The Sons of Liberty Bowl — Historical context and political messages with J.L. Bell

"[T]he bowl is the most celebrated example of American colonial silver . . .  In 1768, even the production of the Liberty Bowl constituted a daring act of defiance." — The Colonial Society

"Often compared to the Declaration of Independence, the 'Liberty Bowl' has become an icon of American history." — The Museum of Fine Arts

Author J.L. Bell explains the historical context and political messages in Paul Revere's famous "Sons of Liberty Bowl" in this video filmed in the historic Wayside Inn:

 

The Colonial Society has an excellent article with additional historical background entitled, "Paul Revere and 1768: His Portrait and the Liberty Bowl," by Jonathan L. Fairbanks, from which these excerpts were taken:

"Revere made his silver Liberty Bowl, commissioned by some of the Sons of Liberty, kept at Nathaniel Barber’s insurance office in the North End, and used for their covert assemblages at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern and the Green Dragon Tavern, also in the North End. Engraved on the rim of the bowl were names of its joint owners, all radical Whigs. They were primarily merchants of the middling sort who felt their livelihoods threatened by the King’s policies. Most of these men later appeared in London’s list of enemies. The names that appear on the rim of the bowl suggest that the movement was pluralistic—a genuine people’s movement. There were modest property owners—small merchants, tradesmen, tavernkeepers, a mariner, a distiller, and a woodcarver—many of whom had their lives and work tied closely to wharves, docks, and the marketplace: Caleb Hopkins, Nathaniel Barber, John White, William Mackay, Daniel Malcolm, Benjamin Goodwin, John Welsh, Fortescue Vernon, Daniel Parker, John Marston, Ichabod Jones, John Homer, William Bowes, Peter Boyer, and Benjamin Cobb. Although influenced by more well-to-do Bostonians, the movement was not dominated by the few public figures, such as Sam Adams or Joseph Warren, who also belonged. Paul Revere himself was a small-time tradesman at the time. Only later did he become a major industrialist. . . .

"In 1768, even the production of the Liberty Bowl constituted a daring act of defiance. Revere finished it within five weeks of the House’s vote against rescinding the circular letter, which the governor considered an act of insubordination.Revere’s rapid production of the bowl was a remarkable feat, since it would have taken hundreds of hours of hammering on a polished anvil and stakes simply to form the bowl, let alone engrave it. Yet it does not appear in his daybooks or anywhere in the extensive Revere family papers. Because business records and papers could be seized, Revere may have needed to hide his association with the Sons of Liberty. His secrecy proves the extreme danger in which he knew himself to be living and his understanding that the Bowl itself, decorated with patriotic slogans, could be a 'treasonous' object.

"Revere’s Sons of Liberty Bowl is monumental in scale for American silver of its period. Its design was probably inspired by the shape of a Delft punch bowl familiar to most colonials. This shape was, in turn, inspired by far eastern ceramics imported to England and the continent. The subtle s-shaped profile of its sides rises to a slightly flared lip. The foot or base is splayed and shaped with convex and concave moldings. The whole bowl stands 5½ inches high with a base diameter of 5 13⁄16 inches. The diameter at the lip is 11 inches. It weighs 43 ounces, 16½ pennyweight.13 Years of polishing have exposed 'fire scale,' leaving a slightly cloudy coloration to the surface of the silver that makes the bowl look like it needs to be polished."

Additional information on the bowl from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where the original is located

The text of the exhibit label:

"Rebellion was in the air, as Paul Revere hammered and polished this unassuming bowl into shape. Britain had just levied new duties on imports, and Boston was the epicenter of colonial resistance. Picking up his graver, Revere inscribed his bowl to the "Glorious Ninety-Two"—honoring the Massachusetts Representatives who had called for protest against the taxes throughout the Colonies, paving the way for revolution. The Sons of Liberty, a rebel group, commissioned the bowl from Revere, one of their own; they used it to serve punch at their secret meetings. A gleaming emblem of civil disobedience, the bowl itself was an act of treason. Everyone who associated with it risked imprisonment under English law.

"Often compared to the Declaration of Independence, the 'Liberty Bowl' has become an icon of American history."

Additional background from The Museum of Fine Arts:

"The Liberty Bowl honored ninety-two members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives who refused to rescind a letter sent throughout the colonies protesting the Townshend Acts (1767), which taxed tea, paper, glass, and other commodities imported from England. This act of civil disobedience by the 'Glorious Ninety-Two' was a major step leading to the American Revolution. The bowl was commissioned by fifteen members of the Sons of Liberty, a secret, revolutionary organization to which Revere belonged; their names are engraved on the bowl as are references to Englishman John Wilkes, whose writing in defense of liberty inspired American patriots. The Liberty Bowl, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution have been called the nation's three most cherished historical treasures. The bowl was purchased by the Museum in 1949, with funds that included seven hundred donations by Boston schoolchildren and the public.

