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, April 20, 2007

Special Lecture at Old State House, 23 April 2007

The Bostonian Society has announced a Special Lowell Lecture on “Boston’s Liberty Tree Flag,” free to the public on Monday, 23 April 2007, at 6:30 P.M. in the Old State House Museum (shown here).

This flag isn’t one of those banners with a picture of Liberty Tree or a pine tree on it, but rather one that was said to have flown from a pole beside Liberty Tree when the Whigs wanted to assemble a public meeting there. Documents from the 1760s, particularly a letter from Gov. Francis Bernard, indicate that there was such a flag. The question is whether the artifact in the Bostonian Society’s collection is likely to be that flag.

Here’s the museum’s announcement:

This spring, thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Chapter of the Society of the Cincinnati, the Bostonian Society has been conducting research to further authenticate its Liberty Tree flag. This flag, which measures seven by thirteen feet and has nine stripes (five red, four white), is thought to have hung at Boston’s Liberty Tree in the years leading up to the American Revolution. If its authenticity can be verified, it may very well be the oldest red-and-white-striped flag in the American context.

In February 2007 the flag was sent to Fonda Thomsen, a textile conservator known for her work in dating American flags. Thomsen is analyzing the flag’s fabric and construction in an attempt to definitively determine when it was made. Meanwhile, noted flag historian Whitney Smith has been researching the flag’s history and context in relation to Boston’s Liberty Tree.

At this special lecture, Smith will present the results of the research project, and explain how they impact our understanding of the flag, the tree, and Boston during the American Revolution.
Part of this research involved reading several emails from me, which means the Old State House Museum curators got much more than they’d bargained for. See you there!

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