The enduring legacy of the Boston Massacre

This summer, the Council Chamber serves as the stage for the play Blood on the Snow, which depicts the exchange between acting Governor Thomas Hutchinson, his Council, and representatives from the Boston Town Meeting in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Massacre. To compliment the play, I've installed a selection of materials relating to the Boston Massacre in the library and archives exhibit case in the Old State House. These artifacts represent two hundred years of the enduring legacy of the Boston Massacre, from orations that began with the first anniversary to commemorative items from the bicentennial in 1970.

Joseph Warren's sermon on display (E 215.4 .W28)

For those of you who can't visit the museum in person, I'll give you a virtual peek into the case by highlighting one of my favorite displayed items, Joseph Warren's An oration delivered March 5th, 1772, at the request of the inhabitants of the town of Boston to commemorate the bloody tragedy of the fifth of March, 1770. Warren was a physician and a patriot who died in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. In 1772, on the two-year anniversary of the Boston Massacre, he was asked to deliver a memorial oration. In it, he passionately stated that “the fatal fifth of March 1770, can never be forgotten – The horrors of that dreadful night are but too deeply impressed on our hearts – Language is too feeble to paint the emotions of our souls, when our streets were stained with the blood of our brethren – when our ears were wounded by the groans of the dying, and our eyes were tormented with the sight of the mangled bodies of the dead.” The Boston Massacre orations were an annual event, and in addition to the one on display, we also have Warren’s 1775 oration, John Hancock’s 1774 oration and Thomas Dawes, Jr.’s 1781 oration.

A few days after the oration, a copy of the sermon was requested for distribution to the press. This pamphlet was then prepared and published by Benjamin Edes and John Gill, who printed the patriot-leaning newspaper, The Boston Gazette and Country Journal.

Also on display is the 1970 restrike of Paul Revere's print, two Boston Massacre Commemorative coins issued by the Bostonian Society in 1970, and an early 1900s postcard that depicts the Crispus Attucks Monument on Boston Common. These items will be on display through the end of August, so be sure to pop into the Old State House to take a look!