"Inscribed below the rim: 'Caleb Hopkins, Nathl barber, John White, Willm Mackay, Danl Malcom, Benjn Goodwin, John Welsh, Fortescue Vernon, Danl Parker, John Marston, Ichbod Jones, John Homer, Willm Bowes, Peter Boyer, Benja Cobb.'

"One side, in a circle with a scroll and foliated frame topped by a Liberty cap flanked by flags is engraved: 'Magna/Charta' and 'Bill of/Rights.' Inside the circle is inscribed: 'No45. /Wilkes & Liberty' over a torn page labeled 'Generall/Warrants.'

"Inscribed on the other side, a Liberty Cap in a wreath above leafy scrolls: 'To the Memory of the glorious NINETY-TWO: Members/of the Honbl House of Representatives of the Massachusetts-Bay/who, undaunted by the insolent Menaces of Villains in Power/from a Strict Regard to Conscience, and the LIBERTIES/of their Constituents, on the 30th of June 1768 /Voted NOT TO RESCIND.'

INSCRIPTIONS

"Engraved in script below the rim 'Caleb Hopkins, Nathl Barber, John White, Willm Mackay, Danl Malcom, Benjm Goodwin, John Welsh, Fortescue Vernon, Danl Parker, John Marston, Ichabod Jones, John Homer, Wilm Bowes, Peter Boyer, Benja Cobb.' On one side in a bright-cut circle with a scroll and foliate frame topped by a Liberty Cap flanked by flags inscribed, respectively, 'Magna / Charta' and 'Bill of / Rights' is 'No 45. / Wilkes & Liberty/ over a torn page labeled 'Generall Warrants.'

"On the opposite side, a Liberty Cap in a wreath is centered above horizontal and longer vertical leafy scrolls partly enclosing the famous inscription, 'To the Memory of the glorious NINETY-TWO: Members / of the Honbl House of Representatives of the Massachusetts-Bay, / who, undaunted by the insolent Menaces of Villains in Power, / from a Strict Regard to Conscience, and the LIBERTIES / of their Constituents, on the 30th of June 1768, / Voted NOT TO RESCIND.'"


J.L. Bell is the proprietor of the Boston 1775 website, providing daily helpings of history, analysis, and unabashed gossip about Revolutionary New England. He is the author of The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War, a book-length study for the National Park Service about General George Washington in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and numerous articles and book chapters.

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What to look for when buying antique Oriental rugs

This week we will have a collection of antique Oriental rugs included in the Rare Finds e-mail that will go out this Thursday, May 30, at 9 pm Eastern.

These were selected working with a dealer with deep experience and an unusual approach to offering rugs. We videotaped my discussion, which runs about 23 minutes and includes detailed information on the origin, designs, and care. I've included that at the bottom.

I also edited down a short 1:40 version of the video, immediately below, that just shows the rugs. If you’re interested in learning more about each one and what to look for in an antique Oriental rug, you’ll want to watch the full video at the bottom.

Several of the rugs in the video will be offered Thursday night. And to eliminate any question about the cost of shipping given the different sizes of rugs, we have included shipping in the price.

You can sign up for our Rare Finds Alert e-mail that goes out every Thursday night at 9 pm Eastern, browse past items (sold and available), or learn more about when and why I started Rare Finds.

— Lee Wright | Founder

 

Highlights video showing the rugs (less than 2 min. long)

 

Full video going through each rug individually, including the origin, design, and care (23 min. long)

 

 

Any rugs still available will be published on the Rare Finds page on Saturday, June 1. To be notified when they go live this Thursday night, May 30, sign up for our Rare Finds Alert e-mail, which goes out every Thursday night at 9 pm Eastern. (Historically, most items sell within 24 hours, and some sell within minutes.)

 

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March 13, 2024

69th New York “Fighting Irish” Civil War Scrapbook to be offered on March 14, 2024

This scrapbook of original documents and newspaper clippings was assembled by William M. Giles, who led Company B of the 69th New York Infantry during its three-month service at the First Battle of Bull Run. Giles later served as a medical storekeeper for the Union Army in Washington in 1863. The scrapbook consists of 29 leaves, with 31 documents and numerous clippings.

