December 1

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (December 1, 1772).

“PIKE’s ANNUAL BALL.”

The December 1, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal carried an advertisement that proclaimed “BALL” in a larger font than anything else in the entire issue.  That headline drew attention to an announcement that “PIKE’s ANNUAL BALL, for the young LADIES and GENTLEMEN, under his Tuition, will be on Tuesday the Eighth of December.”  The event would begin “exactly at SIX o’CLOCK.”  Presumably members of the community other than the dancing master’s students were welcome to attend the ball to observe the skills that Pike taught in what he had promoted as a “NEW SUIT of ROOMS” in another advertisement that he published in September.

Pike concluded that advertisement with a message to the “Parents and Guardians of his Scholars, that his BALL will be on Tuesday the 8th of December next.”  He underscored that they needed to sign up for classes “as soon as possible, that they may be enabled to complete his Figures in a proper Manner” when they were on display at the ball.  The dancing master aimed to excite some anxiety about public scrutiny, knowing that colonizers carefully observed each other to assess whether their appearance and comportment revealed authentic grace and gentility …or whether they merely put on an act and went through the motions.  Effortless dancing, many believed, revealed virtue, while stumbling around the dance floor and awkwardly interacting with partners and other dancers suggested character flaws.

As a result, colonizers who wished to demonstrate that they truly belonged among the ranks of the genteel relied on the services of various instructors, including tutors who taught them how to speak French, tutors who taught them how to play musical instruments, and dancing and fencing masters, like Pike, who taught them how to move gracefully and how to engage in polite exchanges at social gatherings.  In cautioning the parents and guardians of his prospective pupils that “his SCHOLARS” would be on display at his annual ball in December, Pike reminded them that they needed his services just as much as he needed their patronage if they wished to safeguard their social standing.

October 8

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

South-Carolina Gazette (October 8, 1772).

“Dancing & Fencing.”

“THE Sign of the Golden Cup.”

Mr. Pike, a dancing master, and Thomas You, a silversmith, both used graphic design to draw attention to their advertisements in the October 8, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette, yet they adopted different strategies.  Their notices further enlivened the vibrant graphic design that distinguished notices in that newspaper from those that ran in other newspapers.  The compositor for the South-Carolina Gazette made liberal use of varying font sizes, gothic letters for headlines, italics, capitals, and centering compared to advertisements.

That being the case, the compositor may have played a role in how the dancing master used decorative type and gothic letters to enhance his advertisement.  The headline “Dancing & Fencing” in gothic letters appeared inside a border composed of printing ornaments above a secondary headline spread over three lines: “PIKE’s ACADEMY / for / DANCING and FENCING.”  Compare that to a similar advertisement that Pike ran in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.  It featured only one headline, “DANCING and FENCING,” that did not appear in a different font than the rest of the advertisement.  Rather than constituting a second headline, “PIKE’s ACADEMY, for FENCING and DANCING” was part of the first paragraph of the advertisement.  An enterprising compositor at the South-Carolina Gazette likely played a significant role in designing Pike’s advertisement, perhaps assuming full responsibility without consulting the advertiser.

On the other hand, You almost certainly submitted instructions to include a woodcut depicting a golden cup in his advertisement for the merchandise he sold at the “Sign of the Golden Cup.”  You commissioned that image for his exclusive use, previously inserting it in advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette in December 1770 and March 1771.  Prior to that, he used a different woodcut in his advertisements in December 1766 and July 1767.  He seemed to appreciate that images helped draw attention to his notices.  How to incorporate an image, however, he may have left to the discretion of the compositor.  In 1772, his woodcut of a golden cup appeared in the center, flanked by his name and location.  In earlier advertisements, it was positioned to the left, replicating the placement of woodcuts depicting ships that adorned other notices.

