March 24

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

South-Carolina Gazette (March 21, 1771).

“Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”

In an advertisement that appeared in the March 21, 1771, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, Thomas You described himself as a “WORKING SILVERSMITH” who ran a workshop “AT THE SIGN OF THE GOLDEN CUP” on Queen Street in Charleston.  That he was a working silversmith, as opposed to a purveyor of imported wares, was important to both You’s identity as an artisan and his marketing efforts.  He declared that he “carried on the GOLD and SILVERSMITH’s Business in their different Branches,” making claims about his expertise in his craft.  He also confided that “his Dependance is entirely in the working Part.”  In other words, he earned his livelihood through making what he sold, a shift in his marketing compared to his earlier advertisements that incorporated goods imported from England.

For readers of the South-Carolina Gazette, that proclamation resonated with the politics of the period.  Gary Albert traces You’s advertising over several years, noting that before the Stamp Act crisis, the silversmith “advertised six times that he sold goods ‘just imported from London,’” but “You did not advertise recently imported British goods from the enactment of the Stamp Act in the fall of 1765 through the repeal of the Townshend Acts in 1770.”  Albert underscores that You embedded politics in his advertisements in the late 1760s and early 1770s:  “On six occasions during the term of the Townshend Acts You made a point to tell his customers that his shop was manufacturing silversmith products, not retailing imported goods.”

In so doing, You challenged consumers to practice politics when making choices in the marketplace.  He stated that he “hopes he may meet with Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”  He argued that he did his part for the American cause as a “WORKING SILVERSMITH,” but his efforts as a producer required recognition by consumers and commitment on their part in selecting domestic manufactures as alternatives to imported goods.  In making that proposition, he echoed appeals made in newspaper advertisements throughout the colonies as artisans, shopkeepers, and others encouraged consumers to “Buy American” several years before the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord.

December 9

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

South-Carolina Gazette (December 6, 1770).

“Hopes he may meet with Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”

For several years in the 1760s and 1770s, silversmith Thomas You operated a workshop at the Sign of the Golden Cup in Charleston.  According to his newspaper advertisements, that does not seem to have been a fixed location.  Instead, the sign moved with You, serving as both marker and brand for his business.  For a time in the mid 1760s, the Sign of the Golden Cup had adorned his workshop on Meeting Street, but in 1770 it marked his location on Queen Street.  You also updated the iconography in his advertisements.  He was one of the few advertisers in Charleston who enhanced his notices with images related directly to his business.  He previously included a woodcut that depicted a smith at work at an anvil.  That image gave way to a cup that corresponded to the sign that identified his shop.  Consumers now saw similar images in the public prints and on the city streets when they encountered You’s business.  You’s advertisement on the front page of the December 6, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette was the only one in the entire issue that incorporated an image other than a house, a ship, or an enslaved person.  Those stock images belonged to the printer rather than the advertiser.

The silversmith deployed this unique image to attract attention to an important message.  He called on “those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province” to employ him and purchase his wares.  In so doing, he joined the chorus of advertisers and others throughout the colonies who advocated for the production and consumption of “domestic manufactures” as alternatives to goods imported from Britain.  Such measures boosted local economies and addressed a trade imbalance, but they also served a political purpose at a time when Parliament sought to regulate commerce and charge duties on imported goods.  Most of duties from the Townshend Acts had been repealed earlier in the year, but the one on tea still remained in place.  Even though most towns suspended their nonimportation agreements in the wake of that news, colonists continued to debate whether they should have done so since Parliament did not capitulate to all of their demands.  A notice at the top of the same page that carried You’s advertisement advised that “The GENERAL COMMITTEE desire a FULL MEETING of the SUBSCRIBERS to the RESOLUTIONS of this Province, at the LIBERTY-TREE” to discuss “IMPORTANT MATTERS.”   You did not need to go into greater detail when he expressed his “hopes he may meet with Encouragement from those who are Well-wishers to the MANUFACTURES of THIS Province.”  Such appeals were part of a discourse widely circulating and broadly understood among prospective customers.

