Revolutionary War

Eliakim Libby's Hook and Eye

Libby Hook and Eye 75_35DI3 for blogAs noted in a previous post, getting ready for the exhibition “Prized Relics:  Historic Souvenirs from the Collection,” opening  June 14, 2014, at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, has afforded staff a great chance to learn more about some of the lesser-known objects in the Museum’s collection. Among the group is this small hook and eye owned by Eliakim Libby (1745-1836). This humble fastening gives us a glimpse of the ordinary people who fought in the Revolutionary War and deserves a close look.

When this hook and eye was donated to the Museum, it had been sewn to a card (as you can see to the left). The message on the card helps explain why the hook and eye eventually made its way to the collection:  “This hook and eye w[as] worn on an army cloa[k] in the Revolution.” Underneath this statement is an inked name, Eliakim L[i]bby. Histories and pension records document Eliakim Libby’s service in the Massachusetts Militia. Libby, from Scarborough, Maine, joined in May 1775, as a sergeant. During his eight months of service near Boston he dug trenches and kept guard at Lechmere Point. 

Like most relics, this object and its accompanying information raise some questions. One was inspired by the card the hook and eye is attached to—a business card for John P. Moulton (1849-1909), carpenter and contractor of Saco, Maine. From the design and paper, it appears to date from the late 1800s or early 1900s. Saco area buisness directories list Moulton from 1890 through 1904. Since Moulton’s and Libby’s lives did not overlap, Libby could not have signed Moulton’s business card. As well, the name written on the card does not resemble Libby’s witnessed signature on his 1832 pension application.     Letter from Eliakim Libby Nov 26 1775 front smaller

Adding interest to the story, two letters (one of them is pictured to the right, both are in the Museum’s collection) that Libby wrote to his wife, Mehitable Cummings Libby (1746-1822) bear the same distinctively written and inked name--Eliakim L[i]bby--as the hook and eye’s card. Although we don’t know who, it appears that someone--possibly one of Libby’s descendants--added Libby’s name to the letters and to the card. Perhaps prompted by a desire to underscore the antiquity of the objects associated with Libby or to emphasize their connection to Libby, the person who added the name scripted it in an approximation of an old-fashioned style. Does this addition detract from the letters and the hook and eye?  A purist might argue that the signatures, appended to the letters more than one hundred years after they were written, take away from the object.  On the other hand, linking the letters and hook and eye with Libby may have contributed to their long-term preservation.

Regardless of what you think about the added signatures, the letters are evocative. In one Libby speaks of prosaic matters like how much money he plans to send home and his health, noting, “I have had a Bad Cold But am Better.” He also writes about missing home, saying, “my de[a]r wif[e] I Long to Sey you and my De[a]r Child,” and touchingly concludes as, “you[r] Loving husband and Loving fri[e]nd til…de[a]th.”  These letters, and the hook and eye saved with them, hint at the human concerns that Libby and others like him experienced while serving far from home during the Revolutionary War.  

Credits:

Hook and Eye, 1770s. New England. Gift of John H. Barthelmes, Jr., 75.35.

Letter from Eliakim Libby, November 26, 1775. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Gift of John H. Barthelmes, Jr., A75/009/1.


Lecture: What Map Was Used by the British Officer Who Led the Retreat from Lexington and Concord?

Map of the Most Inhabited Parts of New England JeffreysIt's spring of 1775, and the Province of Massachusetts Bay is rebelliously defying the laws Parliament has passed to coerce the local Assembly to obey His Majesty, King George III. Instead of offering reimbusement for the tea destroyed in Boston Harbor back in late 1773, the country people outside of Boston have formed an illegal assembly which is turning the once-loyal town militias into an army of insurrection! What is a Regular Army officer to do? Imagine yourself in the position of Brigadier General Percy, commander of the 5th Regiment of Foot, stationed in Boston in 1774 to keep the King's peace. How can you make a strategic, tactical or even logistical assessment of the surrounding landscape? Are there maps available that provide the level of detailed information about the countryside required by your duties?

Join Matthew Edney, Osher Professor in the History of Cartography at the University of Southern Maine, as he explores these fascinating questions in a free lecture at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. On Saturday, March 15 at 2 pm, his topic will be: General Hugh, Earl Percy's Use of the Map of New England During the American Revolution. Edney delves into the evidence provided by the revealing annotations made on a personal copy of this map by Hugh, Earl Percy, a distinguished career officer in the British Army and commander of its 5th Regiment of Foot. (Our image is of the Museum & Library's print of this map; the print annotated by Percy is held by the Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine.) Percy led the relief column that saved the retreating British forces at the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. This presentation will be a particular treat, as our museum is located just yards down the road from Lexington's Munroe Tavern, where Percy set up a temporary field headquarters on April 19th. A variety of other maps available in the period outline the distinct kinds of geographical knowledge possessed by the British military in Boston in 1774-1775 and will be also be examined in the lecture. This program is free to the public once again thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation.

