August 7

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

Providence Gazette (August 7, 1773).

“He is under absolute Engagements to return to Boston by the last of October.”

At the same time that Mr. Bates waged his limited-time-only marketing campaign for his final performances exhibiting feats of horsemanship in newspapers in New York, Mr. Delile, “Professor of the French Language,” utilized a similar advertising strategy in Providence.  On August 7, 1773, the tutor introduced himself to readers of the Providence Gazette.  He stated that he taught French in Boston and Cambridge, but planned to spend three months in Providence and Newport.  An invitation “by several Gentlemen” in the two towns convinced him to spend the late summer and early fall in Rhode Island “for the Purpose of teaching said Language.”

Most language tutors who placed advertisements in colonial newspapers did so when they opened schools or academies with set days and times for classes.  They hoped to provide instruction to multiple students simultaneously, collecting tuition from several pupils for each lesson they taught.  Most also promoted an option for private instruction, either at the school or in the homes of families who engaged their services.  Delile did not mention any sort of academy; instead, he offered private lessons exclusively.  He advised that “those Gentlemen or Ladies who please to employ him” should “send a Line to Mrs. Westran’s, when he will immediately wait on them.”  Delile scheduled tutoring sessions around the “several Appointments” or schedules of his students.

Whether they wished to start learning French, continue lessons taken at another time, or brush up on their skills, prospective pupils had only a limited time to benefit from Delile’s instruction.  In a nota bene he underscored that he “is under absolute Engagements to return to Boston by the last of October.”  He could not tarry in Providence and Rhode Island.  A couple of days earlier, he placed an advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letterto alert his pupils in Boston and Cambridge that he planned to spend three months in Rhode Island and return after “the present Vacation at Cambridge.”  Delile apparently taught Harvard students while classes were in session there, lucrative and steady employment that explained his resolve to return to Boston after only a few months.  Colonizers in Providence and Newport had only a limited time to engage his services.

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