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.

April 19

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (April 19, 1771).

“This Sermon contains a summary Account of Mr. WHITEFIELD’S Life.”

When 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, news quickly spread.  Accounts of his death first appeared in newspapers published in Boston, radiating out to newspapers in other cities and towns.  Almost immediately, printers, booksellers, and others began marketing commemorative items in memory of Whitefield.  Commodification of the minister’s death became part of the mourning ritual.

From New Hampshire to South Carolina, newspapers carried advertisements for books, broadsides, and poems.  Readers encountered those advertisements for nearly three months before they tapered off.  After another three months, advertisements for new Whitefield memorabilia began appearing in colonial newspapers, this time for items related to reactions to the minister’s death on the other side of the Atlantic.  On March 21, 1771, the New-York Journal carried an advertisement for “THE celebrated Sermon preached … on the Death of the late Rev. Mr. George Whitefield … By JOHN WESLEY.”  John Holt, printer of the New-York Journal, took to press the first American edition of Wesley’s funeral sermon.

Nearly a month later, John Fleeming advertised and published another edition in Boston.  He ran an advertisement in the April 19 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  Unlike Holt, Fleeming noted that his edition included “a summary Account of Mr. WHITEFIELD’S Life extracted from his own Journals,” an elaboration on the content intended to entice consumers.  This endeavor merited its own advertisement separate from another notice that Fleeming ran to promote stationery and books, including an account of the trials of the soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, that the printer sold at his shop on King Street.

Most public figures disappeared from colonial newspapers not long after accounts of their deaths.  Printers continued coverage of Whitefield, on the other hand, for many months, publishing both news accounts and advertisements for memorabilia.  Commemoration and commodification occurred simultaneously as Whitefield continued to appear in the colonial press more than half a year after his death.

March 28

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

New-York Journal (March 28, 1771).

“A SERMON, on the Death of the Revs. Mr. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

The simultaneous commemoration and commodification of George Whitefield’s death in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, continued six months later in the March 28, 1771, edition of the New-York Journal.  John Holt, printer of that newspaper, announced that he “Just published … A SERMON, on the Death of the Rev.d Mr. GEORGE WHITEFIELD, preached at his own Tabernacle in Moor-Fields, &c. by the Reverend Mr. JOHN WESLEY.”  A week earlier, Holt attempted to generate demand in advance of publication with a notice that the sermon was “Now in the Press.”  Coverage of Whitefield’s death, coverage that likely spurred sales of commemorative items, tapered off by the end of 1770 once newspaper printers throughout the colonies reprinted accounts that originated in Boston and then printed and reprinted news of local reactions.  When reports of reactions in England arrived after several months, printers like Holt had new opportunities to continue coverage of Whitefield’s death and to profit from commodifying that event.

Immediately following the death of one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, printers, booksellers, and others marketed a variety of memorabilia, including poems, hymnals, and funeral sermons.  The production and dissemination of these items supplemented other mourning rituals, while also giving consumers opportunities to experience through their purchases events they did not witness.  Such was the case with publishing funeral sermons, especially those originally delivered in faraway places.  Robert Wells, printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, for instance, advertised a funeral sermon given in Savannah in the neighboring colony of Georgia.  Holt gave consumers access to a sermon preached much farther away when he reprinted Wesley’s sermon.  This enhanced the sense of collective mourning.  Colonists were not alone in honoring Whitefield’s life and grieving his death; instead, they were the first to express their sorrow, eventually joined by counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic.  Reprinting and selling Wesley’s funeral sermon was not merely a matter of honoring the departed minister.  Holt also provided a proxy for participating in commemorations in England, thus making American consumers feel like part of a transatlantic community of the faithful who mourned Whitefield.

March 21

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

New-York Journal (March 21, 1771).

“THE celebrated Sermon preached … on the Death of the late Rev. Mr. George Whitefield … By JOHN WESLEY.”

Word of George Whitefield’s death in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, quickly spread through the colonies as well as across the Atlantic.  Newspapers in the colonies covered local reaction to the loss of one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  In turn, they also reprinted coverage from one to another, further enhancing a sense of collective mourning.  It took longer to receive word of reactions in England, but by late March the colonial press carried those updates as well.  On March 18, 1771, the Boston-Gazette and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy both carried an “Extract of a Letter from the Right Honourable the COUNTESS OF HUNTINGDON,” Whitefield’s patron, “received a few Days ago by the December Packet.”  The countess mourned the “Faithful Minister of the Gospel.”

