What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Attention will be paid to their Learning and Morals.”
James Manning took to the pages of the Providence Gazette to promote his “Latin School” in the summer of 1772. He pursued that venture, he claimed, upon the request of “several Gentlemen … to take and educate their Sons.” His advertisement served as a mechanism to inform those gentlemen “and others disposed to put their Children under my Care” that he offered lessons “in the College Edifice,” the building constructed for Rhode Island College (now Brown University) two years earlier.
Presumably the “several Gentlemen” who encouraged Manning to establish a Latin school already had some familiarity with his qualifications and methods. For others, he offered assurances that he was “a Master duly qualified” and familiar with “the most effectual Methods to obtain a competent Knowledge of Grammar.” He supplemented the Latin curriculum with “spelling, reading, and speaking English with Propriety,” attending to the comportment of his pupils.
Such concerns extended to their morals as well. Manning trumpeted, “I flatter myself, that such Attention will be paid to their Learning and Morals, as will entirely satisfy all who may send their Children.” Throughout the colonies, schoolmasters and -mistresses, especially those who boarded students, posted newspaper advertisements that inextricably linked “Learning and Morals.” In this case, reading Latin and “speaking English with Propriety” accounted for only a portion of the education that Manning’s students received. As markers of gentility, they mattered little if the words and deeds of his charges belied upright morals.
Manning concluded his notice with a brief note that he sold “All Books for the School” in addition to providing instruction and lodging for his scholars. He also had copies of “the classical Authors read in College” for sale “at the Lowest Rate.” In so doing, he likely sought to leverage his location and affiliation with Rhode Island College as an additional reason for gentlemen to send their sons to his Latin school.