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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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Modern Bird's-Eye View of Colonial Boston

Richard Burke Jones is a lawyer and court official in Newburyport who also paints historical scenes. Many of his images show Newburyport, but he’s recently completed a bird’s-eye view of Boston just before the Revolution. Here’s Jones’s website, which displays some of his images, including close-ups of the Boston canvas.

Jones took a perspective similar to Paul Revere’s engraving of British troops marching up Long Wharf in 1768. Look closely at the close-up of the Town House, and you’ll see gun-wielding soldiers confronting a crowd, an image based on Henry Pelham’s engraving of the Massacre. Take in the whole image, and it’s a good reminder of how small the town was back then. (The opening shot of Disney’s Johnny Tremain movie does the same thing from a different perspective.)

Here’s a story from a regional section of the Boston Globe that profiles Jones, and offers an interview/slide show as well.


Anonymous said...

Question about this rendering: Should Mt. Whoredom be more built up? Was it actually still this undeveloped, or was it simply not detailed precisely on some maps because it was a mess, disreputable, etc.?

-- mta

J. L. Bell said...

Good question, and good eye! Here's the Boston Public Library's online image of Lt. Thomas Page's map of Boston in 1775. The label of "Mount Whoredom" has been rubbed away, but the hill itself remains due west of Beacon Hill near Fox Hill.

The zone north ("behind") Mount Whoredom has been laid out with streets, but Page hasn't drawn any permanent buildings there. A similar grid appears on the 1769 map of town. I suspect that recent settlement was the notorious Mount Whoredom neighborhood of impermanent housing.

And it does seem to be discreetly hidden behind a hill in Jones's painting.