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.

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 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.