A few days later, residents of New York learned of another response to Whitefield’s death from across the Atlantic.  John Holt, printer of the New-York Journal, announced that he would soon publish the “celebrated Sermon preached” by John Wesley, a leader of the Methodist movement within the Church of England, “on Sunday the 18th of November last, on the Death of the late Rev. Mr. George Whitefield, at the Chapel in Tottenham Court-Road, and the Tabernacle near Moorfields.”  According to the Wesley Center Online, “The Sermon was at once published in London; and a reprint was issued in Dublin, also dated 1770.”  Commemorations of Whitefield’s death quickly resulted in commodification in England and Ireland, just as in the colonies.  That commodification continued when American printers came into possession of copies of the sermon.  Holt was the first advertise an American edition of Wesley’s sermon, but he was not the only one to take it to press.  John Fleeming in Boston also published the sermon.  Whitefield’s death was one of the most significant news events of 1770.  It prompted mourning on both sides of the Atlantic, but also presented opportunities for commodification.

March 5

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

Essex Gazette (March 5, 1771).

“Sermons on the Death of Mr. WHITEFIELD.”

A little more than five months following George Whitefield’s death on September 30, 1770, the commodification of that event continued in the pages of the Essex Gazette.  Printers, booksellers, and others produced and marketed a variety of commemorative items dedicated to the prominent minister in the weeks after his death.  The advertising for such items tapered off by the end of the year, but some notices occasionally appeared in newspapers from New England to South Carolina in 1771.  On March 5, Samuel Hall, the printer of the Essex Gazette, informed prospective customers of “Dr. Whitaker’s and Mr. Parsons’s Sermons on the Death of Mr. WHITEFIELD, with Mr. Jewet’s Exhortation at the Grave, annexed to the latter” available at his printing office in Salem.

This particular advertisement included thick black bands on both sides, a common symbol of mourning in early American print.  Whitefield’s death, however, was not the reason that Hall included that symbol in the March 5 edition.  The borders ran throughout the entire newspaper, enclosing every column on all four pages, to mark the first anniversary of “Preston’s Massacre–in King-Street–Boston, N. England–1770.  In which Five of his Majesty’s Subjects were slain, and Six wounded, By the Discharge of a Number of Muskets from a Party of Soldiers under the Command of Capt. Thomas Preston.”  Hall devoted the entire front page to commemorating the Boston Massacre, first in a “solemn and perpetual MEMORIAL Of the Tyranny of the British Administration of Government” that extended across all three columns and filled half of the space below the masthead.  A letter reprinted from the New-Hampshire Gazette accounted for the remainder of the page.  In it, an anonymous author, “CONSIDERATION,” encouraged residents of every colony to designate a day to commemorate “the Massacre of 5 Americans” and, more generally, reflect on “the most important Events that have happened relative to the Government and Liberties of the Country.”  Unless colonists set aside a day for “delivering Discourses upon Government, the fundamental Laws of the Land, [and] the Advantages of civil and religious Liberty,” Consideration feared that “People will grow inattentive to those Concerns” and tyrants would prevail.  The black bands around Consideration’s essay underscored the gravity of the proposal.  Consideration issued a call to action, one endorsed by the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette when they inserted it in their newspaper and endorsed once again by Hall when he reprinted it.

Two of the most momentous events of 1770, the Boston Massacre and the death of George Whitefield, converged in the March 5, 1771, edition of the Essex Gazette.  Both events fueled acts of commemoration, sometimes mediated through commodification.  Vigilant printers played an important role in keeping those stories familiar among the general public, through news accounts, editorials, and advertisements.

Essex Gazette (March 5, 1771).

February 5

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (February 5, 1771).

“A FUNERAL SERMON … on the much lamented Death of the Rev. Mr. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

Robert Wells, bookseller and printer of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, placed an advertisement for “NEW BOOKS” in the February 5, 1771, edition of his newspaper.  The advertisement extended an entire column, listing dozens of titles and concluding with “TOBLER’s ALMANACK” and “A FUNERAL SERMON” in memory of George Whitefield.  With the latter, Wells presented consumers an opportunity to participate in commemorations of the prominent minister that occurred from New England to Georgia.  Commodification of Whitefield’s death made it possible for colonists to purchase mementos that testified to their grief and regard for the minister; simultaneously, such commodification generated revenues for printers, booksellers, and others.

