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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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

John Adams Hears Some Dirty Jokes

Yesterday I quoted young John Quincy Adams feeling pressure from his father to note down everything useful he hears in a diary. And here’s a couple of ribald jokes John Adams himself wrote down in a notebook he carried in the spring of 1759, when he was twenty-four. The original is at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and readable here.

Ned tells a story tolerably well. He told of [smudge]. He was a better Prophet than Elijah for he stretched himself on her but once to bring her to Life whereas Elijah did 3 times. He breathed into her the Breath of Life.

Ned told the Duke of Whartons Character and Life, &c. Ned was sociable, told the stories he had read pretty well, &c. Billy was sociable too, but awed, afraid.

They told of the wickedest jokes that had been put upon Nat Hurd, by some fellows in Boston, who found out that he had such a Girl at his shop, at such a time. One went to him and pretended to make a confidant of him.

Oh god, what shall I do? That Girl, [smudge] her, has given me the Clap. [smudge]

That scared him and made him cry, Oh damn her, what shall I do? I saw her such a Night. I am [peppered?].

He went to the Dr. [smudge] and was salivated for the Clap. Then they sent him before justice Phillips, then before justice Tyler, in short they played upon him till they provoked him so that he swore, he would beat the Brains out of the first man that came into his shop, to plague him with his [smudge].
Here’s a more dignified portrait of silversmith and engraver Nathaniel Hurd from about a decade later.

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