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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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Paul Revere’s Word Balloons

In recognition of the visit of graphic novelists Stan Mack and Susan Champlin to the Paul Revere House this afternoon, here’s an example of Revere himself using a common hallmark of the comics style: the word balloon. This is a detail from “A View of the Year 1765,” celebrating how North American colonies had united against the Stamp Act. Revere copied most of this image from a London print called “View of the Present Crisis,” according to Jayne Triber’s A True Republican. But I think the silversmith himself threw in this picture of an effigy hanging from Liberty Tree.

The observers tell us, as we can read in those balloons:

  • “there’s that Villian H—k”
  • “I see he’s got a high place”
Those word balloons show that Revere was alluding to a protest on 1 Nov 1765, the day the Stamp Act was supposed to take effect. Bostonians paraded with two effigies, one representing John Huske, member of Parliament for Maldon. New Englanders had heard he’d suggested the new tax in expectation of “a high place” in government. Since Huske had been born in New Hampshire and worked as a merchant in Boston for a while, this seemed like rank betrayal. In fact, Huske opposed the Stamp Act in parliamentary debate.

Revere also had word balloons in “America in Distress,” a cartoon published in Joseph Greenleaf and Isaiah Thomas’s Royal American Magazine in March 1775. But in that case he closely copied “Britannia in Distress,” published in London five years earlier—word balloons and all.


Joanq said...

So, who do you think H--K-- was?

J. L. Bell said...

I think that was a variant spelling of "Huske."