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, November 30, 2014

Bostonians from A to Z

The Boston Athenaeum has done a service to local historians by digitizing its collection of town directories, which includes publications from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

John Norman published the first such directory in 1789 under the formal title of The Boston Directory. Containing, A List of the Merchants, Mechanics, Traders, and others of the Town of Boston; in Order to enable Strangers to find the Residence of any Person.

The booklet included a map of Boston and at the back listed the town’s public appointees, lawyers, doctors, and firefighters. The Massachusetts Bank was something new, founded in 1784, and the directory named its president and board. The directory did not have a list of selectmen or other elected officials, probably because their tenure was limited, nor of militia officers, though such lists had been a staple in pre-war almanacs.

Most of the small book was a listing of Boston inhabitants, starting with “ADAMS Samuel, Hon.”—i.e., the governor. Individuals and firms were listed almost alphabetically—i.e., all the people with surnames starting with A appeared in one section, but not in alphabetical order. The town hadn’t yet instituted street numbers as part of all addresses, so strangers looking for an individual usually still had to make their way to a particular street and ask around. Page 56, the last, is headed “OMISSIONS,” and includes people not sorted into the right sections such as “Gill Moses, Hon”—i.e., the lieutenant governor.

Though Norman proposed to publish a new edition annually, he doesn’t seem to have found enough demand since he never did another. John West issued one in 1796, choosing a biennial schedule. West’s directory was more comprehensive, or more businesspeople had come to town.

Both those early volumes were reprinted by the city of Boston as part of its turn-of-the-last-century publication of early town records, and those volumes have been on Google Books for a while. In addition, in the mid-1800s a genealogist named John Haven Dexter kept notes in a copy of the 1789 directory on what he’d learned about different individuals; the New England Historic Genealogical Society has transcribed and published that source. The Athenaeum’s choice to share page images of those and the many larger directories that followed provides a useful resource for historians and genealogists.

Among the folks I’ve looked up in those early Boston directories:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Punch Bowl in Pennsylvania

Last month the Museum of the American Revolution being built in Philadelphia shared news about archeology on its site, including the shards of a ceramic punchbowl shown here.

The museum’s blog reported:
In all, we excavated a well and twelve brick-lined privies, most of them brimming with artifacts. One of the largest assemblages of artifacts came from an 18th-century privy in the southeast corner of the site, located behind a house that would have faced Carter’s Alley. Among them was one of our most treasured findings: the pieces of an English delftware punch bowl.

When these sherds were pieced together in the lab, we were delighted to see a resplendent ship flying British flags with the words “Success to the Triphena” below. (“Triphena” is the name of the ship depicted.) We were the first people to lay eyes on this object since it was broken and discarded around the time of the American Revolution.

American colonists drank enormous quantities of alcoholic beverages, including beer, cider, wine, brandy, rum, gin, and whiskey. One particularly popular beverage during the era of the American Revolution was punch, which combined various ingredients like sugar, citrus juice, spices and liquor, and was commonly served in ceramic “punch bowls” like the “Success to the Triphena” bowl found on our site. . . .

During the 18th century, many of the punch bowls that were exported to the American colonies were produced by potters in Liverpool, England. The collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England includes an example that is a very close match to the Triphena bowl. Such bowls were likely produced to commemorate the launch of a new ship or to mark a voyage.

Thanks to the digitization of 18th-century American and British newspapers, we have been able to piece together some fascinating details about the original Triphena. (“Triphena” is Greek for delicate or dainty). The December 1, 1763 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette carried an advertisement for merchants Robert Lewis and Son, located on Front Street in Philadelphia, where they offered an assortment of goods just imported on the “Triphena, Captain Smith, from Liverpool.” It is certainly no coincidence that Captain Smith’s travels on the Triphena over the next few years regularly carried him to Liverpool, the place where the punch bowl was made, as well as Philadelphia, Charleston, and the West Indies.
The museum notes that in 1765 the Triphena carried the Philadelphia merchants’ protest against the Stamp Act. In that same season it carried a copy of one letter and possibly two to Benjamin Franklin. The 31 Oct 1765 Pennsylvania Gazette reported that “Capt. J. Smith” had cleared the Tryphena (the more common spelling) for Liverpool.

That was a significant date since the Stamp Act was supposed to take effect the next day. In The Stamp Act Crisis Edmund Morgan wrote: “In Philadelphia, apparently alone among colonial ports, many ships’ captains secured their clearance papers before November 1, even though they were still only partially loaded, so that when they finally sailed later in November [without Customs documents on stamped paper] they could persuade the commanders of naval vessels that they were operating perfectly legally.”

Friday, November 28, 2014

A New Song: “The British Steel”

Earlier this year Michael Laird Rare Books of Texas offered for sale a rare chapbook printed in Newcastle, England, titled A Garland, Containing Four New Songs.

One of those songs, “The British Steel,” is still new to the standard databases, as is the little book itself. The title page has no date, but that song is all about the American War, so we can date the publication to the very end of 1776 or the first months of 1777.

The song extols British victories at Québec and New York. It even refers to “Undaunted Hessian heroes” and the Americans’ notorious “rifled guns.” The lyrics drop the names of several British commanders, including Guy Carleton, Allan Maclean, Henry Clinton, Percy, and John Burgoyne, but not that of Adm. Richard Howe and Gen. William Howe. Since those brothers were the commanders in America, and their name is easy to fit into verse, I wonder if their omission was intentional.

Here are the last two verses, with the error-ridden typography intact:
See yond, see yond, to yonder comes the great Burgoyne,
His well displin’d troops proclaim is warlike skills,
Curse Hancock and his Congress crew, who us into rebellion drew,
And caus’d great George our sovereign Lord our blood to spill.

A boon, a boon, these ungrateful monster’s cry,
Pardon your deluded sons long time been led astray,
By wandering dreams of liberty, henceforth good subjects will be,
And as in duty bound we will for ever pray.
John Overholt of the Harvard University library system tweeted this week that his institution had acquired the book, so it should soon be available to researchers there.

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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Street View and the 1700s

Back in February the Guardian newspaper featured artist Halley Docherty’s images of historic paintings of London laid over (and, thanks to Photoshop, somewhat under) Google Street View photographs of the modern city.

Above, for example, is Canaletto’s 1750s view of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich, one of my favorite parts of London. The skyline hasn’t changed that much, but there appears to be much less traffic on the river.

In March the newspaper published Docherty’s similar work on other cities around the world, including the view of Paris below. Shortly after Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet painted the Pont Notre-Dame in 1756, that built-up bridge was taken down for safety.
Since then Docherty has done photo features on album covers, the World Wars, and the Berlin Wall.

I just tried doing the same thing with Henry Pelham’s print of the Boston Massacre and modern State Street. (Pelham had a better handle on perspective than Paul Revere, who copied his engraving.)

