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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Monday, October 02, 2023

State Flags and the Questions of Loyalty

Last month the Washington Post published an article by Gillian Brockell about seven state flags that have little-known ties to the Confederacy.

Four of those flags contain symbols that invoke the colonial or Revolutionary periods. So how could they have roots in the era of the U.S. Civil War?

Back in January I looked at another article by Brockell, one about Robert R. Livingston, and concluded that she had been misled by what appear to be authoritative online sources. So, I wondered, what evidence was behind this one?

The key to the conundrum is that most states didn’t have flags before the Civil War. Flags were national emblems, required by law for warfare at sea. States that had at one point been independent nations, particularly with naval ships or privateers, may have established flags before 1860. But once the U.S. of A. was established, those banners lost their official status. The very idea of a state flag was a sign of national disloyalty.

In the months leading up to the Civil War, several southern states seceded from the U.S. of A. They were briefly independent nations before helping to form the Confederate States of America. And in those months South Carolina, Virginia, and North Carolina adopted the flags they still basically use.

Notably, all three of those flags incorporated details associated with the Revolutionary War:
  • South Carolina adopted the gorget (often taken to be a crescent moon) and palmetto tree from the Battle of Sullivan’s Island in 1776.
  • Virginia slapped its state seal, designed principally by George Wythe and showing Liberty killing a tyrant with the motto “Sic Semper Tyrannus,” onto a blue background.
  • North Carolina created a flag highlighting the dates May 20, 1775 (the mythical Mecklenburg Declaration), and April 16, 1776 (the genuine Halifax Resolves), as important moments when the state made steps toward independence.
Obviously, the secessionists adopting those memes were claiming their states’ Revolutionary heritage.

In Virginia, that claim didn’t go uncontested. Men in the western portion who didn’t want to break away (or who broke away from the breaking away) took the same seal-based flag design and changed the motto to “Liberty and Union.”

I was surprised to learn that there was a similar but smaller dispute over California’s bear flag. It was designed in some version back in 1846, but flew only a short time before the U.S. Army arrived. (Incidentally, the federal officer who pulled down the bear flag and replaced it with the U.S. flag was Lt. Joseph W. Revere, descendant of Paul Revere named after Dr. Joseph Warren.)

California didn’t have a state flag for more than a decade after that. Again, flags were seen as national symbols. But in 1861, in the “several months before the firing on Fort Sumpter,” some southern Californians flew the bear flag to show their opposition to the U.S. government, according to George H. Tinkham’s California: Men and Events (1915).

Maryland’s official flag dates from 1904, decades after the Civil War. It reflects the heraldic arms of Cecil Calvert, the second Baron Baltimore, proprietor of the colony in the seventeenth century. Maryland never seceded. So what ties to the Confederacy might its flag have?

According to Brockell, back in the early 1860s:
Union Marylanders flew the black-and-gold Calvert flag, the heraldry of the Calvert family that founded the Maryland colony. Confederate Marylanders flew the white-and-red Crossland flag, believed to be the heraldry of the Crossland family, from which George [actually Cecil] Calvert’s mother descended.
Marylanders and eventually their state legislature adopted a flag that incorporated both those patterns as a symbol of reconciliation. Of course, that was reconciliation among white men. Black Marylanders were subject to the Jim Crow laws of that time.

Brockell’s article is arranged from least to most obvious links to the Confederacy. The last two state flags it discusses are those of Arkansas, which includes a star explicitly added to commemorate the Confederacy, and Georgia, which is based on the Confederate national emblem. So those ties aren’t really debatable.

In contrast, we can ponder whether the actions of the South Carolina slaveholders of 1861 taint the symbols they adopted from the South Carolina slaveholders of 1776. Or whether the same combination of patterns as on Lord Baltimore’s seventeenth-century coat of arms can acquire a new meaning as the post-Reconstruction settlement among whites swept injustice under the national rug. But we’re mistaken to assume those state flags actually go back to the Revolution or before.

