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The Long Road to Lexington: Networks of Resistance in Colonial Massachusetts
Primary Sources

Theme: The United States and the World: American Foreign Relations
The Long Road to Lexington
February 2005

Primary Sources from Partner Collections
Primary Sources from Local Archives and Collections
Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions

Selections and annotations by SALEM in History staff

Primary Sources from Partner Collections
*note: most of the images below can be viewed on ARTscape the Peabody Essex Museum website.

Plow, 18th century
Possibly made in Boxford, Mass.
Wood and steel
Peabody Essex Museum 109289

This farm implement belonged to John Curtis of Boxford, Massachusetts. When residents of Lexington and Concord called for volunteers to help against the British, Curtis was among those who answered the alarm. He and a number of other men arrived too late for the battle at Lexington. Instead, they pursued the British back to Cambridge.

Note: This object is currently on loan to the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, MA.



Portrait of Sir William Pepperell, 1746
John Smibert (1688-1751)
Oil on Canvas
Gift of George Atkinson Ward
Peabody Essex Museum 106806

"This monumental portrait celebrates Pepperell's role as commander of the American colonial force that helped defeat the French at Louisbourg in 1745 during the French and Indian War. Painted by New England's first professional artist, the scene includes an image of cannon balls raining down on the French fort" (Quoted from ARTscape:

The victory over the French was a source of great pride for Britain, including colonial citizens who participated in the military victory. The expense of the campaign, however, further depleted royal coffers. England began to seek new ways to raise funds through taxation policies.

The subject of this portrait, William Pepperell (1696 - 1759), was the son of a prosperous merchant and land investor from Kittery Point, Maine (part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony). Pepperell married Mary Hirt of Boston in 1724, and was made a militia colonel of Maine in 1726. Pepperell's success in fighting the French in 1745 earned him a baronet from the King. The Massachusetts Historical Society holds manuscript papers related to Pepperell and the Louisbourg campaign.

Nathaniel Hawthorne used Pepperell as a literary subject for his works, Sir William Pepperell (1833) and Grandfather's Chair (1840).


Richard Skidmore (1738-1820)
Powder Horn, 1764
Probably Salem, Mass.
Horn, wood, leather
Gift of Robert Brookhouse, 1848
Peabody Essex Museum 1086

"Richard Skidmore was born in Methuen, Massachusetts, and served as a drummer boy in the company from Middleton, Massachusetts, that saw action in the taking of Quebec in 1758 under Gen. James Wolfe during the French and Indian War. One side of the horn is engraved with three structures, including a 'Tavern' and 'Metinghous,' presumably in Danvers where Skidmore settled and worked as a wheelwright. A figure stands to the left smoking a clay pipe. The other side has numerous floral and geometric designs."

Quoted from: In the American Spirit: Folk Art from the Collections. Peabody Essex Museum, 5 May through 30 September 1994; p 16.


Teapot, "Stamp Act Repeal'd," 1766
Cockpit Hill factory
Derby, England
Lead-glazed and hand-painted earthenware
Gift of Richard Manning, 1933
Peabody Essex Museum 121493

This British-made teapot is imprinted to celebrate the repeal of the contentious legislation in 1766.

The Phillips Library holds a great number of documents and publications related to the Stamp Act and its repeal.


The Bloody Massacre...1770
Paul Revere
Hand-colored engraving
Peabody Essex Museum

Full Title: The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th 1770, by a Party of the 29th Regt.

Revere produced and began selling this image less than a month after a riot broke out next to the building now known as the Old State House in Boston. Tensions over the presence of British troops in Boston erupted in violence on the evening of 5 March, 1770; five men died and six others were wounded. Accounts suggest that both sides were unruly, but this is not indicated in Revere's image. Revere also does not accurately portray the death of Crispus Attucks, an African-American who was among those killed. Attucks is heralded as the first African-American to die in the Revolution, and there is a plaque at the site to commemorate the event and his death.

Similar versions of the "Boston Massacre," as it was called, were created at the time, but Revere printed his first. Its early and wide distribution and strong political bias ensured its success.

In December, 2004, the Massachusetts Secretary of State elected to use Revere's original engraved copper plates to strike new prints as a fundraiser for the State Archives. His decision stirred controversy. Object experts pointed out that the process of cleaning and using the plates would degrade the engraved surface of artifacts that possess great significance for the state and nation.


Benjamin Burton (1749-1835)
Powder Horn, 1778
Cow horn and wood
Gift of Gilbert R. Payson, 1959
Peabody Essex Museum E36836

"At the age of twenty-three, Burton was one of the 'Indians' responsible for dumping British tea into Boston Harbor in 1773 to protest new taxes. He went on to fight in the Revolutionary War. this horn is dated '2nd Febr. AD 1778,' and is inscribed with the defiant motto 'Dont Tread on Me' along with an image of a rattlesnake, which symbolized the American cause. The phrases 'Trouble Not the mind For what you cannot Fine' and 'Liberty' are also interspersed with images of birds, sea serpaents, dragons, female and male busts, and a simple landscape."