The advertisements in the South-Carolina Gazette testify to both the role of the compositor in designing newspaper notices and occasional collaboration or consultation involving both the compositor and the advertiser.  Rather than dense text, variations abounded in the advertisements in that newspaper, making the South-Carolina Gazette one of the most visually interesting publications in the early 1770s.

September 15

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

South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 15, 1772).

“Young Ladies and Gentlemen instructed in DANCING.”

An advertisement for “DANCING and FENCING” lessons in the September 15, 1772, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal alerted readers that “PIKE’s ACADEMY, for FENCING and DANCING” would soon offer a new “Season” of classes.  Pike was probably already familiar to many prospective pupils, having offered instruction in Charleston for several years.  He attempted to generate interest even among those who had already taken lessons with him by inviting students to his “NEW SUIT of ROOMS” on Church Street.

A significant portion of the advertisement consisted of the schedule.  Pike devoted early mornings, “Five o’Clock to Nine,” to fencing lessons.  He taught dancing to “Young Ladies and Gentlemen” in the afternoons on Thursdays and Saturdays in addition to his “EVENING SCHOOL, every Evening in the Week, from Six o’Clock to Nine.”  That left “four Afternoons at Liberty every Week” for Pike to venture beyond his academy to provide private lessons to students “at their own Houses.”  That may have been the preferred option for those who felt anxious about appearing anything other than graceful and genteel in front of observers.

Yet dancing was an activity meant to be undertaken in public, at least eventually.  Colonizers asserted their status and took great pride in being skillful dancers.  Smoothly completing complex steps testified to their refinement, while awkwardness or stumbling undermined impressions of politeness and sophistication they demonstrated in other aspects of their comportment and dress.  Understanding the stakes, Pike scheduled an exhibition ball for early December and encouraged the “Parents and Guardians of his Scholars” to enroll them in lessons “as soon as possible.”  The teacher and his pupils needed sufficient time “to complete his Figures in a proper Manner” during their lessons so the young ladies and gentlemen could showcase their skills in front of observers at the ball.  Other dancing masters also raised the specter of public embarrassment in their advertisements, encouraging prospective students and their parents to enroll in lessons in order to withstand public scrutiny.  By stoking anxiety, they aimed to motivate colonizers to engage their services.

October 3

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

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 3, 1770).

“He proposes teaching COTILLONS in the newest taste.”

The South Carolina Newspapers collection available via Accessible Archives is an invaluable resource for producing the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project.  The collection includes digitized images of three newspapers published in Charleston in 1770, the South-Carolina Gazette, the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, and the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.

Transcriptions of the newspapers accompany the images.  In many cases, those transcriptions make it easier to decipher the contents of advertisements and other items that appear illegible for a variety or reasons.  Perhaps the original printing did not produce a clear impression in 1770 or the document suffered damage over time or poor photography resulted in a remediation that does not accurately the original.  Sometimes more than one of these factors influence the quality of digital surrogates.

Transcriptions, whether undertaken by people or technology, must be consulted with care.  Consider an advertisement for “PIKE’s DANCING and FENCING SCHOOLS” that ran in the October 3, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  The digital image is not easily legible, though an experienced research familiar with the language and contents of eighteenth-century newspaper advertisements can piece together the contents.  The transcription, on the other hand, leaves out words, such as “Ladies” in the phrase “Ladies and Gentlemen,” and does not accurately reproduce others, such as “he proposes trashing COTILLONSisa new first” for “he proposes teaching COTILLONS in the newest taste.”

Flawed Transcription of Pike’s Advertisement

While this is obviously an error in the transcription, the interface created by Accessible Archives does correct an error that the compositor made when setting the type for the issue that contained Pike’s advertisement.  That issue consisted of six pages, four pages created by printing two on each side of a broadsheet and folding it in half and two additional pages of advertising printed on either side of a smaller sheet.  That supplement has the wrong date at the top, “Sept. 24 – Oct. 2” instead of “Sept. 24 – Oct. 3” at the top of the pages for the rest of the issue.  The page numbers for the supplement, 183 and 184, run continuously with the pages printed on the larger sheet.  The date 1770 appears in the title (an abbreviated masthead): “THE SOUTH-CAROLINA AND AMERICAN GENERAL GAZETTE, for 1770.”  Dates in some of the advertisements also make it clear that the supplement was printed in 1770.

