What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The COLLEGE about to be built in this Colony, shall be erected in the Town of Providence.”
On behalf of the “Committee for providing Materials and overseeing the Work” of erecting a building to house Rhode Island College (now Brown University) in Providence, Stephen Hopkins, John Brown, and John Jenckes regularly inserted an advertisement in the Providence Gazette throughout the first several months of 1770. They called on “all who already Subscribers” (or benefactors) and “those who may incline them to become such” to inform the committee of the funds they wished to pledge or “an Account of such Materials fit for the Building, as they would choose to furnish in Lieu of their Subscriptions.” The fundraising effort was ongoing.
When this notice ran in the May 19 edition of the Providence Gazette, it coincided with news about the college. Colonial newspapers ran little local news. Since newspapers were generally published once a week, printers assumed that most local news spread by word of mouth before they had a chance to go to press. The most momentous local news, however, did appear in the public prints. John Carter, printer of the Providence Gazette, considered news about Rhode Island College significant enough to include in his newspaper. A short article informed readers that “Monday last the first Foundation Stone of the COLLEGE about to be erected here was laid by Mr. JOHN BROWN, of this Place, Merchant, in Presence of a Number of Gentlemen, Friends to the Institution.– About twenty Workmen have since been employed on the Foundation, which Number will be increased, and the Building be completed with all possible Dispatch.”
This brief article and the committee’s advertisement each informed the other, telling a more complete story for readers. The news article also provided further publicity that aided the committee in their fundraising. It was not too late to make a contribution and join that “Number of Gentlemen, Friends to the Institution” as a supporter of the college and, by extension, the civic welfare of the town of Providence. The committee continued to welcome new benefactors.