My main conclusion is that Pelham must have sat in a second-story window to get his view of the Old State House with its lion and unicorn and tower behind. He was clearly higher than those Street View cameras that Google employees walk around with.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

“Behaving with discretion & Calmness”

On 1 Nov 1769, Boston’s selectmen appointed Thomas Bradford a temporary Constable of the Watch for the south part of town.

On their authority, town clerk William Cooper issued Bradford these instructions:
1st. That you with the Watchmen under you attend at sd. Watch House at the Hours of 9 oClock every Night from the 20th. of Septr. to the 20th. of March and continue till clear day light, and at the Hours of 10 0Clock from the 20th. of March to the 20th. of September, that you & each of you continue upon Duty untill Sunrise; & if any of your Division should misbehave you must inform the Select men of it.

2d. That you keep a fair Journal of your doings every Night, how you find the State of the Town, and who of the Watchmen are on Duty, and Report to the Selectmen every Wednesday.

3d. That two at least of your Division taking their Staves with them walk the Rounds within your Ward, twice at least every Night, or oftner if necessary, setting out from the Watch House at such Times in the Night as you shall judge best, varying the Time according to your discretion.

4th. In going the Rounds Care must be taken that the Watchmen are not Noisy but behave themselves with strict decorum, that they frequently give the Time of the Night & what the Weather is with a distinct but moderate Voice, excepting at Times when it is necessary to pass in Silence in order to detect and secure Persons that are out on unlawful Actions.

5th. You & your Division must endeavour to suppress all Routs Riots & other Disorders that may be committed in the Night and secure such Person as may be guilty; that proper steps may be taken the next Morning for a prosecution as the Law directs, we absolutely forbid your taking private satisfaction, or any bribe that may be offer’d you to let such go or to conceal their offence from the Selectmen.

6thly. You are to take up all Negroes Indian and Molatto Slaves that may be absent from their masters House after nine oClock at Night and passing the Streets unless they are carrying Lanthorns with light Candles and can give a good and satisfactory Account of their Business that such offenders may be proceeded with according to Law.
Of course, since it would be impossible to determine if someone was enslaved just by looking at him, that meant stopping and questioning every person of color.

But in doing so, Bradford and his men were not supposed to swear or be impolite.
7thly. The Selectmen expect that you execute your office with Resolution & Firmness not using any affronting langage but behaving with discretion & Calmness, that it may appear you do not abuse even Offenders & they recommend to you and your Division that you behave with Sobriety Temperance Vigilence and Fidelity and agreeable to the Laws; Your Office requires a Conduct; the Security of the Town demands it, & you may be assured that your continuance in the place to which you are appointed altogether depends upon it
Bradford received a permanent appointment to this post in March 1771.

(The cartoon above, from 1784, depicts British politician Charles Fox as a London watchman. The lantern, staff, and long coat appear to have been emblematic of the job.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Looking Narrowly at Broadcloth with Hallie Larkin

This fall the Readex Report, published to highlight research that folks can do with that company’s digital databases, included costume expert Hallie Larkin’s article, “‘Suitable to the Season’: Using Historical Newspapers to Help Reproduce 18th-Century Clothing.”

She starts with advertisements for dry goods:
Merchant advertisements list the goods being brought into port. From nails to needles, advertisements provide detailed lists of merchandise available. Early American Newspapers allows a search of these ads by location, date and multiple keywords. As an example, broadcloth was one of the most frequently used fabrics in the construction of men’s clothing during the 18th century. A heavily fulled, wide (54-60 inches), dense fabric that wore like iron, it was one of the most important exports of England and one of the most frequently advertised imports into America. . . .

An advertisement appearing in the Boston Post Boy on 10 June 1765 lists “a large assortment of superfine Broadcloths with a variety of inferior cloths.” This ad clearly indicates that more than one quality of Broadcloth was available to the consumer. Would a seller today use the word “inferior” to describe any product?

Colonial advertisements rarely used product images, so words had to get buyers into the shop. In addition to price and quality, color was almost always a descriptor, as seen in this text from the Massachusetts Gazette on 5 June 1771:
Pea and grass Green, white, mazarine and Wilke’s Blue, cinnamon mixture, nutmeg mixture, coffee, chocolate, claret and bloom colour’d superfine, middling and low pric’d Broadcloths.
Everyone knows the color of peas, grass and white. Even claret is still easily visualized today. But this ad throws a couple of color curve balls. Mazerine? Wilke’s Blue? The color of mazerine I discovered is a deep blue color, named for Cardinal Mazerin in the 17th century. But what color was Wilke’s Blue? (I am still looking for a source that will answer this question.)
This isn’t my area of expertise, but I’m going to toss out the idea that “Wilke’s Blue” refers to the blue or purple dye from whelks. And that spelling might be due to the interest in John Wilkes in 1771.

Larkin’s article goes on to discuss another valuable source on people’s clothing to be gleaned from newspapers: advertisements for runaways that described what they wore in detail.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lucinda Foote’s Entrance Examination

Last week I shared the account of a Yale entrance examination for a seven-year-old in 1757. Here’s another notable Yale applicant from 1783.

Once again the story includes the Rev. Dr. Ezra Stiles, by then president of the college. In his diary for 22 December, he wrote:
I examined Miss Lucinda Foot aet. [i.e., aged] 12, Daugh. of the Revd Mr Foot of Cheshire [Connecticut]. She has learned the 4 Orat. agt. Cataline, the four first Books of the Aeneid, & St. Jno.’s Gospel in Greek. I exam’d her not only where she had learned but indifferently elsewhere in Virgil, Tully, & the Greek Testament, & found her well fitted to be admitted into the Freshman Class. She was born May 19, 1772. I gave her the followg. Certificate or Diploma on Parchment.

(L. S.) Prases Collegij Yalensis, Omnibus S. P. D.
Vobis notum sit quod Dominam
Lucindam Foot Aetat 12. Examine probavi, eanique in Linguis edoctis, Latina et Graeca, laudabilem progressum fecisse; eo ut familiariter et reddidisse & tractasse reperivi, tum verba tum Sententias, alibi in Aeneide Virgilii, in selectis Ciceronis Orationibus, et in Graeco Testamento. Testorque omnino illam, nisi Sexus ratione, idoneam ut in Classem Recentium in Universitate Yalensi Alumna admitteretur. Datum e Bibliotheca Collegij Yalensis, 22 die Decembris, Anno Salutis MDCCLXXXIII.
An English translation of that document:
The President of Yale College, to all to whom these Presents shall come,—Greeting: Be it known to you, that I have examined Miss Lucinda Foote,—twelve years old,—and have found that in the Learned languages,—the Latin and the Greek.—she has made commendable progress,—giving the true meaning of passages in the Eneid of Virgil, the Select Orations of Cicero, and in the Greek Testament; and that she is fully qualified, except in regard to sex, to be received, as a Pupil of the Freshman Class in Yale University. Given in the College Library, the 22 of December, 1783.
Lucinda Foote was not, of course, admitted to the college. Not because she would be only twelve years old at the start of the next academic year, but because she would still be only a girl.

