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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Friday, January 01, 2021

“May grateful omens now appear, To Make the New a happy Year”

Boston 1775 observed its first new year back in 2007 by establishing an annual tradition of quoting a newspaper carrier verse.

Those verses were usually composed, printed, and distributed and/or sung by boys who worked for newspapers as a way to ask for end-of-year tips.

The example I quoted then, and am repeating now, was dated 1 Jan 1771—250 years ago today.

This handbill was created for the apprentices and journeymen in Isaiah Thomas’s print shop and saved by him for the collection of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester.

The LAD who carries
Wishes all his kind Customers
A Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!
And presents the following:

May grateful omens now appear,
To Make the New a happy Year,
And bless th’ ensuing days:
May future peace in every mind,
Like odours wafted by the wind,
Its sweetest incense raise.

May GEORGE in his extensive reign,
Subdue the pride of haughty SPAIN,
Submissive to his feet.
Thy princely smiles our ills appease,
Then grant that harmony and peace
The dawning year may greet.

Kind Sirs! your gen’rous bounty show,
Few shillings on your Lad bestow,
Which will reward his pains,
Who piercing Winter’s cold endures,
And to your hands the SPY secures,
And still his task maintains.
Among carrier verses from colonial New England, this one is unusual in mentioning Christmas as well as New Year’s. Thomas had spent some time as a printer in Nova Scotia and the Carolinas, colonies that didn’t have such strong Puritan roots. 

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