What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Has lately opened an Evening School, for young Masters and Apprentices.
Schoolmaster Ebenezer Bradford emphasized efficiency and convenience in the advertisement he inserted in the New-Hampshire Gazette late in the summer of 1767. He reminded the residents of Portsmouth that he “continues his Day School for young Ladies and Misses,” but he also announced a new service for other students. He had “lately opened” an “Evening School, for young Masters and Apprentices.”
Bradford not only segregated his classroom by sex but also by when his pupils were likely to be available for lessons. Knowing that “young Masters and Apprentices” had responsibilities that kept them occupied throughout the day, he taught alternate evening classes to fit their schedules. Night courses for working professionals offered by modern colleges and universities have precursors extending back to the colonial period. Then, as now, educators sought to attract students and generate revenues by recognizing that not all prospective students could enroll during daytime hours.
In addition to that convenience, Bradford also acknowledged that potential pupils, especially those attending evening classes, wished to complete their course of study as quickly as possible. He did not give any indication on how long it might take for him “to Teach Reading, Writing and Arithmetic,” but he did pledge that every student would receive his “utmost Care” for “quick Instruction.” Again, modern methods for marketing certain educational programs have antecedents in the eighteenth century. Many colleges and universities promote some of their accelerated programs by emphasizing how quickly they can be completed, allowing students to disrupt other aspects of their lives as little as possible.
Bradford provided a practical education that covered the basics, unlike some schoolmasters that advertised a “polite” education, listed a variety of genteel subjects, and elaborately described various amenities in their classrooms. While other schoolmasters marketed an overall experience to prospective pupils and their parents, Bradford instead communicated his understanding that some students were primarily concerned with learning or enhancing basic skills quickly and efficiently. He catered to students who desired few frills but instead wished to resume their regular lives and schedules in as short a time as possible.