A family chronicler later wrote, “She pursued a full course of College Studies, and also studied the Hebrew, with President Stiles, subsequent to the date of this Certificate.” Unfortunately, Stiles’s diary, which is quite detailed, doesn’t confirm that. Stiles did remain in contact with her father, a fellow minister, but never mentioned Lucinda again.

It does seem certain that Lucinda Foote remained, as her descendants said, “altogether a woman of much learning and great mental power.” She grew up to marry Dr. Thomas T. Cornwall of Middletown in 1790. According to The Foote Family (1849), they had nine children between 1791 and 1801, a very high number, and then another in 1811. Nonetheless, she lived until 1834. Her husband died twelve years later, aged seventy-eight, having practiced medicine for more than half a century.

(Yale finally admitted young women as undergraduates in 1969. The photo above shows the university’s Mead Visitor Center, in a 1767 house on Elm Street.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lion and Unicorn Returning to Boston, 23 Nov.

On Sunday, 23 November, the figures of the lion and unicorn will be reinstalled at the Old State House in Boston.

The lion has been regilded, and the unicorn repalladianized, making them shinier than they’ve been in years and probably far shinier than the original statues looked in colonial times. The balcony below them has had major repairs, as had the building’s west façade.

Aa was widely reported this fall, the lion’s head contained a time capsule from 1901. The conservator placed a new time capsule into the gilded scroll that the lion statue stands on, to be more easily accessible to people in another century.

Like the 1901 time capsule, the new box contains material reflecting this moment: today’s mayor and other officials, today’s fads, &c. But it also includes “Two 18th-century hand-wrought nails removed from the Old State House tower in 2008,” and a “Fragment of a 1713 brick removed from Old State House during the 2014 west façade restoration project.”

At 10:00 A.M. the statues are due to be unveiled at street level on the “Boston Massacre Plaza” beside the building. That will probably be the best time for many years to get a close-up look at them. Then they’ll be hoisted up to the roof with a crane.

Friday, November 21, 2014

John Trumbull’s Entrance Exam

Yesterday I described the accomplishments of young John Trumbull, son of a Westbury, Connecticut, minister. His mother, daughter of another clergyman, taught him from an early age.

Then, as he wrote about himself, Trumbull started to eavesdrop on lessons by his father:
The country clergy at that time generally attempted to increase their income, by keeping private schools for the education of youth. When he was about five years of age, his father took under his care a lad, seventeen years old, to instruct and qualify him for admission as a member of Yale-College.

Trumbull noticed the tasks first imposed; which were to learn by heart the Latin Accidence and Lilly’s Grammar, and to construe the Select Colloquies of Corderius, by the help of a literal translation. Without the knowledge of any person, except his mother, he began in this way the study of the Latin language. After a few weeks, his father discovered his wishes, and finding that by the aid of a better memory, his son was able to outstrip his fellow-student, encouraged him to proceed.
The unfortunate teenager who got to see his tutor’s little son outstrip him was, notes by the Rev. Dr. Ezra Stiles show, William Southmayd (1740-1778).

In September 1757, the Rev. John Trumbull took his namesake son and his student Southmayd down to Yale to be “examined by the tutors” there. In 1897 Moses Coit Tyler wrote:
What were the requirements at that time exacted for admission to Yale College may be seen in the following statute printed in the year 1759: “Admissionem in hoc Collegium Nemo expectet, nisi qui é Praesidis et Tutorum Examine, Tullium, Virgilium et Testamentum Graecum extemporè legere, ad Unguem redere, ac grammaticè resolvere, et Prosâ veram Latinitatem scribere potuerit; et Prosodia ac Arithmetices vulgaris Regulas perdidicerit: atque Testimonium idoneum de Vitâ ac Moribus inculpatis exhibuerit.”
So that’s a pretty high hurdle.

Yet another teenager trying for admission that year was Nathaniel Emmons. He later claimed that he held little John on his lap during the tutors’ questioning.

The result was remarkable enough to be published in New Haven’s Connecticut Gazette on 24 Sept 1757, according to Henry Bronson’s History of Waterbury (1858). It reported the notable news that the boy “passed a good examination, although but little more than seven years of age.”

At the same time, the newspaper said, “on account of his youth his father does not intend he shall at present continue at college.” Or as the grown-up John Trumbull wrote:
Trumbull, however, on account of his extreme youth at that time, and subsequent ill health, was not sent to reside at college till the year 1763. He spent these six years in a miscellaneous course of study, making himself master of the Greek and Latin authors usually taught in that seminary, reading all the books he could meet with, and occasionally attempting to imitate, both in prose and verse, the style of the best English writers, whose works he could procure in his native village. These were of course few. The Paradise Lost, Thompson’s Seasons, with some of the poems of Dryden and Pope, were the principal.

On commencing his collegiate life, he found little regard paid to English composition, or the acquirement of a correct style. The Greek and Latin books, in the study of which only, his class were employed, required but a small portion of his time. By the advice of his tutor, he turned his thoughts to Algebra, Geometry, and astronomical calculations, which were then newly introduced and encouraged by the instructors. He chiefly pursued this course during the three first years. In his senior year he began to resume his former attention to English literature.
John Trumbull finally graduated from Yale in 1767, ten years after his admission. He stuck around some more years to earn a master’s degree, then a couple more as a tutor. After all, he didn’t want to go home to “his native village,” where he’d already read all the books.

(The photo above shows Connecticut Hall at Yale, built in the early 1750s.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

John Trumbull: “this weird urchin”

Last week I shared a portrait of John Trumbull (1750-1831), the author of M’Fingal and Connecticut jurist. He was a child prodigy, according to the biographical introduction to the 1820 collection of his work (which he apparently wrote himself):
Being an only son, and of a very delicate and sickly constitution, he was of course the favorite of his mother. She had received an education superior to most of her sex, and not only instructed him in reading, from his earliest infancy, but finding him possessed of an extraordinary memory, taught him all the hymns, songs and other verses, with which she was acquainted.

His father’s small library consisted mostly of classical and theological books. The Spectator and Watts’ Lyric Poems were the only works of merit in the belles-lettres, which he possessed. Young Trumbull not only committed to memory most of the poetry they contained, but was seized with an unaccountable ambition of composing verses himself, in which he was encouraged by his parents.
Trumbull appears to have offered more detail in 1788 to the Rev. Dr. Ezra Stiles (shown above), who took detailed notes on their conversation, eventually published in his Extracts from the Itineraries and Other Miscellanies:
Aet. [i.e., age] 2, began [New England] Primer & learned to read in half a year without School. Mother taught him all the Primer Verses & Watts’ Children’s Hymns before read.

Aet. 4. Read the Bible thro’—before 4. About this time began to make Verses. First Poetry, Watts’ Lyrics, & could repeat the whole—& only poetical Book he read till Aet. 6.