Whitefield, one of the most influential ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30 1770.  The next day news appeared in several newspapers published in Boston and from there quickly spread to other towns and other colonies.  Within a month, residents of Georgia learned of the minister’s death.  Wells advertised a sermon delivered in Whitefield’s memory “at Savannah, in Georgia, November 1, 1770 … By J.J. ZUBLY, Minister of an English and German Congregation.”  According to the imprint, James Johnston, printer of the Georgia Gazette, printed and sold the sermon.  He most likely advertised it in his own newspaper, but few editions of the Georgia Gazette from late 1770 and beyond survive.  Johnston apparently dispatched copies to Charleston in hopes of capturing another market.

Yet the advertisement for Zubly’s sermon was not the only appearance Whitefield made among the advertisements in the February 5 edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  John Fleeming’s subscription notice for an annotated “FAMILY BIBLE” filled two columns on the front page, the second of those columns devoted almost entirely to an endorsement Whitefield penned for an earlier edition.  Fleeming leveraged the minister’s notes of approbation written years earlier into a posthumous testimonial for his proposed project.  He distributed that advertisement widely in newspapers published in New England, but this was the first time it appeared in any of the newspapers published in South Carolina.  Fleeming and his local agents updated it to indicate that “Subscriptions for said laudable Undertaking, are taken in at Charlestown by ROBERT WELLS, at the Old Printing-House, Great Stationary and Book Store; In Savannah by JAMES JOHNSTON, at his Printing-Office.”

The frequency of advertisements for Whitefield memorabilia tapered off by the end of 1770 as the immediacy of the minister’s death faded, but a couple of months later they experienced a resurgence as printers and booksellers renewed their efforts to provide commemorative items to consumers who wished to feel connected to such a significant event.  Much of this resurgence occurred beyond New England, the center for most, but not all, of the marketing for Whitefield paraphernalia in the first few months after his death.  Just as news spread, reprinted from newspaper to newspaper, so did the commodification of the Whitefield’s death.

January 31

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

Pennsylvania Journal (January 31, 1771).

“A DISCOURSE, Occasioned by the DEATH of the Revd. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

The death of George Whitefield in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, was one of the most significant news events of the year.  Newspapers throughout the colonies reported on the death of one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  They also carried news of local reactions and commemorations as well as poetry that memorialized the minister.  Almost immediately, printers, publishers, booksellers, and others commodified Whitefield’s death, marketing a variety of memorabilia via newspaper advertisements.

Such marketing tapered off after a couple of months as the immediacy of Whitefield’s death faded.  Printers and booksellers who previously placed advertisements designed solely to promote items devoted to Whitefield began listing such memorabilia among other merchandise available for sale.  At the end of January and beginning of February 1771, however, a resurgence of marketing commemorative items occurred, this time in places that had not witnessed the same intensity of advertising for Whitefield memorabilia as New England and New York in the final months of 1770.

William Bradford and Thomas Bradford, printers of the Pennsylvania Journal, began advertising sermons delivered in memory of the minister in the January 31 edition of their newspapers.  The Bradfords informed the public that they published “A DISCOURSE, Occasioned by the DEATH of the Revd. GEORGE WHITEFIELD … delivered October 14, 1770, in the Second Presbyterian Church, in this city, By JAMES SPROUTT, A.M. Pastor of said Church.”  They also carried another sermon by Ebenezer Pemberton, “Pastor of a Church in BOSTON.”  The Bradfords likely acquired copies of Pemberton’s sermon from printers in New England or New York, perhaps in exchange for promises of receiving copies of Sproutt’s sermon when it went to press.  The latter was a new publication not previously marketed elsewhere.  The Bradfords offered their customers choices; they could acquire a sermon delivered locally that already may have been familiar or one delivered in Boston that featured new content.  They could even purchase both, allowing them simultaneously to honor the influential minister and compare the memorials.

Whitefield’s death prompted mourning throughout the colonies, but it also presented opportunities for printers, publishers, booksellers, and others to attempt to profit from leveraging current events into commemorative items.  From New England to South Carolina, newspapers carried both reports of the minister’s death and advertisements for memorabilia. Widespread commodification accompanied the death of the famous minister.

