Friday, March 21, 2008

John Adams on HBO

I haven't seen the miniseries yet because I do not get HBO - I'll have to wait for the DVDs.

In the meantime, let me direct you to several excellent commentaries on the subject:

Boston 1775 has an ongoing series of commentaries.

Slate addresses the actors' anachronistic teeth.

Jill Lepore reviews the miniseries for The New Yorker.

I am especially appreciative of Boston 1775's piece, "What John and Abigail Really Saw" because it points out that John Adams was really at Henderson Inches' house on the night of the Boston Massacre. I have a particular stake in this bit of trivia because Henderson Inches had married Sally Jackson (the subject of my undergrad thesis) on February 22, 1770, and John Adams' presence at their house helped me piece together the chronology for my thesis.

6 comments:

J. L. Bell said...

So what was most interesting about Sally (Jackson) Inches?

CGDH said...

Sally Jackson Inches (daughter of selectman Joseph Jackson and Susannah Gray) married Henderson Inches on February 22, 1770. On the same day, an item appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette & Boston Weekly News-Letter in defense of an unnamed "young Lady in this Town" who was being maligned for "wittingly and willingly" violating the non-importation agreements in order to buy imported "white Sattin for her wedding Suit, she being about marrying a truly WELL-DISPOSED Gentleman of known Worth and Character" who was one of the "Committee of Merchants." The item goes on to defend this young lady, saying that she did purchase the offending cloth, but was unaware that the sellers (Amy and Elizabeth Cummings) were importers.

After going through the marriage records and the possible members of the Committee of Merchants, I came to the conclusion that the only people who fit the description and the time frame were Sally Jackson and Henderson Inches.

In my thesis, I explored the various tensions that came to a head when Sally (supposedly) bought the satin from the Cummings sisters: Sally's conflicting loyalties to her mother's family (Harrison Gray and John Gray were her maternal uncles) and her father and husband (both strong Whigs); the potential conflict between loyalty to female friends when friendships took on new political significance; women's involvement in and awareness of the non-importation agreements (the young lady claimed ignorance, but that had to heave meant that she hadn't seen a newspaper in months and had ignored the posted signs and crowds outside importers' shops), etc.

The fact that John Adams writes about visiting Henderson's (and Sally's) house less than two weeks after their marriage helped me to establish Inches' political loyalties and was tremendously useful as a narrative device, since it directly connected Sally to the violence that had raged all through the autumn of 1769 and culminated in the Boston Massacre.

Sally (Jackson) Inches is one of those historical figures who didn't leave historians a whole lot to go on, but she provided a way for me to tie together a lot of seemingly disparate story lines for that 6-month period from October 1769 to March 1770.

Also, she may have been engaged to John Hancock in her youth - the John Boyle diary in the Houghton Library at Harvard includes this entry:
Married, Mr. Henderson Inches, Merchant, to Miss Sally Jackson, Daugh. Of Joseph Jackson, Esq. - Mr. John Hancock hath paid his addresses to Miss Jackson for about ten years past, but has lately sent her a Letter of Dismission.

I didn't delve into this aspect of the story neary as much as I should have. It certainly is intriguing.

J. L. Bell said...

Ooh, very nice gossip indeed! Around that same time, William and Mehitable Dawes were being praised in the paper for getting married in domestic cloth.

You probably know there’s a lot about the Cummings sisters’ business in Patricia Cleary’s biography of Elizabeth Murray and, if I recall right, the M.H.S. volume Entrepreneurs.

Anna said...

I was watching the HBO series John Adams tonight and there was a nod at George Washington's false teeth. It made me laugh because I remembered that those teeth are on display in Baltimore at The National Museum of Dentistry. Not only that, the map that the American delegation in France used to identify the United States of America at the Treaty of Paris, the actual map from George III’s library, is on display at the Maps exhibitions running at The Walters Art Museum. Check it out http://www.visitmybaltimore.com/video/438/

CGDH said...

Thanks for the link!

SpinnakerSu said...

As an Admas-ite, and having worked & studied at Adams NHP, I was severly disappointed in the series. Though less visually acurate, the Adams Chronicles are far better historically.

I found the series painful to watch. I quit long before the end, due to it's fictionalization of Adams life story.