March 4

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (March 4, 1773).

“AN ESSAY Concerning the true original Extent and End of CIVIL GOVERNMENT.”

In 1773, Benjamin Edes and John Gill, printers of the Boston-Gazette, published an American edition of John Locke’s Essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government, the second of the political philosopher’s Two Treatises of Government.  The printers promoted the book in their own newspaper and in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.

Edes and Gill exercised their prerogative as printers to give their advertisement a privileged place in the Boston-Gazette.  It appeared as the first item in the first column on the first page of the March 1 edition, immediately below the masthead.  The lengthy advertisement filled the entire column and overflowed into the next.  Even as Edes and Gill proclaimed that studying Locke’s treatise “will give to every Intelligent Reader a better View of the Rights of Men and of Englishmen” they published an advertisement offering an enslaved woman for sale in the lower right corner of the same page.  In addition to generating revenue from that advertisement, they served as brokers.  The anonymous advertiser instructed interested parties to “Inquire of Edes & Gill.”  Their advertisement in the March 4 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter did not benefit from so prime a placement, running in the center column on the fourth page.  Consisting of the same copy that ran in the Boston-Gazette, it extended nearly an entire column.

In their efforts to convince colonizers to purchase the book, Edes and Gill asserted, “IT is well known among the Learned, that Mr. Locke’s two Treatise’ on Government, of which this is the Principal and by far the most Valuable, contributed more essentially to the establishing the Throne of our Great Deliverer King William, and consequently to the securing the Protestant Succession, than the Battle of the Boyne, or indeed all the Victories since obtained.”  They acknowledged that Locke’s “first Discourse has also been of great Use, as it is a most thorough Refutation of the Errors of Sir Robert Filmer,” known for defending the divine right of kings.  In a postscript, the printers explained why they opted not to publish both treatises.  Even though both had been “lately published together in England, and universally read and admired by all Lovers of Liberty there,” Edes and Gill did not consider the first treatise as essential for colonizers, in part because “few of [Filmer’s disciples] are yet to be found in this Country.”  That decision also made the book less expensive and more accessible to consumers since the second treatise was not “incumbered with the prolix Confutation of Filmer.”

Edes and Gill argued that all colonizers had a duty to read Locke’s work and discuss it with others.  They declared, “It should be early and carefully explained by every Father to his Son, by every Preceptor to his Pupils, and by every Mother to her Daughter.”  Just as many colonizers encouraged women to participate in politics through the decisions they made as consumers, the printers envisioned a role for women in educating their children about civic virtue.  In so doing, they drew upon the example of “Roman Ladies, especially those of the first Rank and Fashion” who “not only taught their Daughters, but their Sones, the first Rudiments of Learning.”  They achieved significant results; those “noble Matrons by their Sense and Virtue, contributed in this and a Thousand other Instances, no less toward the building up their glorious Republic than the Wisdom and Valour of the greatest Captain’s.”  Edes and Gill anticipated the notion of republican motherhood that citizens, male and female, embraced during the era of the early republic that followed the American Revolution.

Why did Edes and Gill publish and promote Locke’s Essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government?  Historians disagree about the motivations of printers, publishers, and booksellers who produced and sold political treatises during the imperial crisis.  Did they align with the ideology in the books and pamphlets they published and sold, hoping to convert other colonizers to share their perspective?  Or did they merely seek to generate revenues?  Such motivations are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  By the time they published an American edition of Locke’s Essay, Edes and Gill already established their reputation as patriot printers.  They very likely considered printing, promoting, and selling this treatise a political act … but that did not mean they did not also seek to make money.  For Richard Draper, the printer of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, running an advertisement for Locke’s Essay may have been more about generating revenues, especially considering that he tended to support British officials.  Edes and Gill may have chosen to advertise in his newspaper as a means of reaching readers less likely to peruse newspapers published by patriot printers, exposing them to some of Locke’s reasoning in the lengthy advertisement even if they opted not to purchase or read the Essay.

February 1

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

New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury (February 1, 1773).

He most humbly addresses the Fair Sex, requesting their aid.”

John Keating regularly offered “READY MONEY … for CLEAN LINEN RAGS” in the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury in the late 1760s and early 1770s.  The papermaker needed as many rags as he could gather to supply his mill with raw materials.  To convince readers to make an effort to collect and submit rags, he developed appeals that emphasized both commerce and devotion to the best interests of the colonies.

