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Maker(s):Dawe, Philip (attributed); Sayer, Robert and Bennett, John (publishers)
Culture:English (1750-1784); (1725-1794); (d. 1787)
Title:The Bostonians in Distress; and shellwork shadowbox
Date Made:1774 and 1774-1775
Materials:gouache, paper, ink, coral, shells, organic material (moss?), glass, wood
Place Made:United Kingdom; England; London and United States; Massachusetts; Boston (probably)
Measurements:framed: 16.3386 x 12.5984 x 3.7402 in.; 41.5 x 32 x 9.5 cm
Accession Number:  HD 56.198
Credit Line:Museum purchase
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

This English print shows the plight of Boston, pictured as a cage hanging from the Liberty Tree, and its residents during the closure of the town. Cannon surrounding the city, and troops and warships in the background, represent the British blockade and occupation of the town in the summer of 1774, begun after the famous “tea party.” While one caged Bostonian quotes scripture, others accept food from Marblehead fishermen. Print (mezzotint) hand-colored in gouache on laid paper, the title of "The Bostonians in Distress" over "London. Printed for R. Sayer & J. Bennett Map & Printsellers. No. 53 Fleet Street as the Act directs 19 Novr. 1774" has been cut off. From his premises in Fleet Street, Robert Sayer (1725-1794) traded as a print seller and map publisher under his own name from the 1740s until his death, or in partnership with his former apprentice, John Bennett (d.1787) from 1774 to around 1785. In June, 1774, the British Parliament passed the British Port Bill, intended to curtail all of Boston's commercial activities, including smuggling goods to the French, until the East India Company and English revenue officers had been reimbursed for losses resulting from the Boston Tea party and the colonists' refusals to pay duties. This action quickly produced shortages and unemployment, leading to panic and inflation. The ten Bostonians, representing the starving city, are hanging in a cage labelled "BOSTON" from the Liberty Tree, which is ringed with cannons to emphasize Boston's isolation. While a caged man quotes the scriptural verse, "They cried unto the Lord in their Trouble & he saved them out of their Distress" (Psalm CVII 13), others grab at the fish being offered by three men, representatives of the other colonies, in a small boat in the foreground. There is a blockade of four frigates that Lord North hopefully thought would be enough in the left background. This event led to the first meeting of the Continental Congress in September 1774. The print is set in a shellwork shadowbox, probably made in Boston about 1774-1775, with a band of coral, shells, moss, etc. around the edge of the box.


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