Smallpicture Of Guy Faukes: 5K Fawkes Day in the USA- We call it "Pope's Day"!!!    Midi Music Thomas Campion, 1567-1620, "Suite in D-min: Tombeau," 9k

New!Best reference to and anthropological analysis of
Pope’s Day/Night =The Celebration of Guy Fawkes Day/Gunpowder Treason Day in Colonial and Early North America.
The official holiday that facilitated the American Revolution!
A complete collection of primary sources together with a complete collection of commentary along with an innovative anthropological analysis! The product of 30 years of study!
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From its early beginnings in the settlement at Jamestown only two years after the plot the United States has been guided in its development as a nation by the light of the bonfires of 1605.
This image (immediate left)  comes from an 18th century Broadside Printed in Boston. It depicts the pope and the devil and is part of a larger image illustrating a  Pope day procession. 
How would the organizers of those who desired  freedom and independence have faired in Boston were it not for the groundwork which they had constructed through their observance of Pope's day each November 5.

Research Thus Far: You can read below of the importance of the constitutional lessons celebrated on Guy Fawkes Day for  the settlement at Jamestown and the prelude to revolution in Boston  and New York Savannah Ga., Charleston S.C., Portsmouth , Marblehead and  Newberryport Mass.Progress toward  freedom wherever it occurs is surely worthy of   worldwide celebration. Did America really change the celebration- read a summary of the history of the celebration in Colonial America to learn of the continuity of tradition.  A broadside from Boston celebrating Pope Day can be read here click.       Read what the Catholic Scholar  John Gilmary Shea. had to say about Pope Day in America by clicking here. Did you know that George Washington was an "Enemy of the Bonfire"- tis true -click here to learn more! Scholars also believe that Guy Fawkes Day and in particular the Bonfire night aspect was transferred to the American Election day festivities click here to learn more about this. You can read about early celebrations in Maryland by clicking here. What about those tar barrels in Norwich [Conn.] 

Legal Action in New  Hampshire click here

A survey of what Brendan McConville, The King’s Three Faces, 2006 says click here

A poem from Newfoundland click

Keep in touch with this page as we seek out further references to the role of Guy Fawkes Day and the Gunpowder Plot in American History.

Far-Left: A silver beaker showing images of the Devil, the Young Pretender and the Pope. It was made by Hughes Lossieux in Saint Malo, 1707-1708 and engraved by Joseph Leddel in New York City in 1750. It is in the Museum of the City of New York. The text= "Three mortal enemies: The Devil, Pope and the Pretender.  Most wicked damnable and evil. The Pope Pretender and the devil. I wish they were all hang'd in a rope.  The Pretender Devil and Pope."( source=Gilje,Paul, A. The Road To Mobocracy,University of North Cariolina Press, 1987.

The Gunpowder Prepares the Colonists at Jamestown

The  oath  below was administered to the 1607 Jamestown Island settlers-it adequately demonstrates the fear of the Papacy Not as a religion .  Religion is  mentioned only as a political force and threat to national security.  Only two years afte the plot the political and social awareness which it shaped had been installed in America.

