November 8

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

Nov 8 - 11:8:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (November 8, 1768).

“M. NELSON, PASTRY-COOK, from LONDON.”

The advertisements that appeared in eighteenth-century newspapers testify to the presence of women in the marketplace as purveyors of goods and services, not merely as consumers. They ran their own businesses. They advanced their commercial activities in the public prints, carving out greater visibility for themselves in their communities. Yet women who advertised adopted a variety of approaches when it came to establishing that visibility.

Consider three advertisements that appeared in the November 8, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and its supplement devoted entirely to advertisements. Mary King, a milliner, achieved the greatest visibility. Her notice used her name as a headline: “MARY KING.” A secondary headline, “A COMPLEAT ASSORTMENT of / MILLINARY GOODS,” described the merchandise that she then listed in greater detail. King achieved greater visibility as a female entrepreneur than either of the other two women who placed advertisements in the same issue.

Sabina Taylor was the least visible. Her advertisement filled only six lines, making it one of the shortest in the entire issue. Unlike many of the other advertisements of similar length, hers did not include a headline that pronounced her name in larger font and capital letters. Instead, the schoolmistress figuratively signed her name on the final line. Although “SABINA TAYLOR” appeared in capitals, her name still was not in a larger font. The lack of white space in her own notice as well as the headline for the advertisement that appeared immediately below, “TO BE SOLD CHEAP,” crowded out Taylor’s signature, making it even more difficult to spot her on the page.

  1. Nelson charted a middle course. Her advertisement occupied only lightly less space than King’s notice. She also had a headline – “M. NELSON” – and secondary headline – “PASTRY-COOK, from LONDON” – with sufficient white space to draw attention to her advertisement. Yet she did not list her full name, making it impossible for many readers to recognize at a glance that her advertisement promoted an enterprise operated by a woman. Many residents of Charleston would have already known of Nelson and her business. For those who did not, it would not have been apparent that a woman placed the advertisement until they read the body in which Nelson expressed “her sincere thanks to those gentlemen and ladies who has honoured her with their custom.” Nelson asserted visibility for her business while simultaneously downplaying her own visibility as a female entrepreneur.

Women who provided consumer goods and services were present among the advertisers in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, but their decisions about the copy for their advertisements resulted in various levels of visibility. While Mary King boldly claimed a place alongside male entrepreneurs, Sabina Taylor and M. Nelson obscured their participation in the marketplace even as they promoted the goods and services they offered to consumers.

October 5

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

Oct 5 - 10:5:1768 Georgia Gazette
Georgia Gazette (October 5, 1768).

“Mrs. Cosgreve would undertake to teach young Ladies to sew and read.”

Although several schoolmasters and –mistresses offered their services in Savannah in the late 1760s, James Cosgreve published one of the most extensive advertisements in the Georgia Gazette. The length was due in part to the schoolmaster’s description of his curriculum. Like his counterparts, he taught the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. However, he also delivered lessons in several other subjects not as widely taught by other schoolmasters in Georgia at the time. For instance, Cosgreve indicated that he provided instruction in “Mathematicks, such as the first six books of Euclid, with their application in the theory and practice of Trigonometry, Navigation, Surveying, Gnomicks, Astronomy, Geography, Algebra, and the Use of the Globes.” He also offered two tracks of language instruction to match the abilities and resources of his students. Advanced students learned Latin and Greek, but those who “cannot spend so much time at school as to acquire” those languages “to any degree of perfection” could instead study “the English and French tongues grammatically.” Cosgreve was well qualified to teach all of these subjects, “having acquired a competent skill and communicative faculty … by the laborious study and experience of a long course of years, in the most noted Seminaries, Academies, and Schools in Ireland, England, and America.”

In a short nota bene Cosgreve first noted where he resided and then added that “Mrs. Cosgreve would undertake to teach young Ladies to sew and read.” Mrs. Cosgreve was not nearly as accomplished as her husband, yet she also contributed to their household economy by offering her services as a teacher. She too participated in the marketplace, yet the representation of her activities that appeared in the public prints was dramatically overshadowed by her husband’s lengthy narration of his credentials and subjects he taught. Such was often the case for wives of schoolmasters and others who provided goods and services. If their contributions to family businesses and household finances were acknowledged at all, they tended to be mentioned only briefly in the conclusions to advertisements, almost as an afterthought. Admittedly, James Cosgreve did require a greater amount of space to detail the many and varied subjects he proposed teaching to “young Gentlemen and Ladies,” but that did not mean that Mrs. Cosgreve’s parallel instruction in sewing and reading had to be consigned to a nota bene. The husband could have instead chosen to depict his wife as an assistant or junior partner while still maintaining his status as the head of a well-ordered household. Such an approach was not unknown in eighteenth-century advertisements placed by schoolmasters whose wives made contributions to the enterprise. In this case, however, Cosgreve may have believed that placing any more emphasis on his wife would have distracted from the image of himself, the atmosphere of genteel learning at his school, and the extensive curriculum that he sought to market to prospective students and their parents.