Matthew_edneyMatthew Edney studied for a B.Sc. in geography at University College London before moving to the U.S.A. for graduate work in geography, cartography, and the history of cartography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He taught at the State University of New York at Binghamton for five years before moving to USM in 1995, at which time he declared himself a willing refugee from GIS and digital mapping. USM has allowed him to focus on his specific interests in map history, which have steadily expanded from the history of surveying technologies and their role in nineteenth-century European state formation and imperialism to encompass the wider practices and performances of map making in Europe after 1600, and more particularly in the British Atlantic World, 1650-1800.

On the same Saturday, March 15, we've planned a 12 noon gallery tour of "Journeys and Discoveries: The Stories Maps Tell" in anticipation of Matthew Edney’s lecture at 2 PM. Polly Kienle, Public Programs Coordinator, will focus the tour on some of the Revolutionary War-era maps from the Museum’s collection. While London mapmakers published views of the American colonies and towns where British soldiers and colonists fought for territory, other maps of North America reflected power struggles between European nations as well as Native American nations’ lessening influence on the continent. Click here to read a related past post from our blog.

Melinda Kashuba of Shasta College will join us on Saturday, April 12, at 2 p.m. for the series' second talk. Her topic will be: Organizing Wonder: Using Maps in Family History Research. After the lecture, the presenter will offer an informal discussion with interested audience members.

For our final spring map lecture, we will welcome David Bosse, Librarian and Curator of Maps, Historic Deerfield, to the Museum & Library on Saturday, June 7. His 2 p.m. presentation will be on: Map and Chart Publishing in Boston in the 18th Century.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559 or check our website: www.monh.org.

Image credits:

“A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of New England…,” 1755. Cartography by Bradock Mead, alias John Green, (ca. 1688-1757). Published by Thomas Jefferys (c. 1719-1771), London, England. Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives, 055-1755

Courtesy of Matthew Edney


Have Cartographer, Will Travel

Carte du theatre de la guerreWhen you travel for work, do you bring your own mapmaker to document your plans and triumphs?  Gilbert du Motier, the marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) did when, in 1777, he sailed from France for South Carolina to help fight in the American Revolution.  Among the over 40 maps, books and objects in “Journeys and Discoveries:  The Stories Maps Tell,” on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, is an intriguing map based on the work of Lafayette’s very own cartographer, Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy (1746-1804).   

Talented, experienced and about ten years older than his boss, Capitaine du Chesnoy (who, confusingly, held the rank of captain when he first arrived in the colonies) drew maps of the conflicts in which Lafayette participated in 1777, 1778 and after.  Eighteenth-century military officers valued mapmaking skills.  Understanding landscape, waterways and structures helped military strategists plan campaigns, stage retreats and organize travel.  Officers also used maps and drawings to communicate important ideas and information to their colleagues, superiors and supporters.   

Capitaine du Chesnoy made several manuscript maps portraying some of Lafayette’s different militaryA Plan of the Action at Bunkers Hill 1775 activities.  At least eighteen of these maps survive in American and European collections.  Six ink and watercolor maps now form part of the collection of the Library of Congress.  You can view them on the library’s website.  When Lafayette traveled to France in 1779, he asked Capitaine du Chesnoy to put together a cartographic summary of the battles of the American Revolution up to that point for Lafayette to share with King Louis XVI (1754-1793). A Paris printer produced an engraved version of the summary map and made it available to the public in 1779.  One of these printed maps--the only one of Capitaine du Chesnoy’s manuscript maps known to have been engraved--is on view in “Journeys and Discoveries.” Come see it and compare Captiaine du Chesnoy’s work with other 1700s maps portraying military events--such as Thomas Hyde Page's (1746-1821) summary of the battle of Bunker Hill--and others. 

Sources:

Paul E. Cohen, “Michel Capitaine de Chesnoy, the marquis de Lafayette’s Cartographer,” The Magazine Antiques, January 1998, 170-177.

Photo credits:

Carte du Theatre de la Guerre, 1779.  Cartography by Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy.  Paris, France.  Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives, 029-75. Photograph by David Bohl.

A Plan of the Action at Bunkers-Hill…, 1775-1778. Compiled by Lieutenant Thomas Hyde Page.  Engraved and published by William Faden (1749-1836), London England.  Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives, 071-86.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 


Visit Us on Patriots' Day!

Join Us for Patriots' Day Activites!

DSCF7856There is always plenty to do in Lexington when April vacation rolls around. The town and neighboring communities have many traditional events that commemorate the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775 and celebrate the community spirit of today. While you and your family are out, plan on dropping by the Museum for some fun programs. We've scheduled them conveniently so that they fall before or after the main reenactments and parades. Please note that the Museum will be open on Patriots' Day, Monday, April 16.

Farmer-soliderSaturday, April 14
11 a.m. & 2 p.m.
Gallery Talks: “Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington and the American Revolution”
Get the inside scoop on the tendencies and tensions in Lexington before the British marched into town on April 19, 1775. Join Museum staff for this free gallery tour.

