Revolutionary War

Masonic Apron Mystery: Are These From the Same Hand?

76.22 Windsor Conservation PhotoAs we have explained in previous posts, we have a wonderful collection of Masonic aprons at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. This striking painted apron, which is among my favorites, recently received some conservation treatment prior to being shown in our current exhibition, Inspired by Fashion: American Masonic Regalia. Prior to the treatment, the apron was in poor condition with severe splits to the silk ground fabric, as well as discoloration and staining. Conservator Deirdre Windsor of Windsor Conservation in Dover, Massachusetts, carefully surface-cleaned the apron as part of a treatment to stabilize it for exhibition and research, and to aid its long-term preservation. She humidified the apron to flatten out the creases and ripples. And, in order to employ best practices in preserving and exhibiting the apron, it was put into a pressure mount that provides full support of the fragile silk and protects the apron from airborne pollutants and soils.

The apron was donated to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in 1976 by a descendant of its original owner, Conrad Edick (1763-1845). Edick was born in German Flats, Herkimer County, New York, and lived there until the town was burned by the British in 1779, when he and his stepfather, Nicholas Weaver, moved to Stone Arabia, Montgomery County, New York. Shortly after the move, in 1780, Edick volunteered as a ranger in the Revolutionary War and saw several subsequent service assignments until his regiment disbanded in 1784. In 1787, Edick settled in Deposit, New York, where he married Margaret Whitaker (1770-1798) and became a merchant. Shortly after Margaret died in 1798, Edick married his second wife, Elizabeth Sneeden (1778-1858). With his two wives, Edick had nine children.

Records at the Grand Lodge of New York show that Conrad Edick was a member of Charity Lodge No. 170 in Deposit between 1814 and 1819. Other details about his Masonic membership require further research. The materials used to make the apron, along with the style of clothing worn by the Masons depicted on it help us date the apron to the early 1800s. This evidence supports the idea that Edick wore this apron to lodge meetings in Deposit.84_15DI1

The distinctive decoration of the apron suggests that it may have been made by the same person who created a second apron in the Museum’s collection (at right). The Museum acquired this second apron at auction in 1984, so unfortunately, we do not know its provenance – where it originally came from, or who owned it. But, the striking similarities in the colors and motifs strongly suggest that both aprons were made in the same shop.

Adding intrigue to the story about these aprons is the recent discovery of two more aprons showing a very similar style – in the collection of the Henry W. Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry at the Grand Lodge of California in San Francisco. Collections Manager Adam Kendall takes it from here to tell us about those aprons:

571_Fraktur_Edick clone_1The first example (at left) is almost identical to the Edick apron, although in this case, there was no provenance documented in the original museum records and, unlike the Edick apron, there is no name inscribed within the ovals on the upper flap; they are left blank. However, its resemblance is uncanny and its possible relationship was brought to my attention by first seeing the Edick apron in Bespangled, Painted and Embroidered by Barbara Franco. The layout, the materials, the colors, the Germanic fraktur-style lettering, and the overall artistic style all point to a possibility that the aprons are from the same artist, or at least a close copy from a similar time period.

The second apron (below at right) is also similar to the Edick apron and gives much more detail: an inscription under the flap states that it was "used to raise Brother Ralph Hankins, Tammany Lodge No. 83, November 16, 1807." St. Tammany Lodge was founded in 1800 near what is now Milanville, Pennsylvania—a 45 mile distance from Deposit, New York (the latter location being the origin of Edick’s apron).

Like the two other aprons, it is hand painted and inked on silk with various Masonic symbols - most prominently the personification of Hope standing beside her anchor. On the rounded flap is an all-seeing eye flanked by two cherubim holding cloth banners that spell out Sanctum and Sanctorum. The entire scene is stylistically reminiscent of the aforementioned aprons, the common design of other Masonic aprons of that era notwithstanding.7912_Tammany_whole

While there are many stylistic similarities—particularly the cherubim and the calligraphy (Sanctum and Sanctorum) upon the festoons in their tiny hands, it is my belief, due to slight artistic differences, that this apron may not have originated from the same maker as Edick’s. However, it is most certainly from the same general location, and resembles the Palatine German decorative art motifs common in Edick’s birthplace of German Flats, Herkimer County, NY. As observed by Franco, “Edick’s apron is a Germanic interpretation of a popular Masonic design which appeared in English and American engravings between 1790 and 1815.” I do believe the two aprons within the possession of the Henry W. Coil Museum and Library can be classified in this same category.

