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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Monday, March 07, 2016

Another Early Image of the Boston Massacre

Extending our latest Boston Massacre week, here’s a look at a powder horn decorated with an image of the shooting. It comes from the American Antiquarian Society’s Past Is Present blog last November.

The carver was Jacob Gay or Guay, who created a lot of other striking horns from the Seven Years’ War through the Revolutionary War, working out of New Hampshire or on the Boston siege lines. This one is dated 1772 and bears the name of Hamilton Davidson.
The Davidson powder horn in the collections of Historic Deerfield was made by Jacob Gay in 1772 and depicts the historic Boston Massacre scene in reverse. The horn is one of Gay’s finest (he was a prolific carver of horns) and its detail suggests how this inciting image may have inspired a soldier in battle. Gay has reversed the scene, with the British soldiers shooting from the left, and depicts the men in his cartoon-like style. Whether he adapted the scene from a print by [Paul] Revere or [Henry] Pelham or [Jonathan] Muliken, Gay’s rendering is impressive, especially when you recognize that he was engraving the scene on a curved horn surface rather than on a copper plate!
Gay depicted eight soldiers with their guns pointed at the crowd, which was exactly how many enlisted men were on King Street that night. But that accuracy might just be coincidence since he carved six more soldiers behind them.

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