Monday, April 16
10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Patriots’ Day Activities
Celebrate Patriots’ Day with arts and crafts activities exploring life in 1775. While you are here, take the opportunity to view "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty:  Lexington and the American Revolution." $5/family (members); $7/family (non-members).

You'll also find the Lexington Alarm Letter on display in the Museum's lobby.

Revere ladleVisitors will be interested in exploring our exhibition "Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection." There, you'll find two objects related to the most famous midnight rider, Paul Revere. One is a wonderfully crafted silver ladle that showcases Revere's great talent as an silversmith. It's no wonder his works were coveted in their day. The other is much more recent - it dates to 2009. It's an ice cream carton. Brigham’s, a local ice cream company, created a special edition flavor called “Paul Revere’s Rocky Ride.” The name was the contest-winning suggestion by a couple from Charlestown, Massachusetts, where Paul Revere began his ride late at night on April 18, 1775. Come see what else you can discover in Curators' Choice.

For more information about visiting the Museum, call 781-861-6559 or see our website, www.nationalheritagemuseum.org.

Photo Credits

Farmer, 2007. Joe Farnham, National Heritage Museum.

Ladle, ca. 1765, Paul Revere, Jr. (1734–1818). Boston, Massachusetts. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.2088.


The Lexington Alarm Letter on View at the Museum!

LexingtonAlarm_A95_011_1T1_croppedEach year around the time of the Patriots' Day holiday, the Museum is proud to display the Lexington Alarm Letter. Our document is a copy, made at Brooklyn, Connecticut on the morning of April 20th, of the original letter, written on the morning of April 19, 1775. The Connecticut copy was made by Brooklyn town officials from the original, now lost, which was sent by post rider to notify the colonies south of Massachusetts that war had begun. Visitors will have the opportunity to see the letter during its annual appearance between Wednesday, April 10 and Saturday, April 21. Please note that the Museum will be open on Patriots' Day, Monday April 16.

What makes this hand-written document such an exciting piece of American history is the urgency with which it was written. As we read the text, we can sense the shock and concern of its author, Joseph Palmer, a member of the Committee of Safety in Watertown, a near neighbor to Lexington:

Watertown Wednesday Morning near 10 o’Clock

To all the Friends of American Liberty, be it known that this Morning before breake of Day a Brigade consisting of about 1000 or 1200 Men landed at [David] Phip’s Farm at Cambridge & marched to Lexington where they found a Company of our Colony Militia in Arms, upon Whom they fired without any Provocation and killed 6 Men and Wounded 4 others.

By an Express from Boston this Moment, we find another Brigade are now upon their march from Boston supposed to be about 1000. [...]

I have spoken with Several Persons who have seen the Dead & Wounded. Pray let the Delegates from this Colony to Connecticut see this they know.

Why does Palmer emphasize the events in Lexington, failing to mention the confrontation in Concord? Perhaps he wanted to spread news that portrayed the colonists as victims in order to garner sympathy for the cause of rebellion? Certainly this was popular strategy of the patriotic colonial press, perfected in broadsheets such as "A List of the Names of the Provincials who were Killed and Wounded in the late Engagement with His Majesty's Troops at Concord, &c." 

Or perhaps there is a simpler explanation. The letter was written at 10 o'clock, only one half-hour after the skirmish at Concord's North Bridge. Not enough time had passed for witnesses of the second phase of the Battle of Lexington and Concord to reach Watertown. The encounter between Lexington's militia under Capt. John Parker and the force of 700 or so Regular Army soldiers sent out from Boston was much earlier, at around 4:30 a.m. Palmer has spoken to witnesses of the destruction at Lexington and fears that more unprovoked attacks are to come from the second brigade he has learned is on its way from Boston. His letter spreads the news of unfolding events, the outcome of which he does not yet know.

When you visit the Museum to view the Lexington Alarm letter, don't miss "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington and the American Revolution." In the exhibition, you'll find a map that traces how a group of riders spread the alarm throughout eastern Massachusetts. The adventures of some of these riders, such as Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Samuel Prescott, are the stuff of legend. However, countless men rode through the night of April 18 and into the morning of April 19, 1775, to let the countryside know of the unfolding events. Colonial leaders who opposed the Crown, anticipating a move by the British Army, had set a communication network in place. Towns had prepared systems using bells, drums and gunshots to call militia units to gather at specified locations. Throughout April 19th, militias from 23 Massachusetts towns fought in the battles, and many more towns were alerted.

Those curious about how the people of Lexington experienced the beginning of the American Revolution, mark your calendars and and join us for our "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty" gallery talks. We'll be offering two this year, both on Saturday, April 14. Join us at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for these free programs that explore of life in this small community where ordinary people took extraordinary actions and shaped history as a result.

For more information about visiting the Museum, call 781-861-6559 or see our website, www.nationalheritagemuseum.org.

Photo credits

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

 


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.