Have you ever seen another apron decorated like this? Please let us know in a comment below. And, to see the Edick apron in person, visit the Inspired by Fashion exhibition before March 24, 2012.

Top Left: Masonic Apron, 1800-1820, New York. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, gift of J. Earl Edick, 76.22. Photograph by Windsor Conservation.

Top Right: Masonic Apron, 1800-1820, probably New York. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 84.15. Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom photos: Courtesy of Adam Kendall, Collections Manager at the Henry W. Coil Library & Museum of Freemasonry, www.masonicheritage.org.

Reference: Barbara Franco, Bespangled, Painted & Embroidered: Decorated Masonic Aprons in America, 1790-1850, Lexington, MA: Museum of Our National Heritage, 1980.


Betsy Ross: The Life Behind the Legend, Nov. 5 at the Museum

BetsyRoss_LoC_croppedCould Betsy Ross have changed history with a snip of a pair of scissors in the year 1776? Did that snip convince George Washington, the nation’s future first president, that five-pointed stars suited better than six? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Join us for the lecture, “Betsy Ross: The Life Behind the Legend,” on Saturday, November 5 at 2 pm to delve into the full life story this enduring American legend. Historian Marla R. Miller shares Ross as she truly was, piecing together the fascinating life of this beloved figure. Ross is thought to be important to our history above all for her role as a skilled needlewoman. She was one of Philadelphia's most important flag makers from the Revolution through the War of 1812. Little known, however, is that she was fiercely on the side of the colonial resistance, reveled in its triumphs, and suffered consequences as a result.

Miller’s recent publication, Betsy Ross and the Making of America, will be available for purchase and signing following the talk.

The lecture is free. It is made possible by Ruby W. Linn, and is the concluding lecture in a series celebrating the National Heritage Museum’s treasured 15-star flag. Made between 1794 and 1818, the flag will be available for viewing on the day of the lecture in the Museum’s Farr Conference Room.

Headshot in snowMarla R. Miller is an historian of early American women and work, and has made a career uncovering the lives of women who left little in the way of a documentary record. She is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and directs the Public History program there. She has won the Organization of American Historians’ Lerner-Scott Prize for the best dissertation in Women’s History and the 1998 Walter Muir Whitehill Prize in Colonial History.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861‑6559 or visit our web site.

Photo credits:

Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag, c. 1908. Library of Congress.

Marla Miller. Courtesy of Marla Miller.


New Version of Popular School Program

CK presentation The National Heritage Museum is excited to announce the new version of our popular third-grade program, “Colonial Kids.”  The existing program offered only a peek into the daily life of a colonial-era Lexington family.  By taking a cue from one of the grade 3 standards –Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for History and Social Sciences (“Explain important political, economic, and military developments leading to and during the American Revolution”) – and incorporating new research, we refocused the program to highlight one of Lexington’s most interesting pre-Revolutionary War events. 

On December 13, 1773, Lexington residents took deliberate action to go along with the town’s recently drafted “Resolves against the Tea Act,” subsequently published in newspapers around the colonies.  According to a contemporary article, “… they brought together every ounce (of tea) contained in the town, and committed it to one common bonfire.”  This event, overlooked in history for its much more spectacular sister-protest, the Boston Tea Party, that took place three days later, demonstrated Lexington’s role as a quiet hotbed of rebellious rhetoric.  So, for this new program, we chose December 13, 1773, as the day we would interpret and incorporated that event into our story.

To make our “day in the life” concept work, we chose an historic Lexington family with young children.  Students can easily relate to children their own age. We also wanted a family that might have had some involvement with the tea burning.  We settled on the Benjamin and Sarah Brown family.  They had seven children between the ages of 3 and 25 at home on December 13, 1773. The Browns were also well represented in primary sources, including tax assessments, Benjamin’s will, and town meeting records. We even learned that the town paid for daughter Sarah to keep school in the family’s house.  Her father, Benjamin, was also one of the select group of five men unanimously chosen to draft the “Resolves against the Tea Act” at Lexington town meeting.

