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 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 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.

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).