Stamp Acting Up: 250th Anniversary of the Newport Stamp Act Riots

Last Saturday was the event of the Summer for me and the RI contingent. Last year’s event was the event that inspired me to make my blue suit and up my civilian game. This year was definitely a leap in authenticity for me. I went up from military breeches, an old waistcoat, and machine sewed coat to handsewn clothing. Did I wear the same outfit for L’Hermione? Maybe…..

Stamp Act Outfit 2014 The hat was a loaner from Uncle Hank. The beaver proved very fun to pet through out the day.

Stamp Act Outfit 2014
The hat was a loaner from Uncle Hank. The beaver proved very fun to pet through out the day.

Stamp Act Outfit 2015 Blue ditto suit with a rabbit pelt hat complete with an original gold button.

Stamp Act Outfit 2015
Blue ditto suit with a rabbit pelt hat complete with an original gold button.

I was beyond excited to be reprising the role John Robinson, the Customs Collector assigned to Newport in 1765. Ever a man of principle, Robinson showed up to town looking to do his job. When the leading merchants offered him a salary of 70,000 pounds a year to turn a blind eye to the smuggling, he turned them down. This same smuggling gets Robinson in some trouble though with merchants. In an attempt to call the Polly out on declaring only part of her cargo of molasses, Robinson went up to Dighton to take custody of the vessel. Lacking crew, he headed back to Newport, got one together, and went back up. To his dismay, everything from the ropes to the cargo was gone and the ship had her bottom drilled. The owner then filed suit for damages while in the custody of Robinson and our pal was sent to jail for two nights! And I thought my summer job was rough!

Capture

Newport, RI. You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Not the usual crowd for a Customs Collector but the suit looks great in this image, if I may say so.

Besides the fashion faux pas of repeating an outfit, the event was magical in every way and event should have been. Me and Low Spark got up early (after an evening of me styling wigs) to attempt to go fishing with an 18th century hook and line. Despite getting a strange look from the man on the pier, we set about in the hopes of catching something. Anything. We got bites and lost many worms but no fish was dumb enough to bite down completely. Instead, we had to resort to our friend to buy some scups from Whole Foods. At least we had organic stinky fish!

Ahhh, the smell of hairspray at 9:00 in the evening!

Ahhh, the smell of hairspray at 9:00 in the evening!

First time setting the line. Hopes were running high still.

First time setting the line. Hopes were running high still.

Look Ma! Our biggest catch of the day!

Look Ma! Our biggest catch of the day!

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John Robinson keeping an ever watchful eye out on the harbour. No sign of the HMS Squirrel.

We then made our way to the Old Colony House to mentally prepare ourselves for the day ahead. We arrived and were even asked to open up the windows to the balcony. Naturally, Mr. Spark and I could not resist majestic pictures looking out over Newport.

Over there! Someone that needs to pay the custom!

Over there! Someone that needs to pay the custom!

Always watching my kingdom.

Always watching over my kingdom.

Lunch was served and all of us, sailors and customs collectors alike, mingled one last time before breaking into character. It was weird having most of my friends on the anti-establishment side and not being able to talk to them during the day (without having fish hocked at me) but playing a gentleman is always up my alley.

We started the day off with a debate, which Mr. Howard laid the law down on Mr. Vernon and Ellery. I was enjoying myself just sitting back and nodding in agreement. I did take more of a proactive roll in the 2nd debate though. I then enjoyed tea with the ladies on countless occasions and discussed refined things such as the latest news from London, music, and of course, oodling over a baby.

The first debate in which Martin Howard schools those that don't want to obey the law. Though the crowd was against us, we had a very nice 12 year old girl in support of GR.

The first debate in which Martin Howard schools those that don’t want to obey the law. Though the crowd was against us, we had a very nice 12 year old girl in support of GR.

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Tea time! The plum cake was amazing as was the service! Note Mr. Howard’s 2nd wig change of the day.

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Loyalists love babies!

Loyalists love babies!

Things took a little more violent turn in the afternoon though as those pesky sailors sang silly songs and made effigies of my good friend Mr. Howard. I may add that the effigy looked NOTHING like him. Howard is a much better dresser and far less flammable.

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I had one of the most surreal moments I’ve had in reenacting though during the riot. When the fight broke lose, me and a certain sailor locked eyes and sticks and I was surrounded on all sides by angry men. Time stopped and the 5 seconds we growled at each other and had men pull us back stretched for about 10 minutes, in my head at least. My mind completely left the 21st century and I honestly thought 18th century me was about to be pummeled into the cement in front of the Old Colony House. It’s these moments that make me reenact.

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No, madam. I do not want your fish or the odor that comes with them.

Dressing up in funny clothes is fine for some people. I get it. But getting as close to the event as possible and having transcendent moments is what makes it all worth while. When you feel like you’re in the 18th century, so will the onlookers.

Sneaking the furniture of Augustus Johnston away from the angry mob.

Sneaking the furniture of Augustus Johnston away from the angry mob.

At the end of the riot, we all retired to the White Horse Tavern for drinks (Diet Coke for moi) and remarked over how well things went. Overall, this was a FANTASTIC event. We recreated a time specific event, in the location where it was held, we had authenticity standards, we did 1st person, and we researched our roles. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend my last and best event of the summer with.

The cast and crew of this great big production. Some of the hobby's finest right here, if I may say so.

The cast and crew of this great big production. Some of the hobby’s finest right here, if I may say so.

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One thought on “Stamp Acting Up: 250th Anniversary of the Newport Stamp Act Riots

  1. Pingback: “The music of the army being in general very bad…” | The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the (In)Famous Mr. Hiwell

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