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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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Freemasons and Furniture in Newport Next Month

The Newport Historical Society has two lectures on intriguing eighteenth-century historical topics scheduled for next month.

On Thursday, 11 April, at 5:30 the society will host Samuel Biagetti as he speaks on “Rupture in the Temple: The Rise and Fall of Freemasonry in Colonial Rhode Island, 1749-1772.”
After a brief period of success and prestige in the 1750s, the lodges in Newport and Providence imploded in the Stamp Act crisis. In the years of political turmoil that followed, many Rhode Island Masons fled in the Loyalist exodus. Mr. Biagetti will explain how the story of Freemasonry in Rhode Island underscores the importance of ritual, symbolism, and emotion in forging Masonic bonds—and the power of politics to challenge or even destroy those same bonds.
A graduate of Brown, Biagetti is now working on his Ph.D. at Columbia, and this topic is part of his thesis.

On Wednesday, 24 April, at 5:30 the society will welcome Jennifer Anderson, author of Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America, as she speaks on “From Rainforest to Parlor: The Mahogany Trade in Colonial Rhode Island.”
By the 1760s, imported mahogany was all the rage for fine furniture in colonial America. Many examples of these elegant pieces were made in Newport. . . .

As the coveted mahogany trees were quickly depleted in their native Caribbean range, the mahogany trade became an increasingly risky and competitive business. Nevertheless, many Rhode Island merchants, sea captains, and cabinetmakers—eager to profit from this desirable and luxurious wood—took their chances in this new line of trade. In her talk, Dr. Anderson will discuss the adventures (and misadventures) of some of these participants and their quest to secure this precious material.
Anderson is a professor of history at Stony Brook University. She received the Society of American Historians’ Nevins Prize for Best-Written Dissertation, which is always a good sign.

Both talks will take place at the society’s Colony House, a landmark opened in 1739. Admission is $1 for Newport Historical Society members, $5 for non-members. Phone 401-841-8770 to reserve seats.

1 comment:

Don Carleton (Jr.) said...

Jenny's work is, I think, an important contribution to "commodity history" and provides new tools/perspectives for thinking about the meanings/place of high-style material culture in our period. Efforts should be made to recruit her to talk in Boston!