It will be offered Thursday night, March 14, 2024, in The History List Rare Finds. Sign up here to receive the alert that goes out at 9 pm Eastern if you are interested in purchasing this unique item documenting the "Fighting Irish" in the Civil War.

In the video below we walk through what's in the scrapbook. After the video there is a detailed list of what's included in the scrapbook along with historical background on the 69th New York Militia and on William M. Giles.
 

Irish Brigade Scrapbook — A Rare Find available in The History List Store from Lee Wright on Vimeo.


Highlights and Excerpts

  • William M. Giles, Partially Printed Oath of Allegiance, August 20, 1855, New York, New York.

I, William M. Giles, do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New-York, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Surgeon according to the best of my ability.

  • A partially printed form from the 1850s with the names of 48 enslaved African Americans sent from Baltimore to New Orleans, according to the printing on the form, though the dates and name of the ship are not filled in. Unusually, the slaves, ranging in age from 12 to 40, all have first and last names. A note on the scrapbook page beneath this document reads, “These Papers were picked up in a pocket book on the Battle Field of Manassas or Bull run o/a July 21st 1861 by / William M Giles
  • Colonel William T. Sherman, Orders No. 34 for the Aqueduct Brigade, July 11, 1861

I. Regiments of this Brigade will approach their position in Line of Battle whether for drill or action by the shortest and most direct route. The Music will not play while so marching unless specially ordered, as commands cannot be heard while drums are beating.

III. The firing of muskets is prohibited except immediately after Guard mount, say from 8 to 9 A.M. when the old Guard will discharge their muskets at a target—at other times the Cartridges should be drawn from the gun when it is necessary to clean it. The carrying of pistols by any except Commissioned officers & Sergeants is strictly prohibited.

V. The attention of Regimental Commanders is particularly called to the late order of Brig. Genl. McDowell requiring troops to be in ‘light marching order.’ Knapsacks will probably be left behind when the Command moves, they should therefore be distinctly marked so that afterwards they may easily be identified.

The “Aqueduct Brigade” consisted of the 5th, 28th, and 69th “Fighting Irish” New York State Militia Regiments. They reached Washington, D.C., in early May 1861 where they camped on the campus of Georgetown College. Later in the month, they marched across the Potomac River to construct fortifications on Arlington Heights to guard the southern end of the Aqueduct Bridge. The resulting fortification was named Fort Corcoran after the regiment’s commander, Col. Michael Corcoran.

  • Brigadier General Irwin McDowell, Printed Document, General Order No. 5, June 14, 1861, Arlington, Virginia.

Unless under the special orders in each case, of a Commander of Brigade, or superior authority, it is forbidden to any officer or soldier within this Department to arrest, or attempt to arrest, any citizen or citizens, under the plea of their being secessionists, or for any cause whatsoever, save that of being, at the time, in arms against the United States.

  • Colonel Michael Corcoran, Special Order, July 13, 1861

It is hereby ordered that a court convene for the trial of all offences not capital.... The Court will assemble at the Guard House on tomorrow morning the 14th Inst. at 10 OClock. All prisoners detained in the Guard House, and against whom no written charge shall be preferred before Guard mounting the next morning will be discharged.

  • Lieut. Thomas Leddy, Company B, Charges against Sergeant Patrick Doyle, June 29, 1861

Specification 1st / On or about the 29th day of June 1861 the said Sergt Doyle was incapable of performing his duty by reason of drunkness

Specification 2nd / That the said Sergt Doyle did make use of abusive and disrespectful language towards his officers and against Col. Corcoran also

  • Autographed Letter to “My dearest Husband,” July 14, 1861, New York, New York.

I received both your letters, with the glorious intelligence that you will soon be home, never to leave us again I trust[.]  God alone knows how I pray for that hour that will again bring you to us once more never I hope to be parted this side Eternity. I can do nothing but cry but they are tears of joy....

Four Manuscript Notes Signed, Requesting Quartermaster or Assistant Quartermaster of the 69th New York to pay to William M. Giles any money due the signers for extra work on Fort Corcoran and mileage, August 26-September 4, 1861.

  • List of 46 Signed Names and Addresses of those who “agree to become Members of Co B 69th Regt N.Y.S.M. and to equip ourselves according to law.
  • William M. Giles, “Commanding Co. B, 69th Regiment New York State Militia,” Deposition that all state and federal property has been accounted for on the muster-out roles of the company, August 16, 1861, New York, New York.
  • Brigadier General John Ewen, Printed orders for the regiments of the Fourth Brigade, New York State Militia, to “parade armed and equipped for inspection” at Hamilton Square in New York City, October 8, 1861.
  • Brigadier General and Military Governor John H. Martindale, Partially Printed Document Signed by Aide, Pass for William M. Giles and Edward Haquis to Alexandria, Virginia, and return for the purpose of “Business,” January 13, 1864, Washington, D.C.
  • Confederate States of America, Fifty-cent currency, February 17, 1864, Richmond, Virginia.