Brockell’s article starts by quoting Jason Patterson, interim deputy director of Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. He wants more people to understand the meaning of the Maryland flag. However, Patterson “doesn’t want to change the flag, which is particularly beloved by Marylanders. But he doesn’t think its Confederate ties should be ignored either.” Are people willing to do that? 

This article told me stuff I didn’t know, and prompted me to look up more, so I’m grateful for it.

TOMORROW: Massachusetts’s seal.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

Smithsonian’s Phillis Wheatley Peters Collection Now Online

Last month the National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., announced the acquisition of the Phillis Wheatley Peters Collection of materials related to the Revolutionary-era poet.

The unique jewel in this collection is the poem “Ocean” in the poet’s own handwriting. This was one of the poems listed for Phillis Peters’s second collection in 1781, but during the war that announcement didn’t attract enough subscriptions for the book to be printed.

The manuscript of that collection is lost, but some individual poems survive. “Ocean” was first published in 1998. Scholars speculate that Phillis Wheatley wrote it during her third transatlantic crossing 250 years ago as she came back from London.

The collection of thirty objects includes six published in Wheatley’s lifetime, including:
  • her collection, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.
  • short items that her publisher placed in the May 1773 Gentleman’s Magazine ahead of publication.
  • the December 1774 issue of the Royal American Magazine, published in Boston by Joseph Greenleaf, printing “To a Gentleman of the Navy.”
  • A shortened version of “On the Death of a Child” printed in the Rev. John Wesley’s Arminian Magazine in 1781.
Other items show Wheatley’s legacy as an author and a symbol of African-American achievement:
  • Isaiah Thomas’s 1791 proposal to reprint Wheatley’s first collection with additional material, also unsuccessful.
  • reprints of individual poems in the early 1800s. 
  • scholarly studies.
  • a booklet issued by the Phillis Wheatley Club of Waycross, Georgia, a women’s club, in 1930, shown above.
All of that material is already digitized and available for viewing on the Smithsonian’s website and through the Digital Public Library of America.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

“Went to See Bates Performance on Horsemanship”

On 8 Sept 1773, as described back here, Jacob Bates debuted his equestrian exhibition in Boston.

The merchant John Rowe wrote in his diary that day:
This Afternoon Mr. Bates performd for the first Time horsemanship. A Great many People attended him—
It doesn’t look like Rowe himself was there, but he certainly heard about the event.

Nonetheless, it looks like Bates didn’t attract the same size of audiences in Boston as he had in the American cities to the south. His shows spanned three months in Philadelphia, almost two in New York. But after less than a month in Boston, he was preparing to move on.

The equestrian’s 27 September ad told the public: “As Mr. BATES’s Stay in Town will be but short, he will go thro’ all his Performances at the above Time.”

And also, using a rare spelling of a rare term for a riding school, the ad stated: “The Manage, where he Rides, to be Sold.” As at New York, Bates wanted to sell off the lumber he had used to define and shield his riding area.

The 4 October Boston Post-Boy carried this notice:
Positively the last Time here.
Will perform To-Morrow,
if suitable Weather, if not the first fair Day after:

As the Evenings are Cold, the Doors will be opened at Two o’Clock, and he mounts precisely at Three.

He is extremely obliged to the Gentlemen of Boston, who have countenanced him in his Performances.

TICKETS to be had at the usual Places.
With that news, John Rowe finally set out to see the show. On 5 October the merchant wrote in his diary:
Afternoon Mr. Parker Mrs. Rowe & My Self went to See Bates Performance on Horsemanship

hes A smart Active & Strong Man & does every thing to General Acceptance
That mention of “General Acceptance” is significant because the “Mr. Parker” who accompanied the Rowes to the exhibition space at the bottom of the Mall was Samuel Parker, then under consideration to be a minister at Trinity Church, where Rowe was a warden. Parker eventually did become rector at Trinity, later Episcopal bishop of Boston.

