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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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Henry Knox Symposium in Springfield, 6 May

Springfield Armory National Historic Site and the Friends of Springfield Armory N.H.S. are organizing a one-day public symposium on Henry Knox, to be held on 6 May 2023.

As commander of artillery for the Continental Army, Knox recommended making Springfield the site of an arsenal and laboratory. That facility remained a federal armory in the early republic while Knox rose to be secretary of war.

The organizers have announced, “We invite scholars, historians, archivists, curators, and other interested parties to submit abstracts for short presentations that address Henry Knox and his role in American history.” These can include explorations of less admirable facets of this “complex and controversial man,” not just heroic portraits.

Presentations will be thirty minutes long (fifteen double-spaced pages when typed out) with ten minutes for questions. Up to eight proposals will be selected for the symposium.

Prospective presenters should send an abstract of no more than 500 words about their topic, including the presenter’s full name, contact information (name, title, organization, address, phone, email), and a 100-word biography. To send proposals, use the “email us” link on this page.

The due date for proposals is 8 March. By 22 March, the organizers will notify prospects if their proposals have been accepted. The presentations will be due on 19 April in order to ensure they will be ready for 6 May.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Matthew E. Henry‘s “self-evident”

Yesterday I went to a New England Poetry Club reading at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard.

One of the poets sharing work was Matthew E. Henry, who is also a schoolteacher. He grew up in Boston and went to school in Wellesley, and in this poem he looked back on those years.

as a kid from Boston, the Revolutionary War
was my favorite subject in fourth grade.
a Tea Party I could respect. class trips vainly
searching for musket balls in Lexington treetops.
reading of decapitation by cannonball on Breed’s Hill.
even the sights in Southie— unsafe for me to visit—
were a source of tribal pride. like rooting for the Patriots.

we were told to don our colonial imagination caps
and tell our story of emancipation from the British.
where would we be? the Old South Meeting House?
the Old North Church? what would we see as we rose
to American greatness? our teacher should hear freedom
ringing in the streets through our words. I dropped my head
to begin— oversized pencil in hand— until I remembered.

seeing my inaction, she crouched and began to re-explain.
I patiently waited for her to finish, eyes on her lips,
then asked if she wanted me to pretend to be white,
or to picture myself for sale on the steps of Faneuil Hall,
or stacked in one-half of the Harbor ships heading to
and from the West Indies, explaining my parents’ patois.

after the vocal static— the hems and haws of white noise—
she suggested Crispus Attucks: the hometown boy, the Black
hero of the Boston Massacre. my siblings had taught me
the “one-drop rule,” and when to nod my head politely,
so I pretended he was not half Wampanoag, that Framingham
was not his master’s home, and imagined myself being
the first unarmed Black man shot on these urban streets.
The specific details, from the reminder of neighborhood enmities to the mention of Asa Pollard’s head, really evoke a post-Bicentennial Boston childhood. But they also remind us that nearby childhoods could be vastly different, then and now.

“self-evident” was a published first in the Tahoma Literary Review. It’s included in Henry’s collection The Colored Page, which on its webpage has the sell line: “How it started: Only Black kid in the room. Where we are: Only Black teacher in the building.”

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Naming Names

In my recent sampling of historical fiction set in the Revolutionary period, I see authors having difficulty giving their characters authentic names.

Sometimes they fall into the trap of using given names familiar to use today but not in use then, such as “Suzanne” instead of “Susanna.” But more often writers go the other way and choose names that resonate with so much quaint historicity that we rarely see them today, such as “Norbert” or “Tristram”—but people of Revolutionary times didn’t see those names, either.

The problem is that the most common given names in Revolutionary times are quite familiar. Daniel Scott Smith showed this in a study of Massachusetts’s 1771 tax lists, published in the William & Mary Quarterly in 1994.

Among men, the names most frequently found were: John, Samuel, Joseph, William, Jonathan, Thomas, James, Benjamin, Daniel, and David.

Among women, the top names were: Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, Hannah, Abigail, Lydia, Ann (or Anne or Anna), Rebecca, Martha, and Ruth.

