What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“DANCING SCHOOL For Young GENTLEMEN and LADIES.”
Edward Hacket (sometimes Hackett) announced that he “Has open’d his DANCING SCHOOL For Young GENTLEMEN and LADIES” in Portsmouth in the July 16, 1773, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette. The advertisements he previously placed in that newspaper may have helped the dancing master recruit enough students to make the endeavor viable. He first advertised in March, four months earlier, placing himself in competition with Monsieur De Viart, another dancing master who advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette at about the same time. Hacket initially hoped to open his school “At the New ASSEMBLY HOUSE” in three weeks “on the First Tuesday in APRIL,” but he may not have acquired enough students to do so. He envisioned offering lessons at the school on “Tuesdays in the Afternoon, and Wednesdays in the Forenoon” as well as private lessons for “Gentlemen or Ladies, either at the Assembly Houses, at such Hours as may be agreed on.” He eventually gave lessons “On Thursdays in the Afternoon, and Fridays in the Forenoon,” perhaps choosing those times to match the preferences of his pupils.
By the time he opened his dancing school in July, Hacket apparently believed that prospective students and their families were familiar with his approach and his background. He published a much shorter advertisement than the one in which he introduced himself in March. Hacket initially described himself as “From EUROPE,” suggesting he passed along the same level of sophistication to his students as the French dancing master, Monsieur de Viart, did for his pupils. He also listed other credentials, stating that he “has taught Dancing in many of the principal Towns in England, Ireland, and America.” In addition, he confided to parents and guardians that those “who send their Children, may depend that great Care will be taken of their Education, and good Order observed.” Hacket tended to developing appropriate personal comportment beyond learning the steps of the dances he taught. By the time he opened his school, however, he did not consider it necessary to provide any of those details in his new advertisement. The previous advertisement circulated widely over the course of several weeks, plus Hacket had opportunities to meet prospective students and their families to make overtures in person. He may have considered a brief announcement in the colony’s only newspaper enough to rally any prospective pupils who had not yet committed. Instead of a hard sell, this light tough may have suggested that his students needed his services more than he needed their patronage.