January 18

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (January 18, 1771).

“A few Almanacks, and several Pieces on the late renowned WHITEFIELD, &c. may be had at the Printing Office.”

When George Whitefield, one of the most prominent ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening, died on September 30, 1770, it did not take long for printers, booksellers, and others to market commemorative items that celebrated the life of the minister and mourned his passing.  Within a week, advertisements for merchandise ranging from poems to hymns to funeral sermons began appearing in colonial newspapers.  While the commodification of Whitefield’s death was concentrated in New England, consumers in other regions also had opportunities to purchase memorabilia.

Those advertisements ran regularly for several months, but then tapered off at the end of the year.  As part of that process, printers and booksellers incorporated Whitefield commemorative items into advertisements promoting other items for sale.  For instance, printers Thomas Fleet and John Fleet inserted an advertisement for four pamphlets in the January 7, 1771, edition of their newspaper, the Boston Evening-Post.  “Dr. Whitaker’s Sermon on the Death of Mr. WHITEFIELD” was the third of those four items.  Previously, Whitefield commemorative items merited advertisements of their own in the Boston Evening-Post.

Such was the case in a brief advertisement in the January 18 edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle advised prospective customers that “A few Almanacks, and several Pieces on the late renowned WHITEFIELD, &c. may be had at the Printing Office.”  Whitefield’s death and the ensuing commemorations and mourning rituals were no longer breaking news, so the Fowles, like the Fleets, devoted less advertising space to marketing memorabilia.  Yet they still had inventory available, surplus copies that diminished any potential profits gained from the commodification of the minister’s death.  Advertising excess copies of almanacs in January was an annual custom for printers throughout the colonies.  The Fowles folded their Whitefield commemorative items into that practice, attempting to draw on remaining demand without giving over a significant amount of space to their advertisements.

January 7

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

Boston Evening-Post (January 7, 1771).

“Dr. Whitaker’s Sermon on the Death of Mr. WHITEFIELD.”

In addition to publishing the Boston Evening-Post, printers Thomas Fleet and John Fleet sold a variety of books at their shop at the Sign of the Heart and Crown.  Throughout the colonies, printers commonly augmented their incomes by selling books and pamphlets, mostly items that they either imported or acquired from associates in other towns alongside a few titles they produced on their own.

Such was the case in the advertisement the Fleets inserted in their own newspaper on January 7, 1771.  They concluded the notice with Jeremiah Dummer’s Defence of the New-England Charters, a pamphlet they reprinted in 1765, but they first listed titles published by others.  The Fleets devoted half of the notice to a pamphlet printed by William Goddard.  In The Partnership, Goddard detailed his disputes with “Joseph Galloway, Esq; Speaker of the Honorable House of Representatives of the Province of Pennsylvania, Mr. Thomas Wharton, sen.,” a prominent merchant, “and their Man Benjamin Towne,” a journeyman printer.  The four men had formerly been partners in the Pennsylvania Chronicle, but their disagreements led to a dissolution of the partnership in the summer of 1770 and a war of words in newspapers, handbills, and pamphlets.

The other titles available at the Heart and Crown included “Dr. Whitaker’s Sermon on the Death of Mr. 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.  In the wake of his death, printers and others produced, marketed, and sold a variety of commemorative items, including funeral sermons preached in memory of the minister.  For several months, advertisements for those items appeared alongside reports about reactions to the news in towns throughout the colonies and poetry composed for the occasion.  The Fleets’ advertisement, listing the funeral sermon third among four titles, marked a transition in the marketing of items commemorating Whitefield.  No longer was Whitefield the sole or even primary focus of the advertisement.  As time passed and the minister’s death became more distant in the memories of prospective buyers, the Fleets recognized that demand for such commemorative items waned.  Funeral sermons no longer had the same immediacy as when the news was fresh.  As a result, they became one item among several in booksellers’ inventories rather than items that merited advertisements of their own in the public prints.

After several months of Whitefield fervor, especially in newspapers published in New England, printers and booksellers like the Fleets recalibrated their advertising efforts.  In this case, a spirited account of a bitter feud among printers and politicians in Pennsylvania received top billing over a sermon in memory Whitefield.