March 29

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

Mar 29 - 3:29:1768 South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal
South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal (March 29, 1768).

“He intends to open School … she will undertake to teach the Girls their Needle.”

In preparation for opening a school in Charleston, Daniel Stevens placed an advertisement in the March 29, 1768, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal. He advised “the Public, and his Friends in particular” that he would teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, establishing a curriculum that set his school apart from the “British Academy on the Green” that Osborne Straton promoted in another advertisement in the same issue. Osborne taught English, Latin, and French as well as drawing, “Poetry, Rhetoric, [and] Logic.” Instead of “Writing” and “Arithmetic,” he taught “Writing in the Mercantile and Law Hands” and “The various useful and practical Branches of the Mathematicks.” Straton implied that he welcomed only boys as “Day Scholars,” but he tutored “Gentlemen or Ladies” in their homes on selected afternoons.

Stevens, on the other hand, invited readers to send both boys and girls to his school, where he provided a more modest and practical education. To that end, his advertisement included a short section in which Katharine Stevens announced “that she will undertake to teach the Girls their Needle.” As Straton cornered the market when it came to a genteel education, Daniel Stevens offered a different sort of enhancement to his curriculum, an enhancement that readers who could not translate the Latin quotations sprinkled throughout Straton’s advertisement may have considered much more useful and important.

That enhancement depended on the contributions of Katharine Stevens, presumably Daniel’s wife (but possibly a sister, daughter, or other female relation). The wording of the advertisement presents the school primarily as Daniel’s venture, but Katharine likely acted as more than a mere assistant in the endeavor. Even if she did not teach the academic subjects, she did participate in the instruction of the female students. In the process, she also supervised the children at the school, contributing to good order within the classroom. Some parents of prospective students may have been reassured simply by Katharine’s presence, assuming that it signaled more care and attention than Daniel could deliver by himself.

Both the copy and the format of this advertisement position Katharine as subordinate to Daniel. He sought pupils for his school; she taught a gendered skill, sewing, to only some of his students, the girls. Yet that description likely belied a more equal partnership that guided this joint venture in both planning and execution. At the very least, Daniel Stevens relied on the contributions made by Katharine Stevens when marketing his (their?) new school. She provided instruction in an area that he did not possess skill or expertise, an addition to the curriculum intended to make the school more attractive to prospective students and their parents.

July 24

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

Jul 24 - 7:24:1767 South-Carolina and American General Gazette
South-Carolina and American General Gazette (July 24, 1767).

“REBECCA WOODIN … CONTINUES to teach young ladies.”

Although women placed newspaper notices advertising goods and services in eighteenth-century America they were disproportionately underrepresented in the public prints compared to how actively they participated in the marketplace as retailers, suppliers, and producers rather than merely as consumers. Sometimes women’s enterprises made their way into the advertising section because male relations mentioned them in passing in notices that much more extensively promoted their own endeavors. Such was the case in writing master William Adams’s advertisement repeatedly published in the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journal in the summer of 1767. He described his curriculum in detail before briefly noting that “Mrs. ADAMS, makes children’s gowns, slips, and teaches them to sew, mark, &c. She clear-starches, and washes silk stockings in the best manner.” Mrs. Adams’ participation in the marketplace was practically hidden in plain sight, appended to an advertisement that featured her husband’s name in all capitals and a larger font as its headline.

This was not always the case, however, when male and female relations shared advertising space. Rebecca and Thomas Woodin (presumably husband and wife, but perhaps siblings or parent and child) informed potential patrons of the services they offered in an advertisement that gave primacy to Rebecca’s school. Her description of “the different branches of Polite Education” and promise “to give satisfaction to all who place their children under her care” comprised approximately two-thirds of the advertisement. Rebecca’s enterprise came first, with Thomas, a carver and cabinetmaker, adding that he taught drawing and sold a variety of furniture. Not exactly an afterthought, Thomas did not appear first in the advertisement, usually the privileged place reserved for men when they shared advertising space with women. The structure of the advertisement recognized Rebecca Woodin’s labors as those of a partner who contributed to the household economy, especially compared to the cursory treatment Mrs. Adams received in her husband’s notice.

Each portion of the advertisement could have stood alone, yet the compositor did not insert a line across the entire column to indicate that one advertisement had ended and another began. Instead, a much shorter line allowed the two portions to flow together visually. This may have been the result of the Woodins pooling their resources to purchase a single advertisement rather than pay for two separate notices for enterprises pursued within the same household. The layout of the advertisement also suggested that the schoolmistress was subject to at least some level of masculine oversight. The depiction of Rebecca’s occupation was mediated by her connection to Thomas, yet he did not overshadow her.

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.