July 7

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

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

“If any such Piece should break, he will mend the same Gratis.”

For many eighteenth-century artisans, making a living depended in part on establishing a creditable reputation, both for fair dealing and for skilled craftsmanship. Thomas You, a goldsmith in Charleston, devoted most of his advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal to cultivating and maintaining his reputation, hoping to gain new clients as well as repeat business from previous patrons.

He reminded those who had employed him in the past of their “general Satisfaction” with his work, but he also suggested that this merited passing along “their kind Recommendation to others.” You did not believe that he could rely on word of mouth alone to promote his services to new clients; he apparently supposed that newspaper advertising could provoke word-of-mouth endorsements that would supplement notices in the public prints.

You also pursued another means of cultivating his reputation: he was so confident in the quality of his work that he offered a guarantee. “Any Piece of Plate worked up in his Shop,” the goldsmith pledged, “he will warrant as good as Sterling; and if any such Piece should break, he will mend the same Gratis.” In making this promise to fix defective work for free, You offered a blanket guarantee that covered not only the work done by his own hand but also any tasks undertaken by others who labored in his shop, whether journeymen, apprentices, or enslaved artisans.

You incorporated other appeals into his advertisement, including low prices and punctual service on orders sent by mail, but he saved those for after his endeavors to secure his reputation. He revealed what he thought was most important to his customers. Low prices or quick responses hardly mattered if they accompanied inferior work. The goldsmith first needed to establish the quality of his work, reflected in both his existing reputation and a guarantee on future jobs, in order to convince potential customers of the value of the other appeals he advanced.

December 16

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

dec-16-12161766-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 16, 1766).

“Sucking Nipples, which has been the Means of raising many an Infant.”

Thomas You, a “WORKING GOLD-SMITH, SILVER-SMITH, JEWELLER and ENGRAVER,” made and sold a variety of items that men in his occupation commonly listed in their newspaper advertisements, including shoe buckles, punch bowls, coffeepots, teapots, and silverware. He also offered a device rarely mentioned by other smiths: “sucking Nipples, which has been the Means of raising many an infant.” You did not offer explanations or justifications of any of his other merchandise, which suggests that he felt the “sucking Nipples” merited additional promotion. After all, most colonists considered breastfeeding the best and most effective means of nourishing infants.

Indeed, You’s advertisement for “sucking Nipples” put him in competition with women who offered their services as wet nurses. Very few employment advertisements concerning women appeared in eighteenth-century newspapers, either by women seeking jobs or by employers interested in hiring women. When employment advertisements involving women were inserted in newspapers, they most often fell in two categories: domestic servants and wet nurses. One such advertisement appeared on the previous page of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal: “A Woman, with a good young Breast of Milk, who has lately lost her Child, would be willing to take one to suckle. Her character will bear the strictest examination. Apply to the Printer.”

You’s “sucking Nipples” provided conveniences that hiring a wet nurse did not, especially eliminating exposing infants to women from outside the household. That the woman who advertised her services as a wet nurse found it necessary to state that “Her character will bear the strictest examination” demonstrates that she understood the concern potential employers might have when it came to putting their infants in such close contact with strangers. In England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Fred Weinberg notes, “[m]any people believed that a wet nurse might transmit ‘her evil passions and vicious inclinations’ to the infant through her milk.”[1] Even if such fears had faded in the English colonies by the 1760s, “sucking Nipples” still had several advantages over wet nurses. They were likely less expensive, available upon immediate demand once purchased, and did not introduce an outsider into the household.

By underscoring that “sucking Nipples” had been “the Means of raising many an Infant” You simultaneously sought to expand the market for a product he sold while competing with one of the few occupations for women that regularly appeared in newspaper advertisements.

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[1] Fred Weinberg, “Infant Feeding through the Ages,” Canadian Family Physician 39 (September 1993): 2016.