A new history book about Lowell by Richard P. Howe Jr and Chaim Rosenberg to be published on March 11, 2013. To order a copy and to learn about local readings and book signings, check out our Legendary Locals of Lowell page.
On the evening of December 25, 1776, George Washington led a ragtag group of Colonial soldiers across the ice-choked Delaware River and successfully attacked the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey. Coming after a string of crushing defeats and after the colonial army had shrunk in size by 90%, the Trenton victory sustained the American Revolution during one of its most desperate periods.
Perhaps the best book on the Trenton action and the events leading up to it is David Hackett Fischer’s “Washington’s Crossing” which was published in 2004. Besides being a masterful account of that period of the war, Fischer also considers one of America’s most famous paintings – Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware” which hangs in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here’s what Fischer writes about the painting which is shown above:
The painting is familiar to us in a general way, but when we look again its details take us by surprise. Washington’s small boat is crowded with thirteen men. Their dress tells us that they are soldiers from many parts of America, and each of them has a story that is revealed by a few strokes of the artist’s brush. One man wears the short tarpaulin jacket of a New England seaman; we look again and discover that he is of African descent. Another is a recent Scottish immigrant, still wearing his Balmoral bonnet. A third is an androgynous figure in a loose red shirt, maybe a woman in man’s clothing, pulling at an oar.
At the bow and stern of the boat are hard-faced western riflemen in hunting shirts and deerskin leggings. Huddled between the thwarts are farmers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in blanket coats and broad-brimmed hats. One carries a countryman’s double-barreled shotgun. The other looks very ill, and his head is swathed in a bandage. A soldier beside them is in full uniform, a rarity in this army; he wears the blue coat and red facings of Haslet’s Delaware Regiment. Another figure wears a boat cloak and an oiled hat that a prosperous Baltimore merchant might have used on a West Indian voyage; his sleeve reveals the facings of Smallwood’s silk-stocking Maryland Regiment. Hidden behind them is a mysterious thirteenth man. Only his weapon is visible; one wonders who he might have been.
The dominant figures in the painting are two gentlemen of Virginia who stand tall above the rest. One of them is Lieutenant James Monroe, holding a big American flag upright against the storm. The other is Washington in his Continental uniform of buff and blue. He holds a brass telescope and wears a heavy saber, symbolic of a statesman’s vision and a soldier’s strength.
The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Eastern Massachusetts with the snow expected to begin by noon tomorrow and continue into the middle of Monday. Life will be easier with all schools on vacation already, but it still sounds like Monday morning will be a mess. Today’s Globe uses the impending storm to remind folks of the “new” duty imposed on homeowners by the Supreme Judicial Court to promptly remove snow from sidewalks and walkways. In the steamy days of last July when the SJC first announced this new rule, we did a blog post about it that generated a dozen comments. With the first big storm of the season almost here, I thought it might be interesting to revisit that blog post and its comments which are all reproduced below:
Papadopoulos v Target: get your snow shovels ready
by DickH – Monday, July 26th, 2010,
Marie posted a link to the boston.com story about today’s historic decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the case of Papadopoulos v Target Corporation. The case involves not a controversial social issue but the nuances of tort law, but it’s repercussions for property owners are far-reaching.
Mr Papadopoulos was shopping at the Target store at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers. Returning to his car, he slipped and fell on some ice in the parking lot. Since the late 1800s, the law (found in court decisions, not legislative statutes) has been that a land owner owes a duty to safe guard people on his property from injuries caused by “unnatural” accumulations of snow and ice, but has no duty regarding the “natural” accumulation of snow and ice. If you don’t get the distinction, don’t worry. I’ve been trying to figure it out since law school 27 years ago.
With today’s decision, the SJC jettisoned a century of precedent that didn’t make a lot of sense and replaced it with the standard property owner’s obligation of reasonable care to protect anyone on the property from injury caused by any snow or ice, natural or unnatural. Here’s some of the key language from the decision:
We now apply to hazards arising from snow and ice the same obligation that a property owner owes to lawful visitors as to all other hazards: a duty to ‘act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the probably seriousness of such injuries, and the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk. . . Under this traditional premises liability standard, a fact finder will determine what snow and ice removal efforts are reasonable in light of the expense they impose on the landowner and the probability and seriousness of the foreseeable harm to others. . . . The snow removal reasonably expected of a property owner will depend on the amount of foot traffic to be anticipated on the property, the magnitude of the risk reasonably feared, and the burden and expense of snow and ice removal.
When I was growing up, one bright spot in the long, gloomy stretch of winter from Christmas to Opening Day was the Bob Hope Christmas Special. Hope began visiting American troops in war zones during World War Two, so in the 1960s and 1970s, he and his entourage ventured to Southeast Asia every December. Below is the entire 90-minute long 1967 Bob Hope Christmas Special. Whether you’re old enough to remember Bob Hope or so young that you’re asking “Bob Who?”, jump around inside the clip and catch some of his humor which is still amazing. And, just as Hope brought attention to those Americans in the armed services who were away from home during the holidays, remember our service members around the world today.
MassMoments reminds us on this Christmas morning that Christmas was not always “merry” in Massachusetts. On Christmas Day in 1659 – the Great and General Court of the then Massachusetts Bay Colony established a fine for anyone making merry or working on Christmas Day.
…in 1659, a law was passed by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony requiring a five-shilling fine from anyone caught “observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way.” Christmas Day was deemed by the Puritans to be a time of seasonal excess with no Biblical authority. The law was repealed in 1681 along with several other laws, under pressure from the government in London. It was not until 1856 that Christmas Day became a state holiday in Massachusetts. For two centuries preceding that date, the observance of Christmas — or lack thereof — represented a cultural tug of war between Puritan ideals and British tradition.
It wasn’t until 1856 that Massachusetts followed many other states and made Christmas a legal holiday.
An 1856 Massachusetts law accorded this status to Christmas, Washington’s Birthday, and July 4th. The success of this measure was due to the growing number of Irish Catholics in the electorate. Public offices were also to be closed on these days, and it was expected that businesses would follow suit. In time they did. Early in the twenty-first century, December 25th remains one of the few days that the nation’s economic engine is still.
Read the full story here at MassMoments. Merry Christmas!