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When Alexander Wished for a War

On 11 Nov 1769, a young clerk on the island of St. Croix wrote to his friend Edward Stevens, who had headed off to King’s College in New York.As to what you say respecting your having soon the happiness of seeing us all, I wish, forShow More Summary

Clues to Young George’s Education

A couple of months back, the Oxford University Press blog ran an extract from Kevin J. Hayes’s George Washington: A Life in Books discussing the first President’s school days and early reading.Here’s an extract from that extract:Further evidence shows that at one point in his education Washington did attend school with other boys. Show More Summary

Alabama’s Doug Jones Believes the War Caused the War

Looks like the Democratic candidate in Alabama’s Senate race has seen Ron Maxwell’s movie Gettysburg one too many times. Here is one of Jones’s recent political ads in which he […]

A Presidential Plodder

Plodding Through the Presidents is Howard Dorre’s ongoing blog about reading Presidential biographies, starting with Flexner’s Washington: The Indispensable Man and getting as far as, well, Andrew Jackson. So the important ones, really.Dorre...Show More Summary

Henry Louis Gates’s Betrayal of Bryant Gumbel and History

Bryant Gumbel woke up today believing that his great-grandfather briefly volunteered for and served as a soldier in the Confederate army. Since the airing of Finding Your Roots on Tuesday […]

Horace Walpole’s 300th Year

The year 2017 marks the tercentenary of the author and aristocrat Horace Walpole’s birth, as well as the 220th anniversary of his death.The Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington, Connecticut, has launched what it’s calling “Walpolooza”—a...Show More Summary

'"Dear Ma:" The Civil War Letters of Curtis Clay Pollock' Now Available

I am very happy to announce that "Dear Ma:" The Civil War Letters of Curtis Clay Pollock, First Defender and First Lieutenant, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry is now available. This book was a long time in the making and a project that very nearly never came to fruition. Show More Summary

Henry Louis Gates and PBS Fall For Black Confederate Myth…Again

Tonight’s episode of PBS’s Finding Your Roots, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, included a segment on Bryant Gumbel’s family history. His family’s roots in New Orleans led to the revelation […]

Tea Party Seeking Tea, of All Things

The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum has started to publicize this year’s reenactment of Boston’s last meeting about the East India Company’s tea and the destruction of that cargo which followed.That press release refers to the commemoration...Show More Summary

A Fifth of November Wagon Rolls Again

It’s been nearly twenty years since I started to research Revolutionary Boston intensely. At first my goal was to develop a sense of what it was like for a young apprentice to live in Boston in 1770.Among the early books I read was Patricia Bradley’s Slavery, Propaganda, and the American Revolution. Show More Summary

The View From Charleston’s John C. Calhoun Monument

Today I am blogging from Charleston, South Carolina, where I am working with students at Ashley Hall. Today I took part in a student-led discussion about four readings that deal […]

Henry Hulton and “twenty Devils, Popes, & Pretenders”

I’ve focused on Charles Paxton as the chief target of Boston’s Pope Night processions in 1767, but two other new Commissioners of His Majesty’s Customs arrived in Boston on that same Fifth of November.One was Henry Hulton, born in 1732 in Hampshire, England. Show More Summary

“He fitted himself with a Pair of Women’s Shoes”?

I’ve been discussing the public image of Customs official Charles Paxton (shown here in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s portrait). Paxton’s neighbors teased him for his elaborate courtesy and his bachelor status. A big part of...Show More Summary

“Poor Charles the batchelor that was once master of the ceremonies”

When I say that Customs official Charles Paxton was “queer,” I’m not claiming to know whom he had sex with, or wanted to have sex with. I’m saying that Bostonians saw something odd in Paxton’s lifestyle and manners, and they teased him for supposedly lacking masculinity. Show More Summary

Charles Paxton, Customs Commissioner

Charles Paxton (1708-1788, shown here in a portrait at the American Antiquarian Society) was a major figure in Boston’s 1767 Pope Night procession.Not as a member of the North End or South End Gangs, to be sure. Paxton was the target...Show More Summary

A Civil War Historian’s Talking Points

Yesterday historian Aaron Astor posted a list of talking points on his Facebook page that he utilizes when discussing the Civil War with the general public. It is well worth […]

A Stone For Captain Fisher. . .

When last in Pottsville, I took a quick drive through the Odd Fellows' Cemetery, where the remains of many 48th Pennsylvania soldiers were laid to rest. Near the plot of those who died or were killed in the Civil War, I was happy to see a new headstone, one for Peter Fisher, a First Defender and a Captain of Company D, 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Show More Summary

How Bostonians Pledged Not to Buy Imported Goods

A few days back, I quoted from the town meeting on 28 Oct 1767 that set out Boston’s response to the Townshend Act. (That meeting is part of the inspiration for the “Devil and the Crown” public-history event in the works for this Saturday.)That...Show More Summary

General Kelly’s Civil War

Yesterday everyone was talking about White House chief of staff John Kelly’s interview with Laura Ingraham of Fox News in which he laid out his understanding of the Civil War. […]

“My hair rose on end, and seemed to lift my hat from my head”

Since this is Hallowe’en, I’ll relay a story from the newspaper publisher and politician Benjamin Russell (1761-1845), who grew up in Boston before the Revolutionary War.The printer Joseph T. Buckingham set down and published Russell’s...Show More Summary

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