Who doesn’t appreciate a good mystery – especially one that dates all the way back to the beginning of the American Revolution! On the evening of April 18, 1775, “a friend” of Paul Revere held two lanterns in the northwest window of Christ Church (Old North Church) steeple to signal patriots in Charlestown that the British troops were leaving Boston by water on their secret expedition to Lexington and Concord. One hundred years later, on April 18, 1875, Samuel Haskell Newman spoke before a large crowd at Old North Church giving his family’s account of that historic night and identifying his father, church sexton Robert Newman, as the man who displayed the lanterns. After that speech, Samuel Haskell Newman climbed 14 stories into the steeple and held two lanterns aloft just as he believed his father did a century earlier. One year later on July 20, 1876, a letter by Reverend John Lee Watson of Orange, New Jersey, appeared in a newspaper called the Boston Daily Advertiser. In the letter, which he entitled, Paul Revere’s Signal: The True Story of the Signal Lanterns in Christ Church, Boston, Watson argued that his relative Captain John Pulling, a member of the church vestry, had actually held the lanterns in the steeple window and not Robert Newman.
These competing tales were addressed in an excellent lecture I attended this fall at Old South Meeting House given by Old North Foundation historian and Education Director Bob Damon. At the beginning of his talk, which was part of the Paul Revere Memorial Association Lecture Series One Hundred and Fifty Years of “Paul Revere’s Ride”: Facts, Fables and Fiction, Bob shared a unique image. It was a picture from 1875 showing a close up of Old North Church all decorated for the first lantern ceremony – the one that Samuel Haskell Newman spoke at. Later, I spotted a stereograph of that image in this post from John Bell’s great blog Boston 1775. I became motivated to see if I might track down an original copy of the picture for my own collection. As luck would have it, I was able to find not only that photograph, in stereographic form, but also a second showing the entire church as well as an 1875 illustration from a newspaper called Gleason’s Pictorial that features people in period attire admiring the decorated building. (All three of these items have since been donated to the Old North Church.) In each image, on the front of the church, we see a beautiful rendering of a lone patriot displaying two lanterns. The question posed to the audience at the beginning of the lecture was, “Who is this man?”
All wondered – what evidence did Samuel Haskell Newman and John Lee Watson have to support their claims that the man holding those lanterns was either Robert Newman or Captain John Pulling? Bob Damon presented their cases. Both men had strongly held beliefs, much of it based on family tradition. Newman’s took the form of the remembrances of family members, among them Mrs. Sally Chittenden the granddaughter of John Newman, brother of Robert. She recalled hearing how her relative Robert Newman displayed the signal lanterns on that fateful night. Newman was jailed for a time by the British for his suspected involvement and his relations were well aware of that fact. Watson’s family story came down from his mother, aunt, and Miss Mary Orne Jenks, the granddaughter of Captain John Pulling. Miss Jenks stated, “The story of the lanterns I heard from my earliest childhood from my mother and from my step-grandmother, and I never supposed there could be a doubt of its truth. I know he (Captain John Pulling) held the lanterns on that night, but how can I prove it after all these years?” Additional information would come to light and be published after Samuel Haskell Newman’s speech at Old North on April 18, 1875 and John Lee Watson’s letter to the Boston Daily Advertiser on July 20, 1876 to support both their positions.
On November 9, 1876, during a monthly meeting of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Recording Secretary Charles Deane passed on correspondence from John Lee Watson that further backed the case for Captain John Pulling and offered evidence that Christ Church was the location from which the lanterns were displayed (not the Old North Meeting House as some believed). In 1878, a book authored by William W. Wheildon entitled History of Paul Revere’s Signal Lanterns, April 18, 1775, in the Steeple of the North Church contained multiple testimonials supporting Newman’s side of the argument and also made an effort to discount Watson’s claims regarding Captain John Pulling. Two of the testimonials were the words of Mary B. Swift, granddaughter of Colonel Conant, and Maria Green, granddaughter of Thomas Barnard. Below are more complete quotes from these individuals or their relations as they appear in another pertinent book on this topic Robert Newman, His Life and Letters 1752-1804 by Robert Newman Sheets.
