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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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tonight Only: Grenadier’s Caps in Providence

Tonight from 5:00 to 8:00 P.M., the John Brown House Museum in Providence is displaying two eighteenth-century grenadier’s caps from the collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society.

The exhibit announcement says:
Together, they tell the story of Rhode Island’s evolution from colonial outpost to independent state. The older of the two caps, now thought to date to the 1740s, is likely of British make, and is one of a handful of known early 18th-century Grenadier’s caps. This cap has recently been conserved and on display in the Bostonian Society’s just-closed exhibition, “1763: A Revolutionary Peace.”

The second cap is a Rhode Island cap, worn by a member of the Providence Grenadier Company. In October 1774, the company was chartered by the Rhode Island General Assembly, and the cap’s front panel reveals how much had changed since the 1740s. Boldly painted on the front of the Providence cap are symbols of empire and sedition. Above the British lion is Rhode Island’s anchor and motto of Hope. Between them a banner proclaims, “God And Our Rights.”
As of late 1774, American Patriots were still basing their claim for autonomy on what they understood as traditional British rights, still viewing themselves as loyal to the British constitution and king—indeed, more loyal than the royal officials and government ministers in London who had instituted policies they disliked. Hence the combination of British and local symbols.

The Rhode Island cap requires conservation work, and the British cap is going into dark storage for six months in accordance with modern standards for displaying historic textiles. So this is a rare chance to see them both for a while.

The John Brown House is at 52 Power Street in Providence. This event is free. More information on the conservation process appeared in the Providence Journal.

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