To develop engaging activities, we researched the types of chores members of the household would do at that time of year, as well as the types of food they ate, the clothing they wore, and leisure activities they engaged in.  Unusual questions popped up during the research, such as “Did the Browns own a tall-case clock in 1773?” (likely) and “Was there a bell ringer for the town?” (yes).  With further research into primary and secondary sources, and help from historian Mary Fuhrer, we were able to find answers.

The final program contains activities to teach students about clothing, dairy production, and schooling, as well as critical thinking questions to help them understand the concept of “protest” and the similarities or differences between lifestyles in 1773 and now.  Upon testing the program, we found third graders studying the Revolutionary War relate well to the concepts of protest and boycott.  They also love to hear that Lexington beat Boston to the punch by burning their tea three days before Samuel Adams and friends dumped the East India Company’s tea into the harbor.

The new “Colonial Kids” program is now available for school groups in grades K-3.  For information on this and other tours and programs, and to find out how to make reservations, please visit the National Heritage Museum’s website.  You can also see our previous post on the Lexington Tea Bonfire.


Patriots' Day Lasts All Week at the Museum!

Doolittle Battle 87-49-2a Patriots' Day is a long-standing Massachusetts holiday celebrated each year on the third Monday of April. The day is set aside to commemorate the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first military engagements of the American Revolution. If you live in the area, however, "Patriots' Day" stretches into "Patriots' Day Week." Public schools enjoy a week-long spring vacation and families take day-trips to the many local events related to the holiday.

If you have a bit of free time during this special week, the National Heritage Museum offers programs and exhibitions that will help you celebrate.

Farmer-solider Join us on Saturday, April 16, at 2:00 PM for a gallery talk featuring "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington and the American Revolution," our keystone exhibition that explores life in this small farming community where ordinary people made extraordinary choices that shaped history. Museum staff will give you the inside scoop on Lexington before British soldiers marched into town on April 19, 1775. The gallery talk is free.  

Meeting Billy On Patriots’ Day itself, Monday, April 18, the Museum will be open to the public from 10 AM to 4:30 PM. After attending the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington at the crack of dawn and breakfasting on pancakes prepared by one of the town's civic organizations, come to the Museum. From 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM, visiting families are invited to drop in to celebrate Patriots’ Day with arts and crafts activities exploring life in 1775. The admissions charge for the craft activities is $5/family (members); $7/family (non-members). While you are here, take the opportunity to explore “Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington and the American Revolution.” Families with young children who visit the exhibition can look forward to meeting and reading about Billy the Patriot Mouse.

LexingtonAlarmLetter An exciting piece of American history will make its annual appearance at the Museum during the holiday week. You won't want to miss seeing the Lexington Alarm Letter, on view from Saturday, April 16 through Saturday, April 23. This document was written on the morning of April 19, 1775, and was used to alert the colonies that war with England had begun. Previous posts to our blog include: a transcription of the letter's text; details on the important role it played in the 24 hours after the Battle; and a reconstruction of the route the letter took to New York City.

If you are interested in learning more about Patriots' Day and the Battle of Lexington, take a look at related posts to our blog. In exploring the following links, you'll learn some incredible facts about the beginnings of the American Revolution in Lexington and see some fascinating objects from our collection:

Finally, if you are an educator or a student of the Revolutionary era, check out the following posts:

We look forward to seeing you at the Museum. If you have questions about our April programming or about our exhibitions, please call the Museum at 781-861-6559. Please refer to our website for opening hours and directions.

Photo credits:

The Battle of Lexington,” 1775. Amos Doolittle (1754-1832), New Haven, Connecticut. Courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Connecticut

Farmer, 2007. Joe Farnham, National Heritage Museum

Meeting Billy, 2007. Sheli Peterson, National Heritage Museum

Lexington Alarm Letter, 1775. Daniel Tyler, Brooklyn, Connecticut. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A95/011/1


"Don't Fire Until You See the Whites of Their Eyes!": Remembering Bunker Hill

2008_021_6DP2 In 1876, the United States celebrated its centennial anniversary with great fanfare.  As part of the celebration, souvenirs of all types were available for purchase – including this glass platter that was recently donated to the National Heritage Museum.  At the center is a depiction of the Bunker Hill Monument, which is actually located on Breed’s Hill, in Charlestown, Massachusetts.  The cornerstone for the monument was laid in a Masonic ceremony on June 17, 1825, the 50th anniversary of the famous battle.  Taking part in the festivities was the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), who was making a tour through the United States at the time.  The monument was completed in 1843.

