August 15

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (August 12, 1773).

“On Account of the present Vacation at Cambridge … he can be absent without an Injury to his Pupils.”

Mr. Delile, “Professor of the French Language in Boston and Cambridge,” spent August, September, and October in Providence and Newport in 1773.  He used newspaper advertisements in each location to advise current pupils of his departure and plans to return or his arrival and plans to offer lessons for a limited time only.

On August 7, he advised readers of the Providence Gazette that “several Gentlemen of this Town and Newport” invited him to spend three months in Rhode Island “for the Purpose of teaching said Languages in those Places.”  Rather than establish a school or academy where he would teach multiple students simultaneously, Delile confined his efforts to private lessons.  He underscored that “Gentlemen or Ladies who please to employ him” needed to do so quickly because he “is under absolute Engagements to return to Boston by the last of October.”  On August 16, he inserted a similar advertisement in the Newport Mercury, having arrived in that town.  In a slight variation, he stated that he hoped that me met with “encouragement equal to that he had in Boston for 16 months past.”

Before he left Boston and Cambridge, Delile arranged for an advertisement in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  He relayed the same story, that he had been “invited by several Gentlemen at Providence and Newport, to teach the French Language in those Places” for three months.  He also explained that “on Account of the present Vacation at Cambridge,” referring to Harvard College, “and the Season of the Year,” he believed that he “can be absent without an Injury to his Pupils.”  The French tutor vowed to return, hoping that his students would be “in the best Dispositions to pursue their Studies” when he did.

Delile’s advertisement first appeared on August 5 and repeated a week later.  He did not insert it any of the other newspapers published in Boston at the time.  With notices running in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, the Providence Gazette, and the Newport Mercury, he incurred significant expense, perhaps as much as he dared risk on a stay in Rhode Island that would last only three months.  Delile may have believed that a notice in just one newspaper in Boston was sufficient to alert some of his pupils and then the news would spread to others in the course of everyday conversations.  He likely also informed many or most of his pupils before he departed, placing the newspaper advertisement as a means of informing the general public and prompting prospective students to consider engaging his services when he returned in the fall.

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