“My mother, 84 years of age, now living at 7 Bowdoin Square, is the granddaughter of Col. Conant with who Paul Revere consulted on the Sunday prior to the lantern signaling from the spire of Christ Church. She resided at the north end in her youth, and informs me that the hanging out of the lanterns was then a common subject of remark, that it was always spoken of as the act of the sexton of Christ Church, and that not till Mr. J L Watson’s statement in the Boston Advertiser of the 20th inst, did she ever hear of the act being attributed to any other person than that Sexton.”
Wm C Swift
“I hereby certify that I am the daughter of William Green who lived in Boston at the North End near Christ Church which I have always heard called the North Church. My grandparents also resided there. I was born in the year 1793. I have heard many times from my mother the account of the signal lights displayed from the steeple of Christ Church on the night of the 18th April 1775 and I distinctly remember that she said her father Capt Thomas Barnard was engaged on that night watching the movements of the British in order to obtain for Robert Newman the necessary information concerning their departure. Our family were familiar with the story of the hanging out of the lanterns owing to the connection of Capt Thomas Barnard with it, and we never heard the act ascribed to any other person than Robert Newman, or to any other place than Christ Church.”
Lincoln, April 7, 1877
In 1880, a book entitled “Paul Revere’s Signal: The True Story of the Signal Lanterns in Christ Church, Boston by John Lee Watson was published. Retaining the same name as Mr. Watson’s original letter to the Boston Daily Advertiser, it made an effort to refute the evidence supporting Robert Newman in Mr. Wheildon’s book, and again made the case for Captain John Pulling. The book includes a letter from the Reverend Henry F. Lane, the great grandson of Captain Pulling, written to the editors of a Boston newspaper on July 22, 1876. A portion of that letter appears below:
“Who Signalled Paul Revere.”
Malone, July 22, 1876.
To the Editors of the Boston Journal:–
“Under this caption in your evening edition of Friday I learn that a correspondent of the advertiser from Orange, N.J., answers the question by giving the name of John Pulling.
John Pulling was the grandfather of my mother, the late Mrs. Charles Lane, jr. of Boston. The wife of John Pulling, my mother’s grandmother, died in Abington, Mass., about thirty years ago, in her 99th year.
When I was a lad, I remember distinctly hearing from her that her husband hung the lights from the steeple of the Old North Church, to give the alarm to the country people. His residence at the time was on the corner of what was then called Ann and Cross streets. The British, at the time, made diligent search for him, and I have heard my great-grandmother give a very vivid description of their searching the house to find him, and how he avoided capture by her concealing him under an empty wine-but in the cellar. He escaped with her from Boston in a small skiff, while the British had possession, by disguising himself as a fisherman…”
Henry F. Lane,
Pastor First Baptist Church, Malone, N.Y.
As the final evidence for each side was presented, and the lecture drew to a close, the audience was again posed the question, “Who is this man?” We were left to ponder – was it church sexton Robert Newman who displayed the lanterns, Captain John Pulling, or perhaps both men working together? That determination would come for each of us after our own careful review of the evidence. For me, it is mysteries like this that make history so intriguing. We may never locate one definitive document that points to Newman, Pulling or both, but what we do have is two men, two patriots forever linked in the annals of American history whose stories present today’s educators with a unique opportunity. Old North Church offers an outstanding school program that addresses this captivating event. It is called, “Who Hung the Lanterns in the Old North Steeple? A History Mystery.” Students use clues to formulate their own vision of what took place at Old North over 235 years ago. For teachers looking for ways to integrate technology into their social studies curriculum, this educator-led field trip is the ideal subject for a digital storytelling project! More details below:
Program length: 1.5 hours
Cost: $5 per student
Group size: From 25 students (or 1 class) to entire middle school grades!
Program offered: September – Mid June
This exciting program is an educator-led field trip where students use historical documents, grave markers in nearby Copp’s Hill cemetery, and clues on the Old North Church campus to investigate the unsolved mystery of who hung the lanterns in the Old North steeple on the night of April 18, 1775. They gain an understanding of the historical research process and the importance of “sourcing” historical documents to assess their accuracy.