The famous battle, fought against the British on June 17, 1775, was one of the earliest of the Revolutionary War.  Although it was a British victory, the American forces killed or wounded almost half of the 2,200 British soldiers fighting that day.  The platter memorializes the names of four of the American military leaders: Israel Putnam, John Stark, William Prescott and Joseph Warren.  How many of these names do you know?  Here’s a short guide:

Israel Putnam (1718-1790) was born in Massachusetts, but spent his adult life in Connecticut where he was a farmer.  After military service during the French and Indian Wars, Putnam helped organize the Sons of Liberty in eastern Connecticut.  In 1775, he was appointed a brigadier general and eventually became second in rank to George Washington.  As field commander of the troops at Bunker Hill, Putnam reportedly gave one of the most famous orders in military history, “Don’t one of you fire until you see the white of their eyes” (although some accounts attribute this to William Prescott, also named on the platter).

John Stark (1728-1822) was a native of New Hampshire, where he made his living as a farmer and a miller.  Like Putnam, he also served in the French and Indian Wars.  After the fighting at Lexington and Concord, Stark traveled to Cambridge and was appointed colonel.  At Bunker Hill, he deployed his men between Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill to defend the army’s left flank.  He was able to encourage his inexperienced soldiers to cover weak spots in the American defense that day.

Like Putnam and Stark, William Prescott (1726-1795) was also a farmer, tending the land left to him by his father in Groton, Massachusetts.  Also like Putnam and Stark, Prescott gained military experience in the French and Indian Wars.  The night before the Battle of Bunker Hill, Prescott, a commissioned colonel, was ordered to command the expedition to fortify Bunker Hill.  With 1,200 men, he instead entrenched Breed’s Hill.  He was able to defend against British General Sir William Howe’s advances twice.  Although the British broke through on their third advance, Prescott achieved a symbolic victory, suffering only 441 dead and wounded compared to the over 1,000 casualties on the British side.

Perhaps the best-known name on the platter belongs to Joseph Warren (1741-1775).  Warren, a Boston physician, had been elected President Pro Tempore of the Provincial Congress on April 23, 1775.  Just three days before the Battle of Bunker Hill, on June 14, Warren was elected a major general of the provincial army.  Sadly, he died at the end of the battle when Howe’s forces finally broke through.  At the time, Warren was also Grand Master of Massachusetts Provincial Grand Lodge. After recovering Warren’s body from the battlefield, members of both active Massachusetts Grand Lodges honored him with a Masonic funeral service.

Bunker Hill Platter, 1876, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Robert and Edith Zucker, 2008.021.6.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Does This Building Ring a Bell?

91_037_2aDP1 Did you know that the Old Belfry is the only site in Lexington, Massachusetts, to ever appear on an official United States coin?  In 1925, the United States Mint issued over 162,000 Lexington-Concord Sesquicentennial Half Dollars to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening battles in the American Revolution.  Each silver half dollar bore the image of the Old Belfry on the reverse or back side, along with Daniel Chester French’s (1850-1931) Minute Man statue from Concord, Massachusetts, on the obverse or front.  The National Heritage Museum owns two of these coins, which it received in 1991, along with their original presentation boxes.

The town of Lexington originally built the Old Belfry in 1762 on land owned by Jonas Munroe. Six years later, the Belfry was moved to the town common, where it stood during the Battle of Lexington. On the night of April 19, 1775, the Belfry’s bell sounded the alarm that the British regulars were coming.  While the original Belfry was destroyed in 1909, the Lexington Historical Society built an exact replica in 1910 on its original Belfry Hill location. 91_037_2aDP2

During the months leading up to the anniversary celebration, the United States Lexington-Concord Sesquicentennial Commission came up with the idea for the commemorative half dollar, and created a preliminary design for the coin.  Next, the Commission, which was primarily composed of residents of the two towns, hired noted sculptor Chester Beach (1881-1956) to turn their blueprint into a metallic reality.  While Beach is most famous for his marble and bronze statues and busts, including The Unveiling of Dawn (1913) and Fountain of the Waters (1927), he also designed the Monroe Doctrine Centennial Half Dollar (1923), and produced the models for the Hawaii Sesquicentennial Half Dollar (1928).

