Early American History Seminar: Alfred Young, Newberry Library

Early American History and Culture Seminar
Thursday, September 25, 2003

3:30 pm to 5:30 pm

“Liberty Tree: Made in America?”
Alfred Young, Newberry Library
The liberty tree in Boston was a major site of resistance that led to the American Revolution, of both the popular resistance that produced a plebeian leader, the shoemaker Ebenezer Mackintosh, and the efforts of the Sons of Liberty to control “the people out of doors.” While focusing on Boston, I explore the other liberty trees and liberty poles. The last article on this subject was in 1952. I return to the question of origins and then attempt to track liberty trees, liberty poles, and liberty caps in public memory, their emergence in France and their revival in the United States in the 1790s. If the liberty tree was made in America, as I argue, it disappeared in the 19th century and was abandoned in the 20th century to Walt Disney and Timothy McVeigh, a subject that should also be of concern to keepers of the past.