Aet. 5. Attempted to write & print his own Verses—Sample large hugeous Letters. This first attempt of writg. by himself—& before writg. after Copy. Scrawls.

Aet. 6. In Spring began to learn Latin & learnd half Lilly’s Grammar before his Father knew it—catchg. it as his Father was instructg. [William] Southmayd: same Spring as six y. old. Learned Quae genus by heart in a day. Tenacious Memory.

Aet. 9. On a Wager laid—to commit to memo. one of Salmon’s Pater Nosters in a quarter of an Hour—he effected it—recitg. by Memo. the Pater Noster in Hungarian and Malebar: & retains it to this day. I heard him repeat the Hunga.
In 1897 Moses Coit Tyler added this anecdote in The Literary History of the American Revolution, 1763-1783, citing Trumbull’s manuscripts:
Emulous, no doubt, of the laurels of the heavenly and much desired Watts, he began at about the age of four to make verses for himself, as much as possible in the true Wattsian manner; but not having as yet advanced so far in learning as to be able to write, he could only preserve these valuable productions by storing them away in his memory.

At five, being still unable to write, he hit upon the device of transcribing his verses by imitating printed letters. His first attempt of this kind consisted of four stanzas of an original hymn, and his “scrawl of it filled a complete sheet of paper.” Having perceived a want of connection between the third and the fourth lines of one of his stanzas, this weird urchin was greatly perplexed thereby; but “after lying awake some nights,” meditating upon the problem, he finally solved it by the proper verbal corrections.
So what do you do with a boy like that?

TOMORROW: Take him to Yale, of course.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

“32 of which years he dressed as a woman”

From the 6 August 1764 Boston Evening-Post:
We hear from the Vineyard, that one Deborah Lewis, of that Place, about 32 Years of Age, who, till within a few Days since, constantly appeared in the Female Dress, and was always supposed to be one of the Sex, suddenly threw off that Garb, and assumed the Habit of a Man; and sufficiently to demonstrate the Reality of this last Appearance, is on the Point of marrying a Widow Woman.
This item was reportedly reprinted in the Pennsylvania Gazette and possibly elsewhere.

From the 22 Jan 1770 Boston Evening-Post, datelined “Hartford” (and therefore probably first printed in that town’s newspaper):
We are credibly informed, that about 23 [sic] years ago a child was born in the South Part of the Massachusetts-Bay, who bearing a similarity of both Sexes, it was disputed what apparel it should be dressed in, but ’twas at last agreed to dress it in Women’s, and it was baptised by the name of Deborah; this person grew up, and till lately passed for a woman; but having for some time past lodged with one of that Sex, the latter found herself to be with child, and has swore the former to be the Father of it.—The consequence has been that they are married together, and the Father instead of his former name, was married by that of Deborah Francis Lewis.
That article was reprinted in several American newspapers, including the Pennsylvania Gazette, New-York Journal, Newport Mercury, and New-Hampshire Gazette.

From the 22 Jan 1823 Boston Daily Advertiser:
DIED,—…
In Tisbury, (Martha’s Vineyard,) Mr. Francis Lewis, ag. 93—32 of which years he dressed as a woman, and was supposed to be such.
That item was also published in several papers and magazines. The 12 Feb 1823 Geneva (New York) Gazette reportedly continued the line: “After that, he took his proper apparel as a man, and passed the remainder of his life in the marriage state, and has left numerous descendants. The family has always deserved and received the respect of those who knew it.” That might have appeared earlier in the 5 Feb 1823 Providence Gazette.

The story of Deborah/Francis Lewis isn’t totally unknown. Alfred Young came across the Pennsylvania Gazette references and a Martha’s Vineyard genealogy in his research on Deborah Sampson and shared them with Thomas A. Foster, who noted Lewis in Long Before Stonewall. Marya C. Myers quoted the Newport news item in a 2006 issue of American Genealogist. So I’m just adding some references from Massachusetts newspapers to the pile.

Back in 1911 the Martha’s Vineyard genealogist Charles Edward Banks identified Francis Lewis’s parents as John and Thankful (Crowell) Lewis of Yarmouth. Banks said Lewis was born as Deborah on 19 Feb 1730 (two years off the age stated in the first article above), and came to Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard, as a child.

According to Banks, ten days after the first article above, Francis Lewis married Anne Luce, who was just about to turn twenty-four; she does not appear to have been a widow. They had five children together between November 1765 and August 1782. Banks noted no child as arriving within nine months of their marriage. But of the whole family, only the eldest daughter’s marriage appears in the published Tisbury vital records.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Plumb Crazy

Constabulary notes from the Old Bailey Online, 10 Oct 1733 in London:

John Sherman was indicted for the Murder of John Wiggans, by striking him on the left side of the Head with a Cane, by which he fell to the Ground, and by that Fall received one mortal Wound and Bruise on the Fore part of his Head, Sept. 20 of which Wound he linguished till the 26th of the same Month, and then died. He was a 2d time indicted on the Coroner’s Inquest for Manslaughter.

The Prisoner and the Deceased were at the Tewksbury-Church Alehouse in White-chappel; they sat in different Boxes; the Prisoner and his Company were spelling Words, and at last a Tankard of Beer was laid about spelling Plumb; upon which the Deceased started up, and said, God damn you all for a Parcel of Blockheads, P, l, u, m, b, spells Plumbn

Some of the Prisoner’s Company said, what silly Fellow is that, to trouble his Head with us?

The Deceased came to them, and swore he was as good a Man as any of them, and he’d fight e’er a Man there with a Stick, either for Love or a Tankard of Beer, and at last he would needs sight the Prisoner. The Prisoner declined it, but the Deceased went home, and returned with his Cane, and challenged the Prisoner to go into the Yard.

They fought, and broke one another’s Heads.—The Prisoner’s Cane was split. They parted. The Deceased would have t’other Bout. The Prisoner knocked him down, and he fell with his Head upon the Pavement; he was help’d up; they went in; their Heads were dress’d; they drank to one another; shook Hands; parted Friends, and the Deceased went home, and not imagining the Wound to be dangerous, neglected to send for a Surgeon till it was too late; his Skull was fractured, and it proved the Cause of his Death.

Manslaughter.
Good times.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Inoculation Lecture in Weymouth, 19 Nov.

On Wednesday, 19 November, the Abigail Adams Historical Society in Weymouth will present a program on “The History of Inoculation and Vaccination: The Experience of the Adams Family and the Modern Perspective.”

David Jones, M.D., Ph.D., the A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School, will provide a historical perspective on smallpox inoculation, highlighting the experiences of the Adams family.

John Adams’s mother was a Boylston, niece of the doctor who had done the first inoculations in Boston decades before, Zabdiel Boylston. His work as a lawyer riding the circuit exposed him to lots of people, especially in busy Massachusetts ports. So he underwent the treatment during Boston’s epidemic of 1764, shortly before his marriage.

