The story of American production is deeply woven into the fabric of the nation’s history. United States production reflects both the challenges faced during the struggle for independence and the evolution of the country’s trade policies over time.
From the early movements of homespun clothing during the American Revolution to the current complexities of distinguishing between various categories of American-made products, the narrative of domestic production is as diverse as the nation itself.
Different Eras of USA-Made Goods Productions
The concept of domestic production in the United States spans a spectrum of designations, each carrying its own implications for the origin and construction of products. From goods entirely manufactured within the nation’s borders to those assembled or decorated domestically, understanding these distinctions is vital to discerning the true essence of American-made products.
Early Rompers – the Homespun Movement in the American Revolution
In 1699, the Parliament of England passed the Wool Act, barring their colonies from exporting wool and wool apparel. These restrictions on the New World continued with the Townshend Acts of 1767, which levied taxes on imported cloth and other goods.
The nonviolent Quakers responded with the ‘homespun movement’, which discouraged the purchase of apparel and other goods imported from Britain, favoring those manufactured in the American Colonies. A Quaker poet from Pennsylvania, Hannah Griffitts, wrote “The Female Patriots” as a protest in 1768. An excerpt:
“Let the Daughters of Liberty, nobly arise,
And tho’ we’ve no Voice, but a negative here.
The use of the Taxables, let us forebear,
(Then Merchants import till yr. Stores are all full
May the Buyers be few & yr. Traffic be dull.)”
Wearing homespun clothing was one of the earliest ways the Colonists demonstrated their patriotism (or lack thereof, depending on your perspective).
The Great Depression and the Buy American Act
After four years of the Great Depression, and on President Hoover’s last day in office, he signed the Buy American Act, which required the U.S. federal government to purchase American-made in many situations (over $10K, goods for public use).
It was the first of the major domestic content restriction laws. If the domestic product cost is 25% more than the import, then the federal government is cleared to import as needed. The law is still in effect, sort of.
I’m OK, You’re OK – the Expansion of Government Procurement Sources
In 2014, foreign suppliers began to be treated no less favorably than domestic suppliers due to the World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement. There are varying thresholds, but there are currently 21 parties to the agreement, including the entire European Union.
Some of the newest additions to the agreement include Australia, New Zealand, and Ukraine. Some of the countries that are not a party to the agreement yet, but are hoping to join, are Brazil, China, and Russia.
Made vs Assembled vs Decorated
In the promotional products industry, there are 3 designations we see claiming to be USA-made products: Made in the USA, Assembled in the USA, and Decorated in the USA.
- Made in USA – All or virtually all domestically produced, manufactured, and assembled in the USA.
- Assembled in USA – Includes foreign components, but its principal, substantial assembly is in the USA. The final transformation of the materials should also take place in the USA.
- Decorated in the USA – Many promotional products are imported from outside of the country and then decorated here in the USA.
Our Values Cost How Much?
Next, we’ll compare a few promo items and see how our USA-made products stack up against their imported counterparts. A 2020 Survey by the Reshoring Institute indicated that most Americans prefer Made in USA and would pay 20% more for them.
They cite a preference for safety and environmental regulations along with worker protections. Many also prefer to assist their country’s economy by buying American Made.
- Titleist Pro V1 Golf Balls – Made in the USA
- Full Color – 7/8” Imprint
- Setup $50
- 3 days production
- Made in New Bedford, MA
- Callaway Supersoft Golf Balls – Imported
- Full Color – 1” Imprint
- Setup $1
- 11 days production
- Made in Mexico
While the Titleist ProV1 is the #1 ball in golf, would you pay 82% more for it?
- 7” x 10” Notebook – Made in America
- Classic Cover Series with 100 lined sheets
- Foil Stamped
- $8.93 net
- 8 days production
- $65 Setup
- Made in Charlotte, NC
- 7” x 10” Notebook – Imported
- PU Leather A5 Loose-Leaf Notebook
- Item BAAM150
- Polyurethane “leather” with 100 sheets
- Foil Stamped
- $8.67 net
- $83 Setup
- 13 days production
- Made in China
These are very close in price. Domestic suppliers are very competitive on paper and notebooks!
- 32 Oz. Water Bottle – Made in the USA
- 32 Oz. Wide Mouth Nalgene Sustain Bottle
- Item 701
- Screen Printed Front and Back
- 3.75” x 5.5” Imprint
- $12.92 per bottle
- $50 Setup
- 11 days production
- Made in Rochester, NY
- 32 Oz. Water Bottle – Imported
- 32 Oz. Robust Tritan Bottle
- Item 4269
- Screen Printed
- 3” x 4.5” imprint
- $6.09 per bottle
- $55 Setup
- 5 days production
- Made in China, Decorated in Mexico
I love the Nalgene bottles, and relied on them for a seven-week backpacking adventure, but is it worth paying more than double? Only you can decide!
Let us Help You Live Your Values
Here at Identity Yourself, we have access to over 1 MILLION different promotional products from sources both domestic and international. If American Made is a value of your organization, we can help you source that.
Similarly, if you’re looking for Eco-Friendly, Recyclable, or Union-Made, don’t go crazy Googling, let our experts make the process easy to represent you with products that align with your values!