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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Wednesday, August 09, 2023

The Celebrated Mr. Bates

This picture is a detail from a print produced in Nuremburg in 1766, showing “IACOB BATES, The famous English Horse Rider.” Click on it to go to the full image on the British Museum website.

In the 1760s Bates entertained crowds across Europe with his trained horses and equestrian skills. He performed in St. Petersburg in 1763 or 1764. The year after this print appeared, he became the first man to exhibit a large outdoor horse show in Paris.

An 1820 profile stated, “It does not appear he ever publicly exhibited in England.” That seems odd, but I haven’t found any more recent study of Bates that contradicts that statement by citing a British show.

In 1772 Bates decided to take his act to the New World. An advertisement in the 2 September Pennsylvania Journal announced:
Who has finished a tour of Europe, is arrived at Philadelphia, and intends to perform his surprising feats in
At the upper end of Market-street, on Monday, the 7th of September. The doors to be opened at four o’clock, and he mounts precisely at five.

SEATS are made proper for Ladies and Gentlemen, that they will not be in danger of receiving any damage from the horses. Mr. Bates will take it as a particular favour if Gentlemen will not suffer any Dogs to come with them. No money to be taken at the doors, nor admittance without a ticket.

• TICKETS to be had at the Bar of the London Coffee-House, the Indian King, the place of performance, and at the Center House: For the first place five shillings, and the second two shillings and six-pence.
In another ad a week later, Bates clarified the nature of his performance:
different feats in
On One, Two, and Three HORSES
He also found a way to note how popular his first appearance was:
• Mr. BATES is extremely sorry that the Ladies and Gentlemen were disturbed by the MOB; but for the future, there will be such methods taken that they will not be incommoded.
On 23 September, Bates announced that on that afternoon “(Weather permitting)” he would perform in the city “for the LAST TIME.” For that occasion he added “Several NEW PERFORMANCES.” 

TOMORROW: But that wasn’t Bates’s farewell to Philadelphia.

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