Four U.S. Presidents were born in Massachusetts and many more lived here during their schooling, including eight graduates of Harvard University. Can you name them all? (Answers at bottom of the post.) In honor of President’s Day, tour guides Kristen and Brooke will be hosting a History of Boston trivia night at Aeronaut Brewing on Tuesday, February 18 at 8pm. Four of our favorite Massachusetts themed presidential stories are below and--HINT--they'll help you at our trivia!
1. Danger Strikes Teddy Roosevelt
In September 1902, Theodore Roosevelt was visiting Pittsfield, Massachusetts when his carriage was struck by a speeding trolley car. The carriage careened around 40 feet, knocking Roosevelt onto the pavement and bruising the Governor of Massachusetts, Winthrop Crane. Unfortunately, Secret Service agent William Craig wasn’t so lucky. He got stuck under the train car and became the first U.S. Secret Service agent ever killed in the line of duty.
2. JFK Born in Brookline
Brookline, just a few miles from downtown Boston, is home to the 35th president's birthplace and first family house. It's now a National Historic Site (the inside is under renovation and closed to visitors for 2020). Rose Kennedy purchased their former home on Beals Street to commemorate her late son, and set all the clocks in the house to just before 3pm, when Jack was born on May 29, 1917. For more JFK history, his Presidential Library and Museum is worth the visit and we touch on a few Kennedy-related tidbits on our Freedom Trail tour!
3. Abraham Lincoln Assassin Stays in Boston
In 1863, John Wilkes Booth a national star and had performed in numerous local theater productions. He was in Boston in April 1865 and stayed at the Parker House. Ten days later, Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. In a strange historical coincidence, the man who would later kill Booth, Boston Corbett, had undergone a religious conversion in Boston, changing his name to honor the city where he became a new man.
4. Coolidge Crushes a Strike
Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, was born in New England, attended Amherst College, and served as governor of Massachusetts. As governor, "Silent Cal" presided over a crazy moment in Boston history – the 1919 Boston Police Strike. When over three quarters of the police force announced a strike over the right to form a union, violence broke out and eight people died over four days. The strike ended when Coolidge put Boston under martial law for the first time since the Revolutionary War. Crushing the strike launched Coolidge into the national spotlight and led to his selection as Warren G. Harding’s running mate in the 1920 presidential election.
U.S. Presidents Born in Massachusetts: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John F. Kennedy, George H.W. Bush
Harvard Graduates: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, George W. Bush, Barack Obama
Granary Burying Ground is a peaceful cemetery in the midst of Boston’s bustling downtown. If you’re on the Freedom Trail, you’ll find it as you walk down Tremont Street from the Boston Common. And if you join one of our tours, we'll take you in there!
The burying ground used to be part of Boston Common when bodies began to be buried there in 1660. A granary next door, used for wheat storage, gave the burying ground its name. The Park Street Church has stood on the old granary site since 1809. There are an estimated 5,000 bodies buried here, though you won’t see nearly that many tomb stones as most are family tombs. Here’s a list of graves to check out on your visit:
1. Three signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried here: John Hancock (left side), Samuel Adams (front right), and Robert Treat Paine (right wall).
2. The victims of the Boston Massacre are buried next to Samuel Adam’s tomb – on his family’s plot in fact! Join our tours to find out why…
3. Paul Revere is buried toward the back of the burying ground. It can be hard to find, as it’s small and close to the ground. But it’s worth searching for to pay your respects to the man famous for the midnight ride!
4. Peter Faneuil, the namesake for Faneuil Hall marketplace, is also buried here. Peter died in 1743, six months after Faneuil Hall opened as his philanthropic gift to the town of Boston.
5. The Infant’s Tomb is the final resting place for hundreds of young children. Infant mortality was quite high in colonial Boston and into the 1800s. You can find the tomb near the Franklin obelisk in the middle of the burying ground. This is where Benjamin Franklin’s parents and many of his relatives are buried, but he is buried in Philadelphia.
6. James Otis is a mostly unsung revolutionary hero, active in Boston's politics in the 1760s. He and Samuel Adams serve as bookends of the burying ground. Learn more about Otis and his wild benders and fights in episode 2 of our podcast, Beer Makes History.
As most Americans are quarantining inside (and may be running out of Netflix options), we thought we'd revisit our list of recommended books about the American Revolution. Stay well!
1. The Birth of the Republic by Edmund S. Morgan
Best for: a fantastic summary of the who, what, where, when, why
Morgan writes the definitive political and economic history of the American Revolution, which expertly lays out the cast of characters and their motives. Finding humor in things as mundane as taxation, this is an entertaining and scholarly introduction to the founding of our country.
2. Boston in the American Revolution: A Town Versus an Empire by Brooke Barbier
Best for: Boston-centric history
Read the riveting story about how a small town in Massachusetts ignited a period of rebellion in the American colonies. Each chapter highlights a key player and shows what historical sights look like in present-day Boston. If you’re in the city, combine your reading with a Freedom Trail tour!