91_037_2bDP1 Although Beach had his own ideas of how the coin should look, the Commission insisted that he follow their predetermined design.  In the end, he reluctantly created models for the coin that met the Commission’s exact specifications, but refused to sign the design as he had done for his previous half dollars.  Each coin came in a pine presentation box, with the Concord Minute Man and the Belfry, respectively, printed on the lid and the bottom of the box.  While Beach may not have been satisfied with the final product, fairgoers in Lexington and Concord liked the coins enough to buy 60,000 of them between April 18 and 20, 1925.  An unseasonable snowfall impacted the turnout for the fair, which featured a reenactment of the battle at the North Bridge in Concord, and an elaborate military parade afterward.  Collectors in New England bought most of the leftover coins.  

While the Massachusetts State Quarter, issued in 2000, showed a figure resembling the renowned Minute Man statue in Concord, the Lexington-Concord Sesquicentennial Half Dollar remains the only legally issued American coin to depict a Lexington landmark.  Will the Mint recognize Lexington again in 2025, for the 250th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord?  We hope so!

References:

"1775 Battle Acted at Concord Bridge: Great Crowds See a Pageant in Which Minute Men Again Face British Regulars. Throngs at Lexington Dawes and Pershing Take Part In Series of Exercises Beginning With Paul Revere's Ride." New York Times (1857-Current file), April 21, 1925, www.proquest.com (accessed January 11, 2010).

Murphy, Ian. “Lexington Belfry Has Storied History.” The Concord Journal, April 11, 2007, http://www.wickedlocal.com/concord/fun/entertainment/arts/x1605763781 (accessed January 21, 2010).

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. “1925 Lexington-Concord Sesquicentennial Half Dollar.” Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, http://www.ngccoin.com/CoinDetail.aspx?ContentID=161 (accessed January 8, 2010).

Opitz, Glenn B., ed. Dictionary of American Sculptors: 18th Century to the Present. Poughkeepsie, NY: Apollo, 1984.

Tour Lexington, Massachusetts. “Historic Sites and Museums.” The Liberty Ride, http://www.libertyride.us/historic.html (accessed January 11, 2010).

Yeoman, R.S. A Guide Book of United States Coins, 2010 (63rd Edition): The Official Red Book. Edited by Kenneth Bressett. Atlanta: Whitman Publishing, 2009.

Lexington-Concord Sesquicentennial Half Dollar and Box, 1925, U.S. Mint, Washington, D.C., National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Dorothy L. and Stephen W. Smith, 91.037.2a-c.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Hancock Church Silver in “Sowing the Seeds of Liberty”

Among the many treasures on view in “Sowing the Seeds of Liberty:  Lexington and the American Revolution” are some wonderful examples of communion silver.  Residents of Lexington first used them to take communion as part of their worship over 240 years ago.  In addition to playing an essential role in the service, these cups, associated with different members of the Hancock family, were fashioned to be enduring memorials.

In the 1700s in Lexington and other New England towns, only church members took communion from these during Sunday services. Not all who attended the First Church in Lexington were members. To become a member, a man or woman needed to publicly confess their transgressions and be saved.  During that time, in Congregational churches, church goers commissioned communion silver that could be passed easily from hand to hand.  As well, they selected forms based on the kinds of vessels they used in their own in households, including beakers and cups like these.   Although these forms may have been familiar to Lexingtonians, the fact that they were crafted of a precious metal made them anything but ordinary.

EL99_001_11a-bT1 On a gray day, polished silver would have glinted, shone and added glamour to the meeting house.  In addition to their aesthetic properties, the monetary value of these cups ensured they were well looked after.  In fact, these cups may have been among those cared for by the elder church deacon, Joseph Loring (1713-1787), at his home in 1775. On April 19, still in shock from the morning's battle, Lexington residents worried that British soldiers might loot homes on their way back from Concord. To protect her family's and the church's valuables, the deacon’s daughter, Lydia (b. 1745), hid these portable valuables under a pile of brush behind the house. She was smart to have done so.  British soldiers pillaged the Lorings' home and burned itto the ground, but Lexington did not lose its communion silver. 

