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.

Follow by Email


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Facts, Fables, and Fiction about “Paul Revere’s Ride”

On the remaining Wednesdays in September, the Paul Revere Memorial Association [i.e., the Paul Revere House, getting fancy] is presenting a series of lectures on the theme “One Hundred and Fifty Years of ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’: Facts, Fables and Fiction.”

These lectures will start at 6:30 P.M. each Wednesday at the Old South Meeting House on Washington Street in Boston. The series is free to the public, thanks to a grant from the Lowell Institute. Here are the topics.

Wednesday, 8 September
Listen, My Children: Paul Revere’s Ride in Poetry and Legend
Using new research, historian and author Charles Bahne [a Boston 1775 guest blogger] will examine how Henry W. Longfellow created one of America’s most enduring legends—a tale which, like all legends, often strays from the truth. What did Longfellow know when he wrote the poem? Why did he include some details, and ignore or omit others? What about William Dawes and Samuel Prescott? Included in the program will be a world-premiere: the first-ever public reading of Longfellow’s complete first draft, including an entire stanza which was later deleted, and has never been published.

Wednesday, 15 September
The Lost and Legendary Riders of April 19th
Beyond Paul Revere and his companions, Americans have passed along stories of other notable riders on April 19, 1775. Historian J. L. Bell [that’s me!] investigates the facts and fiction behind such figures as Hezekiah Wyman, the dreaded “White Horseman”; Abel Benson and Abigail Smith, children said to have helped raise the alarm in Middlesex County [and never explored on Boston 1775]; and Israel Bissell, the post rider credited with carrying news of the fight all the way to Philadelphia.

Wednesday, 22 September
“A Friend” of Paul Revere: The Role of Family Histories in the Ongoing Mystery of Who Hung the Lanterns in Old North Steeple, April 18, 1775
On April 18, 1875, in front of a packed house at Boston’s Old North Church, Samuel Haskell Newman presented his family’s account of the night of April 18, 1775. Specifically, he identified his father, Robert Newman, as the man who hung the lanterns in Old North steeple on that historic night. One year later, in July, 1876, Reverend John Lee Watson of Orange, New Jersey, argued in a letter to the Boston Daily Advertiser that it was his relative, Captain John Pulling, who hung the signal lanterns. Old North Foundation historian and educator Bob Damon will evaluate these competing narratives and explore the important role that family histories play in our understanding of history.

Wednesday, 29 September
Revering America: The Politics of Remembering the Revolution
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was not the first, nor by any means the last, to make use of Revolutionary War history for other purposes. Just this past spring, George Pataki launched an anti-health care petition drive called RevereAmerica, from Boston’s Paul Revere Mall. Americans have always put the past to political ends. Jill Lepore, Kemper Professor of History at Harvard University and New Yorker staff writer, will discuss the fraught relationship between reverence and revolution.


Peter Ansoff said...

"Reverence" -- I like it!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the info. I am thinking of attending two of these.

Your site is awesome.