Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington & the American Revolution
closes September 1, 2012
"Sowing the Seeds of Liberty," is the Museum's new cornerstone exhibition on Lexington and the American Revolution. This new long-term installation is designed to stimulate new ways of thinking about the battle at Lexington on April 19, 1775, a conflict that has long sparked the American imagination.
The story in the "Seeds of Liberty" is told through the eyes and voices of the people who shaped our nation's struggle for independence. Much of the exhibition's focus centers on two main Lexington leaders, John Parker and Jonas Clarke.
Parker, among the many roles he played, was the elected captain of the local militia. He was in charge of the men on the town common when the British regiment arrived from Boston. Legend has it that his last order to his men was "Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." The other, Jonas Clarke, was minister of the local church. He was a strong and well-respected voice in favor of independence. "Seeds of Liberty," however, makes clear that the revolution involved more than those that stood on the Green. The entire town was involved. The idea of revolution permeated all facets of life. In the small town of Lexington, everyone was connected, either by family, trade, or church--often by all three. The exhibition's organization reveals the story in seven sections.
In Lexington ca. 1774, everyone was a farmer. People may have had other jobs, such as blacksmith, cooper or wheelwright, but all were tied to the land. Every man was also citizen-soldier. A compelling image in the introduction underscores that theme as a farmer transforms into a soldier and then back again. Images and artifacts relating to farming -- especially dairy farming -- are on display in this section.
The Loring Kitchen
Visitors are introduced to family life in the 1770s through the Loring family. Visitors meet the Lorings in their kitchen where the family of five women, two men, and a baby worked and gathered. Visitors learn about the tasks the Loring girls undertook such as making cheese and butter, cooking, cleaning and producing wool, all of which contributed to the family economy. Visitors have a chance to see how the Loring's world connected to the larger world of trade.
Taxes, Trade, and Tension
The roots of the revolution are revealed here, and visitors learn how tension mounted in the region over several years. Historic, as well as not-so-famous protests are examined, such as the Boston Tea Party and the lesser-known Lexington Tea Bonfire. A video tells the story as seen through the eyes of Paul Revere of the gathering storm from 1765-1774. Known chiefly for his "midnight ride," this famous patriot was also a Freemason, a silversmith, and a political cartoonist, and he maintained strong ties to Lexington.
John Parker Wheelwright
In addition to is historic role on Lexington Green, John Parker was a local businessman. Primarily a wheelwright, the talented Captain Parker also crafted furniture, barrels, tools and presses. Through examples of the kinds of tools Parker used, several of which visitors can try themselves, the exhibition brings Parker's world to life.
Common Cause: The Role of the Meeting House
Lexington residents discussed political matters and also tended to spiritual matters in the meeting house. The Reverend Jonas Clarke occupied a unique position in Lexington as both a spiritual and political leader. As tensions built over a period of years, townspeople initiated military preparations at the meeting house. They stockpiled military supplies in the building, including storing gun powder under the pulpit. Lights and sound are used to transform the meeting house from a place of town business to a house of worship.
Confrontation on the Common
Here visitors learn how the events of April 19, 1775 unfolded. The visitor begins the journey with the march of the British regulars from Boston, to Paul Reveres ride, to the skirmish in Lexington, concluding with the British retreat to Boston. (The print shown is by Amos Doolittle titled "The Battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775." Courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT.)
An Enduring Symbol
The final area examines the Battle of Lexington as an enduring symbol. The question, "Where are they now?" is answered through epilogues about many of the chief players in the day's drama. Visitors can also share why April 19, 1775, is important to them.
Meet Billy the Patriot Mouse
Designed to help young children follow along with the exhibition is Billy the Patriot Mouse. Billy, a cartoon character, lives with the Estabrook family in colonial Lexington and participates in events happening throughout the "Seeds of Liberty." He might be seen in the Loring kitchen stealing cheese, or listening to political gossip at John Parker's wheelwright shop. After the battle at Lexington, he travels with Prince Estabrook and later fights with the troops in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. Billy is placed at the eye-level of a child, where it is hoped he will spark conversation and meaningful interaction between visitors of all ages.