What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“American manufactured, BROWN and mixed coloured THREAD STOCKINGS.”
Advertisers considered “Buy American” a powerful appeal that would resonate with consumers even before the American Revolution. The number and frequency of newspaper advertisements encouraging readers to “Buy American” increased during the decade of the imperial crisis, especially at times when colonists subscribed to nonimportation agreements as a means of exerting economic leverage to achieve political goals. Goods produced in the colonies offered an attractive alternative to those made elsewhere and imported.
William Hales apparently considered “Buy American” such a compelling appeal that he made it the centerpiece of the brief advertisement he inserted in the June 7, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. In its entirety, his advertisement announced, “American manufactured, BROWN and mixed coloured THREAD STOCKINGS, very good. A few Dozen Pair, to be SOLD, by WILLIAM HALES.” The phrase “American manufactured” served as both headline and the most important descriptor of the stockings, as though Hales expected making such an appeal by itself might be enough to convince prospective customers to make a purchase. For those anxious that domestic manufactures might be inferior in quality to imported goods, he asserted that the stockings were indeed “very good,” but did not provide further elaboration. Bales attempted to keep attention focused primarily on the fact that the stockings were “American manufactured.” The compositor also did Hales a favor by positioning his advertisement at the top of the column, making the “American manufactured” headline all the more visible to readers and perhaps even implicitly suggesting that the advertisement took precedence over any that appeared below it in the same column or elsewhere on the page.
Hales certainly wished to sell the stockings that he advertised, but it is possible that he had additional motivations for inserting his notice in the South-Carolina Gazette. He announced to the entire community his interest in producing goods in the colonies, enhancing his own standing and reputation. His advertisement also served as encouragement for readers to make other purchases of “American manufactured” goods. Readers could not have missed the political implications of his appeal, especially since the same notice concerning violations of the nonimportation agreement that appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal two days earlier also ran in this issue of the South-Carolina Gazette. Perhaps the political statement inherent in announcing “American manufactured” stockings for sale was just as important to Bales as selling those stockings.