If I ever get the chance to curate an exhibit about Ebenezer Richardson’s killing of Christopher Seider in 1770 (with, of course, no limit on space or money), the portrait of Madam Grizzell Apthorp that I showed yesterday is one item I’d want to include.
Another would be the big broadside titled “Major-General James Wolfe, who reach’d the summit of human glory, September 13th, 1759,” that I described back here. According to the Boston Evening-Post, Christopher had a copy in his pocket when he died, showing early signs of “a martial genius.” So far as I know, the Massachusetts Historical Society owns the only copy.
A third item is the only contemporaneous visual depiction of that event that’s survived. It’s a woodcut picture that illustrates a broadside titled “The Life, and Humble Confessions, of Richardson, the Informer.” The Historical Society of Pennsylvania appears to be the only archive with a copy, and the image below comes courtesy of its website.
Some elements of this image echo the famous engraving of the Boston Massacre by Henry Pelham (copied by Paul Revere). There’s the general composition of the urban scene, with buildings slanting in on either side. In the background is a church steeple—perhaps the New Brick Meeting-House in the North End, known as the “Cockerel Church” for its weathervane.
In the foreground just below the gun barrel, a woman rushes into the scene. That’s probably a representation of Christopher’s mother, Barbara Seider, just as the Massacre print is said to include the widow Mary Maverick, come to look for her son. Mrs. Seider is carrying something which at first glance might look like a pitchfork, but I think it was meant to be a distaff, symbolizing her hard work at a respectable domestic craft.
This broadside was probably printed in 1772 as Richardson languished, neither hanged nor pardoned, in Boston’s jail. Al Young guessed that Isaiah Thomas carved it; Thomas did say he learned to carve such plates as an apprentice, not very well but adequately. In any event, it reflects the Whig interpretation of the event, which had foreshadowed and been overshadowed by the Massacre.