"I......M......doe trulie and sincerely acknowledge. professe testifie and declare in my Conscience before God & the world, That our Soveraigne Lord King James ys lawfull and rightful King of Great Britaine and of the Colony of Virginia, and of all other his Majesties Dominions and Countries. And that ye pope neither of himselfe, nor by any Authoretie of the Church or See of Rome, or by any other meanes (with any other) hath any power or authoritie to depose the King or to dispose any of his Majesties Dominions, or to authorise any forreine prince, to invade or anoy him in his Countries, or to discharge any of his subjectes of ther Allegeance and obedience to his Majesty or to give licence or leave to any of them to beare armes, raise, tumult, or to offer any violence, or hurt to his Majesties royall person, state, Goverment, or to any of his Majesties subjectes within his Majesties Dominions. Also I doe sweare from my hart, that notwithstanding any declaration or sentence of Excomunication, or deprivation made or granted, or to be made or granted by ye pope or his successors, or by any authoritie derived, or pretended to bee derived from him, or his Sea against against the king his heires or successors, or by any absolution of the said subjects from ther obedience: I will beare faith and true Allegeance to his Majestie his heires and successors and him and them will defend to the uttermost of my power, against all Conspiracies and attempts whatsoever which shall be made against his or ther persons, ther Crowne and dignitie, by reason or Color of any such sentence or declaration, or otherwise, ans will doe my best Endeavors to disclose and make knowne unto his Majestie, his heires and successors, all treason and trayterous Conspiracies, which I shall heare or knowe of to bee against him or any of them, And I doe further sweare, That I doe from my hart abhorr, Detest and abjure as impious and hereticall, this damnable doctrine and position That Princes which be excomunicated or deprived by the pope, may be deposed or murthered of ther subjects or any whatsoever. And I doe believe, and in conscience am resolved, That neither the pope nor any other person whatsoever hath power to absolve me of this Oath or anie parte thereof, which I acknowledge by good and full Authoritie is to be lawfullie ministred unto mee, and doe renounce all pardones and dispensations to ye contrarie, And theise things I doe plainely and sincerely acknowledge and swere according to theise expresse words by me spoken. And according to ye plaine and common sense and understanding of the same words without any equivocation or mentall evation or secret reservation whatsoever, And I doe make this Recognition and acknowledgment hartilie willinglie and trulie upon the true faith of a Christian So helpe me God." (Records of the Virginia Company, Vol III, 1933, pp 4-5. Library of Congress; Edited by Susan Myra Kingsbury, PhD.) The above oath was administered to the 1607 Jamestown Island settlers,

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Guy Fawkes prepares the way for Revolution in Boston

Gary B.Nash writes in The Urban Crucible “The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the American Revolution”, Harvard, 1986, Abridged


Standing in contrast to these important harbingers of the breakdown of paternalistic labor relations in Philadelphia was the persistence of traditional cultural practices in Boston.  The leather apron men  were the most remarkable of Boston’s inhabitants in perpetuating the highly symbolic and ritualistic culture of the laboring classes.  The Pope’s Day celebration in Boston provides the best glimpse of their universe.  Held every November  5 to commemorate the thwarting of the Catholic conspiracy in England, when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, Pope’s Day had become the high point of antipopery in New England.  Also called Gunpowder Plot Day, this annual festival had special appeal on both sides of the Atlantic among urban artisans, especially of the lower ranks.

In the 1730’s or earlier, Boston’s artisans began to commemorate the day with a parade and elaborate dramaturgical performances that mocked popery and the Catholic Stuart pretender.  For se verral years artisans from the North End dominated the elaborate mummery.  But South Enders soon began competing with them, parading through the streets with their own stage.  What started out as friendly competition soon turned into gang battles.  The victorious party won the right to  carry the opposition’s pageantry to the top of a hill and to burn it at night along with their own stage.  As the years passed, artisans from both areas formed paramilitary organizations with elaborate preparation preceding the annual event.  Though not so intended, Pope’s Day became a school for training lower-class leaders, for organizing men who worked with their hands and for imparting to the lower element a sense of its collective power.

Boston’s Pope’s Day also involved the ritual of status reversal so well known throughout Europe.  November 5 became the day when youth and the lower class ruled, not only in controlling the streets of the town but also  in going from house to house to collect money from  the affluent for financing the prodigious feasting and drinking that went on from morning to night.  These “forced levies”  were handed  up during the morning by well-to -do  households as a matter of course for, as Isaiah Thomas , a young printer’s apprentice, recalled some years later, “but few thought it quite safe to refuse” Authorities in Boston made attempts to control the violence and indisipline of Pope’s Day, especially after melees  in which fatal injuries were inflicted, but in general they were powerless to change its character.

Notes: Alfred F. Young, “Pope’s Day, Tar and Feathers, and “Cornet Joyce,jun .From Ritual to Rebellion in Boston, 1745-1775,” pts. I and II (manuscript made available through the courtesy of the author). The two paragraphs above are based principally on this pioneering investigation of artisan culture in Boston during the late colonial years.