Abigail Adams and the children didn’t risk the treatment (not nearly as safe as later-developed vaccination) until 1776, when there was another epidemic after the siege. Contrary to how H.B.O.’s John Adams miniseries showed the process, Abigail took her four children, her household servants, and some other relatives and neighbors into Boston. Like John, she underwent inoculation at a house temporarily turned into a hospital, not at home.

Dr. Jones will speak in the Snell Conference Room of South Shore Hospital, 55 Fogg Road in Weymouth, from 7:00 to 9:00 P.M. This program is free and open to the public.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Talk on Belinda at Royall House in Medford, 19 Nov.

On Wednesday, 19 November, the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford will host an illustrated talk by Richard Douglass-Chin titled “‘And she will ever pray’: Finding Belinda Royall.”

Belinda was a woman born in the 1710s in Africa and held enslaved on Isaac Royall’s estate. The younger man of that name left Massachusetts as a Loyalist in 1776. In his May 1778 will, Royall left Belinda to one of his daughters “in case she does not choose her freedom,” and he also told his executor to pay Belinda a certain amount.

That same year, the Massachusetts legislature confiscated Royall’s property since he was an “absentee” supporting the Crown. In 1783, Belinda—then living in Boston, and caring for an ill daughter—petitioned the state that “such allowance may be made her out of the estate of Colonel Royall.”

Belinda’s petition is not just a legal document but a literary one. Belinda, who could not sign her name to it, might well have had help crafting the written language from Boston’s civil-rights activists, such as Prince Hall. The document succeeded in catching the attention of readers on both sides of the Atlantic. Some doubted that there even was a real Belinda, but the woman is documented in Massachusetts.

This talk appears to be a historical and literary recreation of Belinda’s life:
Belinda’s voice echoes down the ages through her petition to the Massachusetts legislature in 1783 for a pension, for her self and her invalid daughter, from the proceeds of Isaac Royall Jr.’s estate. Her petition demonstrates a boldness not seen in other African American petitions and autobiographies of the period. Where, in her forced journey from Ghana as a child enslaved, to the Royall sugar cane plantation in Antigua, to the Royalls’ estate in Medford, to an impoverished freedom in Boston, did Belinda acquire the audacity we read so clearly in her petition?

Piecing together the fragments of information we have—her petition, a Royall will, baptismal documents, treasury resolutions—writer and literary critic Richard Douglass-Chin will recreate the story of the remarkable Belinda Royall—an epic journey spanning nearly sixty years.
Douglass-Chin is a professor in the English Department at the University of Windsor in Ontario. He specializes in pre-twentieth-century American literature, and has also published his own short stories and poems.

This program begins at 7:30 P.M. Admission is free to Royall House members, $5 for others. Parking is available on the nearby streets.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

View from Somewhere in the Bronx

Yesterday John U. Rees called my attention to this article by Matthew Skic, currently a student in the Winterthur museum’s Program in Early American Material Culture.

Winterthur’s collection includes the watercolor sketch shown above, made by Capt. Thomas Davies of the Royal Artillery in 1776. Skic explains:
The drawing depicts the British and Hessian assault of Fort Washington, an American fortification located on the heights at the northern end of Manhattan Island. The battle took place on November 16, 1776. Davies,…an eyewitness to the battle, executed this drawing soon after the assault.
Skic undertook an investigation of where Davies was standing when he made that sketch.
Prior to the American Revolution, Davies trained at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, England. At Woolwich he learned geometry, the technical aspects of artillery, and how to draw. Before photography, military drawings served as functional records of battles and landscapes. Drawings provided perspectives of elevation, terrain, and sightlines that maps could not. With the landscape in front of him, Davies recorded the assault, detailing the rocky heights and lower farm land around Fort Washington.

As I looked long and hard at this drawing, a few questions came to mind: How did Davies choose his viewing location? Does his drawing faithfully record the landscape? Why was this site important enough to record? My fascination with Davies’s creation of this drawing inspired me to travel to New York and view, first-hand, the landscape he saw 238 years ago. I hoped that my personal engagement with his drawing would help me understand its creation.

I first needed to figure out Davies’s location. The Continental Army built Forts Lee and Washington about where the George Washington Bridge is located today. With the Hudson River and New Jersey palisades visible in the background of the drawing, Davies shows the assault as viewed from the northeast. In the foreground of the drawing is the Harlem River, meaning Davies stood in what is today the Bronx. In order to see such a broad view of the landscape on the west side of the river, he must have stood on elevated ground.
The two main candidates, Skic thought, were University Heights and Kingsbridge Heights. After studying modern topographic maps and Google Maps, he headed to New York with a camera to trace Davies’s steps.

The big challenge, it turned out, was that these parts of New York have many more thick trees than they did back in 1776, after over a century of farming. Check out Skic’s report for the view he was eventually able to photograph. It’s possible that winter will open up the foliage and provide a clearer view as well.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Painting of John Trumbull

It’s been noted that the phrase “a painting of Winston Churchill” can refer to a painting of the British Prime Minister, a painting by the British Prime Minister, or even a painting owned by that British Prime Minister.

This is a portrait of John Trumbull (1750-1831), the poet, lawyer, and jurist, by his cousin John Trumbull (1756-1843), the painter, and owned by each in turn. It’s now a painting of the Detroit Institute of Arts, which just helped its city work through bankruptcy.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nathaniel Gould Furniture Exhibit in Salem, Starting 15 Nov.

On 15 November, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem opens a new exhibit called “In Plain Sight: Discovering the Furniture of Nathaniel Gould.” The museum explains:
At the dawn of the American Revolution in a city bustling with trade, politics and commerce, a craftsman of unusual ability was working tirelessly to create fine furniture for his wealthy patrons. Nathaniel Gould (1734-1781) established one of the region’s most sought-after workshops, producing thousands of technically sophisticated and aesthetically refined works for clients at home and for export. With an astute business sense, Gould thrived in one of the most tumultuous political and economic eras in American history.

Despite all of this, until recently, Gould’s life and legacy was largely unknown. Masterworks sat in anonymity in the halls of major museum collections, unsigned by their maker and identified only vaguely by their geographic origin. In 2006, everything changed. In the vaults of the Massachusetts Historical Society, among the records of Gould’s estate lawyer, researchers discovered documents that cast fresh light on — and forever enhance our understanding of — American furniture history.

Three of Gould’s bound ledgers kept between 1758 and 1783 document in detail the production of almost 3,000 pieces of furniture in his Salem workshop. Painstaking analysis has revealed the identity, preferences and transactions of more than 500 of Gould’s patrons as well as the names of his journeymen and probable apprentices. This veritable data dump of information has led museums, antique collectors and the general public to examine their collections with fresh eyes and piqued interest. Works whose significance was obfuscated by the passage of time and lack of provenance are now being reconsidered and reappraised.
The exhibition includes “Stately desks, bombé chests and scalloped-top tea tables made of the finest imported mahogany…alongside paintings, archival materials, decorative arts and an interactive workbench and desk.”

