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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  July 5, 2015 10:01pm-10:32pm EDT

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>> the last band passes, and
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ocean of people falls in the line of march. perhaps for a picnic to end this day, a truly special day our country's birthday. as the last of the rockets red glare fades in the night sky the city looks forward to next year when it celebrates a day in old milwaukee and becomes again america's fourth of july capital. >> each week, american history tv's american artifacts take you to museums and historic places. next, we travel to philadelphia
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to learn about the museum of the american revolution. located two blocks from independence hall, the museum is scheduled to open in early 2017. >> the idea for the museum goes back a century when descendents of george washington put up for sale, the tent that housed him in every campaign of the revolution. it was acquired by a minister. that launched a century of collecting. and launch the idea of a museum to tell the entire story of the revolution. the collections of the museum are incomparable. they have no peer. we have objects related to washington which truly are unique, one-of-a-kind. they bring to life his leadership, his incredible role in keeping the continental army together and never wavering from his goal of success. at the same time, we have objects that represent the common footsoldier, the calvary man.
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we have objects that reflect the role of not just american soldiers but british and french and native american. our collection will enable us to present the entire story of the american revolution to all who come to philadelphia. scott stephenson is the director of collections from the museum. he is the ideal person to oversee the creation of these exhibits. he is a ph.d historian in the american revolution. at the same time, he has been a screenwriter for historical productions and he's created exhibits. so, he's deeply experienced, not just in the history and meaning of the revolution but the material culture, the objects, artifacts, the equipment that were used to bring about the revolution. scott: so, i pulled together a selection of objects from the collection. to give you some of the highlights and also give you an indication of the big storyline
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we are telling in the museum. the first gallery that you will come into is going to take visitors back to the end of the french and indian war, about 1763. there is a new british monarch the first british foreign in the 18th century, george iii. he is young, very vibrant. he considers himself to be a real patriot king. americans of the future revolutionary generation are extremely patriotic. they have just participated in one of the most dramatic victories in modern history and are now part of really the richest, most extensive empire since the classical age. the first object i wanted to show was actually an engraved soldier's powder horn. this is a cow horn. one of a pair, that was carved
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in 1763 to reflect that great victory. you can see a crown and g.r. latin for george rex, or king george iii. the new british monarch. it is engraved with the theme of the city of havana in cuba images of some of the fortifications around havana. british ships in the harbor. the british and colonial american forces had taken havana from the spanish in 1762. and this horn was carved to commemorate the embarkation of those troops. after the piece of paris, the city was illuminated july 7, 1763. this is marking a moment in which britain and colonial
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americans were reveling in this magnificent empire. they expected to reap the fruits of that victory. they had defeated the spanish. they had defeated the french. and their allies. so britain was left with a vastly expanded empire, not just in north america but in india, in africa, one of the last actions of the war took place when the british to manila in -- took manila in the philippines. it really was the first global war. sometimes known as the seven years war, or the french and indian war in north america. this horn is a great embodiment of the optimism that colonial americans had at this point in her history. but, of course, shortly after the riotous celebrations settled down, someone has to pay the bill. this is often when reality sets
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in. the story we will tell begins after this moment when british policymakers have to face up to the cost of victory, the price of victory. now that you have something like 80,000 catholic french inhabitants, former french colonists in north america, tens of thousands of native americans who formerly had been part of the french empire in north america. they are all now subjects of king george iii. so, armies have to be stationed in america. fleets have got to be stationed not just in america but in south america policing this new british empire. and so, this is the roots of the odious stamp act, which many people view as the beginning of the revolutionary period. it takes another 10 years for there to be shooting that starts in north america, but that is the roots of the revolutionary story. britain has to raise revenue to
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try to cover these costs. it is a common fallacy that the stamp act was to pay for the cost of that war. that price had actually been borne by british taxpayers who had been squeezed just like we often say today, can't afford any more taxes. there were looking at americans and saying they are lightly taxed. maybe they can bear the cost of their defense. and so, a lot of the next decade, and that is where we moved in, we actually have an image of what the gallery, where we tell the story will be located under the limbs of boston's liberty tree, a recreation, where we will talk about that decade from 1765 to 1775 when americans begin to articulate their views of their, first, their english liberties that are being infringed by these acts and taxes on the part of the british.