Yet manuscript additions indicate that at some time the supplement was separated from the rest of the issue.  The first page includes a notation, either incomplete or partially illegible, that states, “Sup in 177[x],” with a missing digit at the end of the year.  Similarly, the supplement has a notation, not entirely legible, that declares it “does not belong in this [state].”  Most likely the “Oct. 2” error resulted in the supplement being cataloged or even bound with another issue of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette from another year, but an archivist noted the other discrepancies and context clues.  In the end, Accessible Archives arranged the digital images of all six pages of the issue together and in the correct order, despite an error made by the compositor in 1770.

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (October 3, 1770).

Human error and technological error sometimes creep into sources at every stage of their production, preservation, and remediation.  Such errors introduce miniature mysteries that can be entertaining to solve, but they also challenge researchers to constantly assess their sources to recognize any features that seem out of place or inconsistent with what they know about the period they are investigating or the subsequent collection and treatment of primary sources that make them accessible.

September 4

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

Sep 4 - 9:4:1767 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (September 4, 1767).

“PIKE’s DANCING SCHOOL.”

Mr. Pike, a dancing and fencing instructor, was well known to the residents of Charleston, especially readers of the South-Carolina and American Gazette and other local newspapers who regularly encountered advertisements for his “DANCING SCHOOL.” The dancing master cultivated an aura of mystery by never using his first name in his newspaper notices, neither in Charleston in the 1760s nor in Philadelphia in the 1770s. Pike considered himself enough of a celebrity that he did not find it necessary to offer much information about the lessons he taught during daytime hours except to note that he did so “upon the same terms as usual.” He expected that the public, at least those most likely to partake of his services, was already familiar with the “terms” for youth who wished to attend his dancing school.

Many dancing masters targeted young people in their advertisements, but colonists of any age benefited from lessons. Adults could further refine their skills or learn new and unfamiliar steps as they became popular. To that end, Pike offered lessons for “GROWN GENTLEMEN … every evening from six to nine.” He realized that most men had other responsibilities during the day so scheduled his lessons for when they were more likely available to visit his school. Similarly, he offered instruction in the “use of the SMALL-SWORD” in the early morning.

For genteel colonists – and those who aspired to gentility – Pike’s lessons supplemented the education they received from schoolmasters and tutors that placed their own advertisements that described other sorts of lessons and curricula. The better sort believed that true gentility manifested itself not only in intellectual pursuits, such as reading and discussing classical texts, speaking French, and participating in conversations with others who appreciated belles lettres, but also in physical activities that demanded physical discipline and proper comportment of the body, especially dancing and, for men, fencing.

January 13

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

jan-13-1131767-south-carolina-gazette-and-country-journal-page-2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (January 13, 1767).

“ANNE IMER … has opened SCHOOL.”

Less than two weeks into the new year, Charleston’s schoolmasters encouraged parents to enroll their children in classes. The January 13, 1767, issue of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and its supplement included five notices promoting educational opportunities. Advertisements placed by schoolmasters and tutors of various sorts frequently appeared in the city’s newspapers in the 1760s, but not usually so many in a single issue. The start of the year, however, was an opportune time to seek new students as colonists thought about how to make the new year more prosperous than the last. As the advertisements indicate, parents who could afford to educate their children had many choices. Schoolmasters faced stiff competition from their peers, a factor that caused each to market more than just their curriculum.

William Hutchins, who operated a day school where students learned reading, writing, and arithmetic, asserted that he took “the greatest Care” in shaping the “Morals and Behaviour” of his students. For the convenience of scholars who could not attend during the day, he also kept an evening school.