To be sure, Anglicans like Rowe and Parker didn’t have the same distrust of theatricals as their Puritan neighbors in New England. Nonetheless, Rowe’s praise for Bates shows that not everyone shared the hostility of the anonymous author of the “Bates & his Horses Weighed in the Balance” pamphlet.

COMING UP: One more stop for Bates and his horses.

Friday, September 29, 2023

“BATES and his HORSES Weighed in the Balance”

engraved portrait of the poet Edward Young in a clerical robe, wig, and bands
The same 27 Sept 1773 newspapers that ran Jacob Bates’s latest advertisements about his equestrian show at the foot of the Mall in Boston, as quoted yesterday, also ran advertisements for a new publication:
In a few Days will be published, and sold at the Printing-Office in Hanover-street, Boston,
A Pamphlet, entitled,
Weighed in the Balance.

In which is shewn, with great Brevity, that his Exhibitions in Boston, are impoverishing, disgraceful to human Nature, and downright Breaches of the Sixth Commandment.

OH BE A MAN! Young.
The Sixth Commandment, in Hebrew and Protestant numbering, is the one that forbids murder.

The words “Oh be a man!” came from Edward Young’s The Complaint, or Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality (1742), where they appear twice:
Oh, be a man! and thou shalt be a god!
And half self-made!—Ambition how divine!
. . .
Oh! be a man;—and strive to be a god.
“For what? (thou say’st)—to damp the joys of life?”
No; to give heart and substance to thy joys.
Or that phrase might just have been an allusion to Bates’s self-vaunted “Horsemanship” and “Variety of manly Exercises.”

Exactly what the poetic tag meant, and how performing tricks on horses was tantamount to murder, was presumably clearer in the published pamphlet. Except that no copy of that pamphlet has survived.

As Carl Robert Keyes’s Adverts 250 points out, the print shop on Hanover Street belonged to Joseph Greenleaf, an active Whig. That doesn’t mean the pamphlet reflected his own views, however; Greenleaf may well have taken on the job at the customer’s expense.

It’s also possible this pamphlet was never actually published. The advertisement for it ran in two newspapers, but only on that one Monday and never again. It appears to have reflected many New Englanders’ distrust of theatrics of all kinds—and yet Jacob Bates continued to perform.

TOMORROW: A clergyman at the exhibition.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Jacob Bates “With a Burlesque on Horsemanship”

On Tuesday, 28 Sept 1773—two and a half centuries ago today—Jacob Bates once again performed his feats of horsemanship at the bottom of the Mall on Boston Common.

Having already cut his top prices, Bates was trying to improve his act and show people more. When he first advertised in Boston, he promised to “perform on ONE, TWO, and THREE HORSES.”

In the notices he ran in multiple newspapers on 27 September, Bates now promised:
He will perform on One, Two, Three, & Four HORSES.
A Variety of Manly Exercises never seen here,
With a Burlesque on Horsemanship, or the
Taylor riding to Brentford.
“Billy Buttons, or the Tailor Riding to Brentford” was a skit developed only a few years earlier by an English performer named Philip Astley. Circus historians consider it the first documented clown act.

The skit may have been inspired by a satirical print issued by painter John Collett and engraver T. Stayner in 1768, as shown here. The idea was that an upstart tailor was setting out for the polls to vote, but was so not a gentleman that he couldn’t ride his horse properly.

In performance, this act was an excuse for various comical acrobatics with a horse: having trouble getting on, falling off, chasing the horse, being chased, riding backwards, hanging off one side or the other, and so on.

The act gained lasting popularity in Britain, inspiring more comical prints and picture books. Charles Dickens mentioned “the highly novel and laughable hippo-comedietta” by name in Hard Times.

The “Billy Buttons” skit eventually evolved into a circus act with a man coming out of the audience, foolish or drunk, and insisting on being able to ride one of the horses. That version makes an appearance in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in which Huck doesn’t get the whole joke.

Jacob Bates was clearly trying to please the paying customers in Boston, but the town’s resistance to theatrics may have been too much of a challenge.

