March 12

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (March 12, 1773).

“He will teach Dancing in the politest Manner.”

Monsieur de Viart had competition for pupils at his dancing academy in Portsmouth.  The week after Viart commenced a new round of advertising in the New-Hampshire Gazette, Edward Hacket placed his own notice “to acquaint the GENTLEMEN and LADIES” that he would “open a Dancing-School, At the New ASSEMBLY HOUSE” in April.  Although dated February 11, that was likely a mistake.  Hacket’s advertisement did not appear in the New-Hampshire Gazette until March 12.  By then, Viart had taken the lead in advertising for the upcoming quarter in the public prints.

That did not deter Hacket from attempting to convince adults to take lessons from him and parents to enroll their children in his school.  For background, he described himself as “From EUROPE,” but did not go into greater detail.  He apparently hoped that his origins on the other side of the Atlantic gave him some cachet compared to dancing masters from the colonies … and made him competitive with his French rival, Monsieur de Viart.  Hacket did not believe that Viart was entitled to corner the market in Portsmouth.  According to his advertisement, neither did “many of the principal Inhabitants of the Town” who requested that he establish his own school even though Viart already operated a dancing academy there.  To further burnish his credentials, Hacket declared that he “has taught Dancing in many of the principal Towns in England, Ireland, and America.”  That being the case, he taught students how to dance “in the politest manner” and could assist them in learning “perfectly in a short Time,” preparing his pupils “for any Assembly or Company whatsoever.”

Just as participation in the consumer revolution was not restricted to the gentry in the largest colonial cities, neither was adopting the manners and skills associated with gentility.  As spring approached in 1773, two dancing masters offered their services in Portsmouth, Hampshire.  Each operated schools in that town and also offered private instruction in the homes of their pupils.  Hacket indicated that he also gave lessons in Exeter, New Hampshire, and Haverhill and Newbury, Massachusetts.  Prospective pupils in town and country alike, the dancing masters suggested, should consider how learning to dance well would secure and enhance their status.

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