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, September 05, 2014

John and Dorothy Hancock’s Chariot, on display 6 Sept.

On 21 Jan 1778, the New Jersey Gazette published this news item:
The owners of the privateer, Civil Usage, of Newburyport, have made a present to the Honorable John Hancock, Esq., of an elegant coach which was lately taken in one of their prizes, as a token of their respect for that gentleman, who has so nobly distinguished himself in the present contest with Great Britain, as the friend of his country.
Several weeks later, the 11 March Pennsylvania Ledger, published in British-occupied Philadelphia, quoted a less laudatory comment on the same development from a letter:
John Hancock of Boston appears in public with all the pageantry and state of an Oriental prince. He rides in an elegant chariot, which was taken in a prize to the “Civil Usage,” a pirate vessel, and by the owners presented to him. He is attended by four servants, dressed in superb livery, mounted on fine horses richly caparisoned, and escorted by fifty horsemen with drawn sabres, the one half of whom precede, and the other follow, his carriage. So, at present, figures this man, who owes his greatness to his country’s ruin.
The last line was quoting from Addison’s Cato.

That chariot ended up as part of the collection of the Dorothy Quincy Homestead in Quincy, childhood home of Hancock’s wife now owned by the Colonial Dames of Massachusetts. At some point in the 1800s the wheels were removed and replaced with runners, so it became a small sleigh.

This year the city of Quincy provided a grant to restore the chariot. Blackburn Conservation repainted the exterior, upholstered the interior while preserving the original embroidery, strengthened the structure, and put the sleigh on runners that approximate the vehicle’s original height.

The newly restored chariot/sleigh can be seen on “Discover Quincy Days,” 6 September and 4 October. On those Saturdays the Dorothy Quincy Homestead will open for tours between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. The tours are free, but donations will be welcome.

[Photograph above by Patrick Ronan for the Quincy Patriot-Ledger. Hat tip to Graeme Marsden for alerting me to this story.]

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