Patriot’s Day, Then and Now

Cover Page

Cover page for the "Celebration of the First Battle of the Revolution" program

While not a national holiday in the United States, Patriot’s Day is a day of great import in Massachusetts, the state of its inception.  An official state holiday since 1894, Patriot’s Day commemorates the seminal Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington and Concord fought on April 19, 1775, and the Civil War Riot in Baltimore of April 19, 1861.

Although Patriot’s Day was not officially proclaimed a state holiday until 1894, there had been a long-standing tradition of commemoration for the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  In our collection there is evidence of this going back to at least 1890.

On Monday, April 20, 1891, the Danvers Historical Society hosted a lengthy event with a robust program designed to commemorate, allow for reflection, and instill a patriotic passion in its attendees.

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"Celebration of the First Battle of the Revolution" program

This included addresses at the town hall by prominent members of society, memorial speeches, a “Social Gathering and Supper,” and presentations of patriotic poems, songs, and hymns.  In our collection we hold material written by many of the people on the program, including the Mayor of Salem, Robert S. Rantoul, historian Charles H. Preston, and famed poet Lucy Larcom.

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"Celebration of the First Battle of the Revolution" program

Also in our collection is a printed version of the poem written by the Revered Arthur P. Putnam entitled “Our Heroes of 1775 and Our Boys in Blue,” which exalts several Danvers citizens who sacrificed their lives during the Revolutionary War.

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"Our Heroes of 1775, and our 'Boys in Blue,'" by Rev. A.P. Putnam

These examples of Essex County traditions demonstrate the commitment to patriotism and commemoration that are cornerstones of American values.  On this day historically, Bay Staters were given the opportunity to pause, reflect, and appreciate the freedoms which can sometimes be taken for granted.

From "The Battle of April 19, 1775 in Lexington, Concord..." by Frank Warren Coburn

"Plate IV A View of the South Part of Lexington," engraving by Amos Doolittle

Today, Patriot’s Day is commemorated with reenactments, parades, and ceremonies throughout the Commonwealth.  It has been associated with Massachusetts sporting history since 1897 with the first annual running of what is now known as the Boston Marathon, organized by the Boston Athletic Association.  This year will be a particularly poignant demonstration of Massachusetts’ commitment to tradition and its appreciation for the great freedoms available to its citizens.

For more information on the men and women mentioned in the program, please consult PHILCAT.

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