To learn more or to book this field trip:
Finally, I’d like to wrap up this post with a word of thanks to my friends at Old North Church. Over the past ten years, on a variety of different projects, I’ve had the opportunity to access parts of this historic site not open to the general public. This includes not one but three chances to climb to the top of the steeple for which I am very grateful. This was especially meaningful for me back in 2000 while working on my children’s book One April in Boston in which my ancestor Ben Edwards makes that same climb in this chapter with the guidance of Captain John Pulling. In that tale, I have Robert Newman displaying the lanterns on April 18, 1775 but after attending Bob Damon’s lecture, I feel it’s quite likely that Captain John Pulling provided Robert Newman with some degree of assistance inside the church tower.
A climb to the top of the steeple – in the footsteps of sexton Robert Newman, Captain John Pulling or both!
Oldest known photograph of Christ Church (Old North) circa 1860.
Shortcut to this post: OldNorthMystery.com
Promoting this post: Teach History presents
When I was 2 ½ years old, I traveled to Boston with my family and walked along the Freedom Trail for the very first time. During that trip, we visited Copp’s Hill Burying Ground and one incident that occurred there is forever etched in my memory. I recall all the fuss that was made over getting one photo in particular and remember being a bit confused as I was positioned next to a strange rock while my father held my hand and the sun glared in my face. The image captured that day is shown at left. We were standing by the marker of Captain Benjamin Edwards who I later learned was a sea captain and my sixth great grandfather. I had no way of knowing it then, but this simple photo would have a major impact on my life. It helped instill in me a lifelong interest in both family history and American history. As the years passed, I would come to discover much more about my early Boston ancestors and the family tomb.
Edwards Tomb #5 is in the first row of tombs constructed at Copp’s Hill in 1717. Five generations of my family are here, including my 7th great grandmother Sarah Edwards and 6th, 5th, 4th and likely 3rd great grandparents. Their names are listed at the end of this post. It is also the final resting place of Paul Revere – not the famous midnight rider, who died in 1818 and lies in Granary Burying Ground, but his firstborn son Paul Revere Jr. (1760-1813). Paul Jr. was 15 years old on April 18, 1775 when his father made the Midnight Ride and he later stayed behind to guard the family property during the siege of Boston. Paul Jr. was apprenticed to his father as a gold and silversmith; handled the day-to-day operations of the Revere silversmith shop in the 1780s; and after the war made church bells with his father and brother Joseph Warren Revere. So why would Paul Revere Jr. be buried in the Edwards family tomb and what evidence is there to support it?
Paul Revere Jr. married Sally Edwards (1761-1808) on July 25, 1782. Sally was the older sister of my fourth great grandfather Benjamin Edwards (1765-1808). Paul Jr. and Sally had 12 children between 1783 and 1803 and five of them died young. Paul never remarried after Sally died on August 23, 1808. It is believed that Sally was buried in the Edwards tomb where she joined her five young children, her parents, grandparents and her brother Benjamin who had died just a few months prior on June 9, 1808. Oral family tradition says that members of the Revere family rest here but there was no written record of any sort to support that claim until late 1999. At that time the Paul Revere House received some interesting correspondence from a genealogist doing research for someone with the surname Edwards in their family tree. The family held in their possession a letter from an older female relative dated Gordonsville, VA October 3, 1969. That letter contained the following line: “I did visit Boston when I was about twelve years old and Aunt Sue took me around, such as to the old family tomb where great, great ???? grandmother Elliot is resting (?) with Paul Revere’s casket on top of hers…” Paul Revere House staff contacted me to see if I might help them make some sense of this clue. From the moment I read that line, I knew what it meant. The answer to the mystery was hidden in the pages of a treasured book my family owned.
I had grown up with an Edwards family Bible from 1812, passed down through five generations. Ever since I was 10, the handwritten family records it contained had captured my imagination. Those records included the death of my fourth great grandfather Benjamin Edwards (1765-1808) and the births of his five children in Boston between 1793 and 1803. Directly beneath the birth records was an entry that had never made sense to me. It was for a Helan (Helen) Mariah Elliot born on April 8, 1811. I would come to learn that after my fourth great grandfather Benjamin Edwards died his wife Polly (Mary) Bangs Edwards remarried to Samuel Elliot in 1810. Helen Mariah Elliot would have been their daughter and I believe Polly (Mary) Bangs Edwards Elliot, my fourth great grandmother, would have been the “great, great ??? grandmother Elliot” in the letter mentioned above. I have not been able to locate a death record for Polly, but if she died between 1811 and 1813 then Paul Revere’s casket certainly could have “rested on top of hers” in the family tomb (as the letter states) because Paul Revere Jr. died on January 16, 1813.