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and one of the objects we will show, this is a chinese porcelain punch bowl. so, this was used to serve alcoholic punches in taverns and homes in britain and america. this was produced in china and for the export trade to britain and america. it has the arms of liberty and the figure of john wilkes, who was a british opposition politician against the, rallied support in britain against the administration of lord beaut. he became a very popular figure for the american sons of liberty. and they would often use wilkes' image in their propaganda. when they were protesting for american liberty all through the 1760's and 1770's. that is wonderful, evocative piece.
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as american colonists begin shouting very loudly and increasingly loud about their rights as englishmen and their feeling that there is a conspiracy to inflate them -- conspiracy to enslave them underway under way in the british parliament, the whole issue of slavery, of chattel slavery increasingly the contradiction of these calls for liberty with the presence of slavery, particularly in america becomes louder. so, this next item is an incredibly rare and important work. this is a volume of poems published in london in 1773. by a young woman named phyllis wheatley, the first published african-american poet in american history. phyllis wheatley had been
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enslaved off the west coast of africa, probably in gambia or senegal, and brought to the new world in the 1750's at 8 years old. she eventually was sold to a family by the name of wheatley in massachusetts. the daughter taught her to read and write. she had a real natural talent for writing verse. and, of course, at the time, this was an extraordinary development. so much so, that there were -- she began publishing pieces in the newspaper and they begin to be circulated. there was a trial held in boston where people like john hancock and other figures in the community were brought together to basically put her on trial, ask her questions to try to determine if it was possible that this african-american woman could have written poetry like this. of course, she passed.
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and they actually wrote a testimonial saying that they believed that she, in fact, had been the talented writer who produced this poetry. and so, in 1773, she traveled to london and this volume was published. it is also remarkable in that we have an engraved image presumably a good, physical likeness of phyllis wheatley. this volume, and i will turn the page to show you, is also, as it would be wonderful even by itself, but it is one of the few examples that have actually come down to us with phillis wheatley's signature on the volume. and it just does not get better than that. you know, trying to find the tangible objects that allow us to discuss the very important contributions of african americans to the founding period of our nation. it can be a real struggle as a
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curator to find this material so we are incredibly blessed to have that volume available and to share with our visitors once we are open. and that will be in that same gallery located right next to the liberty tree. so our visitors can reflect on the contradiction between these calls for liberty and the continued persistence of slavery. couple of other items. these are later bindings of two 18th century publications. of course, at the end of this decade of increasing division between americans and britains over this issue of taxation and representation in the empire, it comes to a head in the aftermath of the boston tea party and the coercive acts passed by parliament in 1774.
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delegates come together in philadelphia at the first continental congress in the fall of 1774. those delegates meet in a small building that still stands today across the street from the future museum of the american revolution, carpenters hall. this is often known as the first continental congress. and so, this is a first printing of the journals of the proceedings of congress. in this case, the first continental congress held in philadelphia september 5, 1774. and it was published just on the street from where the museum will be located at the london coffeehouse. this is the corner of market and front street in old town philadelphia. this wonderful emblem that we have in the center, very symbolic, you as you can see there is the hand -- each one representing one of the colonies with the pillar and a liberty cap at the top and the words
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"magna carta" underneath, still reminding us that these delegates on the eve of the revolutionary war are still appealing to their rights as englishmen to define their place in the empire and seek redress for these grievances. of course, not everybody felt this was the right way to go. there were still, this is by no means the consensus of all americans that we should be pushing literally to the brink of war to the point where the congress is calling for americans to form voluntary military associations and prepare to fight britain in the fall of 1774. this is a piece of opposition literature published new york, and i think it is funny to look now because it seems very contemporary in a sense. what think ye of the congress now? which we might say in 2015 as well. or an inquiry, how far the
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americans are bound to abide and execute the decisions of the late congress. this is a loyalist tract calling into question the legitimacy of that group of delegates here in philadelphia at the first continental congress. and of course, this is the beginnings of a divide that will split eventually into tories and patriots or loyalist and revolutionaries during the revolution and result in tens of thousands of americans who chose to exile themselves as a result of the revolution and become founders of other nations. many people in canada can trace ancestry to loyalist ancestors who left places like new york, boston, and philadelphia in order to settle in canada after the war. this, another engraved powderhorn. this one dating to 1775.
