October 25

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

Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (October 25, 1770).

“A Sermon occasion’d by the sudden and much lamented Death of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

In the wake of George Whitefield’s death on September 30, 1770, printers, booksellers, and others quickly sought to capitalize on the event by publishing and selling commemorative items dedicated to the memory of one of the most prominent ministers associated with the religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening.  This commodification included producing new broadsides with images, poems, and hymns as well as marketing books originally published years earlier that were already in stock but gained new resonance.  Throughout the past month, the Adverts 250 Project has been tracking many of those publications to demonstrate the extent of the simultaneous commemoration and commodification that took place in the weeks after colonists learned of Whitefield’s death.  Advertisements hawking Whitefield memorabilia ran in newspapers published in Boston, New York, Portsmouth, and Salem almost as soon as the news appeared in the public prints.

A notice for yet another item, Heaven the Residence of the Saints, ran in the October 25, 1770, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.  The advertisement, reiterating the lengthy title, explained that this pamphlet was a “Sermon occasion’d by the sudden and much lamented Death of the Rev. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”  Ebenezer Pemberton, “Pastor of a Church in Boston,” delivered the sermon on October 11.  Just two weeks later, Joseph Edwards informed consumers that they could purchase copies of the sermon from him.  Daniel Kneeland printed that first edition for Edwards, but other printers recognized the prospective market for the pamphlet.  It did not take long for Hugh Gaine to reprint his own edition in New York or for E. and C. Dilly to commission a London edition, that one also featuring the “Elegiac Poem” composed by Phillis Wheatley, the enslaved poet, and frequently advertised and sold separately in the colonies.

New coverage of Whitefield’s death continued in the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter with a short article about Whitefield’s “PATRIOTISM” taken from the October 19, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Such articles, however, were not the sole extent of news about the minister.  Advertisements for commemorative items served as an alternative means of marking current events … and purchasing memorabilia gave consumers an opportunity to be part of those events as they joined others in mourning the death of Whitefield and celebrating his life.

October 24

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

New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy (October 22, 1770).

“THE two First PARTS of the LIFE of the late Rev. Mr. GEORGE WHITEFIELD.”

News of George Whitefield’s death in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, quickly spread.  Articles about the passing of one of the most famous and influential ministers associated with the religious revivals now known as the Great Awakening appeared in several newspapers published in Boston the following day.  Coverage then radiated out to newspapers published in other towns in New England and then beyond.  A little over three weeks later, newspapers printed in Charleston delivered the news to residents of South Carolina, reprinting articles that first appeared in Boston’s newspapers.

Coverage of Whitefield’s death was not limited to news articles.  Printers inserted poems in memory of the minister as well as advertisements for commemorative items, broadsides featuring images, hymns, and verses that celebrated Whitefield.  Such commodification commenced almost immediately in New England.  An article in the October 4, 1770, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter ended with a notice of a “FUNERAL HYMN” written by Whitefield with the intention that it would be “sung over his Corpse by the Orphans belonging to his Tabernacle in London, had he died there” was on sale at Green and Russell’s printing office.  All five newspapers published in Boston as well as the Essex Gazette in Salem and the New-Hampshire Gazette in Portsmouth soon ran advertisements for various commemorative broadsides.

Yet the rapid commodification of Whitefield’s death was not confined to New England.  Two newspapers, the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy, broke the news on October 8, just a week after it first appeared in Boston’s newspapers.  Both publications reprinted items from other newspapers and inserted extracts of letters received from correspondents in Massachusetts.  In its next issue, the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy included its first advertisement that sought to capitalize on the minister’s death.  Garrat Noel, a bookseller who frequently advertised his wares, placed a notice that highlighted two publications related to Whitefield before listing various other titles he offered for sale.  He informed prospective customers that he carried “THE two First PARTS of the LIFE of the late Rev. Mr. GEORGE WHITEFIELD, written by himself,” works originally published three decades earlier that now resonated with consumers in new ways in the wake of the minister’s passing.  Noel also had in stock “Mr. WHITEFIELD’S Collection of HYMNS, The Thirteenth Edition.”  Whitefield’s death allowed for new marketing opportunities for popular items already in the bookseller’s inventory.