Both of these cups both memorialize Hancock family members.  Successful Boston businessman Thomas Hancock (1703-1763) grew up in Lexington. He was the son of John Hancock (1671-1752), the town’s first minister. Upon his death, he left £20 to his father’s former church, specifying it be used to make “two silver cups for the communion table.”  Thomas Hancock, with his wife Lydia, raised his nephew, also named John Hancock (1736/7-1793).  The younger John Hancock later served as the President of the Continental Congress and in that capacity added his now-famous signature the the Declaration of Independence.   
 
EL99_001_7S1 small Also a son of the Reverend John Hancock, Ebenezer Hancock (1710-1740) followed in his father’s footsteps and served as his assistant for six years. He died at the age of thirty, possibly in a diphtheria epidemic.  Made of valuable, long-lasting material and permanently marked with his name, this present to the church endured well after the memory of Ebenezer’s contributions to town life faded.

The National Heritage Museum is grateful to the First Parish Church of Lexington, Unitarian Universalist, for the loan of the communion silver that helps tell the story of April 19, 1775.

Photographs:

Footed Cups, 1764. Nathaniel Hurd (1729/30-1777), Boston, Massachusetts. Loaned by First Parish Church of Lexington, Unitarian Universalist, EL99.001.011a and.011b. Photograph by David Bohl

Beaker, ca. 1740. Jacob Hurd (1702/03-1758), Boston, Massachusetts. Loaned by First Parish Church of Lexington, Unitarian Universalist, EL99.001.7. Photograph by David Bohl


New to the Collection: Ladle by Myer Myers

2006_014T2 Paul Revere’s (1734-1818) work as a silversmith is celebrated, yet he was not the only accomplished craftsman in 18th-century America.  A silver ladle made by New York silversmith Myer Myers (1723-1795), now in the National Heritage Museum collection, demonstrates equal skill. 

The ladle, engraved with initials “TBS” on the handle,  dates to the 1765-1790 period.  Ladles like this were used to serve both hot and cold liquids; while this piece was probably owned and used in a private household, it is possible that Myers made similar pieces for Masonic lodges where members shared punch.

Jewish silversmith Myer Myers served his apprenticeship in New York City and opened his own shop around 1750.  The city experienced prosperity during the pre-Revolutionary decades and had no shortage of well-to-do patrons who could afford fine silver.  Myers was extremely productive and found unique ways to build his business.  He was the first New York silversmith to use a surname mark, which provided name recognition when his silver was used by its purchasers.  He was also the first New York silversmith to form a partnership with another silversmith, an innovative business strategy at the time.  During the Revolution, Myers actively supported the American patriots, but did not fight in the War himself.  He moved his family to Norwalk, Connecticut to keep them out of harm’s way and continued his silversmithing business there to support himself, his wife and his thirteen children.

Myers became a Mason in New York in the 1760s, and was a member of King David’s Lodge.  Through his sister’s marriage, Myers was brother-in-law to Moses Michael Hays, who served as Grand Master of the Massachusetts (Independent) Grand Lodge from 1788 to 1792. 

Source:

David L. Barquist, Myer Myers: Jewish Silversmith in Colonial New York.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.

Ladle, 1765-1790, Myer Myers (1723-1795), New York City, National Heritage Museum, gift of Ira and Samuel Seskin in memory of Joel A. and Celia S. Seskin, 2006.014.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Use Our 'Learning Blog' in the Classroom to Bring Patriots' Day to Life

Patriots' Day is a special holiday in Massachusetts. Because it is marked by public celebrations unique to each Massachusetts town, children grow up eagerly attending or even participating in parades and historic reenactments that commemorate the beginnings of the American Revolution. Through these, they become familiar with events and people that are tied to landscapes right outside their front doors. The Museum’s other blog, "Learning at the National Heritage Museum", highlights primary sources and provides lessons that can be used in the classroom or at home to help learners of all ages gain a deeper understanding of the familiar historic events that we celebrate on Patriots' Day.

Doolittle battle With the material on the 'Learning Blog', rooted in the "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington and the American Revolution" exhibition, visitors can reconstruct the feelings and experiences that must have flooded the thoughts of the citizens of Lexington as Regular troops equal in number to the 800 people who lived in Lexington  marched up to the Common in the early morning of April 19th. Why did seventy-seven members of Lexington's militia decide to assemble and confront the King's troops? Click on the links that follow to access the Learning Blog and find out.