All of those names are familiar today and have been familiar for a long time, meaning they don’t evoke any particular era. We have to go down the list to #11 for men and #12 for women before finding names we rarely use now: Ebenezer and Mehetabel.

What’s more, common names were more common in 1771—meaning that more of the men and women you met had the same popular given names. About 46% of all taxpaying men had one of those top-ten names listed above.

Among women, there was even less diversity. Slightly over two-thirds of all female taxpayers in Massachusetts shared the ten given names above. If you’ve ever done genealogy in this period, it feels like half of all the women are named Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, Hannah, or Abigail. Smith’s number-crunching showed that’s actually a slight understatement. The correct figure is 52.8%.

In contrast, in the decades since World War 2, and especially in the decades since 1980, American parents have chosen an increasingly wider range of names, Sam Weinger reported through Medium. Notably, female names are now far more diverse than male names.

In 2014, a FiveThirtyEight article stated, “almost 30 percent of Americans have a given name that appears in the top 100 list.” Back in 1771, 30% of Massachusetts male taxpayers had a given name appearing in the top 5 list, and 27% of women were named either Mary or Elizabeth.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Fundraising for Security at Carpenters’ Hall

Carpenters’ Hall was built and owned by the Carpenters’ Company of the City and County of Philadelphia.

The guild started meeting in the building in 1771, though they continued working on it until 1775. By the fall of 1774 it was in good enough shape to host the First Continental Congress.

With delegates from twelve colonies participating, this was the broadest continental resistance gathering yet. It sent a petition to King George III, trying to go over the head of his ministers, and it called on Americans to adopt the Continental Association, a widespread boycott of British goods.

Later the Pennsylvania Provincial Conference and Convention met in Carpenters’ Hall to declare independence for that state, take control of the militia, and set up a new state constitution. (Meanwhile, the Second Continental Congress had taken over the nearby Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall.)

Carpenters’ Hall remains the property of the Carpenters’ Company, but it’s also part of Independence National Historical Park, with National Park Service rangers leading free tours and programs.

For most of 2022, the building was closed for a $3 million renovation. It was due to reopen early this year.

On Christmas Eve, an N.P.S. officer discovered a fire in the building’s basement. Sprinklers went off, containing the flames, though that water harmed some files. Upper parts of the building sustained only smoke damage. Investigators determined the fire had been deliberately set.

The Carpenters’ Company has set up a Go Fund Me page for recovering from this arson, saying:
While insurance will cover much of the destruction, Carpenters' Hall will need to commit to new improvements to prevent another tragedy from occurring again in the future. Public donations will help to fund an improved security system, including new security cameras, fire protection systems, fireproof archival storage, and environmental protections for our collections.

As we look towards the 250th anniversary of the First Continental Congress in just over a year, it is more vital than ever that we reopen the Hall as it was intended: as a meeting place for the community, a civic forum, and a building for the people.
This effort seeks to raise $100,000 to preserve this historic building from future harm.

Friday, January 27, 2023

“I am (as we say) a daughter of liberty”

For a presentation this week that didn’t come off, I picked out three extracts from the letters of young teenager Anna Green Winslow to her mother in Nova Scotia, showing her political awakening. She wrote between November 1771 and May 1773.

Richard Gridley, retired artillery colonel, explained the political factions to Anna.

Coln. Gridley…brought in the talk of Whigs & Tories & taught me the different between them.
As a girl, and an upper-class girl at that, Anna wasn’t supposed to demonstrate in the streets. But the Whig movement encouraged girls to participate in other ways, such as learning to spin so that local weavers could make more cloth so that local merchants didn’t have to import so much from Britain.

But Anna didn’t know how to spin.

So she contented herself by visiting the Manufactory where her cousin Sally’s yarn had been woven into cloth, and doing a little dance there.
I was at the factory to see a piece of cloth cousin Sally spun for a summer coat for unkle. After viewing the work we recollected the room we sat down in was Libberty Assembly Hall, otherwise called factory hall, so Miss Gridley & I did ourselves the Honour of dancing a minuet in it.
Anna could also participate in the movement as a consumer, choosing to buy more locally produced goods. In one letter she proudly described herself to her mother as a “daughter of liberty.”
As I am (as we say) a daughter of liberty I chuse to wear as much of our own manufactory as pocible. . . . I will go on to save my money for a chip & a lineing &c.
I’m not sure how Anna’s family felt about the politics she was learning in Boston. Her father, Joshua Winslow, was more closely allied with royal officials. Later in 1773 he lucked out (he thought) in being named one of the East India Company’s tea consignees in Boston. But when the town mobilized against allowing that tea to be landed, he had to lie low in Marshfield. Eventually, he left Massachusetts as a Loyalist.

Anna Green Winslow remained in the state, living in Hingham, but she died in 1780. Alas, outside of those letters to her mother in 1771–1773 we have almost no sources about Anna’s life, so we don’t know how her political outlook changed after the Whigs made her father an enemy for agreeing to sell tea, and after the war began.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Davis on Ragsdale, Washington at the Plow

Camille Davis recently reviewed Bruce A. Ragsdale’s Washington at the Plow: The Founding Farmer and the Question of Slavery for H-Net.

Davis writes:
Going beyond much of the historical analysis that presents farming as primarily an occupation that Washington held before the Revolution and a retirement activity that he reestablished after relinquishing command of the Continental Army, Ragsdale proves that farming was at the nexus of the first president’s personhood, an indelible component of his identity that he consistently developed. Additionally, Ragsdale uses Washington’s preoccupation with land ownership and cultivation to illuminate Washington’s decision-making processes as a slaveowner. Ragsdale believes Washington’s roles as landowner and slaveowner were inextricably linked.

Ragsdale’s work illustrates that Washington’s preoccupation with agriculture was tied directly to the Enlightenment impetus of using science to assess, understand, and control one’s physical environment. Specifically, for Washington, this meant using scientific principles to improve soil conditions and crop growth. . . . As a private citizen, he continuously looked for ways to maximize the efficiency of enslaved persons working on his plantation. Additionally, he insisted that enslaved persons be kept aware of and trained on the most recent English farming techniques.
That overlap between what seem like the latest thinking and the most barbarous custom is provocative. Davis also notes some unanswered questions in Ragsdale’s analysis. Read the whole review here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Researching Historic Carpentry

The North Bennet Street School (one of my mother’s multiple alma maters) just shared a blog post about graduates working at Colonial Williamsburg.

Of the alumni profiled, Jeremy Tritchler (shown above) and Brian Weldy studied in the Cabinet and Furniture Making program and Melanie Belongia in Violin Making—though she’s now applying those skills to harpsichords.

Tritchler was a geologist before trying the North Bennet Street School, and Belongia was a professional musician and law student. (My mother had also worked in several careers, in addition to raising two kids, when she decided to study piano tuning and repair.)

Today these three graduates are in the part of Colonial Williamsburg’s costumed staff who also work with wood and other eighteenth-century materials to produce cabinets, musical instruments, and other objects.

Meredith Fidrocki writes of Weldy, a master in the joiner’s shop:
Projects require meticulous research. How did a colonial Joiner make this efficiently and economically? Figuring that out is one of Brian’s favorite parts of the job. “Not too many people can say they’ve crawled up in the steeple of the Bruton Parish Church,” he laughs, recalling up-close exploration of the 18th-century church on the museum grounds. “The beams come together in a beautiful latticework.” In the shop, he’s currently recreating one of the circular windows from the church.
In fact, all three craftspeople speak of enjoying the research side of the job.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

“Orders for the Lighting of the Lamps”

As I recounted yesterday, the official records of Boston’s selectmen from the end of August 1774 reveal that the town’s first street lamps, acquired at great expense and trouble just a few months before, were no longer being lit.

