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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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What Sort of Gift Do You Get for a 250th Anniversary?

I’ve been promoting awareness of the Sestercentennial of the American Revolution, in part by describing what happened in the American colonies 250 years ago and in part by using the word “sestercentennial” a lot.

On Monday, 30 November, the Old North Church in Boston will host “The 250th is Coming, the 250th is Coming!”, a panel discussion on what more Massachusetts can and should do to celebrate the Sestercentennial. The event description says:
We know from the celebration of the Bicentennial forty years ago that major milestones can bring major benefits to our region: strengthening our brand as a historic tourist destination, creating new education programs, preserving our national heritage sites and renewing our civic commitment to core values of freedom and liberty. We also know that years of advance planning are required to gather the civic and financial resources required to celebrate a major milestone.
The panelists will be:
  • William Fowler, Northeastern University
  • Martha McNamara, Wellesley College
  • Robert Allison, Suffolk University
  • Greg Galer, Boston Preservation Alliance
  • Rep. Byron Rushing
The event is free, but the church asks people to reserve seats through this site.

By most historians’ lights, the Sestercentennial has already started. Back in August, the Revolution 250 consortium observed the anniversary of the first Stamp Act protest at Liberty Tree. What other Revolutionary events should Massachusetts celebrate in the next ten, eleven, or twenty-five years, and how? We’re inviting people to share ideas at the forum, on blogs like this, or through Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #250isComing.

Here are some potential visions for the future:
  • In June 2018, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum turns one of its vessels into John Hancock’s ship Liberty for a day and recreates how Customs officials seized it for smuggling, and the subsequent waterfront riot.
  • In October 2018, dozens of reenacted British army units disembark from ferries onto Long Wharf, form ranks, and march through downtown Boston to the Common for a weekend encampment recreating the occupation of Boston in October 1768.
  • In February 2020, a recreation of the massive funeral procession of young Christopher Seider winds through the streets to the Granary Burying-Ground, honoring the first Bostonian to die in the political struggle.
  • In August and September 2024, large outdoor public events commemorate the Powder Alarm in Cambridge and the closing of the courts in Hampshire and Worcester Counties, events that helped end royal rule in Massachusetts outside of Boston.
  • By April 2025, the location of Dr. Joseph Warren’s house is marked on City Hall Plaza and added to the Freedom Trail.
What would you like to see happen? What local event deserves a 250th-anniversary commemoration?


DCC said...

I'd like to see a year-long event, starting in May 2023, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Tea Act Crisis. Such an event could start with passage of the Tea Act on May 10, the publication of warnings such as the Crisis in the fall, the arrival and subsequent destruction of tea in November and December in the tea ports, and finally the passage of the Coercive Acts in the spring of 1774. I think it would be useful to look at all these events as part of a single crisis.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to celebrate the annual anniversary of the Boston Tea Party on December 16th http://www.bostonteapartyship.com/boston-tea-party-reenactment

J. L. Bell said...

In this discussion I'm not so concerned about annual events that get a lot of promotion (so far as history events go). I'm wondering about new events, sites, or enterprises, and about the one-time opportunity of the 250th anniversary. The Tea Party reenactment in 2023 should by all rights be terrific. But should we also recreate the second Boston Tea Party in March 2024?