Noel’s advertisements ran for several weeks, coinciding with continued coverage of Whitefield’s death as all three newspapers in New York continued to reprint items from other newspapers to give their subscribers and other readers more information about the minister’s death and funeral.  Noel almost certainly hoped that those news articles would help to incite interest in the books he offered for sale, coverage of current events buttressing his marketing efforts.  It was hardly a coincidence that he began highlighting books related to Whitefield so soon after such momentous news about the minister arrived in New York and appeared in the public prints.

October 12

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 12, 1770).

“The Character of … George Whitefield … worthy a place in every House.”

By October 12, 1770, newspapers published in Boston and Salem, Massachusetts; Portsmouth, Rhode Island; Newport and Providence, Rhode Island; Hartford, New Haven, and New London, Connecticut; New York; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania informed readers of the death of minister George Whitefield at Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770.  Coverage originated in Boston on the day after Whitefield’s death and then radiated outward as other newspapers published their own articles but mostly reprinted items that originally ran in one of the five newspapers printed in Boston.

It did not take long for commemoration to turn to commodification inspired by the influential minister’s death.  Almost immediately, printers notified the grieving public that they intended to publish Whitefield memorabilia.  Whether or not they had heard Whitefield preach while he was still alive, consumers could purchase broadsides that featured his words or documented his life and good works.  Through the marketplace they could acquire a connection to one of the most prominent ministers associated with the religious revivals of the Great Awakening.

Such advertisements continued to supplement news coverage in the October 12, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette.  Between news items, poetry honoring the preacher, and advertisements for memorabilia, Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle devoted an entire column to Whitefield, out of only twelve columns over four pages that comprised the entire issue.  The Fowles inserted three items reprinted from the October 8 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.  A longer news article, a poem dedicated to Whitefield, and a shorter news article all ran in the order that they appeared in the Boston newspaper.  The Fowles included another poem, that one taken from the October 4 edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter.

Immediately following those items, they ran an advertisement for two commemorative broadsides.  One featured “A Hymn composed by the Rev. Mr. WHITEFIELD, and intended to be sung over his Corps.”  Printers in Boston and Salem had already advertised a similar piece of memorabilia.  The Fowles also advertised an item that had not yet been marketed in the public prints, a broadside about “The Character of the late worthy, pious, learned and Reverend George Whitefield.”  The Fowles stressed that this memorial was “properly put in mourning,” meaning that thick black borders enclosed the text and separated the columns.  It also featured an image of Whitefield’s coffin with “the Names of the Bearers, placed on each side of it.”  (Examine the Library of Congress’s copy of this broadside.)  In an effort to incite demand and increase sales, the Fowles proclaimed that this broadside in memory of Whitefield was “worthy a place in every House.”  Consumers could demonstrate their rectitude and continue to be instructed by the minister and his good example after his death.

Like other printers who produced and marketed similar broadsides, the Fowles participated in the commodification of Whitefield’s death.  Such a significant event presented an opportunity to increase revenues in their printing office by publishing and selling commemorative items.

October 9

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

Essex Gazette (October 9, 1770).

“A Hymn composed by the Rev. Mr. WHITEFIELD, and intended to be sung over his Corps.”

George Whitefield, one of the most influential ministers associated with the eighteenth-century religious revivals known as the Great Awakening, was a celebrity known throughout the American colonies.  Following his death in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, newspaper coverage radiated out from Boston.  The first reports appeared in the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, and the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy the following day.  The Massachusetts Spy, published in Boston, and the Essex Gazette, published in Salem, printed the news on October 2.  Two days later, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter reported Whitefield’s death and the Massachusetts Spy became the first newspaper to disseminate information about the event in more than one issue.  Coverage continued in other newspapers, many of them reprinting articles that first appeared in Boston’s newspapers.  On October 5, the Connecticut Journal and New-Haven Post-Boy, the New-Hampshire Gazette, and the New-London Gazette all carried the news, as did the Providence Gazette on October 6.  All three Boston newspapers that broke the story on October 1 expanded their coverage on October 8.  The same day, the Newport Mercury reprinted news that ran in the Boston-Gazette a week earlier.  The news also appeared in newspaper published outside New England for the first time.  The New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury and the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy reprinted items from Boston’s newspapers.