Even the press release is full of intriguing details:
  • “Gould’s work is distinguished by its careful attention to graining, distinctive carved ball-and-claw feet, extended knee returns and superbly carved pinwheels and scallop seashells.”
  • “Gould built his career on his ability to translate London’s latest designs — sometimes gleaned from British pattern books, including Thomas Chippendale’s The Gentleman and Cabinet-Makers Director — into a more conservative style that pleased the tastes of the region’s wealthy elite.
  • “The Gould ledgers reveal a high percentage of domestic furniture produced to fill wedding orders, mostly from members of the merchant class.”
  • “His ledgers reveal 616 pieces of furniture that were sold in the Caribbean and of this inventory, 62 percent were desks, half of which were made of cedar — an aromatic wood prized for its ability to deter insects in the semitropical regions.”
The exhibit is scheduled to be up at the P.E.M. until March.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

“Neoclassicism” Seminar in Deerfield, 14-16 Nov.

This weekend Historic Deerfield will host a three-day seminar titled “Borrowing from Antiquity, Designing a New Republic: Neoclassicism in America.”
The three-day forum will explore the new design style developed in France and England in the mid-18th century and made popular in the newly-formed United States as the Federal style. Harkening back to the shapes and ornaments of classical Greece and Rome, antiquity became a source of inspiration for architecture, furniture, and household decoration, and can be seen in decorative arts ranging from porcelain vases to mahogany sideboards.

The frequent use of swags, urns, and elliptical motifs, along with the application of bright and varied color palettes and symmetry, are expressions of Neoclassical style. These design traits appeared in coastal urban centers by the early 1790s, and soon became fashionable in more rural areas, supported by those who wished to demonstrate their awareness of the latest fashion. Like their European counterparts, American builders, architects, and cabinetmakers were influenced by pattern books that emphasized the clean, geometric lines and more delicate Neoclassical detailing.
Speakers and sessions include:
  • Gordon S. Wood, the author of The Radicalism of the American Revolution, on why Americans became so excited about Neoclassicism.
  • Susan Schoelwer, Robert H. Smith Senior Curator of Mount Vernon, on recent research into George Washington’s “New Room.”
  • David C. Bosse, Librarian and Curator of Maps at Historic Deerfield, on maps of the Federal period, their decorative elements, and use as wall hangings.
  • Robert Mussey, retired conservator, on Neoclassical furniture produced in Boston.
  • Cabinetmaker Alan Breed will demonstrate his skills carving a replica of a Federal-style bed.
  • William Hosley, Principal of Terra Firma Northeast, on Asher Benjamin (1773-1845), author of  The Country Builder’s Assistant (1797).
  • Philip Zea, President of Historic Deerfield, on the consumer revolution in rural New England.
  • Stephen Fletcher, Director of American Furniture & Decorative Arts at Skinner, Inc., on restoring an 1830 Greek Revival granite captain’s house.
  • William A. Flynt, Architectural Conservator, Historic Deerfield, “Neoclassical Architecture Along Deerfield’s Old Main Street.”
  • Allan Breed, Master Cabinetmaker, The Breed School, on “Gouge-Cut Inlays.”
  • David E. Lazaro, Associate Curator of Textiles and Collections Manager, Historic Deerfield, “‘The Difference and Quick Transition of Fashion’: Exploring Neoclassical Style in Historic Deerfield’s Fashion and Textile Collection.”
  • Amanda Lange, Curatorial Department Director and Curator of Historic Interiors, Historic Deerfield, “Inspired by Pompeii: Neoclassical Ceramics for the American Home.”
For a full schedule and registration fees, including some extra workshops listed above, see the Historic Deerfield website.

The Neoclassical image above comes from the Skinner Inc., a sponsor of this seminar.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New Henry Burbeck Collection at the Clements Library

Earlier this year, the Clements Library at the University of Michigan acquired more than 1,600 documents in the Papers of Henry Burbeck (1754-1848), a general in the early U.S. Army.

Burbeck was born in Boston, son of William Burbeck, who became storekeeper at Castle William as well as the town’s fireworks expert. Henry did his militia service in Boston’s artillery company; I’ve used letters he dictated late in life that are now at the Massachusetts Historical Society to trace the last days of that unit in September 1774.

When the war began, Henry and his brothers joined the provincial artillery regiment under Col. Richard Gridley; their father was the unit’s nominal second-in-command, but Gridley preferred to administer through his son Scarborough.

In late 1775, Gen. George Washington and the Continental Congress replaced Gridley with Henry Knox, bypassing Lt. Col. Burbeck. At the end of the siege of Boston, the lieutenant colonel refused to march to New York and thus left the Continental Army.

But Henry, then a lieutenant, remained in the army. In fact, he stuck out the whole war and then rejoined in 1786. He commanded at West Point and Springfield, served in the Northwest Indian War, and established a number of forts on the western frontier. In 1808 he presided over the court-martial of Gen. James Wilkinson, and finally he commanded troops through the War of 1812. Most of the new Clements collection appears to come from that long army career.

The longest report I’ve found about the acquisition is from the Mackinac Island News, focusing on documents of local importance:
In 1796 he peacefully received Fort Mackinac from its British garrison and then commanded the post until 1799. He was a steady officer and strict disciplinarian. A young British lieutenant who visited Mackinac in 1799 described Burbeck as “a little man, as stiff as his boots, awkwardly consequential and [who] passed for a martinet.” Perhaps Major Burbeck still harbored some animosity toward his old foes and greeted his British visitor with reserve.
The collection includes two previously unknown plans of the fort, one by Burbeck and Winthrop Sargent and one by Wilkinson, showing how it developed in those years.

That article also says the Clements’s new collection “represents only about 60% of Henry Burbeck’s entire archive. The remainder is divided among three institutions in the Northeast.” One of those is the New London County Historical Society, but I don’t know the others. A large lot of Burbeck’s papers was sold in 2011.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Young Representative Claiborne

This month a New York district made Elsie Stefanik, at age thirty, the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives. (The previous holder of that record was Elizabeth Holtzmann, also from New York.)

That news prompted a Boston 1775 reader to ask me who was the youngest man ever elected to Congress. We guessed that representative came closer to the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that members of that house be at least twenty-five years old.

It turns out the youngest Congressman in U.S. history was William Charles Cole Claiborne of Tennessee, who served two terms in the 1790s. (He was also elected to the Senate from Louisiana in 1817, but died before attending a session.) What’s most notable about Claiborne is that he took his seat in 1797, before he turned twenty-five.

There’s some disagreement about Claiborne’s birth date. Congress’s official biography says he was born in 1775. His gravestone in Louisiana boasts that he was “Representative in Congress at 23”; that suggests he was born in late 1773 or 1774. That gravestone also says that he died on 23 Nov 1817 at age forty-two, pointing back to 1775.