P. 198: “The seaport crowds of  1765 can best be understood, however, as large groups of disaffected citizens, drawn heavily but not entirely from the laboring ranks, who worked in purposeful and coordinated ways to protest British policies and express opposition to local oligarchies.  Leadership  of the crowds varied from port to port.  In Boston, where poverty was endemic and where the Pope’s Day tradition and recurrent street demonstrations since the late 1730s had taught the laboring classes the basic lessons of organization and protest, the crowd leaders emerged from the lower social ranks and were tenuously tied to those above them.  In New York, where poverty had arrived only in the wake of the Seven Year’s War and there was no recent history of crowd protests, the Stamp Act demonstrators were led by men somewhat higher up the social ladder --ship captains, master craftsmen , and even lawyers.”

Stones and Barrel Staves in Boston From: The Stamp Act Crisis. Edmund s. & Helen M. Morgan,       Collier, 1962.

p.159: "Bostonians sometimes seemed to love violence for its own sake. Over the years there had developed a rivalry between the South End and the North End of the city.  On Pope's Day, November 5, when parades were held to celebrate the defeat of Guy Fawkes' famous gunpowder plot, the rivalry between the two sections generally broke out into a free-for-all with stones and barrel staves the principal weapons.  The two sides even developed a semi-military organization with recognized leaders, and of late the fighting had become increasingly bloody.  In 1764 a child was run over and killed by a wagon bearing an effigy of the pope, but even this had not stopped the battle.  Despite the efforts of the militia, the two sides had battered and bruised each other until the South End finally carried the day." Notes: Massachusetts Gazete and Boston News-Letter, November 8, 1764, Governor Bernard to Jon Pownall, November 26, 1765, Bernard Papers, V, 43-46, Harvard College Library.

The Anti Papal Persuasion "Deliverance from Luxury: Pope's Day"

In No King No Popery Francis D., Cogliano (Greenwood Press, London 1995) provides us with a chapter: "#2 Deliverance from Luxury:Pope's Day, Social Conflict, and the Anti-papal Persuasion".   Cogliano wishes to demonstrate that anti-popery extended beyond lectures and sermons to grand popularr rituals. Again events in New  England are noted. One still must wonder what if anything occurs outside of Boston, New York and New England.  He notes that " the elite  appreciated the stabilizing impact of anti-papal rhetoric which unified and bound a socially disparate people together. The pope was thought to be a good lightening rod to direct anger away from them.  (p.24) .Cogliano finds that the celebrations link the common people with the mainstream Protestant culture and provide a chance to vent anxieties and frustrations. Cogliano notes  the first celebration of Pope's day in the  new world as occurring in Plymouth in 1623 when rowdy sailors let their bonfire get out of control and burn several homes. The involvement of sailors and ports in the celebration is seen as significant. Ports with celebrations included: Newport, Salem, Marblehead and Portsmouth. There was Bull-baiting for the celebration in Marblehead in 1702.  The Meat was given to the poor. The plebeian nature and focus of the festivities and participants is noted.  The Boston celebrations were singled out as most vigorous.   The burning of the pope and the devil in effigy is noted. The beginning of the parade custom  in Boston in 1720's is noted. Sometimes several popes were paraded through the streets with fighting occuring when paths crossed. Drinking was noted as being associated with the event. In 1735 four apprentices drowned while canoeing from Boston Neck after burning their pope there. Cogliano lists the three elements of the celebrations: 1. procession of the effigy of the pope through the streets and exacting of tribute from the populace 2. Violent confrontation between rival processions. 3. The burning of the popes. The celebrations began in afternoon or early evening. Large floats which took many weeks to construct followed young boys who carried their own pope effigies. The ballad of the "Printshop Boys" dating from the 1760s is cited:

"The little Popes they go out first With little teney Boys: In frolics they are  full gale And make a laughing noise." p.25. -North End South End Forever (Boston 1768)

Another  verse from another song is cited in the notes #18, p.36.

