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.

Follow by Email


Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Best of Boston 1775 in 2017

This week I looked back on the year and chose the postings that please me most, especially if they braided together sources to present new information or correct misinformation.

“A Republic, If You Can Keep It.” A famous anecdote about the Constitutional Convention has Benjamin Franklin saying that to a lady. The anecdote goes all the way back to 1787. But the politician who recorded it also reshaped it for his purposes in the press, as have many later authors. Start here.

Samuel Adams’s Philadelphia Oration. The speech was published in London. But it was never delivered in Philadelphia. Who was behind it, and what does it say about “fake news” during the war? Start here.

Jane Crother and Joseph Whitehouse. She was one of the few women to witness the Boston Massacre. He was a British soldier stationed in town. A few days after the fatal confrontation, they married. Explore their lives, with help from Don Hagist, starting here.

The Unpopular Charles Paxton. How might issues of gender and sexuality have figured into Bostonians’ dislike for a Customs officer? Start here. (Paxton shown above, courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.)

A Conspiracy Rumor from Nantucket. In 1738 a Boston newspaper warned about a Native uprising on Nantucket. With help from Nat Philbrick, start here.

The “Edenton Tea Party.” Plenty of evidence it happened in North Carolina. Plenty of inaccurate quoting of the women involved. Start here.

Getting to Know John Barker Church. The musical Hamilton depicts Angelica Schuyler marrying a man who’s “not a lot of fun” but rich and steady. In real life, her husband was even more of a firecracker than Alexander Hamilton. Start here.

The Killing of Henry Sparker. Sorting out quite different accounts of a fatal fight in 1768 Newport, plus what happened to the accused. Start here.

Jacob Frost and “The Young Provincial.” How a provincial soldier’s experience in and after the Battle of Bunker Hill became a magazine story, and how Nathaniel Hawthorne had nothing to do with it. Start here.

“Curer of Bacon.” Why did Loyalists apply that epithet to Samuel Adams? My best guess.

The Easiest Way to Carry Two Pails of Water. Use a hoop, historic sources say. (I’d love to see this tested at a summer reenactment.)

Newspaper Economics. How much did colonial American newspaper printers charge for advertisements and subscriptions? Start here.

The Massachusetts Legislature in Print. All the journals of the Massachusetts House in the Revolutionary period are online, along with the Provincial Congresses of 1774-75 and the last sessions of the Council. But you have to know where to look.


Anonymous said...

Gotta admire a writer/historian who can evaluate his own work dispassionately -- thank you --

Chris Hurley of Woburn said...

John, at this year's Sudbury Faire and Colonial Muster I had the opportunity to try out the hoop and buckets ploy. The wood-wright next to my stall had a small hoop, a visitor had small children, and I had two wooden buckets with fresh pressed cider. It works, with care taken, -Chris Hurley of Woburn

Randy Seaver said...

Another excellent body of work - thank you for your zeal, dedication, accuracy and curiosity every day of the year. I enjoy reading Boston 1775 every morning.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks, Chris! I'm sorry I missed seeing the field test.

And I'm grateful for all the encouraging readers.