Why Linen, Not Cotton?

When describing our 18th century garb to contemporary audiences, we tell them that common clothing would have been made of linen or wool rather than cotton, because cotton was expensive. To gain some sense of the difference, consider this. At the time of the Revolution, the fiber hairs of cotton…

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Bay Road Politics: Mr. Hartwell and Mr. Whittemore

Chambers Russell, whose ancestral roots were in Lincolnshire, England, had little difficulty in selecting the name “Lincoln” to become the newly incorporated town name for Concord’s Second Precinct. This was formalized on 19 April (of all dates!) 1754, but the naming came easier than did the actual change of address…

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Quick Ben, Gimme a Phrase!

On June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia appointed a five-man committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman of Rhode Island, and Robert Livingston of New York were its members. The opening sentence of the Declaration they produced contains the…

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YOU SAY HUZZAY, AND I SAY HUZZAH!

Although the years 1774 and 1775 were most difficult in Lincoln and Massachusetts, there were still reasons to give forth an enthusiastic shout of joy and cheer. In the current day reenacting, the terms often used for this emotional outburst are “huzzah” and “hurrah.” According to Capt. Grose’s Dictionary of the…

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What’s in a Word?

While we use particular words and phrases often in our conversations, including 18th Century words, do we always know what they really mean or where they came from? For example, we know that many colonial newspapers were called a “gazette” (pronounced GAHZ-ette). Why? The word comes from the name of…

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James Madison

James Madison by Garry Wills (New York: Times Books, 2002), 185 pgs. If George Washington is the father of our country, James Madison is the father of our Constitution. He was an unlikely soldier in the Revolution. Barely five-foot-four and a hundred pounds, he became a colonel in the Orange…

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Times of Brother Jonathan

The Times of Brother Jonathan… What He Ate, Drank, Wore, Believed In & Used for Medicine During the War of Independence by dudley c gould (Middletown, CT: Southfarm Press, 2001), 315 pgs. This is a thoroughly disappointing book. The title promises a sweeping survey of the life of a common…

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Concord & Christmas: Regardeth the Day or Not

“That no observation shall be had of the five and twentieth day of December commonly called Christmas-Day; nor any solemnity used or exercised in churches upon the day….” — Puritan Parliament 1652 “… preventing disorders, arising… by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept… to the…

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