There are no paintings I am aware of that show what Sally Edwards or Paul Revere Jr. looked like but there is a painting of their son Paul Revere who was born on February 2, 1789. I obtained this image from a family who is a direct descendant of the midnight rider Paul Revere through his grandson George Revere – one of Paul Revere Jr. and Sally Edwards 12 children. When I first saw it I was struck by how much this Paul Revere’s nose resembled that of his great grandfather Captain Benjamin Edwards. Here’s a side by side comparison.
By the 1980s, the Edwards marker was in a serious state of disrepair. In 1989, only two pieces of it remained and neither contained any words. After obtaining the proper permission, my family had the marker replaced in 1998. The new marker was hand carved by Nicholas Benson of the John Stevens Shop of Newport, Rhode Island, founded in 1705. Two years later, in 2000, I wrote a children’s book One April in Boston that pays tribute to my early Boston ancestors. This photo, taken by the family marker in the summer of 2010, celebrated the book’s 10th anniversary.
Here is a list of my direct ancestors believed to be in the Edwards Tomb.
Sixth Great Grandparents
- Captain Benjamin Edwards (1685-1751), sea captain and merchant, his mother Sarah, his first wife Hannah Harrod, and second wife Bathsheba Evans Edwards (1701-1738).
Fifth Great Grandparents
- Dolling Edwards (1737-1773), mastmaker, and his wife Rebecca Christie Edwards (1739-1771).
Fourth Great Grandparents
- Benjamin Edwards (1765-1808), cooper, and his wife Polly Bangs Edwards (Elliot).
Third Great Grandparents
- Joseph B. Edwards (1799-1852), paver, and possibly his wife Sarah Mace Edwards (1806-1872).
Here is a list of other ancestors believed to be in the Edwards Tomb.
- Alexander Edwards (1733-1798), patriot, cabinetmaker and member of the Sons of Liberty.
- Sally Edwards Revere (1761-1808), wife of silversmith Paul Revere Jr. and mother of their 12 children.
- Paul Revere Jr. (1760-1813), silversmith, bell founder and firstborn son of patriot Paul Revere.
- Jedediah Lincoln (1760-1820), Revolutionary War soldier and ancestor of Abraham Lincoln; his wife, Elizabeth (Betsey) Edwards Lincoln (1765-1796), and their son Alexander Edwards Lincoln.
- Robert Edwards (1732-1770), tailor, and his wife Mary (White) Clark Edwards (?-1774).
In downtown Boston, at the corner of School and Tremont streets, stands a historic treasure called King’s Chapel. Founded in 1686, it was the first Anglican Church in New England and in 1785 it became the first Unitarian Church in America. Today the church has a Unitarian theology and an Anglican form of liturgy. It was originally housed in a wooden building dedicated on June 30, 1689. A growing congregation found this building in disrepair by the mid 18th century, so they acquired additional land, and hired architect Peter Harrison of Newport, Rhode Island to design a new and larger structure. The first block of Quincy granite for the new church was laid in 1749 and the building opened in 1754. A bell cast in England was hung in the church tower in 1772 and lasted for 42 years until it cracked in 1814 while being rung for evening services. It was melted down, re-cast and re-hung by Paul Revere & Son in 1816. The Revere bell at 2,437 pounds is the largest ever cast at the Revere foundry and Paul Revere himself called it “the sweetest bell we ever made”. The bell is still rung today by hand for all church services. King’s Chapel was a Loyalist or Tory church at the time of the American Revolution. It closed for a few months in 1776 after the British soldiers and Bostonians loyal to the king evacuated the town but did reopen that year for the funeral of patriot leader General Joseph Warren who was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Press coverage of that event can be seen in this original article from the April 25, 1776 issue of The Pennsylvania Evening Post.
