September 16

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

Sep 16 - 9:16:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (September 16, 1767).

“TWO POOR BOYS … will be taught to read, write, and cast accounts … by the bounty of Gentleman.”

As fall arrived in 1767, schoolmaster John Francklin incorporated philanthropy into his advertising campaign in the Georgia Gazette. Thanks in part to his previous newspaper notices, residents of Savannah and its hinterland may have already been aware that he taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, though in the newest iteration of his advertisement he further elaborated on his methods. That he utilized “a new and most concise method,” however, was not the most significant new information he provided for prospective pupils and their parents.

Francklin offered a scholarship, funded “by the bounty of a Gentleman,” to “TWO POOR BOYS … within the Town of Savannah.” Over the course of a year, these two students would learn “to read, write, and cast accounts.” In addition to tuition, the anonymous benefactor also provided “books, &c.” Presumably “&c.” (the eighteenth-century version of “etc.”) included other school supplies purchased from local booksellers or other shopkeepers, but not room or board. Francklin’s advertisements all suggested that he ran a day school, which may help explain why the recipients of this beneficence had to reside “within the Town of Savannah.”

Although Francklin may not have induced the anonymous gentleman to make this donation, he certainly attempted to extract as much benefit from it as possible. His association with this philanthropic effort would have made his services look even more attractive to the parents of prospective students. In evaluating the schoolmaster, parents would have been as interested in Francklin’s character and the morals imparted in the classroom as in the quality of his instruction. Lest anyone express concern about the influence “POOR BOYS” might have on other students at the school, Francklin specified that they would come from “industrious honest parents,” minimizing the possibility of introducing corrupting factors into interactions among students. The schoolmaster walked a fine line, welcoming recognition of his public spiritedness while simultaneously reassuring current and prospective students and their families that the scholarship students would not cause disruptions. Philanthropy made for a powerful marketing appeal, but Francklin also had to manage it carefully.

September 13

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

Sep 13 - 9:10:1767 New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 10, 1767).

“Hughes’s Night School, Commences on the 14th Instant.”

In early September 1767, Hughes turned to the New-York Journal to advertise the opening of his night school in the middle of the month. His entire notice consisted of only eight words: “Hughes’s Night School, Commences on the 14th Instant.” Given the brevity of this advertisement, especially in comparison to those placed by other schoolmasters throughout the colonies, Hughes must have assumed that the general public was already aware of all the important details, everything from the curriculum to the hours of instruction to the location.

What Hughes’s advertisement lacked in relaying information it made up for in experimenting with layout designed to attract the attention of potential students. John Holt, the printer of the New-York Journal, and the compositor had developed a fairly standard visual appearance for advertisements inserted in that newspaper. They used a single font size for news items and most of the text included in advertisements, but headlines for advertisements (most often an advertiser’s name) appeared in a significantly larger font, regardless of the length of the advertisement. The first line of the body of the advertisement often featured a font only slightly larger than that used for the remainder. Advertisements by Philip Livingston and Peter Remsen that appeared in the same column as Hughes’s advertisement fit the general pattern when it came to the graphic design of paid notices in the New-York Journal.

Sep 13 - Extra Adverts from New-York Journal
New-York Journal (September 10, 1767).

Every word and every line of Hughes’s advertisement appeared in larger font sizes. The size of “Commences on the 14th instant,” the smallest in this advertisement, paralleled that of headlines in other advertisements throughout the standard issue and the supplement. The size of “Night School” rivaled the size of the newspaper’s title in the masthead. The size of the schoolmaster’s name far exceeded anything else printed in the issue or the supplement. Hughes’s message to potential students was short and straightforward, but the visual aspects had been designed to distinguish it from everything else on the page.

Newspapers published in colonial America’s largest cities in the 1760s often had a surplus of advertising, so much that they often had to print supplements to accommodate all of them. Space was limited, causing printers and compositors to standardize some of the visual aspects, including limiting the size of most text in advertisements. On occasion, however, they experimented with other formats that would have had a much different effect on readers accustomed to a particular style. Hughes’s relatively short advertisement for his “Night School” certainly stood out on the page.