Quoted from: In the American Spirit: Folk Art from the Collections. Peabody Essex Museum, 5 May through 30 September 1994; p 17.



Portrait of Elias Hasket Derby, 1800-1825
James Frothingham (1786-1864)
Oil on canvas
Gift of the Derby Family
Peabody Essex Museum, M353

"James Frothingham's posthumous portrait celebrates the life of a man who never went to sea, yet made his fame and fortune during Salem's maritime heyday. Elias Haskett Derby (1739 - 1799) owned seven vessels at the outbreak of the American Revolution, four of which were quickly captured by the enemy. He converted his remaining ships to privateers to attack British merchantmen, purchasing more privateers with proceeds from the vessels they captured. From 1776 - 1782, Derby owned, in part or whole, eighty-five privateers that employed eight thousand men. These ships captured 144 enemy vessels, while only 19 of Derby's were lost. Following the war, he returned to maritime commerce, sending the first New England ship, Grand Turk, to China to trade American ginseng for silk and tea. At his death, Derby left what was probably the largest sing-owned business in America. The Reverend William Bentley said that wealth flowed 'with full tide in upon that successful man.'"

Quoted from Maritime Art - The Sea: Art and Experience. Peabody Essex Museum Gallery Guide, n.d.


Meeting Minutes: Meeting of the Merchants of Marblehead, 18 October, 1769. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum. Transcription by Abaigeal Duda

Marblehead merchants gathered on 18 October, 1769 to organize a committee to protest the Stamp Act. They hoped to work in concert with similar committees in Salem and Gloucester. Committees such as these organized all along the Atlantic and maintained correspondence regarding the British governmental initiatives and colonial conditions and responses.



Appleton, Nathaniel. A Thanksgiving Sermon on the Total Repeal of the Stamp- Act. Boston: Edes and Gill, 1766. [Excerpts]

This is one of many examples of "Stamp Act" sermons available in the Phillips Libary.(Note that bound manuscripts or published works before 18 - are typically available for photocopy.) The impact of that legislation was far-reaching across the colonies, and the number of sermons and other writings about the issue attests to its far-reaching signifiance.



"We the Subscribers" Non-importation of British goods statement. June, 1774. Timothy Pickering Papers (collection not fully processed). Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

This document provides blank spaces for various towns to fill in with their location and specific date. Its content outlines grievances against English actions and the colonial determination not to import or otherwise purchase and goods from Great Britain.



Charters of the provinces of Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pensylvania [sic], Massachusetts Bay and Georgia with narrative of the proceedings of the North American colonies in consequence of the late Stamp Act. London: Printed for W. Owen at Temple-Bar; J. Almon, in Piccadilly; and F. Blyth at John's Coffee-House, Royal-Exchange, 1766. [excerpts]

This publication is available in the Phillips Library collection. It features a map, and correspondence regarding the legislation and response to the Stamp Act. It begins with the issuing of the Stamp Act in 1765 and provides an historic narrative of the colonial response, including letters and speeches that were published or otherwise received in England. The second half of the book contains charters for the colonies listed in the title.



In Provincial Congress, Watertown, May 8th, 1775. Timothy Pickering Papers (collection not completely processed). Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum. Transcription by Abaigeal Duda.
This broadside announces the intention of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress to disarm all Loyalists.



Love Pickman, Salem, to Benjamin Pickman, April 1775. Pickman Family Papers. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum. Transcription by Abaigeal Duda

Love (Rawlins) Pickman (1709 - 1786) was married to Benjamin Pickman (1740 - 1819). Their son, Benjamin Pickman (1740 - 1819) was an ardent loyalist who sailed to England in 1775. His wife and children remained behind in Salem.
This letter from Love Pickman is only one of two that remain from her son's time in England, and it was written shortly after the battle of Lexington. She describes the fear and chaos experienced by those living in Salem and surrounding towns. Many people lack provisions and leave behind crops and businesses in order to seek shelter in safer towns. She seems sympathetic with her son's loyalist sentiment when she writes, " - what has infatuated and enraged this Province, I know not, a people that once would have sacrificed their lives and fortunes to have preserved the King's Person and family and supported his Crown and Dignity -"



Benjamin Pickman, London, to Mary (Polly) Pickman, 30 May 1775. Pickman Family Papers. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum. Transcription by Abaigeal Duda.

This letter by Pickman was sent to his wife shortly after he learned about the Lexington battle from Captain Derby in London.

Benjamin Pickman (1740 - 1819) was born into a very successful family in the shipping and fishing industries. His father served in civic positions, was a Lieutenant in the Essex County Regiment, and was chairman of the Salem committee appointed to protest the Stamp Act in 1765. Benjamin, however, was a loyalist.