The interior of King’s Chapel is elegant and it is certainly one of the most beautiful churches in New England. The double Corinthian columns are made of wood and elements of them were hand-carved by Boston craftsmen in the 1750s. The wineglass pulpit was built in 1717 and used in the earlier wooden church. It is the oldest pulpit in the United States in continuous use on the same site. The box pews are original – families would pay a yearly rental fee for them and could decorate the pews to their liking. Their high walls kept out the drafts and helped retain the heat from the small foot-stoves that families would bring to church with them. Although the fabric in today’s pews has been replaced over the years, the cushions you can sit on when you visit still contain the original horsehair stuffing! The most famous pew in the church is the Governor’s Pew – once reserved for the Royal Governor and his family. President George Washington sat here on October 27, 1789 while attending an oratorio – a musical composition with orchestra, choir and soloists. At the time, King’s Chapel was generally called the Stone Chapel and press coverage of that event can be seen in this original article from the October 28, 1789 issue of The Massachusetts Centinel. President Washington’s visit to Boston lasted from October 24-29. Money raised from the oratorio (which was likely performed multiple times) was used to fund the addition of a colonnade or portico to the Chapel. This was added in 1790. A steeple was also in the architect’s original plans for the church but it was never built due to lack of funds.
Music at King’s Chapel
Visitors to King’s Chapel today can follow in the footsteps of President Washington by attending one of the many concerts and recitals held throughout the year. The King’s Chapel musical tradition dates back to 1713 when the church became the first in New England to acquire an organ! Here is a current list of recitals – they take place on Tuesdays, last 30-40 minutes and begin at 12:15 pm. Here is a current list of concerts. You can also learn more about music at King’s Chapel and view photos of the choir and organ. The current organ built in 1964 is the sixth in the church’s long history. The carved panels, ornamentation over the pipes, and the gold crown and miters on the present organ once decorated an earlier organ built in London for King’s Chapel in 1756.
Tours/Programs at King’s Chapel
Visitors can elect to go on a self guided tour or participate in one of the special tours/programs that are available. Two of these, the popular Tory Stories and Puritans, Patriots, and Pirates!, are offered during Harborfest. King’s Chapel’s latest journey into the past is the unique Bells and Bones Tour where knowledgeable guides take you to visit the crypt beneath the church and climb with you into the church tower where you have the very rare opportunity to view and photograph the largest bell ever made by Paul Revere! The cost for this tour is $7 per person (or $5 per person for the crypt only). The Bells and Bones tour is offered most weekdays (check with staff); Saturdays, on the hour, from 10 am – 4 pm; and Sundays, on the hour, from 1:30 pm to 4 pm. Learn what King’s Chapel has to offer educators and how you can arrange school group tours and group visits.
Restoring King’s Chapel
In conjunction with the National Historic Landmarks Commission, King’s Chapel is in the midst of a long and involved restoration project. To learn what they’ve already accomplished as well as the restoration work still needed to maintain a building over 250 years old – and how your contribution can help – view The Restoration Project.
Worship Services at King’s Chapel are held on Wednesdays at 12:15 pm and Sundays at 11 am.
Hours for King’s Chapel
Beginning May 3 King’s Chapel will be open from 10 am-5 pm every day with the following exceptions – the church is closed for recitals on Tuesday from noon to 1:30 pm; closed for church services on Wednesday from noon to 1:30 pm; and closed for church services on Sunday until 1:30 pm.
Shortcut to this post: PaulRevereBell.com
Promoting this post: Teach History presents
When most people think about Paul Revere they usually recall his famous Midnight Ride on the evening of April 18-19, 1775 and perhaps his involvement in the Sons of Liberty. When it comes to his work as an artisan however, besides his fine efforts as a silversmith (master goldsmith), few can name any of the other trades this talented craftsman practiced. Paul Revere was a man of many trades – in fact he is rightfully considered one of America’s first industrialists. His entrepreneurial spirit was so strong that he began what might be considered his most daring business venture, opening the first copper rolling mill in North America, when many of his contemporaries were contemplating retirement. Paul Revere loved a challenge and long hours and hard work were nothing new to him. That work ethic started at a very young age when Revere initiated his career as an apprentice in the gold and silversmith shop of his father also named Paul. The elder Revere’s shop was located on Fish Street at the head of Clark’s Wharf. Nineteen-year-old Paul was in the midst of what was likely a seven year apprenticeship when his father died in 1754. At that time, Paul’s widowed mother Deborah Revere may have become proprietor of the family business and supervised the financial end of the operation where Paul, his brother Thomas and others worked. When Paul reached the age of 21, he was old enough to take over the business himself. After volunteering for a summer of service in the French and Indian War in 1756, Paul returned to run the family shop at the Clark’s Wharf location where he produced most of his work in silver, as gold was very expensive.
