August 31

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

Providence Gazette (August 31, 1771).

“A few of Mr. Wesley’s Sermons on the Death of the Rev. George Whitefield.”

Eleven months had passed since George Whitefield died on September 30, 1770, while visiting Newburyport, Massachusetts, when John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, once again advertised “A few of Mr. Wesley’s Sermons on the Death of the Rev. George Whitefield.”  The death of one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening was one of the most significant news stories of the year.  Coverage originated in Boston’s newspapers the day after Whitefield’s death and then spread to newspapers throughout the colonies.  From New England to Georgia, printers inserted stories reprinted from one newspaper to another to another.  They also provided original coverage of local reaction, noting funeral sermon delivered in the minister’s memory and children named after Whitefield at their baptisms.

In addition to commemorating the minister, printers and others also quickly turned to producing and marketing items that commodified his death.  Almost immediately, printers in Boston announced that they would publish funeral sermons.  In the next several weeks, they advertised broadsides with verses memorializing Whitefield (including one penned by Phillis Wheatley, the enslaved poet) as well as funeral sermons and other books and pamphlets associated with the minister. Marketing tapered off by the end of the year, only to be rejuvenated in the spring when vessels arrived carrying news of reaction to Whitefield’s death in England.  Those ships also carried pamphlets published in London, including John Wesley’s funeral sermon in memory of the deceased minister.  A new round of advertising Whitefield memorabilia, including notices about a medal, commenced.

That also lasted only a couple of months, though printers and booksellers did occasionally continue to include Whitefield items among the many other goods they listed in their advertisements.  Carter did so when he advertised a variety of stationery items, books, and pamphlets in the August 31, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette.  He concluded with an entry for Wesley’s sermon, calling attention to it with three asterisks.  No other item in his notice featured any sort of similar adornment.  Even as Whitefield memorabilia became one item among a more extensive inventory, rather than the subject of its own advertisement, it still received special treatment to distinguish it from other merchandise.

July 23

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

Essex Gazette (July 23, 1771).

“Medals of the Rev. G. Whitefield, deceased.”

Samuel Hall, printer of the Essex Gazette, inserted several of his own notices in the July 23, 1771, edition, interspersing them among other advertisements.  In so doing, he promoted additional revenue streams and filled space that could have been devoted to other content.  Like many printers, he offered “CASH … for RAGS” to use in making paper.  Most of his notices were fairly short, but he devoted two longer advertisements to “A GENERAL ASSORTMENT of Stationary” and “A general Assortment of Blanks” or printed forms for legal and financial transactions.  Most of his other notices featured books, including one for “Dr. Watts’s young Child’s first Catechism” and another for “A Set of Dean Swift’s Works, neatly bound.”  Hall also stocked “Rev. Dr. Pemberton’s Sermon at the Ordination of the Rev. Mr. Story” and “The Lawfulness, Excellency and Advantage of INSTRUMENTAL MUSICK in the Publick Worship of GOD.”  When it came to individual titles, Hall primarily focused on religious works, yet that was not the only way that the printer engaged religion in his marketing.

Hall inserted one additional advertisement that hawked an item less commonly included among the notices placed by printers.  “Medals of the Rev. G. Whitefield, deceased, to be sold at the Printing-Office in Salem,” he advised readers.  That medal commemorated George Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  Whitefield died at Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, less than a year earlier.  Almost immediately following the minister’s death, printers and others began marketing commemorative items, mostly books, pamphlets, and broadsides.  Hall first informed the public that he would soon offer medals on May 14.  More than two months later, he apparently still had some on hand and reminded prospective customers that they could honor Whitefield by purchasing medals that bore his likeness.  Like others who sold commemorative items, Hall provided an opportunity for colonists to mourn the minister through acts of consumption.  The medals the printer advertised not only memorialized Whitefield but also transformed him into a commodity following his death.  However sincere Hall’s regard for the minister may have been, he also aimed to generate revenues in the wake of his death.

May 25

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

Providence Gazette (May 25, 1771).

