September 21

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 21, 1773).

“MR. PIKE’s Dancing and Fencing SCHOOLS.”

Mr. Pike may have remained in Charleston longer than he intended … and longer than he previously announced to the public.  In an advertisement in the March 30, 1773, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, the dancing master advised readers that the “BALL, for the young Ladies and Gentlemen under his Tuition” to be held on April 2 would be the “last Ball he proposes to make in Charles-Town.”  In addition to current students, he invited “former Scholars” to visit his school to brush up on their skills and then participate in an exhibition at that final ball.  This gave the impression that Pike intended to leave the city soon after the ball.

Yet six months later, he placed new advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  In one, he announced that “MR. PIKE’s Dancing and Fencing SCHOOLS, commenced on Monday the 20th of September, as usual for the Season,” as though there had been no disruption in the schedule.  He did not, however, mention that the term would culminate in a ball, a strategy that he sometimes deployed as a means of inciting anxiety among prospective students and their parents.  In previous advertisements, Pike lectured that students needed to attend his school regularly in order to master the steps and avoid embarrassing themselves at the ball he hosted when their lessons concluded.  Perhaps Pike knew all along that he was not leaving Charleston immediately but rather had chosen not to sponsor any more balls as part of his curriculum.  However closely he followed his original plans, Pike moved to Philadelphia in 1774.  He advertised dancing and fencing lessons in the Pennsylvania Packet on October 17 and in the Pennsylvania Gazette on October 19.  He did not mention his students dancing at a ball, but he did attempt to incite anxiety among “such persons as may have forgot or had not an opportunity of learning to dance very young.”  His instruction tended to comportment more generally, including “genteel address with a proper carriage.”

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 21, 1773).

During the time that her remained in Charleston, Pike leased or “hired the New-Assembly Room in Church-street” and sought to rent the venue for a variety of events, including “Public Sales of Estates, Negroes, [and] Dry Goods.”  The dancing master aimed to supplement the revenues he earned from giving lessons by facilitating auctions, including auctions of enslaved men, women, and children.  He also leased the space for “private Balls” on Monday and Friday evenings and meetings for “Societies” or clubs such as the Charles Town Library Society, the Saint George’s Society, and the Fellowship Society.  Pike underscored that the venue was “very airy, private, and more commodious than any one of the Kind ever built in this Province,” making it an ideal place for dancing lessons, auctions, balls, meetings, and other events.  Pike invited anyone interested in leasing the space to visit him there for “further Particulars.”

Even without promoting any balls that would take place at the end of the current season of dancing lessons, Pike maintained his status in Charleston during the time that he stayed in the city.  In addition to giving dancing and fencing lessons at the New Assembly Room, he also provided instruction at boarding schools “Four Days in the Week.”  Beyond that, he worked with local elites to schedule balls and club meetings in the venue that became synonymous with his “Dancing and Fencing SCHOOLS.”  Although not a member of the gentry, Pike positioned himself as a cultural broker whose assistance genteel Charlestonians needed to maintain their own status.

August 18

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

Pennsylvania Journal (August 18, 1773).

“This important part of the education of their children.”

In the summer of 1773, Monsieur de Viart introduced himself to the residents of Philadelphia with an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Journal.  He informed “Gentlemen and Ladies of this City, that he proposes to open an ACADEMY OF DANCING,” underscoring that “he has, for many years, with approbation, professed in several parts of France.”  Accordingly, parents of prospective pupils should consider him “capable of qualifying the youth of both sexes committed to his care, in a very short time, for any assembly whatsoever.”  Viart described himself as “lately arrived from Paris,” conveniently not mentioning that he had been in the colonies for at least a year and offered lessons in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Paris certainly had greater cachet in the minds of genteel Philadelphians than Portsmouth did!  Similarly, Viart realized that he would likely enroll more students in the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the colonies.

