April 15

GUEST CURATOR: Shannon Dewar

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

Apr 15 - 4:15:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (April 15, 1767).

“THAT he intends OPENING A SCHOOL.”

Southern Education. James Whitefield’s advertisement announced that he planned to open a school. Regarding the content of the education provided, Whitefield “designs TEACHING LATIN, READING, WRITING, and ARITHMETICK.” I would like to discuss schools in this period, especially in the Lower South.

Note that this advertisement mentions it was a boarding school. Plantations in Georgia and other southern colonies were spaced out so daily travel for school was virtually impossible for some. Boarding schools provided an option for those who lived outside Savannah, Charleston, and other large towns.

It is also important to add that these services of education had to be purchased, as, according to Robert A. Peterson, “government had, for all practical purchases, no hand at all in education,” especially in the southern colonies. Education was something individuals had to acquire for themselves and their children. It came at a price. Free public education was not yet available for all. Children were taught at home, but those with money had other chances for education, including attending – or even being “lodged and boarded” – at a school like the one James Whitefield opened.

**********

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

James Whitefield placed one of two advertisements about “OPENING A SCHOOL” in Savannah the April 15, 1767, issue of the Georgia Gazette. John Francklin inserted the other. Both planned for their lessons to commence the following Monday.

At a glance, the advertisements from these competing schoolmasters might give the impression of extensive educational opportunities in Savannah, yet the services they offered and their methods for promoting them to prospective students and their parents paled in comparison to advertisements for day and boarding schools in larger port cities, especially Philadelphia, New York, and Charleston.

Whitefield and Francklin each taught the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Whitefield angled for a more elite clientele, listing Latin first among the subjects he taught, but he did not supplement that subject with other languages or additional subjects that many of his counterparts in larger cities promoted. Studying Latin was usually reserved for the better sorts, so some students (or their parents) may have chosen Whitefield’s school over Francklin’s for the perceived prestige of the slightly more extensive curriculum, even if they did not take Latin lessons after enrolling. Whitefield indicated that he had the capacity to take on boarders, “A few Masters or Misses,” but it was unlikely that female students would have been exposed to studying Latin.

Neither schoolmaster described their curriculum beyond listing the subjects they taught. Neither explained the care they took in the moral development of their charges. Neither described the amenities associated with the homes where they taught. Both limited their advertisements to seven lines, making them brief announcements compared to the marketing undertaken by schoolmasters in the major urban ports in the 1760s and 1770s.

Whitefield and Francklin offered valuable services to the residents of Savannah, but their efforts to provide educational opportunities appear embryonic compared to those available in larger cities. Part of this was most certainly a function of Georgia being such a young colony, founded only thirty-five years earlier. Even when colonists had more choices, they had to purchase them, as Shannon points out, which did not necessarily make education more accessible to most colonists even if they lived in close proximity to multiple schoolmasters and schoolmistresses who offered the most extensive lessons, moral guidance, and amenities. In the late colonial era, just as today, Americans had uneven access to educational opportunities, determined in part by both geography and status.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s