Schoolmistress Anne Imer was the only educator who taught a subject specifically aimed at female students. She listed three subjects in her curriculum: “English, French, and Needle Work.” Most likely her charges learned needlework as a genteel pursuit for refined young ladies, a complement to their instruction in the French language, rather than solely as a practical skill. Imer also offered “to board three or four Children, having a convenient House for that Purpose.”

D’Ellient and Alexander welcomed both “Day boarders” and fulltime boarding students to their school, “where the English, French, Latin and Greek Languages, Writing and Arithmetick are taught as usual.” They offered a more refined education than Hutchins, as well as several amenities suited to the status of their students. The schoolmasters indicated that they had hired “a prudent Housekeeper” in order to provide satisfactory “boarding, lodging and washing of young Gentlemen from the Country.” They also provided lunch for “Day boarders,” students who lived in Charleston but far enough from the school that it was “inconvenient for them to return Home to dine.”

Walter Coningham supplemented the standard curriculum (reading, writing, and arithmetic) at his “Grammar-School” with lessons in Greek and Latin. Unlike others who taught foreign languages, he described his methods for parents of prospective students to review in advance. Like Imer, he accepted a limited number of boarders, though most of his pupils seemed to have been day students.

The enigmatic Pike (who never revealed his first name in any of his advertisements in Charleston or, later, Philadelphia) offered a very different curriculum, dancing and fencing. These genteel pursuits supplemented the knowledge students gained at other schools and academies. He invited male and female students to learn “proper address, the Minuet, Country Dances” or “any Branch of dancing they chuse.” Instruction in “the Use of the SMALL-SWORD,” however, was reserved for men.

The schoolmasters who placed these advertisements offered services and amenities in addition to instruction in the subjects they taught. In describing the ancillary aspects of they education they provided, these advertisers allowed prospective students and their parents to select the school that best fit their budget, status, and aspirations.

September 2

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

Sep 2 - 9:2:1766 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (September 2, 1766).

“DANCING and FENCING.”

Elite and middling colonists consider personal comportment an important aspect of demonstrating their gentility to anyone who happened to observe them, most especially their peers. Comportment consisted of practicing proper manners, dressing appropriately and according to current fashions, and engaging in social rituals (such as drinking tea or dancing) with ease. Much of this could be learned through informal instruction within the household or carefully watching and then putting into practice the comportment of others, especially those generally acknowledged for combining good character and grace. Other aspects could be learned through reading newspapers and magazines and, increasingly throughout the eighteenth century, various sorts of instructional manuals or guides to good etiquette.

A few aspects of genteel comportment, however, required (or at least greatly benefited from) formal instruction by experts. Such was the case with dancing and fencing, two endeavors taught by Mr. Pike in Charleston, South Carolina, for nearly a decade in the late 1760s and early 1770s before he took up residence in Philadelphia and advertised his services there. (In advertisements that appeared in both cities, he was known only as “Mr. Pike,” the absence of a first name perhaps lending authority and cachet to the dancing master.)

Pike announced that his dancing school would open “for the ensuing Season” within the next couple of days. He encouraged all sorts of “scholars” (many of them presumably women and youth of both sexes) to attend his daytime lessons, but he also offered evening lessons for “grown Gentlemen” who needed to brush up on their skills or learn the steps that had most recently come into fashion. At a separate time, early mornings, he also taught “the Use of the SMALL-SWORD.” Fencing certainly would have been a pastime adopted by the select few with sufficient leisure times to pursue it.

Pike concluded his advertisement by announcing that the “BALL for his young Ladies and Gentlemen, will be the second Week in December.” In so doing, he encouraged potential students to envision their dancing abilities – and their ability to make an impression on others – after taking his lessons. Hosting a ball also had the potential to be good for business, putting Pike’s students on display and demonstrating the quality of his instruction. Like any other sort of recital, it also implicitly incorporated elements of competition that might prompt clients to continue to engage his services.