What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“He has been oblig’d to take away the upper Gallery intirely.”
As audiences in Philadelphia enjoyed “FEATS in HORSEMANSHIP” performed by Mr. Bates and illusions performed by Hyman Saunders and Abraham Benjamin in the fall of 1772, patrons in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, attended performances “at the ACADEMY ROOM in Pitt-Street.” A brief advertisement in the October 16 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette reminded prospective members of the audience that the “Exhibitions will be perform’d as usual” that evening, though with some alterations or variation in the program. A week later, a new advertisement provided a list of acts for an upcoming performance, demonstrating even to those who had recently attended that the theater offered something new for their amusement and entertainment. The acts included “THE DEVIL and the DOCTOR, … A DRAMATIC SATIRE,” “A PANTOMINICAL ENTERTINMENT in Grotesque Characters, call’d WIN HER, and WEAR HER; or, HARLOQUIN SKELETON,” and an “Interlude of SINGING & DANCING, call’d NAVAL GLORY; or, the BRITISH TARS TRIUMPH.”
The advertisement advised that the doors would open at five o’clock and the performance would begin “Punctually” at six o’clock. Patrons might wish to arrive early to claim their spots for viewing the various acts, especially following a reconfiguration of the Academy Room. The notice acknowledged complaints “that the first Gallery was very In-commodious.” To make the experience more comfortable and, in turn, more enjoyable for the audience, “Mr. MORGAN takes this opportunity of informing the TOWN, that has alter’d [the Academy Room}as much for the better as the House will allow.” In order to do so, “he has been oblig’d to take away the upper Gallery intirely.” That may explain why the advertisement gave the prices for tickets at “3, & 2 Pistereens each” compared to the “3, 2, and 1 Pistereen” in the previous notice. Admission to the upper gallery, no longer available, had apparently cost one pistareen. That portion of the advertisement demonstrates that performers promoted more than just the spectacles on the stage when they marketed their shows. In this advertisement, the space in which the performances took place was just as important as the program of satires, pantomimes, and songs. Those acts could have been performed in any tavern, but utilizing a space specifically adapted for the comfort and convenience of audiences enhanced the experience of attending the shows.