The Massachusetts provincial court archives provide us with a window to glimpse what kind of community Lexington was before 1775. The town seems to have been an

unlikely home for revolutionaries, with very little crime of any kind. In this peaceable community, however, provincial politics filled the meetinghouse, both at town meeting and through the sermons of Jonas Clarke. One vivid example is the Lexington Tea Party of Dec. 13, 1773. Three days before the Boston Tea Party, Lexington's selectmen resolved to boycott imported tea, newly taxed by Parliamentary Act, and, in reaction to the King's policy, "be ready to Sacrifice our Estate, and everything dear in life, yea and Life itself, in Support of the common cause." These strong words reveal the passion and resolve that took symbolic form in a winter bonfire on the town common, onto which the people of Lexington threw all their tea. This act of protest was reported on approvingly by the widely-read Worcester newspaper, The Massachusetts Spy.

Green and white teapot 91_025-12a-bT1 The drama of Lexington's political actions unfolded against the backdrop of how the series of taxes levied on vital goods imported from England affected the people of Lexington. Both the Sugar Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act of 1765 made goods that people used virtually every day more expensive . Although the public mood of the town never turned riotous, as it did in Boston, the primary sources and activities on the Learning Blog show how citizens gradually developed the resolve to resist, and finally to rebel.

After more than ten years of buildup, the tensions caused by this fundamental conflict between Massachusetts colonists and their rulers exploded into a bloody confrontation, the Battle of Lexington and Concord. If we can fathom the "Why?" behind the first shots in the American Revolution, it becomes that much more engaging to delve into the "Who?", "What?", "Where?" and "When?" of that day. We can imagine how the chain of events on April 18th and 19th, 1775, might have been experienced by the children of Lexington families. While they watched their fathers and older brothers assemble with the town militia, the towns for miles around were filled with similar scenes of preparation for defense against the King's soldiers. The militiamen of Massachusetts and their families were not the only people anxiously peering at the horizon, straining to see what the day would bring - the Regular troops marching down the road towards Concord and their commanders surely also felt an unsettling sense of foreboding as they traveled further into the hostile countryside. Were any of them aware that the road would take them through the heart of Lexington, a community convinced that the sacrifice of life itself, in support of the common cause, might very well be the culmination of the town's resistance against the long series injustices meted out by the representatives of London?

There is much more to explore on the Learning Blog- we welcome your comments and questions! For information about in-house programs for school groups, please contact the Museum's Education Department (email: croche@monh.org; phone: 781 457-4142).

“The Battle of Lexington,” 1775, Amos Doolittle (1754-1832) - engraver, Ralph Earl (1751-1801) - painter, New Haven, Connecticut

Courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Connecticut

 

Teapot, ca. 1765, England

National Heritage Museum, 91.025.12a-b


Baron von Steuben's Regulations

Revolutionary Army officers created a very succinct creed at Verplanck's Point, N.Y. in 1782 where they paid homage to those they felt most deserving of credit for the Army's success.  Naturally, they included George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox -- and Friedrich Steuben:

"...We believe that Baron Steuben has made us soldiers, and that he is capable of forming the whole world into a solid column, and displaying it from the center. We believe in his Blue Book...."

Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben (1730-1794) was born and raised in Prussia.  He received his early military experience in the Seven Years War (1756-1763) but by the 1770's was in search of another war.  Twice he approached Benjamin Franklin in Paris for assistance to go to America, and the second time he was successful in getting a letter of introduction to General Washington.  Steuben sailed to America and arrived in Portsmouth, N.H. on December 1, 1777; by February he was in Pennsylvania, and by March he had the Continental army in Valley Forge learning how to drill, something sorely missing in the early months of the army.  Washington was so impressed that he wrote to Congress in late April:  "I should do injustice if I were to be longer silent with regard to the merits of Baron von Steuben.  His knowledge of his profession, added to the zeal..."  Washington recommended and Congress approved Steuben be promoted to Inspector General but with the rank and pay of Major General, a situation that pleased Steuben. 

Stuben_1794 In The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army, author Paul Lockhart concentrates on how Steuben went about getting the army ready for battle, the relentless drilling, and the many campaigns that followed.  But as Steuben's charge was to bring overall discipline and order to the troops, during the winter of 1778-79 he spent more time writing than drilling.  Steuben improved earlier attempts at a military manual and produced Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (a copy of the title page of our Library's 1794 edition appears at left).  First published in Philadelphia in March 1779 with 150 pages and 8 plates, the initial printing produced over 1500 copies with blue covers (and thus it was known as the 'Blue Book').   It went on to have some seventy editions and to remain an indispensable manual for American soldiers until the War of 1812. The 'Blue Book' has even enjoyed several revivals, most recently during the Bicentennial of 1976, as it provided useful information for re-enactors. 