“A SERMON on the Death of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

George Whitefield’s afterlife in American newspapers continued in an advertisement published in the May 25, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazette.  Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770.  The news appeared in several newspapers printed in Boston the following day.  It did not take long for printers in other towns to reprint accounts of the minister’s death.  Almost as quickly, printers, booksellers, and others advertised sermons preached in Whitefield’s memory and other commemorative items.  Half a year later, a second round of marketing Whitefield memorabilia commenced when ships from England arrived with word of how his death had been received there.  Those ships also carried items published in London, including Whitefield’s last will and testament and a sermon by John Wesley.  Colonial printers then produced and advertised American editions.

John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, participated in the commodification of George Whitefield.  Carter advertised several books as well as assorted stationery for sale at his printing office, deploying Whitefield’s name to draw attention to the notice he ran in his own newspaper.  John Wesley’s “SERMON on the Death of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD” appeared first in the advertisement, under the headline “JUST PUBLISHED (in Boston).”  Carter apparently stocked John Fleeming’s edition, first advertised in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter on April 19.  John Holt, printer of the New-York Journal, previously advertised the first American edition on March 21.  Both printers distributed copies to associates in other towns, expanding the prospective market for the sermon and increasing the number of advertisements in the colonial press.  John Dunlap advertised Holt’s edition of Wesley’s sermon in the Pennsylvania Chronicle on April 22.  On April 26, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, advertised Fleeming’s edition of the sermon.  As advertisements for Wesley’s sermon appeared in newspapers in several colonies, advertisements for other items commemorating Whitefield, including a medal, continued to present consumers with opportunities to honor the minister by acquiring memorabilia.  Carter’s advertisement for Fleeming’s edition of Wesley’s sermon further intensified the commodification of Whitefield that took place in the colonies in 1770 and continued well into the following year.

May 14

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

Essex Gazette (May 14, 1771).

“Medals of the Rev. G. Whitefield.”

George Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770.  Newspapers in Boston published the news the following day.  Newspapers in other colonies reprinted those accounts as soon as they came to hand.  Almost as quickly, printers, booksellers, and others inserted advertisements for various commemorative items, including funeral sermons, poems in memory of the minister, and works written by Whitefield.  Once vessels crossing the Atlantic delivered the news to England and returned to the colonies, printers advertised even more Whitefield memorabilia, including his last will and testament and the sermon John Wesley preached in his memory.  As broadsides, pamphlets, and books, the simultaneous commemoration and commodification of Whitefield took place via print.

Yet that commemoration and commodification was not confined to print.  Advertisers also marketed “Medals of the Rev. G. Whitefield.”  Samuel Hall, printer of the Essex Gazette, was the first to do so, inserting a brief notice in the May 14, 1771, edition of his newspaper.  Hall did not elaborate on the medals, stating only that they “may be had at the Printing-Office next Thursday or Friday.”  He did not mention the images or inscriptions that appeared on either side, nor did he specify the artist or place of production.  Artists produced several medals on the occasion of Whitefield’s death, many of them dated to 1770, but Hall did not indicate which medals consumers could purchase at his printing office.  Given his experience marketing other commemorative items, he may not have considered it necessary to provide elaborate descriptions of the medals in newspaper advertisements, especially if those other items met brisk demand among consumers who wished to mourn the famous minister through acquiring goods associated with him.  Many months after Whitefield’s death attracted notice throughout the colonies, new commemorative items continued to hit the market.  One of the most significant news events of 1770 continued to receive attention in the public prints as advertisers hawked a variety of Whitefield memorabilia.

May 9

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

Massachusetts Spy (May 9, 1771).

“An ODE set to Music, consecrated to the memory the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

In the months immediately after the death of George Whitefield on September 30, 1770, a variety of printers, booksellers, authors, and others produced and marketed an array of commemorative items that simultaneously commodified one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  This trend tapered off by the end of the year, only to be reinvigorated in the spring of 1771 when vessels arrived from England carrying copies of Whitefield’s will and sermons preached in his memory in London.  Colonial printers produced and sold American editions.  They also distributed them to booksellers and other retailers, enlarging the market for such items.

