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, February 25, 2016

Jerusalem on the Road

Yesterday I quoted a couple of sources from Philadelphia about a model of ancient Jerusalem built by “an illiterate shoemaker” in Germantown.

On 7 May 1764 the New-York Gazette announced that “JERUSALEM, a View of that famous City, after the Work of 7 Years,” was “To be seen (opposite the Honourable John Watts’s, Esq; and near the Exchange,)” downtown. Watts was a prominent merchant and member of the Council; you can read his business letters from this period here.

Viewing hours were 8:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. with an hour off for supper. Admission was a straight shilling at all times. The advertisement stated that this exhibit, “worthy to be seen by the Curious” would be in New York for only “Three Months.”

Sure enough, on 30 July the Gazette warned that the model’s last day in New York would be on 3 August. That notice also revealed that the man hosting it was “Thomas Evans, Clock and Watch-Maker.”

Jerusalem’s next stop was in Newport, Rhode Island. The 13 August Newport Mercury announced that it could “be seen at the House of Mr. [William] EARL, at the Sign of the White Bear, in Broad-Street” until 6 September. Earl had moved his tavern “above the Court House” or Colony House (shown above) in April. The admission was now “Twenty Shillings each Person.” Otherwise, the ad used the same language to describe the model as in New York.

The model city then moved north to “the House of Mr. Noah Mason, in Providence.” The 22 September Providence Gazette also clarified that that higher admission price of twenty shillings was “Old Tenor”—devalued local paper currency instead of specie. Mason (1729-1791), a carpenter who had become a constable and trader, had started to keep a tavern in 1762. Once again, the exhibit was going to stay in the town for three weeks.

The next logical place to exhibit was Boston, third largest settlement in British North America. But Boston had both policies and traditions against theater and similar displays. Would the town fathers view this model as a work of piety or an idle distraction?

TOMORROW: An “imposition on the public.”

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