August 14

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

Aug 14 - 8:14:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (August 14, 1766).

“Mr. Garner, from his approved Conduct in the teaching of Youth, having had many Solicitations to open an Academy …”

Joseph Garner was a well-known teacher who regularly advertised his schools and academies in Philadelphia’s newspapers. Although he addressed the topics students could expect to learn under his tutelage, he also emphasized the environment in which they would study. Students needed to be in surroundings, Garner suggested, that would contribute to their intellectual and moral growth.

Consider his description of the boarding school and its amenities in today’s advertisement. “The House is very extensive,” he proclaimed, so extensive “as to admit of many Boarders, without interrupting each other in their private Studies.” Pupils undertook those studies in “very elegant” rooms. Such surroundings lent themselves well “to the Design of carrying polite Literature into Execution.”

Garner understood that the youth he instructed also needed respite from their studies on occasion. To that end, the “commodious House” had “a large Yard, fit for the Relaxation of Youth after School Hours.” He assured parents of prospective students that this yard was “well inclosed.” Garner safeguarded the children entrusted to his care from the perils of the city, “where Vice is only too often so predominant.” Even when his pupils took a break from reading “polite Literature,” Garner provided an environment that nurtured morality and virtue rather than allowing them “the Liberty of the Streets.” In other words, he kept a close eye on his charges and did not allow them to potentially find trouble as they went gallivanting around the busy port city.

Garner also sought other teachers to assist instructing students. His list of qualifications placed greater emphasis on personal attributes than expertise. In addition to being “well versed in the Languages,” teachers also needed to be “of moral Behaviour, and unexceptionable Character.”

For Garner and the parents who enrolled their children in his academy, the purpose of education was more than the accumulation of knowledge. It was also intended to shape youth into moral men.

February 20

GUEST CURATOR:  Elizabeth Curley

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

Feb 20 - 2:20:1766 Pennsylvania Gazette
Pennsylvania Gazette (February 20, 1766).

“INTENDS to open a School in the Country.”

Joseph Garner, “Master of the Church School,” and John Todd, “Master of the Friends Public School, in Philadelphia,” were looking for a fellow teacher to go into the Pennsylvania countryside to teach at a new school.   Many people think of teaching as a women’s profession but in 1766 it could be considered a man’s profession because they were the ones who had schooling in some subjects.

Garner and Todd go on to list different skills they would like this gentleman teacher to have, such as the ability to teach Navigation, “Mensuration of Superficies and Solids,” Surveying, and “Extraction of the Square and Cube Roots.” These arithmetic skills would have been applicable to the banker, the merchant, and the insurance officer.

The final application requirement was that the applier have an “Unexceptional Recommendation, respecting Morals.”

The key reason I chose this advertisement was because I am studying to become an elementary educator with a concentration in history. I believe that being an educator to the next generation of leaders, CEOs, union workers, pro athletes, service employees, and mothers and fathers is the biggest honor that can be bestowed upon me. I think all teachers believe this at their core, although there are many other benefits. Taking Professor Keyes’s Public History class has shown me all the ways history can be brought inside and beyond a classroom, and, as a future educator, it will be my job to show children that history is not just in their textbooks but all around them.



As with yesterday’s featured advertisement, Elizabeth has chosen a notice that does not explicitly mention women yet allows us to explore how gender shaped women’s (and men’s) experiences in the late colonial period.

By and large, men and women received different kinds and levels of education in eighteenth-century America. In addition, schoolmasters operated “Latin” schools modeled on classical curricula in European schools for a small number of pupils, usually male, and “English” schools that provided instruction in basic reading, writing, and arithmetic for a greater number of students, both male and female. Men served as instructors at Latin schools, but both schoolmasters and schoolmistresses operated English schools.

This advertisement makes it clear that Garner and Todd envisioned a school for boys and young men who would eventually go on to careers as merchants or bankers or secure jobs in customs houses and insurance offices. It is possible that the school would have admitted girls and young women for instruction in basic skills. It is also possible that they would have pursued some of those lessons in mixed-sex classrooms (though other advertisements from the period make it clear that in such cases students would be closely monitored to make sure everyone behaved appropriately, as concerns about “Unexceptionable Recommendations, respecting Morals” make clear). When it came time for the more advanced and supposedly masculine subjects, male students would have met separately in sex-segregated classrooms with male instructors.