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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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ten Years of Boston 1775

This is the tenth anniversary of the day I launched Boston 1775. I dated a couple of introductory postings earlier than 14 May 2006 so they’d be easy to find, but that first posting was about an article I’d recently published in New England Ancestors. The next highlighted an article from the New Yorker about a widely reproduced portrait of a black sea captain being revealed as a fraud.

And every day since then I’ve posted something—sometimes written the night before, sometimes written weeks in advance, sometimes kindly written by someone else.

According to Google, Boston 1775 has garnered over 3,300,000 page views. The most hit-upon postings, no doubt determined by keywords in their titles and school assignments, are:
This blog turned out to provide my bona fides in the field of Revolutionary history since I don’t have a graduate education or institutional affiliation to point to. I’ve just laid out things I find interesting, and it’s gratifying to hear how interesting they are for others.

Boston 1775 opened doors for me. I got invited to speak on a panel about blogging at the Organization of American Historians meeting. I landed a contract to write a historical resource study for the National Park Service. The research behind my new book, The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War, started years before the blog, but Boston 1775 provides the platform for launching it.

I wasn’t expecting any of that. I just felt, back in 2004 or 2005, that I’d found some nifty stories that weren’t long or substantial enough to be print articles or papers. I thought it might be fun to share them on a website. My multitalented writing friend Greg Fishbone told me that I could achieve approximately what I wanted with PHP software configured to work like a blog.

That spurred me to look into blogging services to make the process easier. I realized that it would be easier to adapt to available templates than to ask Greg to engineer exactly what I pictured from scratch. I also realized that presenting material in blog form brought two advantages: I could add pages myself without having to work through a webmaster, and I wouldn’t have to launch a full site since no one expects a blog to be complete.

But still I didn’t do anything for months. Then in May 2006 I attended a conference where another writing friend, Mitali Perkins, told all of us in her workshop to just start blogging—find an area of your expertise and share it with the world. In Mitali’s case, she was writing about young immigrants and their books. She was already on her way to becoming a nationally known author and speaker.

After hearing Mitali, I came home and launched Boston 1775. And here we are, ten years later, looking ahead ten years to the sestercentennial of American independence. I can’t promise this blog will be around to see that anniversary, especially in daily form, but it feels like something to shoot for.

21 comments:

Randy Seaver said...

Bravo! Well done! Ten years is an awesome achievement for a blog focused on one time period and place.

Bill West said...

Happy Blogiversary!

Anne Bartlett Hill said...

Congratulations! I read every post....I initially found your blog while researching my 5th great grandfather Josiah Breed of the 4th Lynn. From your research, I learned that he was exchanged after capture on 19 April 1775 for Lt. Gould of His Majesty's 4th Regiment of Foot. Thank you again...I grew up in West Acton and on Hanscom AFB, and used to play on the Battle Road, so your posts take me back to when every house, tree and road seemed to have historical significance. Keep up the stellar work!

Pam Kamphuis said...

Awesome! I've followed you and enjoyed your posts but never knew how you started out. Love it!

Jimmy Dick said...

Congratulations! I am awed at how you manage to have a post every day. I have enjoyed your blog over the last few years since I found it. I will be teaching the first half of the American History survey course once again for a few semesters and will have my students using some of your posts in their work.

Great job and keep up the good work!

Chaucerian said...

So happy for you, so proud of you! Well done, young man! You are one of my best and most interesting teachers.

I'm looking forward to many more days when my first Internet action is checking Boston1775 --

D.M. Dunlap said...

Thanks and congratulations. I realized while reading this post that I've now been reading this blog for about 7 years, and now I'm interpreting Revolutionary Boston on a daily basis my debt to your material here is growing exponentially. I always feel gleeful when I spot a citation of your work, and it's great to direct curious tourists here, too. Huzzah!

Gail Gauthier said...

Good work.

Tim Abbott said...

Magnificent, my friend! Well done and keep going!

Diane Mayr said...

Congratulations, John, on a job well done!

Mark said...

Greetings and congratulations from a Canadian follower. I've been reading along for 3 or 4 years now. I really enjoyed the commentary about how the blog and individual posts materialize(d). Way to go JL !!!

Imagine my surprise today when I get to the blog and see my long-awaited story on Isaiah Thomas in Halifax !!! Holy smokes. I enjoyed it very much, and would like to add that Thomas used mourning symbols from American newspapers in the Halifax Gazette to voice his displeasure. On October 13, 1765 effigies of the Stamp Master, a boot - a reference to Prime Minister Lord Bute, and a devil were hanged on the
gallows behind Citadel Hill (in Halifax). A note pinned to the Stamp Master read: "what greater glory can this country see, than a stamp-master hanging on a tree"

Q said...

Thank you for all your work! I come every morning....

Richard T said...

Richard says:

Congratulations.

I have been following your blog for many years and as I am a Guide for the Lexington Historical Society, I have found your site invaluable. It has allowed me to share many items with fellow members and many already are quite familiar with you and your work.

Carry on!!!!

Mary C. said...

Although I'm new to your blog, I am very much enjoying it. Always worthy topics, always fascinating.
Thanks for taking the time to do it. Congrats and best wishes

Chris Hurley of Woburn said...

Congratulations on 10 years John!

Charles Bahne said...

Congratulations, John, on a job very well done, and on reaching a significant milestone. You are sowing the seeds of knowledge among your many readers, and advancing the state of scholarship. Best wishes to you personally, and I look forward to reading your blog daily for many years to come.

All my best,

Charlie Bahne

Unknown said...

Hip, hip, huzzah on a decade of blogging!

Todd Andrlik said...

That is a huge milestone in the blogosphere. Congrats! And it's so great that you have The Road to Concord publishing this month, too. Perfect timing! Huzza to another 10 years!

Sarah Jane Marsh said...

Congratulations! I admire your courage to get started and your discipline to continue (daily!) all these years. Thank you for your treasure trove of information and for bringing new stories to light.

Steve MC said...

Ten years of blogging is quite the accomplishment. I found my way here about seven years ago, by way of Laurie Halse Anderson mentioning you on her own blog, and I always scan your new posts in Feedly and peruse through your back pages for research. Many thanks for taking on this journey!

RBK said...

Congratulations Mr. Bell. I love your blog, you always do a great job. Just an fyi, whenever I go the Apple store I always leave your page open on a couple of iPads and computers. Hehehehe. Call it a silent shout out :). Congrats again!