Two years after the Ratification of a Treaty of Peace between the Confederate States and United States, The Confederate States of America Will pay Fifty Cents to bearer.


Historical Background

The 69th New York Militia, known as the “Fighting Irish” for its heavy concentration of Irish recruits, became one of the Civil War’s most famous regiments. It and the Fire Zouaves guarded the Union retreat at the First Battle of Bull Run and suffered heavy casualties.

Colonel Michael Corcoran initially commanded the regiment, but he was taken prisoner during the battle and spent a year in Confederate prisons. Thomas Francis Meagher, who was captain of the regiment’s Zouave company was promoted to colonel. When the regiment’s 90-day service expired, many members re-enlisted in the 69th New York Volunteer Infantry, and Meagher proposed the creation of an “Irish Brigade.” Meagher was promoted to brigadier general and given command of the brigade, composed of the 63rd, 69th, and 88th New York Infantry. Later the 29thMassachusetts Infantry was added to the brigade, but after the Battle of Antietam, the 28th Massachusetts Infantry, consisting primarily of Irish immigrants, replaced the 29th in the brigade. The City of Philadelphia soon offered an additional regiment, the 116th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which was added to the brigade.

The Irish Brigade participated in all of the major battles of the Army of Potomac, including the Seven Days Battles during the Peninsula Campaign, the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. Because of heavy casualties, the brigade had been reduced to regimental size by June 1864.

After Corcoran was exchanged in August 1862, he raised new regiments of Irish volunteers and took command of what would be known as the Corcoran Legion, consisting of five regiments of New York Volunteers. Near the end of 1863, he was killed in a fall from a runaway horse.

William M. Giles (1829-1889) was born in Ireland and came to the United States with his mother in 1845. He acquired a high reputation as a druggist and chemist. In April 1855, he was commissioned as regimental surgeon with the rank of captain of the 69th New York State Militia regiment. On April 20, 1861, Giles was commissioned as a second lieutenant in Company B of the 69th New York State Militia, and when Captain Thomas Lynch resigned shortly before the First Battle of Bull Run, Giles led the company in the battle. He was mustered out on August 3, 1861, in New York City. He ran for coroner in the New York state elections in November 1861. In June 1863, he was appointed Medical Storekeeper to the U.S. Army, which required him to select and purchase medical supplies. After the Civil War, Giles settled in Eastchester, New York, where he was a druggist. He developed Giles’ Liniment Iodide Ammonia patent medicine and sold it through agents across the country. He also served as president of the Excelsior Savings Bank.

Source: Seth Kaller, Inc.

 

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A rare printing of the Declaration of Independence—A personal tour with Seth Kaller

As part of a special event to mark the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, an exhibition of historic documents was held at the Grand Masonic Lodge in Boston. Many of these were provided by Seth Kaller, the leading dealer in historic American documents. Seth took me through some of the highlights and I recorded my conversation with him.  

We started with a rare printing of the Declaration of Independence. In addition to the historical background on the printing, Seth had an interesting perspective on the relevance of the Declaration to today and how to think about it as we look ahead to the Semiquincentennial in 2026 and beyond.

More information on this document is at Seth's site. I'll also post my discussion with Seth about the other two documents, and when I do, I'll add links here.

We offer several different historic versions of the Declaration through The History List Store:

My thanks to Seth for taking me through the exhibit and doing so in a way that I could share what he said with you.

— Lee Wright | Founder | The History List | History Camp | The Pursuit of History

 

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Announcing a series of limited edition historic prints for our nation's 250th anniversary

I'm proud to announce that our new Boston Tea Party 250th anniversary print will be the first in a series of limited edition prints marking key points in the formation of our country 250 years ago. 

Each will be an original design. They will be silk screened, signed, and numbered. 

Looking ahead, on April 19, 2025 I’ll be at North Bridge and on July 4, 2026 I’ll be in Philadelphia.  (I haven’t decided on the event we will mark next year.)

And they will be made in America—print, frame, backing, and glazing.

We anticipate using the same or very similar frames, too, so for those who get the series, they will look very sharp displayed together.

This year's print is limited to 73. Thank you for your support—and thanks to the individuals who have already placed their orders.  

You can learn more about the print here.

— Lee Wright | Founder

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