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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Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Boston Debut of James Joan

Early in October 1768 a family arrived in Boston from Halifax: James Joan (also spelled Juhan and Juan); his wife Mary; their children Mary, Alexander, Martin, and John; and their maidservant Ann Lederai. In traditional Boston fashion, a town official warned them out.

On 20 October, Joan announced himself to the public through an advertisement in the Boston News-Letter and Boston Gazette:
The French Language, Instrumental Music and Dancing taught after the best Methods, by James Joan, in that commodious and large Building opposite Dr. [Samuel] Cooper’s Meeting, by whom, also, Gentlemen and Ladies may privately be taught the Minuet.—

N. B. He has to Lett a very good & large Cellar belonging to the said House; he also makes and sells, neat Violin Bows.
It looks like the family was in a building “formerly Green and Walker’s Store.”

James Joan soon found a use for that “commodious and large Building,” giving it a new name. On 14 November, he advertised in the Boston Gazette, Boston Post-Boy, and Boston Evening-Post:
This is to acquaint the Gentlemen and Ladies, that a Concert of MUSICK will be performed, on Monday the 21st Instant, at Six o’Clock in the Evening, at the Musick Hall in Brattle-Street, opposite Dr. Cooper’s Meeting-House. After the Concert is over, the Gentlemen and Ladies may have a BALL till Eleven o’Clock.

TICKETS may be had of James Joan, at the above-said Place, and of Thomas Chase, near the Liberty-Tree, at Two Shillings Lawful Money, or One & Six Pence Sterling a Piece.
Chase was a distiller and one of the Loyall Nine. This is the only example that I can recall of someone from the time referring to “the Liberty-Tree” rather than “Liberty Tree,” reflecting how Joan was a newcomer to Boston.

Joan’s same notice ran in the Post-Boy and Evening-Post a week later, the day of the concert and ball. In addition, the latter paper also included this item:
New Advertisement.
This is to acquaint, all Ladies who paint,
Of Music there will be a Concert,
Perform’d on next Monday, the Day after Sunday,
By various Masters of some sort;
When Concert is over, each Lass with her Lover,
May Dance till the Clock strikes Eleven.
Then they may retire to their Bed, or their Fire,
And Sleep till next Morning or Even.
At the foremention’d Place, or else you may CHACE
For your Tickets near Liberty Tree,
In Lawful or Sterling, it heeds not a Farthing,
If you give a JOAN, as a Fee.
I first wondered if in that notice Joan was trying a more imaginative way to promote his event. On second look, I decided it was a local wag’s parody of his ad, satirizing “Ladies who paint” and punning on the names of the two men selling tickets. (A “joan” or “Johannes” was a Portuguese coin.)

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