3. American Revolutions by Alan Taylor
Best for: alternative perspectives
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor dismisses more narrow histories of the Revolution in favor of painting a broader picture that focuses on all of America, not just the thirteen North American colonies. This book is a follow-up to the fantastic, American Colonies, which also includes the history of the French and Spanish colonies throughout North America.
4. 1776 by David McCullough
Best for: military history
One of the most comprehensive popular histories of the American Revolution, 1776 guides you through the intricacies and emotions of war. It’s largely written through the lens of George Washington and British commander William Howe, making it ideal for those looking to learn more about the trials and tribulation of war.
5. An Empire on the Edge by Nick Bunker
Best for: the British perspective
Bunker offers a version of revolutionary events as seen from the other side of the Atlantic, using many British sources that American historians infrequently access. He attributes much of the buildup to Britain’s oversights, misunderstandings, and errors, which offer a fresh perspective to histories that tend to focus on political and military machinations.
6. The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood
Best for: academic vigor
One of the preeminent historians of American Revolutionary history, Wood writes an epic political, cultural, and economic history of the roots of the American Revolution. Wood argues that the Revolution was radical because of all that it accomplished and that later societal changes (like equality for women and minorities) were only possible because of the Revolution. The book is thoroughly evidenced to appease academic audiences, but still entirely readable for a casual reader.
7. Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Best for: under-represented voices
If you’re looking to hear from the disenfranchised, check out this “untold story” of Ona Judge, an African American woman in pursuit of her lawful freedom from America’s First Family. Coming to terms with the darker side of early American history and its legacies, this book offers a moment of reflection and nuance central to our understanding of the time period.
8. Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer
Best for: getting to know Revere and lesser-known Revolutionary actors.
This book explores the life of Paul Revere and his legendary midnight ride on April 18, 1775 – on what would become the eve of Revolution. Fischer also focuses on British General Thomas Gage and expertly mixes the colonial and British perspectives to offer detailed accounts of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
Looking for some unique gifts for the loved ones in your life? Whether they live in Boston or are planning an upcoming trip, we have you covered with some historical and fun-filled gift ideas!
1. Craft Beer Advent Calendar
Upgrade your childhood advent calendar to a 21+ box of fun! This Twelve Days of Christmas set comes fully loaded or you can make your own with a customizable 24-day box. If you're local to Boston, Boston Bottle in the North End will also be selling their own versions. Our tour guide Rachel is bestowing this present on a lucky friend!
2. Ye Olde Tavern Tours Gift Certificate
There’s always more to learn about Boston’s history! Whether someone is a life-long resident or new to the city, they’ll love Ye Olde Tavern Tours’s walk down the Freedom Trail. Our history-educated guides know their stuff and make history fun! Along the way, guests will try three different New England craft beers at historical taverns to round-out a great experience. Take 20% off all gift certificates now until Monday, December 2!
3. Gaining Ground
Brian, our tour guide interested in maps, recommends this coffee-table worthy book about Boston. From beautiful images to interesting history and engineering lessons, you’ll keep your friends and family learning about a city that is both historic and ever-changing.
4. Boston Tote
Walk the city in style – and never get lost – with this Boston map tote bag. Tour guide Brooke uses this bag for her groceries, but you can also stash snacks for a Freedom Trail walk, or bringing your favorite book to read in the Common. No matter how you use it, you’ll feel like a true Bostonian with this over your shoulder!
5. DIY Boston Creme Pie Cupcakes
We love beer, but we also love sweet treats too. Our tour guide Kelly is especially enthusiastic about Boston Creme Pie, so she recommends these DIY boxes from a New England company. It comes with instructions and pre-measured ingredients to pair with kitchen staples. Boston Cream Pie was first created at Boston’s Parker House hotel, so you can bring a little bit of Boston cheer to all your holiday celebrations.
6. Boston in the American Revolution
Books are making a comeback and this is THE Boston history book – for all ages! Boston in the American Revolution provides an interesting and accessible history, with a lot of fun along the way. It has a helpful guide that links present-day Boston with historical events and focuses on some key players that every American should know.
7. Boston Tea Party Candle
If the history lover in your life loves some self-care too, check out this candle of black tea, seaweed, and driftwood. Elizabeth, our tour guide who also works as an historical interpreter for the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, will be gifting these this year. Everyone can use a little R&R after the holidays – make their relaxation revolutionary.
8. Trident Booksellers Gift Certificate
Our tour guide Kristen loves this local bookstore! There’s truly something for everyone at Trident – from events, to delicious food and local beer, and fun gifts. Or just cozy up to the bar with a good book! This versatile gift card (digital or mailed) won’t disappoint.
9. Boston Sports Trivia Game
The city of champions has had an historic run in the past two decades. Do you know any die-hard fans who thinks they’ve followed it all? Test their knowledge with this entertaining sports trivia game. Trust us, they’ll learn something!
10. New England Snack Basket
Spice up the traditional holiday snack basket with this New England tailored fare. You’ll get some maple sugar candies, cranberry pepper jelly, gummy lobsters, and so much more… all locally made of course!