Making a Massacre: Preparations for A Crotch Shot

In a little over a week, I’ll be participating in the annual reenactment of the Boston Massacre. This has been 8 years in the planning for me. Well, more like a month but it’s been a dream of mine for 8 years. This is looking to be the most challenging event I’ve taken a part of for a variety of reasons. High authenticity levels, complex characters, and school life has created a deadly concoction these past few weeks. In between sewing clothes and researching who I’m portraying, I’m forced to read thousands of pages for my classes and prepare for midterms, which are conveniently placed the week of the event. This has left me with WAY less time to prepare than I’d like. For somebody who’s done oodles more character development than me, check out my dear friend Tim Abbot.

Skip to 10:40 for the good stuff.

I’ll be portraying John Clark (Clarke) the day of. I didn’t expect to get an actual role my first time going so this is a pretty big honour. Unfortunately, John Clark has been a bit of a mystery to me. No doubt, there are probably more things about him in print but thanks to school, I’ve been trapped at home and only have internet access for research.

So what do we know?

  1. He was born 10 June, 1752 and died 6 May, 1778 in Medford, Massachusetts.
  2. He is the son of John and Mary Clark.
  3. He has a twin sister named Mary. (Obviously, his parents weren’t really original with names.) John Clark Birth Record MA Town and Vital Records Medford
  4. We have the following from the Boston Gazette on 12 March, 1770:

A lad named John Clark, about 17 years of age, whose parents live at Medford, and an apprentice to Capt. Samuel Howard of this town; wounded, a ball entered just above his groin and came out at his hip, on the opposite side, apprehended he will die.

That little snip-it gives us a nice chunk of info but not enough. Now we know his trade: a captain’s apprentice. Everyone thought he was gonna die, but he didn’t…well…just not right away. Did he die like his fellow massacre victim Christopher Monk many years later because of his wound?  We don’t know.

But what about his master? This has been a HUGE pain in the arse for me. Samuel Howard isn’t exactly the most unique name and finding stuff on him has been impossible for me. At first, I was advised to look at a Samuel Howard born in 1752. This guy would later take part in the Boston Tea party. Obviously 1752 is a bit young to be a master, it’d make him the same age as John Clark. As we’ve seen, passing down names is a pretty common thing in the 18th century so maybe Samuel Howard could lead us to the right guy. Well, it didn’t. And any search for Samuel Howard brings us right on back to the Tea Party Howard. For the time being, this is a dead end.

We are left with a 17 year old captain’s apprentice and that’s about it. On one hand, I’m frustrated with myself for not being able to go further but passing the semester is slightly more important than one day. On the other, I desperately want to do a good job and getting nowhere provides a sense of failure. Once spring break begins next Wednesday for me, I’ll be kicking it into high gear to put 10 fake buttonholes on a coat and trying to fill some last minute gaps in John Clark’s story. Until then, here’s a sneak peek at what he’ll be wearing, give-or-take blonde hair and either a striped blue and white waistcoat or a solid blue waistcoat. And of course, without the ATM.

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“Massacre the History?” A Brief Perspective from a Caucasian Male

Source: Massacre the History?

First and foremost, if you haven’t taken the time to check out Our Girl History, do so now. Her blog is beyond better than mine can ever hope to be.

But recently, a discussion started over this post. Though Our Girl History (OGH) uses the Boston Massacre event as her example; make no mistake, she references a larger issue in the hobby.

I’m fortunate, both in my modern life and my 18th century life, to be a white male. When looking at 18th century events, military or civilian, you can almost guarantee that a white, 20 year old male was present. So I’m pretty much game to show up to anything.

But looking at the Boston Massacre, there’s only two documentable women present in the “inner mob” (Those closest to the soldiers). The organisers of this event have put SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much research into this that most academic historians could take a lesson from these people on how to do primary source research and put it to use. Our dear Aunt Kitty once said to me, to paraphrase, that just because children and families like coming to reenactments doesn’t mean it has to be dumbed down. A good impression or event can and should be just as researched and nuanced as any scholarly writing.

OGH isn’t here to pick on the event. She’s looking at the gender divides in the 18th century and how by modern standards, they suck. Thanks to Title IX and numerous other efforts that are lengthy to write out in this post, women no longer have to be kept out of what was considered a “boys only club.” Nor should they have to be.

But when we portray 1770, Title IX doesn’t exist and neither do all the feminist achievements of the 19th and 20th centuries. Instead, we’re left with a heavily gendered world where men play their roles and women play theirs.

Having to exclude someone just because of their gender goes against everything I and a large chunk of the population have been taught. But to our 18th century counterparts, this is nothing new to them. It hurts our 21st century selves to not be able to take part in something in the 21st century because 18th century gender roles say so.

OGH brings up a really big point:

I want to help recreate the events faithfully, but to do that, I should really just stay home.**

I come up against this problem a lot, and it bothers me. A lot. There is a part of me that thinks, “to hell with it. Would it hurt to re-write things a little to depict a slightly fairer past?” and there is another part, of equal size, that thinks the idea of falsifying history for some theoretical, ideological “good” is morally reprehensible. I do not know the solution, I just know that sitting at home, wondering “how the boys are getting along at the event” feels like crap, and so does standing around at the event explaining how “as a woman, I probably would not have actually been here”.

I crave a solution where I have a sense of ownership over the parts of my history that my culture values. However, since those parts tend to be dominated by male figures, I fear I may need to get used to disappointment…

**Don’t worry, I’m not going to. (I’ve lucked out and have a documented “part” to play.)

At what point do we forsake authenticity to appease our 21st century selves? Some may say let the women dress as men to participate. Others may lobby just let the women come in and we ignore it all together. Some say keep to the documentation. Like OGH says, there is no easy answer whatsoever. It ultimately depends upon the person you ask and what time of day it is. The topic is similar to politics. Every reenactor has an opinion on it and no matter how much you argue or how right you think you are, the other person isn’t going to change their views.

On one hand, I can never fully understand how women feel about the issue. This blog post is only me trying to scratch the surface of the surface at the larger issue. On the other, the discussion posts like the one made by OGH start lead to some really big eye openers, for me anyways.

The Boston Massacre has been my dream for a long time. Ever since I got into the hobby 8 years ago, I wanted to take part. At first I never had the right clothing and on top of that, the standards are high. But this is one of the events that inspired me to up my game so I can be a part of it. In no way are the organisers of the event trying to be purposefully exclusive to women. They’ve planned countless activities for the bulk of the day in which women are welcome to attend and take part in. I can’t say I know much about how this event is run and I can only try to imagine how much work has been put into it. From what I’ve seen just from pictures and internet contact, this is the most well planned, well documented, and highest standard event I will ever take part in.