J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, April 09, 2018

Hancock’s Trunk in Worcester, 16-22 Apr.

To celebrate Patriots’ Day, the Worcester History Museum is displaying John Hancock’s trunk for one week starting on Monday, 16 April. The museum will be open that day from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

This was reportedly the trunk where Hancock was storing his business and political papers—including sensitive documents from his work with the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and its Committee of Safety—while he was in Lexington in April 1775. Though Hancock himself slept at the parsonage, along with his fiancée Dolly Quincy, his aunt Lydia Hancock, and Samuel Adams, the trunk was with his clerk, John Lowell, at Buckman’s Tavern.

Hancock and Lowell left town several hours into the early morning of 19 Apr 1775 along with Adams and Paul Revere, who had come out from Boston to warn that British troops were on the march. After settling Adams and Hancock at what they thought was a safe distance, Lowell and Revere went back to Lexington to scout the situation.

At that point Lowell thought about that trunk. He decided it might be good to keep its contents away from the approaching soldiers. He and Revere went to the tavern, climbed upstairs, brought the trunk down, and were carrying it across the town common during the first shots of the war.

The photograph above comes from the Worcester Telegram’s coverage of the museum’s similar display last year, which explains:
The Hancock trunk was donated years later to the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester by a descendant, Dorothy Hancock Gardner White (1799-1890). She wrote that in her childhood the box contained “letters of correspondence of the prominent men of the revolution” and also letters from Hancock to his future bride, Dolly Quincy, her great-aunt. Mrs. White gave many of the letters away.

The trunk was empty when it came to the Antiquarian Society, and when it was transferred in 1895 to the collection of the Worcester Society of Antiquity, what is today the Worcester Historical Museum.

“The trunk only comes out once a year,” said Vanessa Bumpus, the museum’s exhibit coordinator.

Most of the time the fragile artifact is kept downstairs in climate-controlled storage, she said. But for school vacation week coinciding with Patriots’ Day in April, museum staffers don special gloves, place the trunk on a dolly, and gingerly transfer it to a museum exhibit case.
Ironically, if this trunk had stayed in Buckman’s Tavern that morning, it would have been perfectly safe. No British soldiers entered the building. That column passed through Lexington just because it was on the road to Concord.

1 comment:

Aaron Brett said...

I really appreciate all of the updates and announcements that you post having to do with upcoming events and displays all over the area. This blog has become my main source when it comes to all events having to do with revolutionary Massachusetts. Thank you!