During his career as a silversmith, Paul Revere supplemented his income in numerous ways including work as a dentist and engraver. He advertised as a dentist in 1768 and 1770, offering to clean teeth and wire in false teeth, and served as a dentist until the Revolutionary War. After his good friend Doctor Joseph Warren was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill, it was Paul Revere who was eventually able to identify Warren’s body by the two false teeth he had wired in. A reference to that identification, what may be the first example of forensic dentistry, is made in this original article from the April 25, 1776 issue of the Pennsylvania Evening Post. As a copper plate engraver, one of Paul Revere’s first efforts was the North Battery Certificate produced about 1762. Later copper plate prints include the well-known engraving of the Boston Massacre; the Landing of the Troops – an engraving showing the British troops landing at Long Wharf in 1768; and engraving work for Massachusetts currency, books and magazines. Paul Revere also did lead metal engravings for newspapers including the mastheads of both the Boston Gazette and the Massachusetts Spy.
When the Revolutionary War broke out, Revere learned how to manufacture gunpowder from the owner of a powder factory in Philadelphia. He returned to Boston and oversaw the construction of a powder mill in Canton that would supply gunpowder for the newly formed Continental Army. Revere spent most of the American Revolution as lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts State Train of Artillery and commander of Castle Island in Boston Harbor. Newspaper ads placed by Paul Revere after the Revolution tell us that he moved his silversmith shop multiple times; operated a hardware store as early as 1783; and housed both businesses together in 1787 as this original ad from the June 13, 1787 issue of the Massachusetts Centinel mentions. By 1788, while still operating his silversmith shop (run on a day-to-day basis by his son Paul Jr.) and hardware store, Revere opened a foundry and produced bolts, spikes, and nails for local shipyards. After 1792, he began to cast bells at his foundry in the North End of Boston, and was assisted by his sons Paul Revere Jr. and Joseph Warren Revere. Today some 147 bells made at the Revere Foundry still survive. Most are located in New England.
In 1794, Revere began casting cannon (naval and field pieces) for the Federal government and various state governments. In 1801, at the age of 65, Paul Revere opened the first copper rolling mill in North America. He was the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets. At his mill in Canton, Massachusetts, Revere produced sheet copper for the dome of the new Massachusetts State House in 1802 and for the hulls of many ships. Paul Revere retired in 1811 at the age of 76. Revere passed his copper business, and the good reputation it had earned, on to his son Joseph Warren Revere and two of his grandsons. He spent his final years surrounded by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. These young boys and girls surely asked Paul Revere about the events of April 18-19, 1775, but they also knew of his many other accomplishments. Revere died on May 10, 1818 at the age of 83. The notice of his death in the Columbian Centinel included these words “During his protracted life, his activity in business and benevolence, the vigor of his mind, and strength of his constitution were unabated.” He is buried in Boston’s Granary Burying Ground.
Paul Revere was not born to wealth – he was an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life. Revere was a patriot, a businessman, an involved citizen, and a popular and well-respected member of his community. Today, the staff at the Paul Revere House is dedicated to preserving Paul Revere’s memory and his place in American history for future generations. Because of their work, the intriguing story of Paul Revere’s Boston is alive and well at the patriot’s former home at 19 North Square. Visit the Paul Revere House and learn more about his work as an artisan, his political and civic connections, and many messenger rides including the one that would make Paul Revere famous thanks to a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. You can see samples of his silverwork on display and also view a 931 pound bell produced at the Revere Foundry in 1804.
For more insight into Paul Revere’s life read:
- Paul Revere – Artisan, Businessman and Patriot – The Man Behind the Myth
- Paul Revere: Work & Family – a curriculum packet
- What Was the Name of Paul Revere’s Horse? – Twenty Questions About Paul Revere – Asked and Answered
All are available from the Revere House Museum Shop.
