a turn to homespun during subsequent nonimportation agreements. The availability of durable “GERMAN-TOWN manufactured fine THREAD STOCKINGS” helped colonists imagine the possible alternatives to relying on imports from Britain. They could depend on each other not only for agricultural surpluses and raw materials but also for finished products.

May 17

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

May 17 - 5:17:1766 Pennsylvania Journal
Pennsylvania Journal (May 17, 1766).

Hosier Daniel Mause made assertive claims about the value of purchasing stockings produced domestically. Note from the date of the advertisement (May 8) that Mause and other colonists certainly knew that the Stamp Act had been repealed; this advertisement was not a holdover reprinted from weeks or months earlier. That Mause considered it necessary or persuasive to insert an advertisement that so stridently promoted “the produce and manufacture of AMERICA only” suggests that even though the Stamp Act crisis was over the rift between the colonies and Britain had not closed completely. Mause eyed the parent country with suspicion and knew that others did as well.

It might be tempting to argue that Mause was merely being opportunistic and making whatever appeal was necessary in an attempt to increase business. Such an explanation by itself, however, remains unconvincing. Even if Mause did not firmly embrace the political ideas he pronounced in this advertisement, he certainly expected that they would resonate with readers. Mause’s politics and desire to make a living and earn a profit were not necessarily mutually exclusive. In addition, this advertisement depicts the anxieties other colonists felt and the solutions they embraced.

To help concerned consumers know where they could purchase his “PENNSYLVANIA MADE STOCKINGS” Mause informed them that they were available at “the sign of the Hand in Hand stocking manufactory” as well the store operated by “THOMAS BOND, jun. & Company.” In effect, he designated an approved vendor of his merchandise.

February 14

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Feb 14 - 2:14:1766 New-Hampshire gazette
New- Hampshire Gazette (February 14, 1766).

“A Fellow had the Impudence to Steal five Pair of worsted Stockings.”

I could not imagine having my stockings and handkerchiefs stolen from within my own home or shop. Clearly this person from New Hampshire could not either until it happened to him, and he was upset enough to place a whole two dollar reward for information on thief. That would have been a lot of money for five pairs of stockings and two red and white handkerchiefs. This makes me wonder if it was more about revenge on the thief.

This advertisement was placed in Portsmouth, which was one of the biggest cities in New Hampshire, and had different types of people living in the area: robbers and other questionable characters, shopkeepers, merchants, and the genteel class. Edmund Coffin went on to say that “every inhabitant” should watch out and report such behavior or it could happen to them.

This advertisement really grabbed my attention. It was a little different from some of the other advertisements that I had seen, because it was not a service or goods begin sold or bought. Especially in today’s society socks and handkerchiefs are so easily attainable that I would never even think twice if two of my socks disappeared.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:  Carl Robert Keyes

The Adverts 250 Project focuses primarily on marketing consumer goods and services in eighteenth-century America, but then (as now) not all advertisements were placed for that purpose. The guest curators from my Public History class and I have reached an agreement: each may select one advertisement not intended to sell goods or services during his or her week.

Elizabeth is beginning her week as guest curator with her “exception(al)” advertisement, but it is an extremely good choice because it tells us a lot about consumption in eighteenth-century America. Purchasing goods was not the only way to participate in the consumer revolution taking place in the colonies and Britain. Sometimes people came into possession of goods in more nefarious ways via an underground economy that included stolen items. Serena Zabin devotes an entire chapter to this “Informal Economy” in Dangerous Economies: Status and Commerce in Imperial New York. In addition to stolen items, secondhand goods were often exchanged via the informal economy. As Elizabeth notes, people of various backgrounds – from the lower sorts to the elite – resided in colonial cities and towns. Not all of them purchased new goods, but a great many found alternate ways to participate in the marketplace. This advertisement demonstrates one way they did so, much to the chagrin of poor Edmund Coffin who was the victim of an eighteenth-century shoplifter.