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it is a wonderful object to transition from pre-war decade of americans appealing to the britains as shared inheritors of a tradition of british liberty and transitioning to making a decision to declare independence and go their own separate way. so, this is a powderhorn that belonged to a man's name william waller, a virginia that lived near shepherdstown, west virginia. not far from washington, d.c. it has a lot of the slogans we associate with the revolution or -- revolutionary movement. most recognizable "liberty or death." these words reported be spoken by patrick henry at the beginning of the war. i will lift this carefully out of the mount. you can see "kill or be killed," which is a contemporary sounding slogan. and "appeal to heaven."
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which was something that appeared on new england flags at the time and was also a very popular slogan at the beginning of the war. the date, 1775. and curiously, this crown. if you will remember on that havana powderhorn, also a crown with g.r. iii. sometimes people who see this are confused. this guy was a virginia fighting in the continental army. why would he have a crown on his powderhorn? in 1775, these men are still fighting to restore their rights as englishmen within the empire. so it's perfectly consistent to appeal to the king, to see the king as the person who is going to intercede with parliament. that parliament is the group that is oppressing and trying to enslave americans. of course, all of that changes between summer of 1775 and summer of 1776, in which
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americans finally when they hear that the king has refused to read a petition sent by the second continental congress, the olive branch petition, that he has declared them to be in rebellion, essentially taken them out of his protection, they then, encouraged by an immigrant englishmenan by the name of thomas thomas paine who writes "common sense," declare independence. this newspaper if i am is a bound volume of all of the papers in philadelphia. the pennsylvania evening post from 1776. i have turned to the page on saturday, july 6, 1776. and this is the first newspaper printing in english of the declaration of independence. so, while many viewers will, have seen the large broad-sized publish by john dunlap and other
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printers, it would've been posted up in public places, this is probably the way many colonial americans first reads the words of the decoration of independence published in newspapers. first in philadelphia but then quickly scattering through the other colonies, and then eventually by august appearing in london itself. so independence had actually been already declared on july 2 of 1776. we celebrate the 4th. the 4th is the day the declaration of independence, the final version, was adopted by congress. then it is sent off and printed. tuesday, july 2, 1776. as you can see, just general descriptions of activities going on in various cities around the world and around the nation. more news, things going on in providence, in newport and new haven and philadelphia.
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and literally the news must have arrived very late in the day because they had set the type. they were at the ends of the news columns just before the classified ads, and here this day, the continental congress declared the united colonies free and independent states. that is the announcement of the birth of the united states. to be sold, the brigantine two friends. and we move on to the classifieds. in some ways, i love showing people that volume as much as the declaration. so that is really the birth of the united states. of course, nothing on the fourth, because that is the day the decoration is finally being put into its final form and adopted by congress. at the end of the first page all of these lines are indictments against the king. congress explaining its decision to declare independence by citing all his grievances
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against the king. among those, he has abdicated government by his declaring us out of his protection. that is saying basically, my armies and navies are going to attack you. then he says, he is at this time "transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun --" this cap, this fragment of a cap, originally belonged to one of those foreign, what americans referred to as foreign mercenaries. the hetian soldiers from one of several principalities in the german-speaking states of central europe. so this is a fusilier cap. this is an archaeological fragment. it was recovered from the delaware river near, if you've ever flown into philadelphia
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international airport, as you are landing, if you look at the river, there all the remnants of a bunch of barriers americans put there to keep the british from taking philadelphia in 1777. at some point over the winter of 1777, a boatload of hetians got caught up and dumped into the river with their baggage. this cap was recovered during the first world war by a corps of engineers folks dredging the channel. so this is actually a brass gilt, metal pieces. this would've had a wool liner in the back. it would've been worn on the head of the hetian fusilier, who would have served in the campaign in 1776, driving washington's army back to new jersey and retreated into pennsylvania.
