Paparazzi in the Hands of an Angry God: Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and the Birth of American Celebrity Culture

The streets of Boston course with life as crowds numbering greater than that of the city’s total population join in celebration. Commerce grinds to a standstill. Grown men weep. Women faint. The governor joins the standing-room only multitude on Boston Common and declares the gathering the greatest day in New England history (M. Noll, 2003, p. 79). Noll, 2003, p. 79). Are we witnessing the 2004 Red Sox World Series victory parade? No, that paltry event celebrating the end of eighty-six years of cursed athletic frustration attracted a mere two-thirds of greater Boston. This is something far more historic. It is the 1740 farewell sermon of British evangelist George Whitefield—the man Harry Stout has identified as “Anglo-America’s first modern celebrity” (H. Stout, 1991, p. x). And Whitefield’s celebrity is no accident. It is the result of a carefully orchestrated public relations tour de force.
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