Prior to 1983, the main sources of information were the radio, the television, or local and national newspapers. When New Hampton Academy was founded in 1821, reading the paper was part of everyday life. It brought news from afar and informed the public of everything from how to cure a toothache to what schools could provide for children. Through its 200 years, the school circulated many advertisements, but its first advertising effort was elusive. Kent Bicknell ’65, Gordon-Nash Library’s Curator of Special Collections, and I knew that it existed but only had a digital copy as seen in A Small Gore of Land. In Kent’s words, here is the story of what it takes to “find” something that was thought to be lost.
Discovering an item lost to history
“Recently I came across correspondence from 1989 between a librarian at the G-NL and a historical society in Hopkinton, NH. The latter referred to a handwritten manuscript they had about the history of NHS written in the 1870s… and mentioned that it had a small newspaper advertisement attached to the first page. I reached out to the folks in Hopkinton and they looked in their archives and sent a photo of the adv. – which matched the images we had. We then asked them to photograph the whole manuscript for us (which they kindly did) – and when we got a full view of the first page, it mentioned the name of the paper the advertisement appeared in New-Hampshire Patriot & State Gazette.
“Excited to have narrowed it down from any paper in New Hampshire (and possibly MA – since the object was to draw students from Boston as well), we searched for a copy and found one on eBay that seemed like it could be the right date (July 23, 1821) – being sold by an elderly Russian immigrant living in Brooklyn. Before purchasing I asked her to look for the advertisement – and she found it.”
Witnessing the unveiling
The excitement in the room when the large broadside paper arrived was palpable. To see it in the same issue as the famous July 4th address given by the Honorable John Adams, Esquire celebrating the Declaration of Independence – a speech still cited today was extremely gratifying. To have this part of history, the first history of the school in front of us, is simply hard to describe.
Throughout the years New Hampton advertisements would adorn worthy newspapers as well as journals and magazines including this one in the New England Journal of Education. The glowing remarks that Professor Meservey received are not overstated as he walked the halls of our school for forty years including his time as a student. He pushed the school forward creating the Commercial College which taught students the ins and outs of the business — exactly the innovation it needed to move into the 20th century.
20th Century Advertisements
Throughout the next century, the school continued to advertise putting its own spin on what a student could expect from a school like New Hampton. Today, in the 21st century, we rely on online media and school publications to promote New Hampton School.