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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Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Expanding the Team of “Revolutionary Superheroes”

A few years back, Lee Wright of The History List showed me the art he’d commissioned for a T-shirt called “Revolutionary Superheroes.”

It posed five people in the resolute manner of a team fighting injustice. Those people were Abigail Adams, John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton—all major figures at Founders Online.

The online retailer needed a “hang tag” to attach to that T-shirt when museum stores carried it, and Lee asked me to write the copy. I came up with a line about each figure (treating the Adamses as one), aiming to be accurate and thought-provoking.

Now The History List has a whole line of “Revolutionary Superheroes” items, including stickers, notebooks, and shirts of various styles.

Meanwhile, some customers were asking about other Founding figures beyond those five. It was time, Lee decided, to commission another set of “Revolutionary Superheroes”—but who?

The History List collected suggestions through social media—more than fifty in all. Then Lee commissioned me to write capsule biographies summarizing what each person did notably during the Revolution. You can see all the crowd-sourced candidates at this webpage.

Anyone can read those bios and consider the people’s lives. Some names are far more famous than others. Some folks did a lot more to further the American Revolution than others. I had to dig hard for information on a few while cutting off large post-Revolutionary careers of the most famous. I learned a lot in the process, and I hope people exploring the page learn, too.

People who buy “Revolutionary Superheroes” merchandise can vote on which five figures should be added to the line next. The voting is by ranked-choice, and the result will be democratic—i.e., the historical figures with the most aggregate points will win, and all voters will have to live with the result.

If this proves popular, The History List might invite more nominations for a third batch of notables, including the public didn’t nominate this time around.

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