August 28

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

Aug 28 - 8:28:1767 New-Hampshire Gazette
New-Hampshire Gazette (August 28, 1767).

“Has lately opened an Evening School, for young Masters and Apprentices.

Schoolmaster Ebenezer Bradford emphasized efficiency and convenience in the advertisement he inserted in the New-Hampshire Gazette late in the summer of 1767. He reminded the residents of Portsmouth that he “continues his Day School for young Ladies and Misses,” but he also announced a new service for other students. He had “lately opened” an “Evening School, for young Masters and Apprentices.”

Bradford not only segregated his classroom by sex but also by when his pupils were likely to be available for lessons. Knowing that “young Masters and Apprentices” had responsibilities that kept them occupied throughout the day, he taught alternate evening classes to fit their schedules. Night courses for working professionals offered by modern colleges and universities have precursors extending back to the colonial period. Then, as now, educators sought to attract students and generate revenues by recognizing that not all prospective students could enroll during daytime hours.

In addition to that convenience, Bradford also acknowledged that potential pupils, especially those attending evening classes, wished to complete their course of study as quickly as possible. He did not give any indication on how long it might take for him “to Teach Reading, Writing and Arithmetic,” but he did pledge that every student would receive his “utmost Care” for “quick Instruction.” Again, modern methods for marketing certain educational programs have antecedents in the eighteenth century. Many colleges and universities promote some of their accelerated programs by emphasizing how quickly they can be completed, allowing students to disrupt other aspects of their lives as little as possible.

Bradford provided a practical education that covered the basics, unlike some schoolmasters that advertised a “polite” education, listed a variety of genteel subjects, and elaborately described various amenities in their classrooms. While other schoolmasters marketed an overall experience to prospective pupils and their parents, Bradford instead communicated his understanding that some students were primarily concerned with learning or enhancing basic skills quickly and efficiently. He catered to students who desired few frills but instead wished to resume their regular lives and schedules in as short a time as possible.

June 9

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

Jun 9 - 6:9:1767 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal Page 2
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (June 9, 1767).

“He first introduced into this Province the most expeditious Method of teaching Writing.”

Osborne Straton was not the only schoolmaster who advertised his services in the newspapers printed in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1767. He needed to distinguish his instruction from that provided by W. Adams and William Johnson, both of whom inserted much more extensive notices in the public prints. Rather than going into as much detail about his curriculum and teaching methods, Straton advanced two other reasons “Parents and Guardians” should enroll their children in “the British Academy on the Green, at the West End of BROAD-STREET.”

First, he underscored his experience, implying that the parents of prospective students should choose his academy because his competitors were newcomers who had not yet gained the public trust. Straton had been teaching in Charleston for half a decade; he considered it “his Duty to remind the Public, That A.D. 1762, he first introduced into this Province the most expeditious Method of teaching Writing, Drawing, &c. &c. in all their Branches.” His methods were particularly designed “to qualify Youth for Business in general,” a goal that Straton identified in an advertisement published several months earlier. He noted his long experience in that notice as well, stating that he had “forty years experience as head book-keeper in some of the first counting-houses in Europe” before migrating to South Carolina and becoming a schoolmaster. According to Straton, his experience, both in business and in teaching local youth, should cause parents to give him precedence over other schoolmasters.

Straton also argued that he served the public good in addition to earning a living by charging tuition of students who could afford it. He pledged to “Instruct six poor Children Gratis, every Thursday and Saturday in the Afternoon.” This was not the first time he made such an offer. Several weeks earlier he announced that “one youth may be qualified for business gratis, on a private benevolence,” an eighteenth-century scholarship of sorts. In making a new commitment to teach several poor children, Straton again played on his ties to the community established over the course of several years. He set a philanthropic example to make his academy more appealing to prospective students and their parents, suggesting that service rather than revenues motivated his instruction.

Compared to his competitors, Straton’s advertisement was relatively short. Despite its length, he included two appeals that made his academy both distinctive and attractive to residents of Charleston as they considered several options. Other schoolmasters might have offered effective instruction, but for Straton the work seemed to be a vocation rather than a mere occupation.

April 24

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

Apr 24 - 4:24:1767 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (April 24, 1767).

