What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“All American Manufactures.”
Thomas Shute’s advertisement occupied a privileged place in the May 4, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette. It appeared in the first column of the first page, immediately below the “PRESENTMENTS OF THE GRAND-JURORS.” A separate headline, “New Advertisements,” introduced Shute’s notice. Considering that Shute sold “All American Manufactures,” the placement of this advertisement may have been quite deliberate on the part of Peter Timothy, the printer of the South-Carolina Gazette.
Shute’s commercial activities addressed political concerns that had been widely reported in newspapers and discussed among colonists for several years. When Parliament imposed duties on imported paper, glass, paint, lead, and tea, colonists responded by adopting nonimportation agreements for a vast array of goods as a means of exerting economic pressure to achieve political ends. At the same time, they embraced “domestic manufactures” as alternatives to imported goods, also arguing that producing and purchasing such items provided a variety of benefits. Producing domestic manufactures provided employment for colonists; purchasing those wares addressed a trade imbalance with Britain and kept specie in the colonies rather than sending it across the Atlantic.
Shute offered an assortment of “American Manufactures” to consumers in South Carolina, all of them imported from Philadelphia rather than from London and other ports in England. Pennsylvania had long been a source for many of the agricultural items, such as flour, bread, and ham, but Shute also emphasized goods more often associated with manufacturers on the other side of the Atlantic, including “Sundry Kinds of CAST IRON,” “EARTHEN WARE,” and “HORSE COLLARS.” Shute made a brief appeal to quality, stating that his inventory “may be depended upon as good,” to reassure prospective customers that investing in domestic manufactures did not require them to accept inferior merchandise.
By the time Shute’s advertisement appeared in the South-Carolina Gazette, a partial repeal of the Revenue Act had already been approved by Parliament on March 5 and received royal assent on April 12. Duties on tea remained in place, but not the duties on other imported goods. It took some time for word to arrive in the colonies. Once it did, colonists withdrew from their nonimportation agreements. For the moment, however, Shute deployed a marketing strategy that gained popularity throughout the colonies over the course of several years.