J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, September 09, 2023

“So much disturbed by a Number of unruly People”

Two hundred fifty years ago today, on 9 Sept 1773, Jacob Bates ran this advertisement in the Boston News-Letter:
Is extremely sorry that the Ladies and Gentlemen were so much disturbed by a Number of unruly People on Wednesday last when he performed, and so much Mischief done to the Fence: —
He is determined for the future, to prosecute to the full Extent of the Law, any Person that shall attempt any thing of the Kind.

He performs again on SATURDAY next, the 11th Instant. The Doors open at 3 o’Clock.

*** TICKETS to be had at Col. Ingersoll’s, in King-Street, Mr. Bracket’s, in School-Street, and at the Place of Performance.

As Mr. BATES is willing to do every thing in his Power to oblige the Ladies and Gentlemen, he has lower’d the Price to Three Shillings each.

Mr. BATES is allowed by the greatest Judges in the Manly Art he professes, to excell any HORSEMAN that ever attempted any Thing of the Kind.
Apparently there had been some sort of disturbance at Bates’s first performance.

Or had there? Back in Philadelphia in September 1772, Bates had likewise posted how he was “extremely sorry that the Ladies and Gentlemen were disturbed by the MOB.” Such apologies might just have been a way to spread the word that his show was extremely popular, like restaurants taking out ads to apologize for running out of food last night.

As for Bates’s new lower price, three shillings was already his minimum price for tickets. He was discounting only the premium admission, perhaps admitting that he wasn’t selling a lot at the higher price.

(I’d like to provide a solid explanation for Bates’s distinction between “Tickets for the First Place” and “for the Second” beyond the obvious that the first were more expensive and therefore presumably better in some way. However, he was the only person to use that phrase in American newspapers in the quarter-century before the war.)

And speaking of those tickets, in addition to Bates’s enclosure at the bottom of the Mall, Bostonians could buy them at two long established taverns:
Taverns with enclosed courtyards were a common venue for traveling performers like Bates. Obviously he needed more space, but those publicans were probably comfortable with handling ticket sales for entertainers.

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