“He has room … for ten day and three evening scholars more.”

In recent weeks the guest curators of the Adverts 250 Project have examined advertisements placed by some of Savannah’s schoolmasters in the Georgia Gazette. Both schoolmasters promoted the subjects they taught, which were limited mostly to the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic (though one also provided instruction in Latin). Meanwhile, Osborne Straton, a schoolmaster in Charleston, took a different approach in advertising his school. He did not discuss his curriculum at all, but instead noted the location – “on the Green” – and described the surroundings as a “pleasant, healthy situation.”

Most schoolmasters and schoolmistresses placed advertisements to attract pupils they expected to pay tuition. Such was the case with Straton, who indicated that he had slots to accommodate ten more “scholars” in the classes he offered during the day and three more for evening classes. One fortunate student, however, might have qualified to attend Straton’s classes on a scholarship: “one youth may be qualified for business gratis, on a private benevolence.”

Straton did not reveal the identity of the benefactor, but it might have been a civic organization mentioned earlier in his advertisement. He implied that moving his school to a new location “on the Green” had been done “by the consent and approbation of the South-Carolina Society.” Perhaps the members sponsored his school, formally or informally. The society or one of its members may have provided for the “private benevolence” as a means of bolstering the futures of the student, the city, and the colony. Alternately, someone else may have provided the funds to offer an education to a youth who otherwise might not have afforded it. The schoolmaster himself may have opted not to charge tuition of one of his charges, leveraging the decision into a public relations opportunity.

Regardless of the source of the “private benevolence,” Straton possessed a means to distinguish his school from others when he advertised for students. His association with a philanthropic venture positioned him as an instructor capable of overseeing the moral development of his students as well as their academic work.

April 22

GUEST CURATOR: Jonathan Bisceglia

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

Apr 22 - 4:22:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (April 22, 1767).


I chose this advertisement because I plan on being an educator – a teacher, professor, or a public historian – so this advertisement is quite close to heart. It is important to note that this advertisement comes from a newspaper printed in the southern colonies, the Georgia Gazette. This education offered in this advertisement differs from the schooling some children in the region received. “The sons of a planter typically would be taught the basics at home,” state the curators at Stratford Hall. Discussions in “Schools in American Society,” an Education course taught by Professor Casey Handfield at Assumption College, confirmed that this was typical in southern colonies. On the other hand, in Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America, E. Jennifer Monaghan argues the northern colonies had significantly more extensive schooling, including pubic schooling in New England, due to the religious focus on education dating back to the seventeenth century.

Also it should not be overlooked that the advertisement included the subjects to be taught. Due to the nature of these subjects it appears as though the school was for younger children who needed the basics but not a “genteel” education. When it came to children of the elite, according to historians at Stratford Hall, “The boys studied higher math, Greek, Latin, science, celestial navigation (navigatin[g] ships by the stars), geography, history, fencing, social etiquette, and plantation management.” In addition, “The school days for girls were somewhat different. Girls learned enough reading, writing, and arithmetic to read their Bibles and be able to record household expenses.” This distinction is important because it separates the typical roles that men and women would play in life from an early start. This is important because it gives modern historians a view of gender roles in colonial society.



As Jonathan notes, John Francklin taught the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. James Whitefield, a competitor who also advertised in the Georgia Gazette, offered only a slightly more extensive curriculum. He listed Latin among the subjects taught at his school. Neither schoolmaster advertised additional subjects often promoted as “genteel education” in newspapers printed in other cities, the sorts of subjects Jonathan already listed.

In addition to the north-south divide that distinguished educational opportunities in the different colonial regions, urban culture also played a role in determining which subjects were offered (or, at least, advertised) to potential students. Schoolmasters and schoolmistresses in both Philadelphia and Charleston, both large and bustling port cities, advertised day and boarding schools where students learned a variety of advanced academic subjects as well as ancillary skills (like dancing and personal comportment) in addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic.

