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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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Taking Liberties

The History Channel released this photo to promote its upcoming series Sons of Liberty. According to the caption on its website, it shows:
I have a feeling that this series will relate to the actual history of the American Revolution in Boston rather like Turn relates to its history on Long Island during the war. That is, at the same distance or more as the Marvel movies relate to the Marvel Comics “continuity.”

There will be characters in Sons of Liberty with the same names as actual historical figures. Those characters will have some of the very basic attributes as their real-life counterparts: Hancock will be rich, Warren militant, Samuel Adams radical. But we mustn’t expect their histories, costumes, behaviors, personalities, or outlooks to match anything we’ve read. If there is a match, it will be a pleasant “Easter egg” surprise.


Judy said...

When I first looked at the photo I thought they were pirates or maybe highwaymen. Note to producers: they had soap and water in the 18th century.

J. L. Bell said...

The producers are definitely going with the "troublemaker" stereotype of Samuel Adams. The real Samuel Adams was significantly older than all the others, holder of a master's degree from Harvard, and afflicted with a hand tremor that would make him the last of these men I'd equip with two pistols.

But I do like that coat he's wearing.

Don Carleton (Jr.) said...

Well, leaving aside the high level of cheesiness overall, you do have to concede that at least the got Hancock into a fancy blue coat a la Copley portrait (and the color of Wilkites, as prior posts have established). Adams looks suitably uptight. But yes, overall a travesty. A phone call to Henry Cooke could have spared them a whole lot of trouble!

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, it looks like the show will have John Adams as the peevish, principled one. But having him played by strapping Henry Thomas? Even John Adams might have admitted that's a stretch.

We have Copley portraits for all five of these men, so choosing accurate costumes should be relatively easy. But not if you're going to bend the facts for drama!

Rick Brainard said...

What do you expect from the History Channel? It is overrun with liberals who have fallen for the 60's nut case historians,,,, (Known Marxist and Leftists). Plus, you have to remember, the producers don't actually study History like they should.

J. L. Bell said...

Seriously, Rick? You look at the mass entertainment produced by a commercial television network that's part of a multinational media conglomerate and say the problems with historical accuracy arise from too much Marxism? I think that says more about your outlook than about the shows.

Kyle Dalton said...

Good God.

Why the devil would Samuel Adams be walking around Boston with a brace of pistols like he's Blackbeard?

Well, at least they aren't all wearing leather braces like they are using archery at Breed's Hill. Oh, wait: http://cdn.history.com/sites/2/2014/11/sonsofliberty_gallery_3.jpg

J. L. Bell said...

Going to war under the banner of an editorial cartoon published twenty-one years before in a distant colony!

Daud said...

Don't fire your longbows until you see the whites of their eyes.

Of course, the regulars would hardly put it past the colonists to attack with bows like a bunch o' bloody Indians!

Historical Ken said...

I, too, noticed a few things that were not quite correct.
For instance, while watching the previews I noticed in one scene the colonials were sitting around a table with a futuristic-looking (to them) oil lamp (from the mid-to-late 19th century style) in the center of the table.
Also, during another preview, there is Mr. Revere riding through town shouting "The British are coming!"

These may be minor to some, but add to that the golden boy Hollywood-types they chose to represent the founding generation and you have the makings of typical History Channel crap.
Why do I get excited only to be let down again and again?

By the way, I, too, wrote a posting about this series and included a photo of said oil lamp:

Anonymous said...

In the Sons of Liberty mini-series, General Thomas and Margaret Gage were depicted as having lodged at the John Hancock House during the Siege of Boston when in fact he never lodged there at all. The Gages lodged at the Province House.
At the John Hancock House, Brigadier General Hugh Percy was the first to lodge there, followed by General Henry Clinton, then General James Grant.
It depicted the John Hancock House with an east wing (not constructed until after the Revolutionary War ended) and the front gate shown (made of iron and brick) did not look like that until sometime after 1817, when Beacon Street was widened.