The May 9, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette carried an advertisement for yet another piece of Whitefield memorabilia, one not previously promoted in the public prints.  John Boyles informed prospective customers that he sold “An ODE set to Music, consecrated to the memory of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD, A.M. By one of his friends in Boston, New England.”  According to the catalog entry maintained by the American Antiquarian Society, this broadside featured eight stanzas and included music for four voices, making it a unique entry among the broadsides, hymnals, and other commemorative items advertised in colonial newspapers.

The catalog entry also indicates that this broadside was presumably published in Boston by an unknown printer in 1770.  This advertisement, however, suggests that Boyles may have been the printer and that he published the broadside in the spring of 1771.  According to his advertisement in the April 1, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, Boyles ran a “PRINTING-OFFICE, next Door to the THREE DOVES in Marlborough-Street.”  In advertisements for other Whitefield items published in the fall of 1770, Boyles appeared among the list of printers and booksellers who sold those items.  Upon seeing a resurgence of marketing for Whitefield memorabilia in the spring, Boyles may have decided to produce a commemorative item of his own, hoping to take advantage of renewed interest and consumer demand.  If so, he likely experienced steady sales of Whitefield items he carried in the fall and did not want to miss out on a potentially lucrative means of generating additional revenue.  In producing his own broadside, Boyles assumed greater risk, but also stood to earn more profits.

Advertisements for Whitefield memorabilia became a familiar sight in several newspapers in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania in the spring of 1771.  Printers and booksellers offered colonists several opportunities to commemorate the minister’s death by purchasing items created in his memory.  The “ODE set to Music” was a novel item that likely attracted interest among both consumers who previously purchased other memorabilia and those who had not yet expressed their regard for the minister through participation in the marketplace.

May 7

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

Supplement to the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (May 7, 1771).

“Booksellers in Boston, New-York, Philadelphia, or … Charles-Town.”

Like many other colonial printers, Charles Crouch also sold books, pamphlets, and broadsides.  In the pages of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, he advertised titles available at his “Great Stationary and Book Shop.”  He also acted as a local agent for printers and booksellers in other cities, publishing subscription notices and handling local sales.  He did so on behalf of Robert Bell, the flamboyant bookseller responsible for publishing a three-volume American edition of “ROBERTSON’s celebrated History of CHARLES the Fifth.”  Bell coordinated an advertising campaign that extended from New England to South Carolina.  Local agents simultaneously published his subscription notice inviting readers to participate in an “elegant XENOPHONTICK BANQUET” through purchasing his American edition.

When Wells inserted that advertisement in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and listed himself as a local agent, he contributed to the creation of a community that extended far beyond Charleston.  Yet settling in for the “XENOPHONTICK BANQUET” was not the only means of joining a larger community that Wells offered to readers and prospective customers.  He appended to Bell’s subscription notice a brief note that he also sold “The Trial of the Soldiers of the 29th Regiment, for the Murders committed at Boston,” printed by John Fleeming in Boston, and “A Funeral Sermon on the Death of the Rev. Mr. Whitefield, by the Rev. Mr. Zubly,” printed by James Johnston in Savannah.  Those two items commemorated two of the most significant events of 1770, the Boston Massacre on March 5 and the death of George Whitefield on September 30.  Both events received extensive coverage in the colonial press.  Both of them also generated commemorative items ranging from broadsides and prints to sermons and orations.

In a single advertisement, Wells linked consumers in South Carolina to geographically dispersed communities that shared common interests not defined by the places individual members resided.  Colonists from New England to Georgia mourned Whitefield, just as they expressed outrage over British soldiers firing into a crowd and killing several people in Boston.  Many colonists also sought to participate in genteel communities defined in part by the books they read, joining in the “grand Feast of historical Entertainment” that booksellers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and other towns offered to them.  Wells did not merely advertise three titles available at his shop; he marketed a sense of community.