In colonial America’s larger cities, some instructors advertised independently of any affiliation with schoolmasters and schoolmistresses whose curriculum focused on general education. For instance, French language tutors frequently advertised their services, often offering one-on-one instruction with their pupils. Dancing masters also advertised regularly in newspapers printed in larger cities. In addition to one-on-one instruction, many also ran their own academies where they tended to teach female students during one portion of the day and male students at alternate times. Some dancing masters doubled as fencing instructors, further enhancing the genteel arts their charges developed. Although some French tutors and dancing and fencing masters were itinerants, many tended to remain in the larger colonial cities for several years, presumably because they cultivated a clientele that kept them employed.

Surveying advertisements for education in newspapers printed throughout the colonies in the decade before the Revolution reveals certain disparities. From New Hampshire to Georgia, colonists used consumer culture to assert their status and identity, anxious lest their counterparts in England think they lived in provincial backwaters. While advertisements for goods demonstrate standardization of products available to purchase during this period, advertisements for services – especially education – suggest uneven opportunities. Schoolmasters and schoolmistresses everywhere taught the basics, but, not surprisingly, instructors with specialized skills most often promoted their services to potential pupils in larger cities. They relied not only on larger populations but also elites conscious of demonstrating their status and middling sorts with aspirations for social mobility. Readers of the Pennsylvania Gazette and the South-Carolina Gazette regularly encountered advertisements for education that looked much different than today’s advertisement from the Georgia Gazette.

April 15

GUEST CURATOR: Shannon Dewar

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

Apr 15 - 4:15:1767 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (April 15, 1767).


Southern Education. James Whitefield’s advertisement announced that he planned to open a school. Regarding the content of the education provided, Whitefield “designs TEACHING LATIN, READING, WRITING, and ARITHMETICK.” I would like to discuss schools in this period, especially in the Lower South.

Note that this advertisement mentions it was a boarding school. Plantations in Georgia and other southern colonies were spaced out so daily travel for school was virtually impossible for some. Boarding schools provided an option for those who lived outside Savannah, Charleston, and other large towns.

It is also important to add that these services of education had to be purchased, as, according to Robert A. Peterson, “government had, for all practical purchases, no hand at all in education,” especially in the southern colonies. Education was something individuals had to acquire for themselves and their children. It came at a price. Free public education was not yet available for all. Children were taught at home, but those with money had other chances for education, including attending – or even being “lodged and boarded” – at a school like the one James Whitefield opened.



James Whitefield placed one of two advertisements about “OPENING A SCHOOL” in Savannah the April 15, 1767, issue of the Georgia Gazette. John Francklin inserted the other. Both planned for their lessons to commence the following Monday.

At a glance, the advertisements from these competing schoolmasters might give the impression of extensive educational opportunities in Savannah, yet the services they offered and their methods for promoting them to prospective students and their parents paled in comparison to advertisements for day and boarding schools in larger port cities, especially Philadelphia, New York, and Charleston.

Whitefield and Francklin each taught the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Whitefield angled for a more elite clientele, listing Latin first among the subjects he taught, but he did not supplement that subject with other languages or additional subjects that many of his counterparts in larger cities promoted. Studying Latin was usually reserved for the better sorts, so some students (or their parents) may have chosen Whitefield’s school over Francklin’s for the perceived prestige of the slightly more extensive curriculum, even if they did not take Latin lessons after enrolling. Whitefield indicated that he had the capacity to take on boarders, “A few Masters or Misses,” but it was unlikely that female students would have been exposed to studying Latin.

Neither schoolmaster described their curriculum beyond listing the subjects they taught. Neither explained the care they took in the moral development of their charges. Neither described the amenities associated with the homes where they taught. Both limited their advertisements to seven lines, making them brief announcements compared to the marketing undertaken by schoolmasters in the major urban ports in the 1760s and 1770s.

Whitefield and Francklin offered valuable services to the residents of Savannah, but their efforts to provide educational opportunities appear embryonic compared to those available in larger cities. Part of this was most certainly a function of Georgia being such a young colony, founded only thirty-five years earlier. Even when colonists had more choices, they had to purchase them, as Shannon points out, which did not necessarily make education more accessible to most colonists even if they lived in close proximity to multiple schoolmasters and schoolmistresses who offered the most extensive lessons, moral guidance, and amenities. In the late colonial era, just as today, Americans had uneven access to educational opportunities, determined in part by both geography and status.