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 08, 2023

Bates “at the Bottom of the Mall in Boston”

When we last checked in with equestrian Jacob Bates, on 27 Aug 1773 the Boston selectmen denied his request “to erect a Fence in the Common which will inclose about 160 feet of Ground in order to show his feats in Horsmanship.”

Nonetheless, on 6 September, the Boston Gazette ran this notice:

Mr. BATES, (allowed by the greatest Judges in the Manly Art he professes, to excel any HORSEMAN that ever attempted any Thing of the Kind) on Wednesday next, if good Weather, if not the Friday following, will perform on one, two, and three Horses, at the Bottom of the Mall in Boston.

TICKETS for the first Place at one Dollar each, and for the second Three Shillings, to be had at Col. Ingersol’s, Mr. Bracket’s, and at the Place of Performance.
An even larger advertisement appeared the same day in the Boston Post-Boy:
The Original PERFORMER;
Who has had the Honour of performing before
THE Emperor of Germany, the Empress of Russia, and King of Great-Britain, the French King, the Kings of Prussia, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, and Poland, and the Prince of Orange; Also, at the Courts of Saxony, Bavaria, Brunswick, Mecklenburgh, Saxe-Gotha, Hilbourghausen, Anspach, and every other Court in Germany; at all which he received the greatest APPLAUSE, as can be made manifest by the Certificates from the several Courts, now in his Possession, and is allowed, by the greatest judges in the MANLY ART he professes, to excel any Horseman that ever attempted any Thing of the Kind.

the 8th September Instant,
If good Weather, if not, the Friday following,
He will perform on ONE, TWO, and THREE HORSES, at the Bottom of the MALL, in BOSTON.

The Doors will be opened at Three o’Clock, and he will mount precisely at Four.

The Seats are made proper for LADIES and GENTLEMEN.

He will take it as a particular Favour, if Gentlement will not suffer any Dogs to come with them.

TICKETS for the First Place at One Dollar each, and for the Second, Three Shillings Lawful Money, to be had at Colonel INGERSOL’s, in King-street, Mr. BRACKETT’s in School-street, and at the Place of Performance.

No Money will be taken at the Doors, nor Admittance without Tickets.
Obviously Bates had found a place to erect his fence anyway. The Mall was part of the Common, defined since the early 1700s by two rows of trees planted by the selectmen’s order along Tremont Street (then also called Common Street). The “Bottom of the Mall” was most likely privately owned land at the southern end of those trees in an area of town still not densely populated.
On Wednesday, 8 September, two and a half centuries ago today, the weather in Boston was good. Bates and his horses performed their show.

TOMORROW: Mr. Bates apologizes.

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