Whether in Philadelphia or Portsmouth, Viart’s marketing strategy remained the same.  He played on the anxieties of parents who wanted to prepare their children to represent themselves and their families well at balls and, more generally, in all sorts of social encounters.  In his effort to set himself apart from other dancing masters, Viart republished copy from his advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette earlier that year: “It is not everyone, who pretends to teach this delicate art, who will take pains to instruct their pupils, in those rules of decorum and politeness, which are so absolutely necessary to be inculcated into them, before they can step abroad, into the world, with elegance and ease.”  In a single sentence, Viart called into question the abilities of his competitors to teach dancing while simultaneously asserting that their flawed instruction in the steps distracted them from focusing on comportment.  Viart knew that graceful movement and impeccable manners reinforced each other.  He warned that “it often happens, that scholars (through the ignorance or negligence of their masters) are guilty of great rudeness, and commit gross blunders, on their first appearance, in company.”  Concerned parents could avoid such a travesty, instead depending on Viart’s “utmost care and assiduity, in this important part of the education of their children.”  When they completed their lessons, his pupils would hold their own in Paris rather than look like backwater provincials from Portsmouth.

July 16

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (July 16, 1773).


Edward Hacket (sometimes Hackett) announced that he “Has open’d his DANCING SCHOOL For Young GENTLEMEN and LADIES” in Portsmouth in the July 16, 1773, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  The advertisements he previously placed in that newspaper may have helped the dancing master recruit enough students to make the endeavor viable.  He first advertised in March, four months earlier, placing himself in competition with Monsieur De Viart, another dancing master who advertised in the New-Hampshire Gazette at about the same time.  Hacket initially hoped to open his school “At the New ASSEMBLY HOUSE” in three weeks “on the First Tuesday in APRIL,” but he may not have acquired enough students to do so.  He envisioned offering lessons at the school on “Tuesdays in the Afternoon, and Wednesdays in the Forenoon” as well as private lessons for “Gentlemen or Ladies, either at the Assembly Houses, at such Hours as may be agreed on.”  He eventually gave lessons “On Thursdays in the Afternoon, and Fridays in the Forenoon,” perhaps choosing those times to match the preferences of his pupils.

By the time he opened his dancing school in July, Hacket apparently believed that prospective students and their families were familiar with his approach and his background.  He published a much shorter advertisement than the one in which he introduced himself in March.  Hacket initially described himself as “From EUROPE,” suggesting he passed along the same level of sophistication to his students as the French dancing master, Monsieur de Viart, did for his pupils.  He also listed other credentials, stating that he “has taught Dancing in many of the principal Towns in England, Ireland, and America.”  In addition, he confided to parents and guardians that those “who send their Children, may depend that great Care will be taken of their Education, and good Order observed.”  Hacket tended to developing appropriate personal comportment beyond learning the steps of the dances he taught.  By the time he opened his school, however, he did not consider it necessary to provide any of those details in his new advertisement.  The previous advertisement circulated widely over the course of several weeks, plus Hacket had opportunities to meet prospective students and their families to make overtures in person.  He may have considered a brief announcement in the colony’s only newspaper enough to rally any prospective pupils who had not yet committed.  Instead of a hard sell, this light tough may have suggested that his students needed his services more than he needed their patronage.

March 30

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 30, 1773).

“It is the last Ball he proposes to make in Charles-Town.”

Mr. Pike, a dancing master who enhanced his image and authority by never including his first name in his advertisements, offered lessons in Charleston for many years.  (His earliest advertisement examined by the Adverts 250 Project appeared in the September 2, 1766, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.)  In addition to advertising lessons, he also promoted the balls that he hosted, opportunities for his students to demonstrate the skills they developed and refined under his guidance.  Pike encouraged prospective students and their parents to consider those gatherings rites of passage within polite company, provided that they comported themselves well.  Accordingly, his marketing efforts sometimes leveraged a sense of anxiety.  For instance, when he announced a ball scheduled for December 1772, he advised parents to send their children for lessons “as soon as possible, that he may be enabled to complete his Figures in a proper Manner.”  In other words, if they did grant Pike sufficient time for instruction then they risked their children embarrassing themselves at the ball.

Pike did not take that approach when he announced that his “BALL, for the young Ladies and Gentlemen under his Tuition” would take place on the first Friday in April 1773.  That may have been because the dancing master had plans to depart the city.  (He began placing newspaper advertisements for dancing and fencing lessons in Philadelphia the following year.)  Pike proclaimed that this one was “the last Ball he proposes to make in Charles-Town.”  That being the case, he no longer needed to resort to the same tactics for attracting pupils.  Instead, he attempted to incite demand for tickets by presenting his final ball as a reunion for his students and a farewell fête.  Pike invited “former Scholars who chuse to dance at this Ball … to come and practise every Day” to prepare for it.  That allowed them to brush up on their skills and perhaps receive some pointers, free of charge, from their former instructor as a gift prior to his departure.  Anticipating both “the young Ladies and Gentlemen under his Tuition” and “former Scholars” in attendance, Pike arranged for a retrospective of his instruction and influence in cultivating a genteel pastime in one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in the colonies.  He hoped that would sell tickets.  After all, it was not merely the “ANNUAL BALL” for current students that he sometimes promoted in the public prints but instead his “last Ball” and final chance to partake in one of the gatherings he hosted.

March 12

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (March 12, 1773).

“He will teach Dancing in the politest Manner.”

Monsieur de Viart had competition for pupils at his dancing academy in Portsmouth.  The week after Viart commenced a new round of advertising in the New-Hampshire Gazette, Edward Hacket placed his own notice “to acquaint the GENTLEMEN and LADIES” that he would “open a Dancing-School, At the New ASSEMBLY HOUSE” in April.  Although dated February 11, that was likely a mistake.  Hacket’s advertisement did not appear in the New-Hampshire Gazette until March 12.  By then, Viart had taken the lead in advertising for the upcoming quarter in the public prints.

That did not deter Hacket from attempting to convince adults to take lessons from him and parents to enroll their children in his school.  For background, he described himself as “From EUROPE,” but did not go into greater detail.  He apparently hoped that his origins on the other side of the Atlantic gave him some cachet compared to dancing masters from the colonies … and made him competitive with his French rival, Monsieur de Viart.  Hacket did not believe that Viart was entitled to corner the market in Portsmouth.  According to his advertisement, neither did “many of the principal Inhabitants of the Town” who requested that he establish his own school even though Viart already operated a dancing academy there.  To further burnish his credentials, Hacket declared that he “has taught Dancing in many of the principal Towns in England, Ireland, and America.”  That being the case, he taught students how to dance “in the politest manner” and could assist them in learning “perfectly in a short Time,” preparing his pupils “for any Assembly or Company whatsoever.”

Just as participation in the consumer revolution was not restricted to the gentry in the largest colonial cities, neither was adopting the manners and skills associated with gentility.  As spring approached in 1773, two dancing masters offered their services in Portsmouth, Hampshire.  Each operated schools in that town and also offered private instruction in the homes of their pupils.  Hacket indicated that he also gave lessons in Exeter, New Hampshire, and Haverhill and Newbury, Massachusetts.  Prospective pupils in town and country alike, the dancing masters suggested, should consider how learning to dance well would secure and enhance their status.

March 5

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (March 5, 1773).

“Instruct their Scholars in those Rules of Decorum and Politeness.”

Monsieur de Viart, a dancing master, sought to cultivate a sense of anxiety among prospective clients when he offered his services in an advertisement in the March 5, 1773, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  In particular, he suggested that parents needed to tend to the best interests of their children by enrolling them in classes taught by an expert who emphasized comportment as well as learning the steps of “Minuets, French Jiggs, Horn-Pipes, Rigadoons, and English Country Dances of all Kinds.”  His students, he promised, would exhibit grace in their interactions as well as in their movements.

In making that pitch, Viart asserted that he “has always endeavoured to merit the Approbation of those who have hitherto favoured him with their Custom,” especially parents of his young students, “by having at all Times obliged himself to instruct his PUPIULS in those Principles which he received in that Profession himself.”  The dancing master declared that he incorporated “Rules of Decorum and Politeness” into his curriculum, recognizing that dancing was part of much more extensive social interactions.  He cautioned parents of prospective pupils that their children needed such lessons, “which are absolutely necessary to be known, begore Young Persons can step abroad into the World with Elegance and Ease.”

Viart claimed that other dancing masters did not focus on the relationship between dancing and manners that he did, leaving their students to clumsily stumble through encounters with others.  He lamented that “not every one who pretends to teach this delicate Art … will take the Pains to instruct their Scholars” in manners.  As a result, parents had reason to fear that their children might embarrass themselves.  “[I]t often happens that Scholars,” Viart confided, “through the Ignorance of the Masters, are guilty of great Rudeness and commit gross Blunders on their first going into Company.”  Viart prepared his pupils for much more than moving across the dance floor, helping them avoid various kinds of awkwardness and difficulties when they gathered for social events.