On October 9, the Connecticut Courant, published in Hartford, carried news for the first time, while the Essex Gazetteand the Massachusetts Spy continued coverage.  In addition to news items about Whitefield’s death, the Essex Gazette ran an advertisement for “A Hymn composed by the Rev. Mr. WHITEFIELD, and intended to be sung over his Corps, if he had died in England, by a Number or Orphans.”  That hymn was collected together with “some Verses on the Death of that great Man,” perhaps gathered from the various newspapers that honored Whitefield with poetry in addition to news articles.  The advertisement informed readers that the hymn and verses “will be printed on a Half Sheet, and sold at the Printing-Office To-Morrow.”  Samuel Hall, the printer of the Essex Gazette, participated in the commodification of Whitefield’s death.  He simultaneously sought to honor the revered minister and profit from his demise.

Even though Hall was the first to publish an advertisement, he was not the first to introduce the commodification of Whitefield’s death to the public.  Coverage in the October 4, 1770, edition of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter included a short note about a similar (or perhaps the same) broadside:  “A FUNERAL HYMN, wrote by the Rev’d Mr. Whitefield:  Said to be designed to have been sung over his Corpse by the Orphans belonging to his Tabernacle in London, had he died there.  Sold at Green & Russell’s.”  This announcement appeared as part of an original news item about Whitefield’s death dated October 4, following a reprinted news item about his death dated October 1, and immediately before verses honoring the minister.  It was not separated from the coverage of Whitefield’s death as a distinct item, nor did it appear among the advertisements that ran elsewhere in that issue.  It was fully integrated into the reporting about Whitefield.  Just four days after the minister’s death, printers were already hawking memorabilia.  Not long after that, notices about commemorative items began appearing as advertisements rather than as part of the news coverage, underscoring the possibilities for generating revenue inherent in the commodification of Whitefield’s death.  Hall may have sold a broadside he printed or the one printed by Green and Russell, but either way he aimed to profit by leveraging the Whitefield’s celebrity and death.  Hall and other printers used current events to promote sales of commemorative items.

October 5

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

New-Hampshire Gazette (October 5, 1770)

“[illegible due to ink bleeding through from other side of sheet]”

Like many other eighteenth century newspapers, the masthead for the New-Hampshire Gazette proclaimed that it “CONTAIN[ED] the Freshest ADVICES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.”  In other words, it carried current news from the colonies and abroad.  Those “ADVICES,” however, were not confined to the news articles and editorials; advertisements also delivered news to readers, sometimes about commerce and consumption, sometimes about politics, and sometimes about current events.  Advertisements relayed an array of valuable information to readers, supplementing contents that appeared elsewhere in the newspapers.

Advertisements sometimes provided additional information about articles that ran in the same issue, but in the case of some advertisements in the October 5, 1770, edition of the New-Hampshire Gazette the news bled through, literally, in a very different way.  George Whitefield, one of the most influential ministers associated with the religious revivals known as the Great Awakening, died on September 30.  The October 5 edition, the first published following Whitefield’s death, included a lengthy notice on the third page.  As was the custom in eighteenth-century newspapers, thick black borders denoting mourning enclosed the news, honoring Whitefield and attracting the attention of readers.

So thick were those borders and so firm the impression of the hand-operated printing press that ink bled through from the news item on the third page to the advertisements on the fourth page.  Among them, Neal McIntyre’s advertisement for tobacco from Virginia featured a faint unintended border.  The first lines of a notice that “the GENERAL ASSEMBLY of this Province is now Prorogued” were partially obscured by ink from the other side of the page.  Even when readers moved past the most significant news article of the October 5 issue, word of Whitefield’s death continued to reverberate in other items as the result of the printing technologies of the time.  In any newspaper, news and advertising were not delivered separately from each other.  In this particular instance, news left a very visible mark on several advertisements.