The immediate question was how the town would treat its contract with Edward Smith, hired back in March to oversee the lamplighters and maintain supplies. On 31 August the selectmen decided:
Whereas it was agreed with Mr. Edward Smith to take the care of the Town Lamps for twelve months he to receive the sum of Forty Pounds Sterg. for that term of time, and whereas £13–6–8– lawful mony has been paid him for one quarter, & another quarter expires this day; but by reason of the distress occasioned by the Boston Port Bill, the Lamps have not been light the last Quarter—therefore,

Voted, that mr. Smith have a draft for said last Quarter as tho’ the service had been performed he having engaged to perform said service in any future time when called upon for that purpose, it being his intention and agreement to perform the service at the rate he had engaged for a twelve month, when the Town shall think proper to have the Lamps again lighted; and to consider this 2d. Quarters pay as so much advanced on account of service, which remains still to be performed by him, when called upon for that purpose.

In the memo. Book he has signed his Name to such a Writing as the above.
The town was thus still spending money on the street lights even though they weren’t lighting anything—and in a difficult economic time, too. But the selectmen could justify that as a payment for future service, and they kept Smith satisfied.

The decision to stop lighting the lamps coincided with the return of British army regiments to the streets. The presence of those soldiers didn’t make Bostonians feel so secure they decided street lighting was unnecessary. Based on their memories of 1768, citizens expected that having hundreds more young men in town, especially entitled young officers, would bring more trouble, not less.

At a meeting on 3 November, the town endorsed a recommendation to “augment the Town Watch to the Number of Twelve Men in each Watch” instead of four—a huge increase in personnel and expense.

That same town meeting took this confusing series of votes:
Upon a Motion made, Voted, that the Selectmen be desired to give Orders for the Lighting of the Lamps, when they shall think it proper.——

Voted, that a Comittee be now chosen to procure Subscriptions for the Purpose of Lighting of the Town Lamps.

On a Motion made, Voted, that the above Vote respecting Subscriptions for lighting the Lamps be reconsidered
That appears to be the last recorded discussion of the street lamps before the war. Presumably they remained dark.

On 24 November, the selectmen chose one of their number, Timothy Newell, to “receive from John Rowe Esq. all the Lamps and Tin Plates which he has in his hands, and to deposite the same in the upper loft of Faneuil Hall.” Rowe (shown above) had chaired the committee to acquire and install the street lights, and now he was done with the project. The extra equipment went into Boston’s attic, not to be brought out until the lamps had been lit again.

Monday, January 23, 2023

When the Lights Went Out in Boston

The latest episode of the fine HUB History podcast focused on how Boston installed its first street lamps in 1773 and 1774, the effort hampered by the equipment being wrecked on Cape Cod along with some East India Company tea.

The discussion doesn’t end with those whale-oil lamps but traces the changes in illumination technology to today. Along the way, we learn that the “historic” street lamps now decorating certain Boston neighborhoods are far younger than most people assume.

The podcast’s story of the first street lamps draws heavily on the records of Boston’s town meeting and the journal of John Rowe, the merchant put in charge of the lamp committee.

Here’s another aspect of the story, preserved in the records of Boston’s selectmen. Each year’s first town meeting chose those seven officials to carry out ordinary business and deal directly with contractors.

On 1 March, those officials recorded:
It was agreed with Edward Smyth to have £40— Sterg. for one year, for overseeing the Lamps & Lamplighters & delivering the Oyle & Wicks & other necessary.
Smith (as the name was more often written) got paid £13.6.8 for the first quarter of the year, March through May. (No, I don’t know why the town paid Smith a third of his annual salary to cover a quarter of the year.)

Three months later, on 1 June, the selectmen met with the lamplighters themselves, named as “Messrs. Barker, Fowle, Stevens, Wm. & Thomas Sharp, Hoadly, & Ayres.” Those men “agreed with the Selectmen that they would continue Lamp Lighters thro’ the Winter.”

But bigger questions were roiling the town. On 13 May there was a meeting to hear the new Boston Port Bill and formulate a response to it. That discussion continued through meeting after meeting all summer. Almost everyone agreed that the Port Bill was a constitutional affront and an economic disaster. And, of course, alongside Parliament’s new law, companies of British army regulars were once again marching on Boston streets.

One response to the law was not to light those new street lamps after all. There’s no record of a decision, nor report in the newspapers. But on 24 August Edward Smith “apply’d to the Selectmen and acquainted them he expected to be paid according to Agreement although the Lamps had not been lighted the last Quarter.”