TOMORROW: The wrong kind of attention?

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Legend of Polly Sumner

In the July 1879 issue of Wide Awake magazine, Emma E. Brown wrote about “Children’s Hour at the Old South.”

Every Saturday “Miss Baker” was telling children stories about the history of Boston. These events were part of an ongoing campaign to save the 1729 building, nearly destroyed by the Great Boston Fire of 1870.

Brown’s article included pictures of the teacher, the children, and historic artifacts on display in Old South. Those included the weathervane from the Province House, David Cobb’s umbrella, a chair that George Washington sat in, and a doll:
The children always like, too, to take a peep at “Polly Sumner,” that wonderful Quaker doll of old English oak, that has been fondled by four generations of children, and is still as fresh and bright as ever!
The following year, the magazine publisher, D. Lathrop, collected that article and others into a volume titled Some Curious Schools. That was the earliest mention that I’ve found of the doll called Polly Sumner, said by family tradition to date back to colonial times.

Several years later, the 13 Dec 1891 Springfield Republican mentioned this “doll of pedigree and antiquity and English oak,” reporting that she “is to dictate her reminiscences of bygone times and people presently, and they are to be published in book form.”

Those reminiscences appeared in a May 1893 article for the New England Magazine titled “A Historic Doll.” The author was Caro Atherton Dugan, a writer and librarian from Brewster. She began:
Beside me, as I write, sits me latest and most distinguished visitor; a quaint little lady in Quaker gray, Polly Sumner, aged one hundred and nineteen years. . . .

She made her first appearance in Boston on the morning of December 16th, 1773, being then placed in the window of a shop where England goods were sold, on Cornhill, not far from the Old South Meeting House.
This doll, Dugan wrote, thus witnessed the Boston Tea Party before being purchased for £1 by a young woman from Roxbury. What’s more, the article went on to day, that woman presented the doll to her newborn girl one day before the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Dugan’s article traced the doll over many more years, at least two changes of clothing, and some touch-ups to her painted face. She spent two years at Old South alongside a card:
Polly Sumner, purchased by Mrs. [Mary] Williams, a relative of Gov. [Increase] Sumner, in 1773. The old English oak of which she is made enabled her to withstand the caresses and abuses of five generations.
The Langley family then took their doll home for a couple more decades, creating yet another set of clothing. In 1919, they donated Polly Sumner to the Bostonian Society.

In 1967 the story of that doll inspired a book by Edna Boutwell called Daughter of Liberty, later reissued for the Bicentennial. By then the lore included the detail that Polly Sumner arrived in Boston aboard the Dartmouth, the first of the ships carrying East India Company tea.

Revolutionary Spaces, successor organization to both the Bostonian Society and Old South, recently commissioned a reproduction of this doll since the original is no longer in condition for display. Its website explains:
Originally made entirely of wood, her arms and legs were replaced with horsehair-stuffed leather by an owner in the late nineteenth century. As leather ages, it loses moisture and cracks, and the leather on her arms has split apart where it was overstuffed.
Read about that reproduction process here.

Visitors can now see the reproduction doll alongside two other artifacts linked to the Dartmouth: a copy of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems, Religious and Moral and a trace of tea that fell into the pockets of John Crane as he helped to destroy most of that remaining cargo.

There’s also a new illustrated storybook by Richard C. Wiggin and Keith Favazza titled Polly Sumner: Witness to the Boston Tea Party. It retells the legend of the doll in her own voice. In the long tradition of Miss Baker, Emma E. Brown, Caro Atherton Dugan, and Edna Boutwell, this book uses one historic artifact to draw young readers through the events of history.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Matthias Hammond’s House and Anne Proctor’s Doll

With all these stories about Founders’ children and dolls, I thought I should show an actual doll from the period.

The Hammond-Harwood House Museum stands in Annapolis, Maryland. The architect William Buckland designed it just before he died in 1774, and his assistant John Randall completed the building for a young tobacco planter named Matthias Hammond (1750–1786).

Hammond had just been elected to the Maryland General Assembly by Annapolis’s anti-taxation party. He was also a new member of the vestry of St. Anne’s Parish. With those responsibilities, he presumably wanted a house in town.

However, Hammond doesn’t appear to have ever lived in his Annapolis house for an extended period. Instead he stayed on his slave-labor plantation in what is now Gambril. He also never married, and thus never raised children in the house.

In 1926 St. John’s College bought the building to use as a museum, but ran into financial straits during the Depression. The Hammond-Harwood House Association formed in 1938 to maintain the site as an independent museum of architecture and the decorative arts.

Among the artifacts in the museum’s collection is this doll from a Baltimore family.

The museum’s webpage explains:
She is a Queen Anne style doll and dates to about 1785. She may have been made in England, starting as a block of wood and slowly taking shape as a carver turned the block on a lathe. It is easy to see why six-year-old Ann Proctor would have been attached to her, perhaps so attached that she insisted her doll be included in this portrait of her:
That’s a Charles Willson Peale painting from 1789. The museum notes that the doll is actually smaller than Peale painted it, so as not to distract from Anne (and her parrot). But clearly the doll had a lot of meaning for the Proctors.

Monday, September 25, 2023

“A Doll of the present mode”

The little stories I’ve told over the last two days about Benjamin Franklin’s and George Washington’s grandchildren raise the question: Did any Founders’ children not have to wait more than twelve months for toys to arrive from France?

Founders Online points me to one lucky child.

On 11 Sept 1785, American diplomat Thomas Jefferson wrote from Paris to John Langdon (1741–1819), president of the Confederation Congress, enclosing a gift:
I beg leave to renew my acquaintance with Miss Langdon by sending her a Doll of the present mode, dressed in Muslin, a mode which prevailing here to an almost total exclusion of silk, has literally and truly starved a great number of people. I add to it a box in which she will find a small gentleman who will teach her a short-handed and graceful manner of going down stairs.
Elizabeth Langdon was born in 1777 and thus about eight years old when Jefferson wrote. She was living in the house her father had commissioned in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (now preserved by Historic New England). 

Unlike the other cases I discussed, Jefferson lucked out in the choice of ship he sent the toys and that letter on. By 7 December, Langdon was able to write back:
Our dear Bets, begs leave to present you with her grateful thanks, for the great honor you have been pleased to conferr on her, in sending such an agreable present: all Companies who come into the house must be entertained with the sight of her doll, and tumbling Gentleman; and she does not fail to confess her obligations to Governor Jefferson.
I’d like to know more about this “tumbling Gentleman” with “a short-handed and graceful manner of going down stairs.”

I wonder if that toy was designed along the same lines as this tumbling man in the collection of the Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site. That plaything dates from the mid-1800s, but the design was reportedly around well before then.

(To my surprise, I found that Elizabeth Langdon already made an appearance on this blog. In 1796, eleven years after receiving her toys from Jefferson, she recognized the Washingtons’ escaped slave Oney Judge in Portsmouth.)

Sunday, September 24, 2023

“An innocent Baby may become the Victim of strife”

Little Betsy Bache wasn’t alone in waiting a long time for a toy to arrive from France, as related yesterday.

On 15 Apr 1785, Adrienne, the Marquise de Lafayette (shown here), wrote to her husband’s dear friend George Washington:
how happy should I be, to meet with mrs [Martha] Washington, to recall together, all the circumstances of the war, every period of our anguish, and of your glory, and to see our children playing together.

wishing for so happy a moment, anastasie and Georges beg Leave, to send to the two youngest, miss Custis a toilett and a doll that is two play things with which my daughter is more delighted since two months, she is in possession of that she hopes, that her remembrance being some time mingled, with their entertainements, she may obtain some part in their frienship, whose she is so desirous of.

for the eldest miss Custis, we have so exalted an idea, of her reason and gravity, that we have only dared send to her a neeting bag, because she may with it, keep mrs Washington company, because I hear that she Likes this kind of work.

we send master Georges also, an optick with different wiews; but we have been moved by a personal interest, making him this gift. I hope that Looking at it, he will become fond of travelling that his travels will conduct him, into france, and perhaps he may bring you and mrs Washington here.
In that year the eldest of Martha’s grandchildren, Elizabeth Parke Custis, turned nine years old. Martha turned eight, Eleanor six, and little George Washington Parke Custis four. The two eldest lived with their widowed mother while George and Martha Washington were raising the two youngest at Mount Vernon. To the marquise’s credit, she sent something for everyone.

Lafayette himself alerted Washington that those things were on their way, writing the next day: “By mr Ridout’s Vessel my children Have Sent to yours at Mount Venon a few trifles which are very indifferent But may Amuse them two or three days.”

Unfortunately, due to various postal mix-ups, those gifts didn’t arrive at Mount Vernon until May 1786, thirteen months later.

Also to be lamented, we don’t appear to have any letters or other accounts from Mount Vernon describing how the children received those playthings from France.

But there may be a little hint in what Washington learned from watching children in letters he wrote in December 1798. By then two of the Custis sisters had married; settled in Washington, D.C.; and had babies named after them:
  • Martha Peter, born in January 1796.
  • Eliza Law, born in January 1797.
Meanwhile, Washington was serving as President in Philadelphia. There he often met with Elizabeth Powel, and she promised to help him pick out gifts for his female relatives. On 4 December Washington wrote:
let me tresspass upon your goodness to procure the second edition of the present (on my acct) that you intend for Eliza Law. Without which, a contest (regardless of right—no unusual thing)—in which an innocent Baby may become the Victim of strife.
Three days later Washington told Powel: “Your letter to Mrs Law shall be safely delivered to her and I will endeavor to do the same by the Doll to Eliza.” The doll cost $2.50.

So it looks like Powel told Washington she was going to supply a doll for Eliza Law, and he asked her to buy another for him to give to someone else, who I’m guessing was her older cousin Martha. That way both little girls, and both mothers, would be content.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

“Send her a doll not a fine one”

On 16 Sept 1779, Sarah Bache wrote from Philadelphia to her father, Benjamin Franklin, in France with news of his grandchildren:
Willy and our little Black ey’d parrot [Betsy] who I am sure you would be fond of if you knew her, (she is just the age Will was when you came from england, and goes down stairs just like him) both join in love to you, she desires you would send her a doll not a fine one, but one that will bear to be pul’d about with a great deal of Nursing, there is no such things to be had here as toys for Children
Betsy Bache had just turned two.

It took a long time for Sarah Bache’s request to get across the Atlantic and the gift to return. Not until 23 June 1781, when Betsy was well over three and a half, did she receive a present from her grandfather. Her mother wrote:
The things you sent me by C[ap]t. Smith came to hand safe he arrived in Boston, and I got them brought in a Waggon that was comming . . . Betsy was the hapiest Creature in the world with her Baby told every body who sent it
On 1 October, Sally Bache gave birth to another daughter. Her husband reported that they would name this baby Deborah after her grandmother, Franklin’s late wife.

Sarah resumed writing to her father on 19 October, saying:
the Children are delighted with their new Sister, and Betsy has gone so far as to say she loves her better than the Baby that came from France
A few weeks later we find the new Bache baby now nicknamed by her toddler brother, and we catch a last glimpse of that hard-to-find, long-traveled French doll:
Willy, Betsy, Luly Boy and Sister Deby De join in duty the last two names are of Louis’s making, they have just been striping the French Baby and dipping her in a tub of cold water—
(The first letter quoted above can be viewed here, courtesy of the American Philosophical Society.)

Friday, September 22, 2023

“The first English children’s novel” and Its Arrival in America

This month the Smithsonian Magazine website published V. M. Braganza’s article “The Revolutionary Influence of the First English Children’s Novel.”