May 2

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (May 2, 1771).

“A Sermon … By the Rev. Mr. WHITEFIELD.”

Following the death of George Whitefield in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, printers, booksellers, and others marketed a variety of items to commemorate the loss of one of the most prominent ministers associated with the religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  Such commemoration also amounted to a commodification of Whitefield and his death.  The first wave of marketing lasted for three months as news traveled from New England to Georgia and then news of local reactions spread from colony to colony in all directions.  A second wave of marketing commenced in the spring when ships arrived with news of how the minister’s death had been received in England.  Those same vessels carried copies of Whitefield’s will and the sermon delivered in his memory by John Wesley.  Colonial printers soon produced and marketed American editions.

The renewed attention presented an opportunity for others to generate revenues by selling Whitefield memorabilia.  On May 2, 1771, bookseller Thomas Bromfield placed an advertisement for “A Sermon preached at the Tabernacle in Moorfields, London … By the Rev. Mr. WHITEFIELD” in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  John Fleeming’s advertisement for his edition of Wesley’s sermon ran in the supplement that accompanied the standard edition, also encouraging consumers to take interest in the deceased minister.  This was not the first time that Bromfield placed a notice in the public prints, but it was his first endeavor with advertising a single title rather than a list of books and pamphlets available at his shop on King Street.  He apparently saw a chance to take advantage of existing interest as well as incite further demand for items connected to Whitefield.  Bromfield noted that the sermon had been published after the minister’s death, making it yet another item produced in simultaneous acts of commemoration and commodification.  He also added words of encouragement for prospective buyers.  “As the Author of this Sermon was highly esteemed by most People in these Parts,” Bromfield stated, “it is hoped [the sermon] will have a speedy Sale.”  The bookseller gave consumers a gentle nudge, but also suggested that they needed to act quickly or risk not acquiring the sermon.

Whitefield’s death had been one of the major news stories of 1770.  That event continued to reverberate many months later as printers, booksellers, and others added new items to the assortment of memorabilia produced immediately after the minister’s death.  Their marketing efforts meant that Whitefield remained a subject of interest in the public prints.

April 26

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (April 26, 1771).

“Wesley’s SERMONS, on the Death of … GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

In the fall of 1770, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, extensively covered the death of George Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  In addition to news coverage, the Fowles published poems written in memory of the minister and vigorously advertised a variety of commemorative items.  Whitefield died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30.  For the next several months, the Fowles regularly printed and reprinted news accounts, memorials, and advertisements related to his death.

They commenced advertising Whitefield memorabilia again in the spring when vessels from England arrived in American ports.  Those vessels carried newspapers that reported on public reaction to Whitefield’s death on the other side of the Atlantic.  They also carried new commemorative items already marketed in England, including Whitefield’s will and the funeral sermon preached by John Wesley.  The Fowles were the first printers to advertise both items in their newspaper.  On April 19, they advertised “The Last Will and TESTAMENT of the late Reverend and worthy GEORGE WHITEFIELD,” stating that it “will be published” in a few days.  The Fowles indicated that they printed their own edition rather than acquiring copies of an American edition that Richard Draper, printer of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter, published after receiving an English edition in “the last Ships from London.”

A week later, the Fowles once again advertised Whitefield’s will, updating “will be published” to “Just published.”  In a separate advertisement they informed prospective customers that “Rev. Mr. Wesley’s SERMONS … preached at [Whitefield’s] Tabernacle, and Tottenham Court Chapel … to a very crouded and afflicted Audience” had “Just come to Hand.”  In this case, they probably sold an American edition that John Fleeming advertised in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter a week earlier.  Just as John Holt printed copies in New York and distributed them to printers and booksellers in other towns, so did Fleeming.  As these commemorative items became more widely available and advertisements in newspapers proliferated, colonists experienced another round of the commodification of Whitefield’s death.  These items from England counted as news since they delivered information previously not available in the colonies, but they also represented opportunities for printers and booksellers to generate revenues as they participated in rituals of mourning for an early American celebrity.

