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Concord Museum November 22, 2010

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
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I recently visited the Concord Museum in Concord. This museum commemorates the rich history of Concord with an impressive collection of artifacts.

Here are ten nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. In 1635, Puritan colonists established the first inland settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at Concord. The colonists chose the settlement’s name to serve as a reminder of the harmony and mutual affection that they wanted to display in the New World. It should be noted that the native Algonquins had named that area Musketaquid which means “place of grass and reeds.” After King Philip’s War, the Algonquins declined in prominence in that region.

2. Peter Bulkeley was one of the most prominent early settlers of Concord. After serving as a rector while chafing under the strictures of the Church of England for 20 years, he decided to join his fellow Puritans “across the pond” and put his religious principles into practice. He served as Concord’s first minister and counted the noted preacher William Emerson and Ralph Waldo Emerson among his descendants.

3. Residents of Concord had mixed feelings regarding the growing tensions between their fellow colonists and Great Britain before the Revolutionary War. This attitude of indecision changed in 1774 with the introduction of the Coercive Acts. With these overbearing restrictions in place, many people in Concord felt compelled to sign an agreement whereby they promised to boycott all imported goods from Britain, including tea. Angry colonists began to stockpile weapons and supplies at Concord, and the Massachusetts Provincial Congress held illegal meetings there.

4. Interestingly, Concord became a center for clockmaking during the 19th Century. A variety of artisans who plied their trades along the Milldam played essential roles in the construction of a clock, including those who worked in forges, brass foundries and cabinetmaking. The finished clocks would then be sold either retail or wholesale for both local and national markets.

5. Concord also became a hub of intellectual activity during the 19th Century. Lyceum meetings were typically held in the evenings during the fall, winter and spring at the town hall. Interested parties would gather at these meetings to hear a lecture on a certain topic and engage in lively debates. Also, many thinkers and writers made “pilgrimages” to Concord to spend time with Ralph Waldo Emerson, as they were hooked by his magnetic personality. These visiting intellectuals also appreciated the many advantages that Concord’s location had to offer, including its relative proximity to Boston and the surrounding landscape.

6. Louisa May Alcott had an intellectual upbringing, as her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was a prominent thinker and writer in Concord. Bronson Alcott was a devoted Transcendentalist and actually founded a Utopian farming community at Fruitlands. It should also be noted that the Alcott family lived simply and frugally; Abigail Alcott would save fabric scraps from a variety of sources and use them to make quilts.

7. Henry David Thoreau was more than just a writer and a philosopher. In fact, his powers of observation and his intellectual curiosity spurred him to dabble in a variety of pursuits, including ornithology and the art of making sap from beech trees. To supplement his income from writing, he worked as a surveyor for Concord and was paid for performing duties such as taking precise measurements and laying boundary markers.

8. Thoreau was also a fierce proponent of individual rights, including those of self-expression and self-determination. In a famous incident, he expressed those rights by refusing to pay taxes during the U.S.-Mexican War; this bold step was also influenced by his view that slave states (and, by extension, slave owners) were determining the actions of the federal government. He was subsequently imprisoned, and this spurred him to pen Civil Disobedience.

9. Tea was a luxury item during the colonial period, though it became more of a household item in the 19th Century. Green tea was saved for special occasions, while black tea and souchong tea were served more frequently. While Concord residents were boycotting British imports in response to the imposition of the Coercive Acts, they drank tea substitutes including coffee, tea prepared by boiling dried raspberry leaves, and Labrador tea, which was fairly unpleasant.

10. Probate inventories were used by historians to gain insights into the inner workings of a typical Concord household during the 17th-19th Centuries. Such inventories facilitated discoveries including 1) a fully furnished bed with embroidered draperies was the most expensive item in a typical Concord household and 2) the possession of an easy chair was a status symbol. Of course, such inventories did not paint a complete picture of a typical Concord household, and so photographs, drawings and journal entries served as useful supplemental material.

The museum contained several interesting artifacts, including one of the two lanterns that were hung in the belfry of the Old North Church on the night of April 18, 1775. I also enjoyed inspecting several period rooms that had been set up by the museum staff, including detailed reconstructions of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s study and a typical 18th Century dining/common room. In addition, the museum staff was quite friendly, and they shared a few tidbits regarding the descendants of famous Concord residents.

At this time I don’t have any quibbles, which is neat.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend browsing it and gaining an appreciation for the vital role that Concord has played in shaping our nation’s past and present.

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