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, December 17, 2008

Courting Indifference

I’ve been enjoying Caitlin GD Hopkins’s studies of early American gravestones at the Vast Public Indifference blog. Two easy ways to find those postings are to read the entries labeled gravestones and 101 Ways to Say “Died”. The 18th century track is fun, too.

Above all, there are Caitlin’s quotations from young printer John Boyle (1746-1819). Boyle kept a marvelously miscellaneous and gossipy “Journal of Occurrences in Boston” between 1759 and 1778. He probably started it in the early 1760s while apprenticed to John Green, then went back and filled in what he’d missed. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register published the whole in 1930-31. An entry that probably interests both Caitlin (for her interest in deathways) and me (for my interest in Gores) appeared on 3 Sept 1771:

This Morning (Tuesday) Mr. John Gore, Junr. intending an Excursion in the Country with his Friends arose vigorous and cheerful: being casually detained longer than he expected, his friends Set out without him, with the expectation that he would soon overtake them, but alas! his bounds were determined that he could not pass He was seized with an Apoplectic Fit at ten o’Clock, and expired at four in the Afternoon.
After looking at lots of colonial and Federalist gravestones, you’ll be ready to take this Vast Public Indifference quiz:
I’ll give you some names and you tell me whether they belong to people born in Connecticut between 1701 and 1800 or to Muppets who have appeared on Sesame Street.
1. Herbert Birdsfoot
2. Sherlock Doolittle
3. Hannah Hobby
4. Vincent Twice
5. Herman Bird
6. Orange Wedge
7. Alice Braithwaite Goodyshoes
8. Bathsheba Bird
9. Bathsheba Bugbee
10. Appleton Osgood . . .
Follow the quiz link for the rest of the list, and the answers.

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