February 20

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Feb 20 - 2:20:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (February 20, 1766).

“INTENDS to open a School in the Country.”

Joseph Garner, “Master of the Church School,” and John Todd, “Master of the Friends Public School, in Philadelphia,” were looking for a fellow teacher to go into the Pennsylvania countryside to teach at a new school.   Many people think of teaching as a women’s profession but in 1766 it could be considered a man’s profession because they were the ones who had schooling in some subjects.

Garner and Todd go on to list different skills they would like this gentleman teacher to have, such as the ability to teach Navigation, “Mensuration of Superficies and Solids,” Surveying, and “Extraction of the Square and Cube Roots.” These arithmetic skills would have been applicable to the banker, the merchant, and the insurance officer.

The final application requirement was that the applier have an “Unexceptional Recommendation, respecting Morals.”

The key reason I chose this advertisement was because I am studying to become an elementary educator with a concentration in history. I believe that being an educator to the next generation of leaders, CEOs, union workers, pro athletes, service employees, and mothers and fathers is the biggest honor that can be bestowed upon me. I think all teachers believe this at their core, although there are many other benefits. Taking Professor Keyes’s Public History class has shown me all the ways history can be brought inside and beyond a classroom, and, as a future educator, it will be my job to show children that history is not just in their textbooks but all around them.



As with yesterday’s featured advertisement, Elizabeth has chosen a notice that does not explicitly mention women yet allows us to explore how gender shaped women’s (and men’s) experiences in the late colonial period.

By and large, men and women received different kinds and levels of education in eighteenth-century America. In addition, schoolmasters operated “Latin” schools modeled on classical curricula in European schools for a small number of pupils, usually male, and “English” schools that provided instruction in basic reading, writing, and arithmetic for a greater number of students, both male and female. Men served as instructors at Latin schools, but both schoolmasters and schoolmistresses operated English schools.

This advertisement makes it clear that Garner and Todd envisioned a school for boys and young men who would eventually go on to careers as merchants or bankers or secure jobs in customs houses and insurance offices. It is possible that the school would have admitted girls and young women for instruction in basic skills. It is also possible that they would have pursued some of those lessons in mixed-sex classrooms (though other advertisements from the period make it clear that in such cases students would be closely monitored to make sure everyone behaved appropriately, as concerns about “Unexceptionable Recommendations, respecting Morals” make clear). When it came time for the more advanced and supposedly masculine subjects, male students would have met separately in sex-segregated classrooms with male instructors.

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