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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Brainiac

Boycott British snuff!

And other recent highlights from the Ideas blog

Consumer boycotts are a common form of protest these days, and were a powerful way to make a political point in Colonial America, too. The Houghton Library at Harvard recently rediscovered eight “subscription sheets,” protest petitions drawn up at a meeting in Faneuil Hall on Oct. 28, 1767, in response to new taxes on a range of goods imported to the Colonies. Those boycotting British-made goods include some distinguished names —Paul Revere most prominently—but the chief delight of the rediscovered documents is the list of boycotted products itself. They range from small consumer products like “Snuff,” “Mustard,” “Loaf Sugar,” “Muffs Furrs and Tippets,” and “Anchors,” to bigger ticket items like “Fire Engines.” Perhaps recognizing that these types of protests can founder when people hit moments of great emotional need, the list closed with a pledge to hold fast to principles, even when burying loved ones: “we further agree strictly to adhere to the late Regulation respecting Funerals, and will not use any Gloves but what are Manufactured here, nor procure any new Garments upon such an Occasion, but what is absolutely necessary.”

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