One hundred years after it opened to the public on April 18, 1908, the Paul Revere House is in the process of dramatically improving the visitor experience by converting an 1835 building that stands directly behind its property into a 3,600-square-foot Education and Visitor Orientation Center. The facility will include youth and family program space, restrooms, museum shop, midnight ride exhibit and displays. It will also include an elevator offering full handicapped access to all floors as well as to the second floor of the Paul Revere House for the very first time. Click on the graphic at left to learn more and see floor plans. Consider making a Symbolic $76 contribution to this wonderful project and play a part in renewing and expanding this historic treasure!
Picture what it would be like if you could teach Colonial American history by transporting your students back in time so they might experience a particular event with all of their senses precisely as it takes place. If this were possible, one of the first locations and dates I would select would be: Boston, Massachusetts – July 18, 1776. On this Back to the Future field trip of sorts, the students and I would land our DeLorean in Dock Square near Faneuil Hall. From there we’d walk down the cobblestone streets of Shrimpton’s Lane to King Street and join a large crowd gathered near the Town House (today’s Old State House). We would speak to people to get their thoughts on what we were about to witness. My students would utilize all of their senses to process and learn from the experience. Some would be moved by what they see; others would be affected by what they hear; while the remainder might mention how they were impacted by a broadside they held in their grasp that connected them to the event. Then, as our history lesson continued, from the second floor of the Town House a door would swing open and we would see Colonel Thomas Crafts step out onto the balcony. With a voice strong and loud we’d hear him say:
“Fellow citizens of Boston, I now read the recent declaration adopted by Congress in Philadelphia, July 4, 1776.” Over the cheers of the crowd he’d continue, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America – When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…” We’d soon hear “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Now THAT would be a remarkable way to teach history – but perhaps a little tough to get parents to sign permission slips for! So, how can you bring history to life for your students and ensure that no matter what their primary learning style, they are fully engaged? Field trips might seem like an obvious answer – but when was the last time you felt a field trip was successful for ALL of your students? I recommend that teachers look for field trips that offer added value like guides with a personal connection to or real passion for the history; free MP3 audio or CDs that support what the students will learn; and access to original primary sources. For the past six years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with thousands of students and hundreds of teachers in grade schools throughout New England during my Boston field trips and school author visits. As a fellow educator, I am keenly aware that children learn in different ways – some are auditory learners (hearing and speaking); some are visual learners (seeing and perceiving); and some are kinesthetic learners (touch and movement). When you plug into a student’s primary learning style the light bulb goes on, things become clear, learning becomes fun, and the odds are greater that they will retain the material being presented to them. I accomplish that through storytelling (including tales from my ancestors); free downloadable MP3 audio of my children’s book One April in Boston; and allowing students to hold history in their hands by sharing historically relevant items from my collection of original colonial newspapers (PDF).
Students can hold and read these historic newspapers without fear of damaging them as they are protected in rigid acid free holders. Teachers enjoy reading them too! Let me share three of these papers with you now. The first item is a copy of the August 3, 1776 issue of the Pennsylvania Evening Post. It contains a historic single line report (pictured in this post) from Massachusetts about the reading of the Declaration of Independence in Boston. For auditory style learners (like me), there is a brief MP3 audio featuring this report at the end of the post. I share this paper with the students as we stand overlooking the spot where the Declaration was read on July 18, 1776. The second item is a copy of the Massachusetts Centinel from June 13, 1787. It contains an ad by Paul Revere announcing the relocation of his hardware store and silversmith shop and listing the items he made at his new location. What makes this item fun for the students is they read it in the exact spot where Revere’s shop once stood – marked today by this often overlooked plaque. The third item is a copy of the April 10, 1775 issue of the Boston Gazette – the second to last issue printed by Edes and Gill before the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The masthead was engraved by Paul Revere. I share this paper near the site of the print shop of Benjamin Edes and John Gill which also served as a meeting place for the Sons of Liberty. In the Gazette office on December 16, 1773, Benjamin Edes and several other members of the Sons of Liberty disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians before helping dump 342 chests of British East India Company tea into Boston Harbor.