He married Mary Toppan in 1762, and they had four children at home when Pickman sailed alone for London in 1775. He remained there until 1785. His many letters express his affection for his family in Salem, the support of friends in London, his sorrow over the conflict between England and her American colonies, and his faith in his wife and her abilities to manage the family during his long absence.

When Pickman returned to Salem, he was accepted back into Society, and was elected to several positions over the rest of his life: Town Treasurer, Treasurer of the Salem Turnpike Corporation, and Overseer of the Poor. His son, Benjamin (1763 - 1843) acted as an agent for Elias Haskett Derby's business following the Revolutionary War, and he married Derby's Daughter, Anstiss, in 1789.

The Phillips Library contains an extensive manuscript collection for both the Pickman and Derby families. See also: George Francis Dow. The Diary and Letters of Benjamin Pickman (1740 - 1819) of Salem, Massachusetts with a Biographical Sketch and Genealogy of the Pickman Family. Topsfield, MA: Wayside Press, 1928.



Benjamin Pickman, London, to his sister, 20 July 1775. Benjamin Pickman Papers. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum. Transcription by Abaigeal Duda.

Pickman discusses the closing of the Port of Boston and the shortage of provisions experienced by those living there. He also recognizes that many at home in Salem are speaking out against loyalists like Pickman. The letter also mentions the economic depression in London shipyards, and Pickman's doubt that Britain will moderate its stance and reopen the port of Boston.



Benjamin Pickman, Fareham, to Mary (Polly) Pickman, 23 August 1777. Benjamin Pickman Papers. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum. Transcription by Abaigeal Duda.

The first part of this letter from Pickman to his wife expresses his feelings about the war between England and the American colonies. He considers how future generations will "read the Histories of these Times, with Horror," and recalls the peace in the colonies ten years before.

From a friend, Mr. Goodale, Pickman learned that his wife and family were well and had escaped illness during a recent smallpox epidemic because they had been vaccinated.



Benjamin Pickman, London, to Mary (Polly) Pickman, 24 December 1779. Benjamin Pickman Papers. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum. Transcription by Abaigeal Duda.

This letter notes that Pickman has not received a letter from his wife for two years. Correspondence from another source informed him that his wife and family were well. He hopes for a time ahead when they will be reunited in "Safety" as they were "before the Commencement of the American War."



"Miscellany: Lexington Battle" Salem Gazette. 12 July, 1825. Timothy Pickering Papers (collection not completely processed). Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

These are reprints of lettters written by British soldiers in 1775. The correspondence describes events during the battle, and the wounds and casualties, and their feelings about the rebellious colonials.

Note: Salem Gazette historic issues are also available on microfilm at the Phillips Library and the Salem Public Library.


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Primary Sources from Local Archives and Collections


London Coffee House
Central Street, Salem
Meeting place of the Salem Chapter of the Sons of Liberty
Click here to see plaque only.
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Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions



John Singleton Copley
Paul Revere
Oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This exceptional portrait by Copley depicts the silversmith, Paul Revere paused in a moment's reflection while working on a teapot. His fine ruffled white shirt, however, is not typical of what a craftsman might wear while at work. Revere's portrait seems to capture his status as more than a mere tradesman, but not quite a gentleman. (Copley's inclusion of dirt beneath the sitter's fingernails is apparent with close inspection of the painting.) Note that the year of the work is also the year the Townshend Acts were legislated, taxing tea.

For more information about these important Revolutionary-era portraits on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, see their website:



John Singleton Copley
John Hancock
Oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This portrait was commissioned shortly after John Hancock inherited his uncle's home and businesses, effectively making John Hancock the head of the family fortune. (His uncle had adopted John, who was orphaned.) He is seated at a table with one hand holding pages of an accounting ledger (a symbol of his family's success as merchants), and the other holding a quill pen. His gold-trimmed garments suggest his wealth, and the pen suggests his gentlemanly ability to read and write.

Another portrait of Hancock, also by Copley, was commissioned in ca. 1772. It is a more reserved bust of Hancock, and does not include any allusions to his merchant status.



John Singleton Copley
Samuel Adams
about 1772
Oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This painting of the patriot Samuel Adams commemorates his firey speach delivered to Governor Hutchinson in the wake of the event known as the "Boston Massacre." The documents in the image are the Massachusetts Charter (with seal) and a petition to remove the troups from Boston.

For a portrait that depicts a moment of high drama, the image might appear very restrained. In the time, it would have been considered unfitting to portray a gentleman as overly-dramatic or emotional. Physical and emotional discipline were prized and admired qualities, and therefore appropriate for this portrait. The powerful pointing gesture an the defiant chin angle suggest the tension of moment.

This portrait may have been commissioned by John Hancock along with his own picture from about the same time. Both hung in Hancock's home and may have served to publicly unite these very public, political personalities. who were often at odds. Politics and the patriot cause may have drawn them to look past their differences, at least when necessary for the good of their cause.

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