At the end of the month the selectmen’s records confirmed: “by reason of the distress occasioned by the Boston Port Bill, the Lamps have not been light the last Quarter.”

As the HUB History episode recounts, although the town governed the process of installing and maintaining the street lamps, it didn’t undertake to pay for them through taxes. Instead, Boston asked wealthy citizens to donate money for that effort. Enough money had come in the buy the lamps, install them, and hire staff to maintain them.

But with the Port Bill straining the town’s trade with Britain and other colonies, those wealthy citizens might have felt they couldn’t afford to pay for street lamps after all. Or perhaps people felt the illumination clashed with the somber, resentful mood of a town protesting arbitrary law and military occupation. Maybe the longer days of midyear made it easier to do without street lighting. With no visible decision point, it’s impossible to know for sure why the lamps weren’t lit and who made that choice.

(We do know that, since the lamps went dark in June, that decision had nothing to do with the ‘arms race’ that broke out in September, with Patriots trying to smuggle artillery and other weapons of war out of Boston and the British military trying to stop them. When I wrote about that conflict in The Road to Concord, I wondered if dark streets made moving cannon around at night easier, but that could only be conjecture.)

TOMORROW: Making choices in the dark.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Four Million Pounds of Leaves

At the Regency Explorer, Anna M. Thane shared information about a problem I hadn’t consider: counterfeit tea.

That doesn’t mean the labrador and other herbal infusions that Whig leaders like Dr. Thomas Young promoted as a substitute for tea during the boycott 250 years ago.

Rather, this problem was leaves of other plants sold as genuine tea in Britain. According to Thane:
A government report states in 1783 that the quantity of fictitious tea made from sloe and ash-tree leaves sums up to more than four million pounds (compare to the whole quantity of genuine tea sold by the East India Company: about 6 million pounds per year).
For consumers the problem wasn’t just not getting the tea (and caffeine) they expected. Turning sloe and ash-tree leaves into something that looked like black tea started with boiling them with verdigris, which was poisonous. For green tea, the leaves would be colored with the same substance. Also, sloe was known as a purgative.

In 1820 a chemist named Frederick Accum published A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons in London describing the tricks of making counterfeit tea and also the ways of testing the leaves one had bought to make sure they were genuine.

Check out the Regency Explorer for that vital information. Seems like it might be especially useful for a mystery novelist.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Fort Ti War College of the Seven Years’ War, 19–21 May

Fort Ticonderoga is holding its Twenty-Seventh Annual War College of the Seven Years’ War on the weekend of 19–21 May.

This will be a hybrid conference, so fans of the conflict can attend in upstate New York or watch online.

The scheduled presentations reflect that war’s reputation as a global conflict, bringing scholars from multiple countries.

Friday, 19 May
  • Matthew Keagle, Fort Ticonderoga Curator, “Highlights from the Robert Nittolo Collection”
Saturday, 20 May
  • Ellen Fogel Walker, Public Affairs Coordinator at Culloden Battlefiel, “Anchors for Collective Identity: Culloden Militaria of the ’45, Artefacts and Memorabilia”
  • Jay Donis, professor at Thiel College, “Building an American Identity on the Mid-Atlantic Frontier in the 1760s”
  • James Kirby Martin, coauthor of Forgotten Allies, “The Six Nations Confronts the French and Indian War: Joseph Brant Versus Han Yerry”
  • Ian McCulloch, former Director of the Canadian Forces’ Centre for National Security Studies, “John Bradstreet’s Raid 1758: A Revisionist Assessment”
  • Djordje Djuric, professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad, “Simeon Piscevic (Simeon Piščević), General and Diplomat of the Era of the Seven Years’ War”
Sunday, 21 May
This day’s presenters are all graduate students sharing their new research.
  • Jenifer Ishee, Mississippi State University, “Captive Bodies: Examining the Material Culture of Captivity during the Seven Years’ War”
  • Clément Monseigne, Bordeaux University, “Feeling Strangeness: the Sensory Experience of War in North America (1754-1760)”
  • Daniel Bishop, Texas A&M University, “‘Lay’d up And Decay’d’: Examining the History and Archaeological Material of the King’s Shipyard at Fort Ticonderoga”
  • Camden R. Elliott, Harvard University, “‘That Most Fatal disorder to the Virginians’: The Seven Years’ War and a Pandemic of Smallpox, 1756-1766”
In addition, on Friday afternoon there’s a walking tour of the Ticonderoga battlefield led by Director of Archaeology Margaret Staudter for an extra cost.