Dancing masters in the largest cities in the colonies – Charleston, New York, Philadelphia – made similar appeals to prospective pupils and their parents.  They touted the gentility that their “Scholars” would exhibit upon taking lessons.  Viart suggested that this was not merely a concern for colonizers who resided in urban ports.  Instead, he encouraged students and, especially, their parents in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to experience a sense of apprehension that they did not meet the standards expected in cosmopolitan society.

December 1

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 1, 1772).


The December 1, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal carried an advertisement that proclaimed “BALL” in a larger font than anything else in the entire issue.  That headline drew attention to an announcement that “PIKE’s ANNUAL BALL, for the young LADIES and GENTLEMEN, under his Tuition, will be on Tuesday the Eighth of December.”  The event would begin “exactly at SIX o’CLOCK.”  Presumably members of the community other than the dancing master’s students were welcome to attend the ball to observe the skills that Pike taught in what he had promoted as a “NEW SUIT of ROOMS” in another advertisement that he published in September.

Pike concluded that advertisement with a message to the “Parents and Guardians of his Scholars, that his BALL will be on Tuesday the 8th of December next.”  He underscored that they needed to sign up for classes “as soon as possible, that they may be enabled to complete his Figures in a proper Manner” when they were on display at the ball.  The dancing master aimed to excite some anxiety about public scrutiny, knowing that colonizers carefully observed each other to assess whether their appearance and comportment revealed authentic grace and gentility …or whether they merely put on an act and went through the motions.  Effortless dancing, many believed, revealed virtue, while stumbling around the dance floor and awkwardly interacting with partners and other dancers suggested character flaws.

As a result, colonizers who wished to demonstrate that they truly belonged among the ranks of the genteel relied on the services of various instructors, including tutors who taught them how to speak French, tutors who taught them how to play musical instruments, and dancing and fencing masters, like Pike, who taught them how to move gracefully and how to engage in polite exchanges at social gatherings.  In cautioning the parents and guardians of his prospective pupils that “his SCHOLARS” would be on display at his annual ball in December, Pike reminded them that they needed his services just as much as he needed their patronage if they wished to safeguard their social standing.

October 8

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

South-Carolina Gazette (October 8, 1772).

“Dancing & Fencing.”

“THE Sign of the Golden Cup.”

Mr. Pike, a dancing master, and Thomas You, a silversmith, both used graphic design to draw attention to their advertisements in the October 8, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, yet they adopted different strategies.  Their notices further enlivened the vibrant graphic design that distinguished notices in that newspaper from those that ran in other newspapers.  The compositor for the South-Carolina Gazette made liberal use of varying font sizes, gothic letters for headlines, italics, capitals, and centering compared to advertisements.

That being the case, the compositor may have played a role in how the dancing master used decorative type and gothic letters to enhance his advertisement.  The headline “Dancing & Fencing” in gothic letters appeared inside a border composed of printing ornaments above a secondary headline spread over three lines: “PIKE’s ACADEMY / for / DANCING and FENCING.”  Compare that to a similar advertisement that Pike ran in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  It featured only one headline, “DANCING and FENCING,” that did not appear in a different font than the rest of the advertisement.  Rather than constituting a second headline, “PIKE’s ACADEMY, for FENCING and DANCING” was part of the first paragraph of the advertisement.  An enterprising compositor at the South-Carolina Gazette likely played a significant role in designing Pike’s advertisement, perhaps assuming full responsibility without consulting the advertiser.

On the other hand, You almost certainly submitted instructions to include a woodcut depicting a golden cup in his advertisement for the merchandise he sold at the “Sign of the Golden Cup.”  You commissioned that image for his exclusive use, previously inserting it in advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette in December 1770 and March 1771.  Prior to that, he used a different woodcut in his advertisements in December 1766 and July 1767.  He seemed to appreciate that images helped draw attention to his notices.  How to incorporate an image, however, he may have left to the discretion of the compositor.  In 1772, his woodcut of a golden cup appeared in the center, flanked by his name and location.  In earlier advertisements, it was positioned to the left, replicating the placement of woodcuts depicting ships that adorned other notices.

The advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette testify to both the role of the compositor in designing newspaper notices and occasional collaboration or consultation involving both the compositor and the advertiser.  Rather than dense text, variations abounded in the advertisements in that newspaper, making the South-Carolina Gazette one of the most visually interesting publications in the early 1770s.

September 15

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 15, 1772).

“Young Ladies and Gentlemen instructed in DANCING.”

An advertisement for “DANCING and FENCING” lessons in the September 15, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal alerted readers that “PIKE’s ACADEMY, for FENCING and DANCING” would soon offer a new “Season” of classes.  Pike was probably already familiar to many prospective pupils, having offered instruction in Charleston for several years.  He attempted to generate interest even among those who had already taken lessons with him by inviting students to his “NEW SUIT of ROOMS” on Church Street.

A significant portion of the advertisement consisted of the schedule.  Pike devoted early mornings, “Five o’Clock to Nine,” to fencing lessons.  He taught dancing to “Young Ladies and Gentlemen” in the afternoons on Thursdays and Saturdays in addition to his “EVENING SCHOOL, every Evening in the Week, from Six o’Clock to Nine.”  That left “four Afternoons at Liberty every Week” for Pike to venture beyond his academy to provide private lessons to students “at their own Houses.”  That may have been the preferred option for those who felt anxious about appearing anything other than graceful and genteel in front of observers.

Yet dancing was an activity meant to be undertaken in public, at least eventually.  Colonizers asserted their status and took great pride in being skillful dancers.  Smoothly completing complex steps testified to their refinement, while awkwardness or stumbling undermined impressions of politeness and sophistication they demonstrated in other aspects of their comportment and dress.  Understanding the stakes, Pike scheduled an exhibition ball for early December and encouraged the “Parents and Guardians of his Scholars” to enroll them in lessons “as soon as possible.”  The teacher and his pupils needed sufficient time “to complete his Figures in a proper Manner” during their lessons so the young ladies and gentlemen could showcase their skills in front of observers at the ball.  Other dancing masters also raised the specter of public embarrassment in their advertisements, encouraging prospective students and their parents to enroll in lessons in order to withstand public scrutiny.  By stoking anxiety, they aimed to motivate colonizers to engage their services.

June 12

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (June 12, 1772).

“Those Accomplishments which are so necessary for entring the World with Advantage.”

Many colonizers sought to demonstrate that they belonged to genteel society through their fashions, possessions, and comportment.  They participated in the consumer revolution, purchasing textiles, garments, accessories, and housewares according to the latest tastes in English cities, especially London.  They also concentrated on their comportment, putting into practice good manners and learning a variety of genteel skills, including dancing, fencing, speaking French, and playing musical instruments.  Merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and tutors aided colonizers in acquiring both the things and the knowledge necessary for displaying their gentility.

This was not solely an urban phenomenon.  Far beyond the major port cities of Boston, Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia, purveyors of goods advertised their wares and consumers acquired them.  Similarly, colonizers in smaller towns had opportunities to take lessons in dancing, fencing, and other genteel pursuits.  As summer arrived in 1772, Monsieur Viart placed an advertisement in the New-Hampshire Gazette to inform the public, especially parents, that he taught “DANCING, FENCING, the FRENCH LANGUAGE, and the VIOLIN … in the most perfect and polite manner.”  He cautioned parents against overlooking the benefits of enrolling their children in his classes, arguing that his curriculum yielded “those Accomplishments which are so necessary for entring the World with Advantage.”  Even colonizers in Portsmouth, Viart declared, needed these skills.

Viart listed the tuition for each kind of lesson, both an initial entrance fee and additional payment for each quarter.  He also offered a discount if “a Scholar learns in two Branches,” encouraging pupils and their parents to sign up for more than one subject.  He anticipated the most interest in dancing and French, holding “School” for each at set times on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  He may have also provided private tutoring, but he did not mention those lessons in his advertisement.  He gave fencing and violin lessons “at such times as may be convenient for his Scholars.”

Tutors like Viart attempted to entice colonizers to become even more immersed in the consumer revolution and the culture of gentility and cosmopolitanism often associated with it.  He expected that his pronouncement that learning to dance or speak French was “so necessary” in preparing children to successfully make their way in the world that it would resonate with parents and other readers in Portsmouth and nearby towns.  Such skills, he suggested, were not reserved for the gentry in New York and Philadelphia.