April 22

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

Pennsylvania Chronicle (April 22, 1771).

“A Sermon, on the death of the Rev. Mr. GEORGE WHITEFIELD, preached by JOHN WESLEY.”

In the months following his death in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, the commemoration and commodification of George Whitefield became a minor industry as printers and booksellers produced and marketed commemorative items.  Advertisements for funeral sermons, poems, hymnals, and other memorabilia appeared in newspapers from New Hampshire to South Carolina before the end of the year.  In the following spring, another round of advertising coincided with vessels bringing news – and new merchandise – from England.  Printers in several colonies created and sold American editions of Whitefield’s will and a funeral sermon delivered by John Wesley.

This new round of marketing began on March 21 with an advertisement in the New-York Journal.  John Holt, the printer of that newspaper, announced his plan to publish the “celebrated Sermon … on the Death of the late Rev. Mr. George Whitefield … By JOHN WESLEY.”  A week later, he ran a new advertisement advising readers that they could purchase the sermon at his printing office or from bookbinder George Leedel.  A few weeks later, consumers in other colonies soon encountered similar advertisements for Whitefield commemorative items.  On April 19, John Fleeming advertised his own edition of Wesley’s sermon in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly Mercury.  On the same day, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, advertised that they planned to publish the “last Will and TESTAMENT of the late Reverend and worthy GEORGE WHITEFIELD,” a timely piece that “came in the last Ships from London.”

The marketing of new Whitefield memorabilia expanded to another colony yet again on April 22 with John Dunlap’s advertisement in the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  He informed prospective customers that Wesley’s sermon “Just came to hand.”  He most likely sold Holt’s American edition.  His advertisement also promoted “the Deserted Village, a Poem by Dr. GOLDSMITH.”  Holt advertised those two titles together on March 28.  Dunlap carried them at “the Newest Printing-office, in Market-street, Philadelphia,” a few weeks later.  The widespread production and marketing of Whitefield commemorative items testified to the minister’s celebrity in the colonies.  That process also revealed the extent that printers, booksellers, and others saw his death as an opportunity to generate revenues through commodification that doubled as mourning.

April 21

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (April 19, 1771).

“The last Will and TESTAMENT of the late Reverend and worthy GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

After fading from American newspapers for a time during the first few months of 1771, George Whitefield once again became a subject of interest in the spring.  Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770.  For the next three months, newspapers from New England to Georgia printed and reprinted news of his death and reactions to it in various towns throughout the colonies.  Those same newspapers also carried advertisements for an array of commemorative items produced in memory of the minister.  Eventually, both coverage of his death and marketing of memorabilia tapered off.  The renewed interest in Whitefield in the spring of 1771 coincided with the arrival of ships carrying news from England.  Printers now had access to coverage of Whitefield’s death in England, coverage that they shared with colonial readers.

Sometimes that coverage took the form of reprinting advertisements that ran in the London press.  John Carter did so in the Providence Gazette on April 13 with an item about “The works of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD” among the news from London.  Six days later, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle included the same item in the New-Hampshire Gazette, either drawing it from newspapers they received from London or reprinting it from the Providence Gazette.  Readers of their newspaper learned that Whitefield’s sermons and letters, along with an engraved portrait, “Speedily will be published” and sold in London.  Like many other American printers, the Fowles seized the opportunity to produce and market commemorative items in the wake of receiving news about Whitefield from the other side of the Atlantic.  In an advertisement on the next page of the April 13 edition, they announced that “Next Monday will be published, and sold at the Printing Office … The last Will and TESTAMENT of the late Reverend and worthy GEORGE WHITEFIELD, which came in the last Ships from London.”  More than six months after the minister’s death, the Fowles estimated sufficient interest in Whitefield to justify not only additional news coverage but also yet another commemorative item.  They believed that demand existed or could be incited for copies of Whitefield’s will among local consumers who had already been offered a variety of memorabilia in the fall.