Basic registration is $175, but there are discounts for being a Fort Ti member, registering early, and participating online instead of on-scene, so a member like myself can listen to the presentations for as little as $100. There are also scholarships for teachers who are attending the War College of the Seven Years’ War for the first time. Check out the whole registration scheme at this webpage.

Friday, January 20, 2023

A Likely Addition to Phillis Wheatley’s Works

Prof. Wendy Raphael Roberts of the University of Albany has announced the discovery of a previously unknown poem by Phillis Wheatley, “On the Death of Love Rotch.”

Or, as this press release from the university says, Roberts found a poem in the 1782 commonplace book of Mary Powel Potts (1769–1787) of Pennsylvania, the lines dated to 1767 and attributed to “A Negro Girl about 15 years of age.”

Since we know of only one teen-aged girl of African descent writing poetry in British North America at the time, Phillis Wheatley is the most likely candidate.

Of course, a few years ago we assumed that the black portrait artist advertising in Boston newspapers 250 years ago this season had to be Scipio Moorhead, since he was the only possibility to appear in the published sources. (In fact, one of the main sources about him is a poem by Phillis Wheatley.)

But then Paula Bagger put together manuscript sources (including letters I quoted back here) to bring out the life of Prince Demah, now almost certainly the portraitist in those advertisements.

Thus, while it would be unlikely that two African girls were writing poetry in New England in 1767, it’s not impossible.

There are, however, some additional clues pointing to Wheatley:
  • Wheatley often wrote memorial verse like this elegy, particularly when she was starting out. She didn’t necessarily know the people she wrote about.
  • The title and date of this poem match the details of Love (Macy) Rotch, a Quaker on Nantucket, who died 14 Nov 1767.
  • Wheatley wrote “To a Gentleman on his Voyage to Great Britain for the Recovery of his Health” to Love Rotch’s son Joseph, Jr., reportedly in or before 1767. (Boston newspapers reported in March 1773 that he had died in England.)
  • Love Rotch’s other sons, William and Francis, owned the ship Dartmouth, which carried the first edition of Wheatley’s poems back to Boston in 1773.
  • We know Wheatley’s poems circulated in manuscript and commonplace books among Philadelphia Quaker women like Mary Powel Potts.
And here’s a new bread crumb: In the 25 Apr 1765 Boston News-Letter and several other newspapers that spring, Love Rotch’s husband and two of her sons, William and Joseph, Jr., asked anyone indebted to the late John Morley to pay up “at the store of Nathaniel Wheatley, in King-Street, Boston.” They authorized Wheatley to collect money due to Morley’s widow. That shows a close business relationship between the Wheatley and Rotch households a couple of years before Phillis wrote her poems.

There are still some mysteries. For one:
The only thing that didn’t make sense to Roberts was the copyist’s claim that Love Rotch was the poet’s mistress, since it was widely known that Susanna Wheatley held that role.
Roberts apparently suggests that the Wheatley family loaned or rented Phillis to the Rotch family. That strikes me as a more complex, less likely explanation than that Potts or her teacher misunderstood the origin of the poem and assumed it reflected the author’s lament for someone she knew well.

Another open question:
Roberts found another anonymous poem in the Potts book that she believes Wheatley wrote but can only speculatively attribute to her. Titled “The Black Rose,” it mourns the death of a Black woman named Rose and uses theology to critique a society that refused to mourn the enslaved and oppressed. It would be the only known elegy Wheatley wrote for a Black woman.
Also a mystery in the press release is the actual text of these poems. Those will presumably appear with Prof. Roberts’s analysis in the upcoming Early American Literature article. On Thursday, 26 January, at 6:00 P.M., the Library Company of Philadelphia will host a virtual talk by Roberts on “A Newly Unearthed Poem by Phillis Wheatley (Peters) and the Future of the Wheatley Canon.”

