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.

Subscribe thru Follow.it


Sunday, August 27, 2023

Jacob Bates and the Boston Selectmen

On 27 Aug 1773, 250 years ago today, Jacob Bates met with the Boston selectmen.

As I discussed back here, Bates had become celebrated on continental Europe for feats of horsemanship. There was even a German print devoted to him and his horses.

In late 1772 Bates arrived in Philadelphia. He placed notices in newspapers from 2 September to 2 November.

Then the performer moved on to New York from June through early August 1773.

Unlike some traveling performers who could roll into town, find a tavern to host them, and quickly start shows in a courtyard, Bates had to set up a large space to ride in, plus an enclosure around that space to prevent people who hadn’t paid from seeing. That’s what he wanted to talk to the selectmen about on that Friday.

In that discussion were John Scollay, Timothy Newell, Thomas Marshall, Samuel Austin, and John Pitts. (John Hancock and Oliver Wendell were absent.)

The town’s official records say:
Mr. Jacob Bates a famous Horsman, attended & craves leave of the Selectmen to erect a Fence in the Common which will inclose about 160 feet of Ground in order to show his feats in Horsmanship—
Boston was notoriously hostile to theater and suspicious of anything that smacked of it. Traveling performers did come through, such as the rope-flyer John Childs and the musician James Joan. However, they had to navigate local rules and not disrupt life for too long.

Did the selectmen find Bates’s request to fence off part of the fifty-acre Common for a show of horsemanship reasonable?
his request was not granted.
COMING UP: Getting back on his horse.

No comments: