April 12

GUEST CURATOR:  Sean Sullivan

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

Apr 12 - 4:12:1768 Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote
“An apprentice is needed for this well and fin occupation. Those interested should inquire of the publisher of this paper.” Wochenlichte Philadelphische Staatsbote (April 12, 1768).

“Es Verlangt Jemand Einen Lehrburschen.”

In contemporary America where all those of European descent are typically simply labeled under the moniker of ‘white,’ we can forget that the diversity of European cultures present during the colonial period was often a defining aspect of people’s lives. Settlers from different places in Europe brought their own traditions, aesthetics, Christian denominations, and, most importantly, languages to the colonies they considered a new world. In Pennsylvania, Germans left an indelible mark on colonial culture. Such was the scope of German immigration to the British colonies that newspapers such as the Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote sprung up to cater to the large German-speaking population.

The advertisement shown above asked for an apprentice, likely one for the paper itself. The very act of putting out such an advertisement indicates that there was a large enough German-speaking population (of youths in particular, as apprentices would themselves be in their teenage years) that an advertisement in this newspaper would be worth the cost and would likely ensure a response. This advertisement also implies that business was good enough between the newspaper and job printing that the printer needed more assistance, a likely case given the sheer magnitude of the number of Germans in Pennsylvania in this period.

For more information, see “German Settlement in Pennsylvania:  An Overview” from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: Carl Robert Keyes

Today Sean introduces the first advertisement from a German-language newspaper featured on the Adverts 250 Project, noting that a substantial population of German migrants to Pennsylvania established their its own newspapers and participated in shaping colonial culture and commerce.  The Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbotewas not the only German-language newspaper that served that community in 1768.  The Germantowner Zeitungalso disseminated news and advertising to colonists who spoke German rather than English.

Yet those titles represent only a fraction of the more than two dozen German-language newspapers published in Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century.  See the list below, compiled from Clarence Brigham’s monumental History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820, for a complete census of known German-language newspapers founded prior to 1800.  Nine were founded prior to the American Revolution, another four during the years of the war, and the remaining thirteen after independence had been achieved. The Harrisburger Morgenröthe Zeitung continued publication well into the nineteenth century, demonstrating that German migrants and their descendants continued to maintain their own language and some aspects of their culture even as they participated in creating a distinctive American identity in the era of the early republic.  This series of newspapers testifies to the presence of German migrants in colonial America.  German settlers in Pennsylvania were among the many ethnic groups other than the English that made a home in England’s North American colonies.

  • Philadelphische Zeitung, 1732
  • [Germantown] Hoch-Deutsch Pensylvanische Geschicht-Schreiber, 1739-1746
  • [Germantown] Pensylvanische Berichte, 1746-1762
  • Philadelphier Teutsche Fama, 1749-1751
  • Lancastersche Zeitung, 1752-1753
  • [Philadelphia] Hoch Teutsche und Englische Zeitung, 1751-1752
  • Germantowner Zeitung, 1762-1777
  • [Philadelphia] Wochentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote, 1762-1779
  • [Germantown] Wahre und Wahrscheinliche, 1766
  • [Philadelphia] Pennsylvanische Staats-Courier, 1777-1778
  • [Lancaster] Pennsylvanische Zeitungs-Blat, 1778
  • Philadelphisches Staatsregister, 1779-1781
  • [Philadelphia] Gemeinnützige Philadelphische Correspondenz, 1781-1790
  • Germantauner Zeitung, 1785-1799
  • [Lancaster] Neue Unpartheyische Lancaster Zeitung, 1787-1797
  • [Reading] Neue Unpartheyische Readinger Zeitung, 1789-1802
  • [Philadelphia] General-Postbothe, 1790
  • [Chestnut Hill] Chesnuthiller Wochenschrift, 1790-1796
  • [Philadelphia] Neue Philadelphische Correspondenz, 1790-1812
  • [Easton] Neuer Unpartheyischer Eastoner Bothe, 1793-1805
  • [York] Unpartheyische York Gazette, 1796-1804
  • [Philadelphia] Pensylvaniche Correspondenz, 1797-1800
  • [Lancaster] Deutsche Porcupein, 1798-1799
  • Lancaster Wochenblatt, 1799
  • [York] Volks-Bericher, 1799-1803
  • Harrisburger Morgenröthe Zeitung, 1799-1820+

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