What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Performing before the EMPEROR of GERMANY, The EMPRESS of RUSSIA and KING of GREAT-BRITAIN.”
“and the D—l.”
Following his visits to New York and Boston and his exhibitions of “HORSEMANSHIP” in those cities in the summer and fall of 1773, Mr. Bates next performed in Newport, Rhode Island. An advertisement in the November 1 edition of the Newport Mercury repeated much of the copy from newspaper notices and a handbill that Bates distributed while in Boston. Presumably he provided one of those advertisements to Solomon Southwick’s printing office, perhaps with some manuscript additions concerning the date, location, and other particulars for his performances in Newport. The November 1 iteration concluded with instructions for “those who had tickets for last Saturday, and did not attend” to see Ichabod Potter to exchange them for new tickets to the next performance. No advertisement previously appeared in the Newport Mercury, suggesting that Bates used broadsides, handbills, and word of mouth to promote his first performance.
The copy of the Newport Mercury digitized for Readex’s database of America’s Historical Newspapers includes manuscript additions that reveal how at least one resident of Newport felt about Bates and the “MANLY ART” of horsemanship that he presented to audiences in the towns that he visited. The advertisement listed several monarchs who had viewed Bates’s exhibition, including the “KING of GREAT-BRITAIN, The FRENCH KING, the KINGS of PRUSSIA, PORTUGAL, SWEEDEN, DENMARK, and POLAND, and the Prince of ORANGE.” Someone, obviously not a fan, wrote “and the D—l” at the end of the list, asserting that Bates also performed for Satan. The itinerant performer claimed that he “received the greatest APPLAUSE, as can be made manifest by the CERTIFICATES from the several Courts, now in his possession.” The unknown critic added that Bates had a certificate “also from the High Court of Pandemonium.” It was not the first time that Bates encountered resistance to the spectacle that he presented. Just a few weeks earlier, advertisements announced the publication of a pamphlet “entitled, Mr. Bates and his Horses, WEIGHED IN THE BALANCE. IN which is shewn, with great Brevity, that his Exhibitions in Boston, are impoverishing, disgraceful to human Nature, and downright Breaches of the Sixth Commandment.” Someone did not appreciate the entertainment that Bates provided or the disruptions his performances caused. In both Boston and Newport, some colonizers greeted Bates with disdain even as many others flocked to his performances.