In 1905 the William and Mary Quarterly published records from Sussex County, Virginia, that listed “William Cole, son of William Claiborne,” as born in August 1773. That might have been the future Congressman, or might have been an older brother who died young. Even if Claiborne was born in 1773, he still would have been only twenty-four years old when he took office in 1797.

The young representative benefited from being a nephew of Rep. Thomas Claiborne of Virginia and from having assisted the Clerk of the House in New York and Philadelphia when he was studying law. And of course Tennessee, as a new state on the frontier, didn’t have a lot of gentlemen to choose from in 1797.

Claiborne’s service in the House in the 1790s—less than ten years after the Constitution had been adopted, and alongside many men who had played a role in writing it—shows us how the Founders were willing to bend the rules they had written.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

“Washington Elm” Exhibit in Cambridge

On Thursday, 13 November, the Cambridge Historical Society hosts an opening reception for its special exhibit on “The Washington Elm,” featuring the photography of Bruce Myren (one example shown here).

That elm, as I’ve discussed, was associated in the late 1800s with a moment on 3 July 1775 when Gen. George Washington was said to have taken command of the Continental Army, often pictured as drawn up in ranks for his review.

In reality, Washignton probably took command indoors on 2 July 1775 when he met Gen. Artemas Ward, and he and Gen. Charles Lee inspected the troops in their various positions around Boston over the next several days.

But the tree became a national symbol. This exhibit explores the artifacts it gave rise to:
historic representations of the Elm, pieces of the tree, collectibles made from the Elm’s wood, and Myren’s large-format pictures of scions, cuttings grown to create clones of the original tree. . . . Images of the Elm appeared on teacups, on stationery, and in paintings, while scions were planted by the hundreds across the country.

When the tree fell in 1923, it was cut into pieces, with cross sections going to the capitals of the forty-eight states, the White House, and the Capitol, and blocks going to prominent citizens across the country.

Myren quotes the English philosopher Bernard Williams when describing the show: “A myth is a fanciful picture of the past designed to justify certain activities in the present.”
The reception is from 6:00 to 8:00 P.M. on 13 November at the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House on Brattle Street. The exhibit will also be open for viewing on Saturday, 22 November, from 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. The society will announce additional hours on its website.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Battlefield Archeology Lecture in Lexington, 11 Nov.

Minute Man National Historical Park and the Friends of Minute Man are proceeding with a big project to clear and interpret the portion of the park that became known as “Parker’s Revenge.”

Based on testimony from veterans of the Battle of Lexington and Concord and local traditions, that area is thought to be where the Lexington militia under Capt. John Parker rejoined the fighting in the afternoon of 19 Apr 1775.

As part of that project, battlefield archeologist Douglas D. Scott is coming to town to advise. On Tuesday, 11 November, he’ll speak on “Shot and Shell Tell the Tale: What Archaeology Can Contribute to the Study of Conflict.”

I found a description of this talk that says:
The archaeology of conflict has captured the imagination of the public and media. Site specific studies of forts and battlefields and detailed artifact analyses are the epitome of military archaeology, but we are now beginning to see broader patterns in data. I will discuss how archeological evidence can be used with historical documentation to identify command and control organization on a battlefield as well as see the loss of tactical cohesion. Examples will be presented to support how the physical evidence of battles can refine battlefield interpretation, build a more complete understanding of past events, and demonstrate the evolution of military tactics and strategy.
This event is scheduled to start at 7:30 P.M. in the Lexington Depot.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Mayflower Society Auction in Plymouth, 8 Nov.

On Saturday, 8 November, the Plymouth auctioneer J. James is offering a boatload of antiques and other material that the Mayflower Society is deaccessioning in order to improve the preservation and interpretation of its Edward Winslow House.

The online catalogue lists all the items up for sale and illustrates many.

For example, this chest with a serpentine front is thought to have been made in Massachusetts in 1770.
And this orderly book was written at Castle William in Boston harbor in the 1780s, when Continental Artillery veteran Maj. William Perkins became commander there.
A few of the items come with specific provenances, like this waistcoat, said to have been worn by Alden Bass (1734-1803) of Boston at his wedding in 1766.

The auction will take place in Plymouth Memorial Hall at 83 Court Street. The preview is today from noon to 5:00 P.M. and tomorrow from 10:00 A.M. to noon. The bidding starts at 1:00 P.M. on Saturday.

Have I mentioned I have a birthday coming up?

Thursday, November 06, 2014

“True Yankees” Talk in Salem, 6 Nov.

Tonight, 6 November, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site is hosting a talk by Prof. Dane A. Morrison on his new book, True Yankees: The South Seas and the Discovery of American Identity.

The publisher’s description of the book says:
With American independence came the freedom to sail anywhere in the world under a new flag. During the years between the Treaty of Paris [1783] and the Treaty of Wangxi [1844], Americans first voyaged past the Cape of Good Hope, reaching the ports of Algiers and the bazaars of Arabia, the markets of India and the beaches of Sumatra, the villages of Cochin, China, and the factories of Canton. Their South Seas voyages of commerce and discovery introduced the infant nation to the world and the world to what the Chinese, Turks, and others dubbed the “new people.”

Drawing on private journals, letters, ships’ logs, memoirs, and newspaper accounts, True Yankees traces America’s earliest encounters on a global stage through the exhilarating experiences of five Yankee seafarers. Merchant Samuel Shaw spent a decade scouring the marts of China and India for goods that would captivate the imaginations of his countrymen. Mariner Amasa Delano [1763-1823] toured much of the Pacific hunting seals. Explorer Edmund Fanning [1769-1841] circumnavigated the globe, touching at various Pacific and Indian Ocean ports of call. . . .

How did these bold voyagers approach and do business with the people in the region, whose physical appearance, practices, and culture seemed so strange? And how did native men and women—not to mention the European traders who were in direct competition with the Americans—regard these upstarts who had fought off British rule? The accounts of these adventurous travelers reveal how they and hundreds of other mariners and expatriates influenced the ways in which Americans defined themselves, thereby creating a genuinely brash national character—the “true Yankee.”
Morrison’s talk starts at 7:30 P.M. at the Salem Visitor Center at 2 New Liberty Street. A book signing will follow. It’s free and open to the public, though seating is limited.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The End of Pope Night in Boston

As I’ve discussed under the label of Pope Night, the 5th of November was a big holiday in colonial Boston. That was when Boston’s young men and teen-aged boys showed their loyalty to Britain by parading through the streets with effigies of the Pope and the Devil, hanging the enemies of the year in effigy, and brawling after sundown.

That anti-Catholic pageant wasn’t any trouble until American Patriots started to seek to support of Catholics. One of the first people to recognize the potential problem was Gen. George Washington, who on 5 Nov 1775 chided his officers and troops for considering “that ridiculous and childish Custom of burning the Effigy of the pope.” At the time, Gen. Richard Montgomery and Col. Benedict Arnold were hoping to win over the French Catholics of Canada.