While early editions of the Regulations were quickly snapped up, an even larger market was created in 1792 when Congress passed the Militia Act.  As state militias began to appear, Steuben's manual filled the need for soldiers requiring instructions on everything from drilling to fighting in battle to setting up camp. The original manual usually was printed together with a more specific state manual.  

Our library is fortunate to have two copies of Steuben's Regulations, one published in Boston in 1793, and the other in 1794.  The latter was printed by Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831) and the plates engraved and signed by Amos Doolittle (1754-1832).  Donald C. O'Brien in Amos Doolittle: Engraver of the New Republic explains that, like many printers, Thomas quickly got into the business of printing the manuals after the Militia Act and likely hired Doolittle to do the engravings because his usual engraver, Joseph H. Seymour, was too busy with other jobs. 

As one of Doolittle's plates below shows, the drawings were simple.  The accompanying information was more detailed, however, clearly providing instructions for all aspects of military life from marching (e.g. the Common Step "is two feet and about seventy-five in a minute" while the Quick Step "is about one hundred and twenty in a minute") to the correct motion for taking aim and firing.

Stuben_1794_ad2 Plate VII (shown at left) details the correct Order of Encampment.  Accompanying instructions state:  The infantry will on all occasions encamp by battalions, as they are formed in order of battle.

The front of the camp will occupy the same extent of ground as the troops when formed; and the intervals between the battalions will be twenty paces, with an addition of eight paces for every piece of cannon a battalion may have.  The quarter-master of each regiment shall be answerable that he demands no more  ground than is necessary for the number of men he has actually with the regiment, allowing two feet for each file, exclusive of the officers, and adding sixteen feet for the intervals between the platoons.  He is also to be answerable that no more tents are to be pitched than are absolutely necessary, allowing one tent for the non-commissioned officers of each company, and one for every six men, including the drums and fifes.

And finally, both of our copies of the Regulations have signatures and notes in contemporary hand Stuben_1794_smith from previous owners, and the 1794 copy, in particular, may demonstrate that the Regulations were in use until the War of 1812.  There is good evidence that Capt. Wm. R. Smith (signature shown in the image at right) is William Rogers Smith (1774-1818) the only surviving son of a landowning Baltimore County family who would have had the needed financial resources to be a member of the Baltimore Blues, an outfit that fought during the War of 1812.

Additional information on Baron von Steuben may be found at websites of both the Society of the Cincinnati (an organization he helped found), and the Steuben Society of America.  Many memorials exist for Steuben, most notably statues in Washington, D.C., Valley Forge, Monmouth County, N.J., and Potsdam, Germany.

Sources consulted and mentioned above:

Lockhart, Paul.  The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army.  New York: HarperCollins, 2008.  Call number:  E 207 .S8 L63 2008

O'Brien, Donald C.  Amos Doolittle: Engraver of the New Republic.  New Castle, DE:  Oak Knoll Press, 2008.  Call number:  Call number: NE 955.2 .O27 2008

Riling, Joseph R.  Baron von Steuben and his Regulations.  Philadelphia:  Riling Arms Books Co., 1966.

Steuben, Frederick William.  Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.  Boston:  Printed and sold by John W. Folson, Union Street.  Sold also by John Norman, Newbury Street, 1793. Call number:  RARE UB 501 1793  Gift of the J. Collier Family. 

Steuben, Frederick William.  Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, to which are added the United States Militia Act passed in Congress, May 1792, and the Militia Act of Massachusetts, Passed June 22, 1793.  A new edition illustrated by eight copperplates, accurately engraved.  Boston:  [Printed by I. Thomas and E.T. Andrews] For David West, No. 36, Marlborough Street and John West, No. 75, Cornhill, 1794.  Call number:  RARE UB 501 1794

Von Zemenszky, Edith.  The Papers of General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, 1777-1794 : guide and index to the microfilm edition.  Millwood, N.Y. : Kraus International Publications, 1984.

Many thanks to Librarian Francis P. O'Neill at the Maryland Historical Society for information on William Rogers Smith.