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could well have been worn in the actions right up to the crossing and the battles of trenton and princeton. then the soldier may well have been part of the garrison of new york. then a reinforcements into philadelphia in that winter of 1777-1778. that same winter, the american army, george washington's army was encamped about 20 miles west of philadelphia. british army had taken the rebel capital of philadelphia and was hoping to split off philadelphia and the northern colonies from the southern colonies and end the rebellion. washington's army marches into valley forge, about 20 miles west. in this is actually a painting will be very recognizable to people. probably one of the most iconic images of the american revolution. it was painted after the civil war.
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very evocative of the date december 19, 1777, as washington's army marches into its winter quarters of valley forge. a couple of the objects i have would have been witnesses to that winter encampment. the first is a para silver camp cups. these past down through relatives of general washington who had this "w" engraved on the m later and the legend camp cup owned and used by general washington during the war of the revolution. these are part of a set of 12 cups. what is remarkable is the original receipt has survived. we know that these were made by a philadelphia silversmith
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working at second and market street in old city philadelphia. washington paid for these cups two days before he and the continental army marched to philadelphia down chestnut street, virtually passed the future front door of the museum of the american revolution . they passed congress which was drawn up on the steps of independence hall. john adams wrote to abigail adams describing the scene. he said they were very spry, although not all instep and he thought that they needed a little bit of work to look professional, but he was very buoyed at the site of seeing this vast army marching through philadelphia, very much like the fellows in the painting are doing. of course, about a month later almost to the day, the british army marches down that same street and occupies philadelphia. so this was one of those many, many dark days of the american revolution. so, washington's army then marches into valley forge.
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and this was one of the winters, as she did every winter through the 8 years of the war, that martha washington joined general washington. one of the rarest objects in the collection i will share with you now. this is a volume that was actually owned by martha washington. it is -- see her signature. m. washington . and it's an early edition printed in england. it was known as a help and guide to christian families, published in london in 1752. quite likely a book that she may well you can imagine would have taken along with her to camp to spend the winter of valley forge . the top of the page is missing. almost certain it was clipped by an autograph collector in the
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19th century. presumably, her name would have been written out there as well. and it was probably clipped by a collector. if any viewers have that in their collection, we would love to reunite the book in the autograph, but there is her signature -- martha washington. it is entirely possible to imagine that is a book that spent the winter at valley forge along with the general and his suffering soldiers. few other objects, again, an object that quite likely was also used at valley forge -- the soldier's canteen. it seems like a fairly mundane object, but about half a dozen canteens that have survived from the revolution with the surcharge which tells us that, the state surcharge which tells us this was the property of the continental army that was marked.
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there was an order that came out midway through the war because so much of the material they were having trouble keeping track. soldiers would be discharged and take their gear. of course, preliminarily the last perennially short on supplies. there was an effort by marking weapons and things like canteens they could try to get a better handle on keeping all of that material. >> one of the great treasures in our collection is a simple modest little flag. blue background. it bears 13 stars. it was general washington's personal standard. it really really signified his presence. when you saw that flag you knew general washington was in command. it's incredible it has survived. so few flags from the revolution have. it came to us from a descendent of general washington's sister betty. her son was an officer in what
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is called the lifeguard. these were the men and officers that were personally assigned to general washington and had the responsibility of ensuring his safety. so it is a wonderful object directly from the washington family that again, reflects his command, his leadership of the continental army during the revolution. the museum will be located in the very heart of philadelphia's historic area. the national park service agreed with the importance of this museum and gave up ownership of part of independence park just so this museum could be built within two blocks of independence hall. so, every visitor who comes to discover the birthplace of america, will now have an opportunity to learn the larger context, the story of the american revolution and how that independence and that liberty was achieved.


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