What novel is that? Braganza writes:
Before her name became synonymous with sickly-sweet virtue, Goody Two-Shoes was the protagonist of the first English children’s novel, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes. First published in 1765, the book was a groundbreaking work. It tells the life story of an orphaned girl, Margery Meanwell, whose poverty reduces her to rags—and to wearing just one shoe. When her fortunes improve and she acquires some new footwear, her excitement earns her the nickname “Goody Two-Shoes.” . . .

The book appeared in many editions in England and the United States, and it was beloved among famous writers like Robert Southey and Jane Austen, who kept her childhood copy until her death. One of the earliest works of children’s literature, Margery Meanwell’s adventures offered a striking alternative to prevailing gender norms. Over the course of the novel, Margery teaches herself to read, foils a major robbery, founds a school, earns her own living, stands up for animal rights and overcomes accusations of witchcraft. She was everything that 18th- and 19th-century British society thought women shouldn’t be: poor, well-educated, self-made and unmarried (at least until the last few pages).

Margery was wildly popular and one of the first heroines whom juvenile readers admired. It’s no stretch to say that the novel launched and definitively shaped children’s literature as a genre intended to entertain young readers while teaching foundational values like generosity, hard work and the virtues of education. It continues to exert an enormous, if forgotten, influence on culture today: Anyone who unconsciously quotes its title has been shaped by this book without knowing it.
The first edition of The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes was published in London by John Newbery, whose name the American children’s book field appropriated over a century later for its highest award. Writers attributed the story to Oliver Goldsmith, or possibly the brothers Griffith and Giles Jones; all of them wrote for Newbery.

I’ve found the book advertised in Philadelphia in 1769 along with other “LITTLE BOOKS, Adorned with a great Variety of PICTURES, calculated for the Improvement and Amusement of Children.”

Hugh Gaine published his own edition of Goody Two-Shoes in New York in 1775. Because people now expected children’s books to have pictures, that meant commissioning new woodblocks. The photo above shows one of two surviving blocks from this edition, sold by Heritage Auctions from the Justin G. Schiller collection in 2020.

A century ago some studies credited Isaiah Thomas as the first to publish the book in America, but Thomas’s edition appeared in 1787 and followed at least three other American editions.

Berganza has more to say about the storytelling and influence of Goody Two-Shoes, and Wilbur Macey Stone’s 1939 study in the American Antiquarian Society Proceedings can be downloaded here.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Informed Discussion of Peter Faneuil and His Legacy

This month the Boston Globe published Brian MacQuarrie’s article, many months in the making, about Peter Faneuil, the Atlantic slave economy, and what that might mean for Boston’s Faneuil Hall.

It’s a long and thoughtful article, presenting recent primary-source research and including many voices. The web version includes animated maps.

I hadn’t known this:
A 2021 survey suggested that Bostonians support renaming the hall, with 51 percent in favor, 36 percent opposed, and 12 percent undecided or declining to answer, according to the MassINC Polling Group. Black voters overwhelmingly backed the change, while white voters were nearly evenly split.
Of course, support for renaming would probably divide if people were asked about different possibilities instead of a generic change. But the minority strongly opposed to renaming are certainly overrepresented in this article’s comments section.

I wrote a series of postings about the name of Faneuil Hall back in 2020 (starting here), and in June reported on the site’s exhibit about slavery in Revolutionary Boston. My thinking, including the value of visible iconoclasm and highighting the many people involved in the building, hasn’t changed.

Renaming landmarks is something all societies do, of course. Revolutionary Boston included King Street, Queen Street, Hutchinson Street—all changed for political reasons in the new republic. For a while King’s Chapel was called the Stone Chapel. Prolonged public discussion of such issues highlights divisions in society, but being able to resolve those questions collectively should be a sign of health.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Preparing for the Battle Road Sestercentennial

The staff at Minute Man National Historical Park is already planning for the Sestercentennial of the Battle and Lexington and Concord in 2025.

And that means planning for the battle anniversary in 2024.

The park is alerting Revolutionary reenacting groups who want to participate in 2025 that they must sign up for and participate in the 2024 so they’ll know how to navigate the park and its rules before the crowds get huge.

Furthermore, in order to maintain the Battle Road standards for accuracy, units must register for the 2024 event between this month and 13 January.

The park explains here:
Q: Does my group really need to attend Battle Road prior to the 250th in order to attend in 2025?

A: Yes. Battle Road is unique for its complexity and physical demands. Also, in 2025 we are expecting possibly tens of thousands of visitors and even a Presidential visit. Park volunteers and staff can expect large crowds and even heavy traffic getting to the site. It is important for units to experience Battle Road in a more quiet year so they know where they need to go and what is expected of them so to avoid confusion in 2025. . . .

The entire unit does not have to participate in the 2024 event. Three or four members, preferably officers and NCOs, can attend and adequately represent a unit with the assumption that they can report back to the other members and help them make sense of the important information.

Q: I can't make it to the inspection, how do I get approved?

A: In 2024, the Battle Road Muster will be held on Saturday, March 30th. The main purpose of the muster is, primarily, to provide safety briefings, to drill and rehearse the tactical demonstrations. Also, it is a good opportunity to get eyes on participants and identify any last minute, hopefully minor, issues with drill, clothing, or equipment and take steps to correct them before the event on Saturday, April 13th.

However, in 2023 we learned that for groups with multiple or major issues, identifying these at the muster is too late. Therefore, we will open registration for 2024 in September of 2023 and will close it on January 13, 2024. Units must submit photographs no later than January 13th. New units may be asked to also provide a drill video if requested.

If sending group photos, please have the unit formed in one rank and provide front and rear photographs and a list of names (from right to left) of those in the photo. Any member not present must submit a photograph solo, through their unit commander, to the committee no later than January 13th.
Note the date for the 2024 commemoration: Saturday, 13 April. There will, of course, be a plethora of other events around that date, and an even larger number of celebrations, or even larger celebrations, in 2025.

(The image above is a screen capture of Grayson1Video’s recording of the 1975 parade, filmed on Super 8. It’s not meant to show current standards.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

O’Brien on Loyalists via Old North, 21 Sept.

On Thursday, 21 September, Old North Illuminated will host a virtual talk by G. Patrick O’Brien on “‘This Perilous Hour of Trial, Horror & Distress’: Loyalist Exile and Return.”

The event description says:
Between April 1775 and the early months of 1783, more than 75,000 colonists fled the upheaval of the Revolution for the protection of the British Empire. Nearly half of these refugees, including many New Englanders, landed on the rocky shores of Nova Scotia.

The most prominent of these exiles called themselves “loyalists,” a label they fashioned to accentuate their own unwavering fidelity, and the broader collective’s shared dedication to maintaining Britain’s empire in North America. . . .

Concentrating on a few loyalist families from the greater Boston area, including that of Rev. Mather Byles Jr., the rector of Old North Church until 1775, Dr. G. Patrick O’Brien of the University of Tampa will explore what it meant to be a loyalist during the American Revolution.

The talk will pay special attention to how marginalized loyalists, including women and enslaved people, grappled with the hardships of wartime exile and the role these figures had in bringing families back to their American homes after the war.
It’s notable that although the Rev. Mather Byles, Jr. (shown above), left with the British troops, his father, the Rev. Dr. Mather Byles, Sr., remained in Boston, as did his two half-sisters. The Boston Byles family continued to profess loyalty to the king, even in the new republic. While some Loyalists came back to the U.S. of A., or tried, these Byleses never left.

G. Patrick O’Brien is professor at the University of Tampa. He is working on a book about the experiences of loyalist women and families during the Revolution, their exile in Nova Scotia, and the social networks repatriating loyalists created between British Canada and the United States.

This online event will run from 7:00 to 8:30 P.M. Register for the link through this Eventbrite page; make a donation of of any amount to Old North Illuminated to support the preservation and interpretation efforts at Old North Church in the North End.