But that invasion fell apart, and by November 1776 Boston’s youth went back to their traditional Pope Night celebrations. Then in early 1778 the new U.S. of A.’s diplomats spoiled the fun by convincing the French government to enter the war. The French navy arrived off New England’s coast in the middle of the year. So suddenly Bostonians were supposed to be nice to Catholics again.

The joint American and French attempt to dislodge the British from Newport ended in failure, and then the fleet moved up to Boston. There was a lot of friction between those sailors and marines and the locals. As Christian McBurney describes in his recent Journal of the American Revolution article, “Why Did a Boston Mob Kill a French Officer?”, that conflict came to a head when, well, a Boston mob killed a French officer.

The local authorities quickly moved in to quell that fighting and repair relations with the French commanders. But the next 5th of November approached less than two months later. Those officials worried that Pope Night would rouse passions again. Therefore, they clamped down, at every level.

The Massachusetts Council, which was exercising executive power in the state in the absence of a governor, passed a resolve against Pope Night. Then the seven elected Boston selectmen, including John Scollay, Samuel Austin, and Harbottle Dorr, met on the 5th, and they invited the town’s magistrates in as well:

The Justices attended according to the invitation of the Selectmen to consult the best methods to prevent any Exhibitions this Evening agreable to a Resolve of the Council transmitted to the Selectmen, Yesterday.
All those branches of government working together managed to suppress Pope Night at last. And it doesn’t seem to have come back in Boston again. Some of the rituals resurfaced around Christmas, others on Halloween. But the next time Boston newspapers reported on “Pope’s Day,” it was as a quaint pre-Revolutionary custom.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

“An attempt was made against Mr. S. Adams”

I already described one story behind Boston’s vote for representatives to the Massachusetts General Court in 1772: the replacement of James Otis, Jr., after too many episodes of insanity.

The other story appeared in a posthumous volume of Gov. Thomas Hutchinson’s History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

Hutchinson had convinced himself that a rift was opening between Samuel Adams and John Hancock that year. He even fancied that he could peel Hancock away from the local Whigs with favors like appointing him colonel of the province’s most prestigious militia company, the Cadets, and approving his election to the Council.

Hutchinson also felt that Adams was losing popularity with voters. His take on the election of May 1772 was:
It was apparent that, even in Boston, a considerable proportion of the people were still in favour of government [i.e., the Crown]. No opposition had been made for several years past to the election of members in that town; but in May, 1772, an attempt was made against Mr. S. Adams, and it appeared, upon trial, that near one-third of the votes were against him.

Although this attempt shewed that a strong party was still left which disapproved the measures of opposition, it proved a disservice to government. It caused an alarm, and a more vigorous exertion; and no endeavours were spared to heal all breaches in the opposition, and to guard against a renewal of them. The friends both of Mr. Hancock and Mr. Adams never ceased, until they had brought about a reconciliation.
By “near one-third of the votes,” a footnote showed, Hutchinson meant “218 in 723.” (His total differed from the official count in William Cooper’s minutes, which was 728.)

Over 150 people cast votes for Adams’s colleagues without voting for him. In previous years, Adams’s percentage had come much closer to all votes cast. Without troops in town, new taxes, or other irritants, he was having trouble convincing Bostonians they needed to push hard against the royal government.

Still, Adams won 70% of the vote at that town meeting, obviously enough to remain in office. It’s not clear who was next runner-up, or even if there was a candidate that the friends of the royal government put their weight behind. But obviously, if every voter could list four names, he didn’t come close to matching Adams’s 505 votes.

I can’t help but think that Hutchinson was fooling himself about his strength in the colony’s popular politics. Royal appointees were always too convinced that “a considerable proportion of the people” was really on their side.

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Election Results from 1772

On 6 May 1772, Boston held its annual town meeting to elect representatives to the Massachusetts General Court.

Boston had four seats in that legislature while no other town in the province had more than two. Nonetheless, because Boston was so much larger than other towns, its population was underrepresented.

That town meeting was a special sort on the annual schedule because of the property requirement for General Court elections. White men didn’t have to own so much to vote for town officials in March and on town issues throughout the year.

The selectmen called for attendees to vote by noon, and then the town clerk, William Cooper, recorded the results this way:

The Votes being brought in the number of the same were found to be Seven hundred & twenty three, and upon sorting them it appeared that the four following Gentlemen were chosen, Vizt.
The Honble. Thomas Cushing Esq. - - - - 699
The Honble. John Hancock Esq. - - - - 690
Mr. Samuel Adams. - - - - - - - - - - - 505
William Phillips Esq. - - - - - - - - - - 668
Cushing, Hancock, and Adams had been Boston’s legislative representatives for a few years. Phillips, as I discussed last month, was a replacement for James Otis, Jr.

But those four men weren’t necessarily the only candidates. In his diary, the merchant John Rowe recorded how many votes he won in General Court elections from 1765 to 1768, always coming up short. Yet Cooper never listed Rowe as a candidate in those years, thus avoiding an official record of his failure. So it’s possible other men were in the running in 1772 but didn’t match Adams’s 505 votes.

TOMORROW: The story behind the results.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

“Visualizing Slavery” Conference in New Haven , 7-8 Nov.

On Friday and Saturday, 7-8 November, the Gilder Lehrman Center’s 16th Annual International Conference will take place at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut.

It will be on the theme “Visualizing Slavery and British Culture” and coincides with the museum’s exhibition “Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain.”

The event description says:
Using a cross disciplinary approach, the conference will help place the works in the exhibition in a historical context—Britain and its empire from roughly the 1720s to the early 1800s—and explore the impact of slavery on British art and culture.

The conference intends to build on the growing field of work exploring the relationships between slavery, art, taste, and power, as well as to raise questions about how art, artists, and cultural institutions reckon with slavery’s legacies.
The scheduled presentations include “London’s Black Community, the Somerset Case, and the Politics of Slavery”; “Remembering to Forget: Ignorance and the Curating of Slavery”; “A Colloquial Archive of Color-Conscious Insult and Slang in Eighteenth-Century Britain”; and more.

Registration is free but required for all attendees.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

“Letters from Washington” in Cambridge in November

This month Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge will host a new series of discussions on George Washington, open to anyone.

Each Thursday at 6:00 P.M. the site’s Revolutionary War specialist, ranger Garrett Cloer, will lead chats about letters that Washington wrote on different topics:

  • November 6: Native Americans
  • November 13: Nationhood
  • November 20: Slavery

The selections will come from Washington’s military and political careers and periods of retirement. Copies will be provided at the start of each evening. The goal will be to explore how Washington viewed these issues and how his thinking might have changed over time.

These gatherings will take place in the Longfellow carriage house behind the mansion that Washington used in 1775-76 (and where the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his family later lived). Parking in Cambridge is notoriously difficult, but some areas along Brattle Street become free at 6:00. For more information about the discussion series, call the site at 617-876-4491.