What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Made it their particular study to encourage their own manufactures.”
Today, collectors consider precious glassware produced in the eighteenth century by Henry William Stiegel at his American Flint Glass Manufactory, but during his own lifetime the German-American glassmaker did not achieve the same renown. Like many other artisans, he published newspaper advertisements in an effort to entice consumers and improve his prospects.
In many of those advertisements, Stiegel attempted to convince prospective customers to support “domestic manufactures” by purchasing goods produced in the colonies, especially glassware he made at his manufactory in Manheim in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, rather than imported alternatives. Artisans and others launched “Buy American” campaigns during the imperial crisis, suggesting to colonizers that they had a civic responsibility to practice politics through the decisions they made in the marketplace. In an advertisement in the March 10, 1773, edition of the Pennsylvania Journal, Stiegel and his broker in Philadelphia, William Smith, made the case that the “friends and well-wishers to America have, on all laudable occasions, shewed a spirit of patriotism worthy of themselves, and made it their particular study to encourage their own manufactures in preference to all others.” Stiegel and Smith reiterated an appeal that Stiegel made in another advertisement in November 1771.
The glassmaker and his broker challenged consumers to take part in “so noble a resolution” to purchase “their own manufactures,” yet that was not the extent of their sales pitch. They also emphasized price, stating that they sold glassware “on as good terms” as imported goods, and quality, asserting that the “ELEGANT ASSORTMENT” of items was “as neat in their kinds” as “any imported from Europe.” Prospective customers did not have to take their word for it. Instead, Stiegel and Smith confidently asserted that if “impartial judges” inspected works from the American Flint Glass Manufactory that they would reach the same conclusion.
Stiegel and Smith presented decisions about consumption as political acts, yet they recognized that politics alone would not motivate some consumers, especially during a lull in tensions between colonizers and Parliament. That being the case, they assured prospective customers that when they purchased glassware produced by Stiegel that they acquired merchandise equal in quality to items imported from Europe and at the same prices. They hoped that the combination of appeals would convince consumers to support “their own manufactories” in the colonies.