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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Sunday, May 24, 2009

And Your Host for This Evening...

The Lexington Historical Society is offering a sneak preview of some of its new orientation video, “The Day the Revolution Began.” I understand that the final version will have more battle scenes and, presumably, no balloons saying, “Enter your text here.” It will have its local premiere on 13 June.

And who is this film’s “celebrity narrator”—the historical figure who welcomes viewers and, presumably, makes them want to spend more time visiting Lexington with him? None other than that jolly elf John Adams!

But wasn’t Adams notorious for being cantankerous with guests? Doesn’t he already have a big share of a certain national park in Quincy, where he actually lived? And didn’t he insist on the following?

The Revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.
But of course Adams was lately the hero of his own miniseries. So now we think we know him, admire him, perhaps even see some of our cantankerous selves in him. So he’s the face of The Day the Revolution Began.

David McCullough has a lot to answer for. But it’s nice to see this film snatch a fine title away from an awful book.

2 comments:

Steven Wyder said...

J.L., Another interesting post. I think a short sighted or currently popular selection of John Adams to be the new host. I have a few questions about the selection.

1. Who made the decision to select Adams?

2. Who did he beat out? Maybe Samuel Prescott, he was at least present and more of a local.

3. Is there any evidence of John Adams ever being in Lexington, MA? (Other than the John Adams mini series depiction, which I thought was incorrect.)
Certainly is was feasible he could have visited Lexington, but I wonder if there is any evidence of it?

Thanks

J. L. Bell said...

The narration over the images is accurate: Adams wrote in his video about visiting Battle Road—mentioning Lexington specifically—a few days after 19 Apr 1775. (The miniseries moved that up in time so he appeared to be going out during the battle.)

Adams also probably went through Lexington when he was riding circuit as a lawyer.

We don’t have many sources on Dr. Prescott, especially in his own words. Otherwise, he would be a good candidate.

Another possibility would be John Hancock, who lived in Lexington for a short while as a boy. His grandfather was the minister there for many years. And then of course he came back in April 1775. But we don’t really have a handle on Hancock these days.