Thursday, January 19, 2023

“The Hive” in Concord, 18–19 Feb.

On the weekend of 18–19 February, Minute Man National Historical Park, Friends of Minute Man, Revolution 250, and the Massachusetts Army National Guard will host this year’s edition of “The Hive: A Symposium for Living History Interpreters.”

The 2023 Hive will offer two straight days of presentations and workshops on the start of the American Revolution, geared toward eighteenth-century reenactors and living-history interpreters.

As in past years, these sessions are designed to improve the accuracy of people’s portrayals of that past, particularly for the commemorations of the Battle of Lexington and Concord in April but beyond that as well.

That concern for accuracy in costuming, weapons, and other material culture is why the continuously improving “Battle Road Standards” are a benchmark for Revolutionary reenactments. But it’s also valuable to understand the political issues, the social milieu, and the ordinary customs of the time when interacting with the public.

This year the Hive will take place at the Massachusetts National Guard Armory in Concord. The schedule is still being filled out, but some of the planned presentations are:
  • Bob Allison, “Why Did the Revolution Happen?”
  • Michele Gabrielson, “A Pressing Matter: Media Literacy & 18th-Century Newspapers”
  • Henry Cooke, “Introduction to Men’s Clothing”
  • Ruth Hodges, “Introduction to Women’s Clothing”
  • Paul O’Shaughnessy, “Basic Musket Maintenance”
  • Jim Hollister, “Interpretive Skills Workshop”
  • Larissa Sasgen, “Essential Stitches for Beginners”
  • Niels Hobbs, “Re-fit Your Kit: Things that Bring Your Impression to the Next Level”
  • Adam Hodges LeClaire, “Portraying the Lower Sort”
  • Alex Cain and Joel Bohy, “Militia Equipment in 1775”
There will also be times open for practicing military drill, organizing sewing circles, displaying objects from the period, and touring the armory.

For more information about this free event for dedicated reenactors (and those curious about being dedicated), visit the park’s webpage.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Dublin Seminar Call for Papers on “Indigenous Histories”

The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife has announced the subject of its June 2023 conference: “Indigenous Histories in New England: Pastkeepers and Pastkeeping.”

The seminar’s call for papers says:
Three decades have passed since the 1993 publication of the Seminar’s proceedings Algonkians of New England. Over that space of time, both the study of Indigenous histories in the region (encompassing present-day New England and adjacent areas of New York and Canada), and understanding of the memory work of pastkeepers and pastkeeping, have been transformed. The 2023 Seminar Indigenous Histories in New England: Pastkeepers and Pastkeeping will explore long traditions of Indigenous pastkeeping and the wide variety of ways in which Native peoples have stewarded history and memory.

The Seminar invites proposals for papers that focus on addressing the gaps in Indigenous voice and visibility in public views of the past. We wish to critically consider who has claimed responsibility for “keeping” the Indigenous past in New England, including how it has been represented (for better or worse), how historical research can be decolonized and improved, and what museums and tribal nations have done to engage the public in better understandings.

Papers offering historical perspective might explore, for instance:
  • Indigenous forms of memory-making and pastkeeping, on landscapes and in oral tradition
  • Native American authors of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century, including autobiography and tribal histories
  • collections of material culture; histories of tribal museums
  • repatriation and cultural recovery
  • language reclamation
  • artwork as vehicles for historical reflection
The Seminar will give particular attention to the work of museums, archives, historic preservation organizations, cultural centers, and initiatives that over the past thirty years have worked to provide more holistic and inclusive representations of regional Indigenous peoples and histories.
The Seminar will convene at Historic Deerfield on 23–24 June. It will be a hybrid program, with both on-site and virtual registration options for attendees.

For more detail on how to propose a paper, go to the Dublin Seminar webpage. The program and registration details for this conference will also appear on the Dublin Seminar website in the spring.