In an advertisement that ran on February 1, 1773, for instance, Keating stated that the “advantages that must result to this colony from the establishment of manufactories in it, are so obvious that the subject needs no elucidation.”  Then he elucidated.  “Since paper manufactories were established in Pennsylvania, the money saved and brought into that province, the money saved and brought into the province” amounted to “the many thousand pounds of which is annually drained of[f] by purchasing paper in England.”  Supporting domestic manufactures, goods produced in the colonies, helped to address the trade imbalance with Great Britain.  Keating challenged readers to think about what more they accomplish by working together.  “Might not every shilling of this money be saved?  Have we not materials amongst ourselves?  Is our patriotism all pretence …?

New Yorkers did indeed already have the materials necessary for making paper, clean linen rags.  Keating suggested that women played a vital role in sustaining the patriotic project that he pursued, declaring that he “most humbly addressed the Fair Sex, requesting their aid, without which it will be impossible for him to establish this manufactory upon a respectable or prudent footing.”  He requested that every “frugal matron … hang up a bag … and take care to put every piece of linen that is unfit for any other use, in it.”  When the bag was full, the frugal matron would sell the contents to Keating in an eighteenth-century version of recycling to support a good cause.  The papermaker indicated that in return for the clean linen rags the frugal matron would receive enough money to “supply herself and family with the very essential article of pins.”  Just as significantly, “she will have the satisfaction of being conscious of contributing her part to the advancement of her country.”  Women’s industry served a dual purpose when it manifested patriotism.

The project did not depend solely on those frugal matrons.  Keating also asked “young ladies to co-operate … in saving rags,” though he presented a more romantic rationale to them.  The papermaker asked young women to “observe a very curious remark made by the celebrated Mr. Addison in the Spectator, ‘That a young lady who sends her shift to the paper mill, may very possibly in less than six months, have it returned made into a piece of fair paper, upon which her lover has written a billet doux.’”  Although Keating (and Addision) asked young women to imagine love letters, their shifts and other linen garments may just as likely been transformed into newspapers that kept their households informed about the imperial crisis that faced New York and other colonies.

Women, both “frugal matrons” and “young ladies,” participated in politics and expressed their patriotism when they heeded the call of papermakers who encouraged them to collect clean linen rags.  Similarly, their actions and decisions made an impact when they produced homespun textiles and garments and participated in nonconsumption agreements.  During the era of the American Revolution, both men and women understood that the personal was political.  That included gathering clean linen rags in “a bag in some convenient part of the house.”

March 30

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

Supplement to the Pennsylvania Packet (March 30, 1772).

“Prevail upon our LADIES to grant us a little of their industry and assistance.”

Women played a vital role in supporting the early American press.  So claimed John Dunlap, printer of the Pennsylvania Packet, in a notice calling on colonizers to exchange “CLEAN LINEN RAGS” for “READY MONEY” at his printing office on Market Street in Philadelphia.  What was the connection between rags and newspapers?  Printers produced their publications on paper made from linen.  The papermakers who supplied them needed “CLEAN LINEN RAGS” to transform into paper for printing items of “Instruction and Amusement” for the public.

Dunlap commenced his notice by addressing “the Public in general, and his Fellow-citizens in particular,” suggesting that colonizers had a civic responsibility to support the press by participating in the production of paper through collecting rags.  He claimed that until recently papermakers in Pennsylvania not only produced enough “Printing-Paper” to serve that colony “but likewise had the glory and emolument of furnishing some of the other Colonies, and West India Islands” with a significant amount of their “Printing-Paper.”  Recently, however, the “Paper-Mills about this city are almost idle for want of RAGS,” thus putting printing offices in danger of a similar fate.

He then pivoted to addressing the “LADIES,” the “FAIR READERS” of the Pennsylvania Packet, imploring them “to grant us a little of their industry and assistance” by collecting rags to recycle into paper.  Dunlap reminded that that paper “was a main article in the late unconstitutional Taxes, which have been so nobly parried by the AMERICANS.”  Readers, both women and men, needed little reminder that Parliament imposed duties on imported paper and other goods in the Townshend Acts.  In response, American merchants and shopkeepers coordinated nonimportation agreements, leveraging commerce into acts of protests.  At the same time, colonizers promoted “domestic manufactures,” including paper, to replace imported goods they refused to consume.  Such protests played a role in convincing Parliament to repeal most of the import duties.

Yet readers of the Pennsylvania Packet still had a responsibility in maintaining the press.  “FAIR READERS” acted as “Fellow-citizens” when they gave their “kind attention” to Dunlap’s “complaint” about the scarcity of rags.  Women could attend to “the welfare of their country,” Dunlap asserted, by heeding his request.  Just as decisions about consumption became political acts for women during the imperial crisis that led to the American Revolution so too did mundane chores like collecting rags.  Women’s work in that regard became imperative to the continued operation of American presses in the era of the American Revolution.