A Notice to Towns: Committee of Correspondence broadside on display

If you stop by the Old State House this month, you'll have the chance to view an original Committee of Correspondence broadside that was issued in Boston in September 1774. A facsimile of this document is always on display in our Colony to Commonwealth exhibit, but we don't often have the opportunity to display the original due to the sensitive nature of 18th-century documents.

MS0119/DC 973.3116.1774
But first things first - what exactly was a broadside? Broadsides were large pieces of paper that were only printed on one side and were often posted in public places. They were used as a way to pass on announcements and advertisements, and were ephemeral in nature, meaning that they were printed to serve a specific purpose and weren't necessarily meant to be saved. As a result, some broadsides were printed on poor quality paper and it can be difficult to preserve them into the 21st-century.

The Committee of Correspondence of Massachusetts would issue broadsides from their headquarters in Boston and distribute them to towns throughout the area. For example, a few in our collection were sent from Boston to the town of Medway. Committees of Correspondence were organized in each of the thirteen colonies in the years leading up to the American Revolution. As its name suggests, the committees served as a way to maintain communication within Massachusetts as well as with other colonies. The broadside that is currently on display was issued by Boston and surrounding towns on September 27, 1774 and is signed by the clerk, William Cooper. The broadside calls upon citizens to withhold from [British] troops every article except provisions necessary for their subsistence. The notice goes on to urge all citizens to participate, stressing that “unanimity in all our measures in this day of severe trial, is of utmost consequence.” This broadside gives insight into the sentiments of Boston and Massachusetts residents on the eve of the American Revolution. Click on the image above to see an enlarged version of the broadside and read it in its entirety.

As this document turns 240 this month, we are excited for the opportunity to share it with our visitors and blog readers!

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager