18th century, Colony House, common people, living history, Newport, Newport Historical Society, Rhode Island, Rhode Island history, Stamp Act Protest, Washington Square
Last Saturday, we stepped back in time to 1765 in Newport. I know: Newport always seems to be in a different time than gritty Providence, but this trip was truly different.
We were headed across the Bay for a Stamp Act Protest (no rioting, per police request). In this effort, we joined a large group of recruits from New England and even beyond, to fill Washington Square and other sites in the city.
Stationed around the square were sailors mending or making a sail*, an apprentice-less printer, a sleepy apprentice boy, a tailor and his journeyman, a milliner, and leading citizens, one of whom was kind enough to read the newspaper to the apple seller, who wonders what has become of her son.
Up the street, some very fine ladies were having tea. Their refinement was evident in their appearance and dress, as well as in the elegant setting of their tables. They wanted none of my apples, as they had imported citrus fruits, far better than the apples the island’s trees produce. (Wasted on tea, truly: what one wants to do with a lemon is to find some rum and make a punch.)
The news was very bad, and tempers flared in the square. Mistress Ellery told me that dinner parties had become impossible to hold: parties nearly come to blows over discussions of taxes, customs, stamps, and the oppressive policies of Mr Robinson, who insists on enforcing the very letter and penny of the law. (He was quite insulting on the quality of my apples, indeed, spitting one upon me even as he continued to eat it!)
As the afternoon wore on, the debate grew more intense and the crowd more heated. And effigy of Mr Howard was made, paraded, and hung, and then the crowd of protesters dispersed to the White Horse Tavern.
Tensions seemed to dissipate, though when the runner came, the protesters– now fortified with ale, porter and cider–ran down the street to “plunder” Mr Howard’s house, played here by the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House.
Although the mistress of the house tried to reason with them, the crowd would not be dissuaded, convinced of their mission (and perhaps more fortified than you would expect after just one glass). They carried their loot to the front of the Colony House, and heaped it up, glorying in their success.
In the end, the house was not looted, tensions were dissipated, and the protesters dispersed into the afternoon. We were well-rewarded with cheese and ale at the Colony House, and enjoyed discussing the events of 1765 and 2014 with the public and Newport Historical Society staff members.
*Yes, Virginia, they do look like tents. That’s because they are tents. Someday, Light Infantry soldiers will sleep beneath that canvas. But for now, keep stitching!
Christopher T Poe said:
love it… I’m new to Blogging and found yours… Glad I did… Everybody looks amazing. Thanks for the glimpse into the past!
Christopher T Poe said:
Reblogged this on Toll of the Liberty Bell and commented:
New to blogging but I am quickly finding blogs like this! Love it!
It looks like a lot of fun. I drove by but couldn’t find a place to park. I was with non-history lovers and we were short on time. I did catch a glimpse of everyone on the square and the young apprentice lad wandering around.
How neat that you all can act out the stamp act — stamp out the stamp act? — right among modern day life in the middle of Newport. Bravo!
My goodness, the tea equipment was superb? May I ask where on earth you found the epergne and reticulated bowls? If they are vintage/antique, wow, but if new-ish, even wow-er!
a suitably impressed Lexingtonian (KY), Natalie
The creamware isn’t mine, but I think you can still get quite a bit of Leeds Creamware either by ordering from Britain (an internet search will take you to the manufacturer, whose name I forget) or thru ebay sales. It is beautiful stuff, and another friend of mine recently got a very nice tea set on ebay. With a cupboard and a basement full of other china, I have to restrain myself!
We are very lucky that so much of historic Newport remains, even as movie theatres and modern shops crept in. When you are in period clothing and re-creating a day, you really aren’t jarred by the current day buildings, cars, street furniture and people. It’s a weird, neat thing!
Dear Kitty Calash,
Leeds Creamware, is it? Ooh, good. Creamware of all sorts is a favorite, and like you, well, I have a china “issue”.
Have not been to Newport yet, worse luck. Getting places eastward from KY involves climbing over the mountains. Even today it’s something to consider, since there’s no straight shot, carsick kids don’t like the curves, etc., etc. and then you have to navigate the megalopolis to get to New England.
So thank you for sharing your events with us marooned out across the Appalachians and Alleghanies.
Here’s a link to the UK shop: http://www.leeds-pottery.co.uk/ Delicious stuff!
We still have family in the Mid West & South, and yes: the journey is still not easy! It’s a long drive, and we haven’t had the time to make it.
I’m glad to provide a window into New England, and happy when I read about other people’s events around the country and around the world.
Thank you for reading and commenting!
But of course, most happy to. I don’t do many events but sometimes there’s a random post about them on my blog. In late September a few of us demonstrate embroidery and wool combing and spinning at Henry Clay’s Ashland Estate, celebrating the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. I’m wearing the only dress I own designed to work in that period. It’s a dull dress and my stays are too shelf-like, but it’s all about the spinning anyhow :} Will write that one up on A Frolic Through TIme, at http://zipzipinkspot.blogspot.com.
Very best and a good Labor Day weekend,
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