"You'll hear our bell go jink,jink, Pray madam, sirs, if you'll something give, We'll burn the dog (the pope) and never let him live." -Joshua Coffin, History of Newbury (Boston, 1845).

Observations of a Printer's Apprentice Isaiah Thomas are cited in regard to celebrations in the 1750's and 1760's "Little boys had them (popes) placed on shingles, bigger boys on a piece of board, some no bigger than one boy could carry in his hands, others would require two or more boys and so on." p.25

Larger parades came aftrer the boys parades. Pope "gangs" were defined by Geography. In boston the rival neighborhoods were the North end and South end- these groups had rival popes.

Isaiah Thomas' account of one of the larger popes is cited:

"On the front of these stages, was placed in proportion to the dimesnsions of the Stage, a large lantern framed circular at the top and covered with paper.  Behind this lantern was placed an effigy of the pope sitting in an armed Chair.  Immediately behind him was the imaginary representation of the Devil, standing Erect with extended arms...The larger Effigies had heads placed on poles which went thro' the bodiesand thro' the upper part of the stages which formed like large boxes, some of them not less than 16 or 18 feet long, 3 or f4 feet whide and 3-4 feet in depth.  Inside of the Stages and out of sight sat a boy under each effigy whose business it was to move the heads of the erfigies by means of the poles before mentioned, from one side to the other as fancy directed" pp.25-26.

An annomous 70 year old man is cited as he wrote to the Columbian Centinel in 1821: "On the stage was music and something to drink-also boys, clad in frocks and trousers well covered with tar and feathers who danced around the Pope and frequently climbed up and kissed the devil"-p26. The relationship between the pope and the devil in the concerns of New Englanders is noted. David Robinson a Philadelphian is cited as he wrote about his experiences in Boston in 1761- "His Holiness was in a very antique dress and had a really Roman nose.  The Devil, out of compliance wore one about two inches longer and had a key in one hand and a pitch fork in the other."  p.26.

Isaiah Thomas is cited remembering that "The Effigy of the devil was always well tarred in order to hold a thick coat of feathers."

Peter Oliver is cited as agreeing: "sometimes both of the (the pope and the devil) are tarred and feathered, but it was generally the Devil's luck to be singular."

It is noted that the pope is shown as the servant of Satan. The Hierarch of celebrants is noted. Officers were elected to oversee construction of the pope and to lead the procession. Ebenezer Mackintosh, a shoemaker who had risen from poverty is mentioned as such an elected officer. He was known as "General" Mackintosh and is described leading the South End Pope wearing a blue and gold uniform with a lace hat and holding a rattan cane and speaking trumpet (1760s). p.26.

The election of leadership by the Pope's Day groups is considered significant as a parallel for the more traditional power structure of the city.

The Printshop Boy's Broadside is again cited as it describes the ridicule given the popes by the crowd:

"The great ones next go out, and meet With many a smart rebuff, Theyu're hall'd along the street And called bad names enough." p.27.

When the procession came to the home of a wealthy individual a "purser" collected tribute to pay for expenses of the celebrations.  It is suggested that a form of mummers play was provided in exchange for money.  Celebrants would hit the sides of houses with staves or clubs implying a threat of violence. A bell and a poem are noted by Isiah Thomas as being rung and recited at the homes of the wealthy. The Bostonian James Freeman is cited noting that the procession: was

"very abusive to inhabitants, insulting persons and breaking windows of such who did not give them money and even of those who had given liberally."

The object of the violence between groups was the capture of the pope of the other side. Isaih Thoimas is cited as remembering: "A competition it seems early arose between each part of town which made the best Popes and Devils.  Hostilities soon commenced...In those battles stones, brickbats, besides clubs were freely used and altho' persons were seldom killed, yet broken heads were not infrequent." p.27

James Freeman is cited as noting that a meeting of popes in 1745 was particulary bloody . The years of 1750's and 1760's are cited as being particularly violent. In 1752 A sailor John Crabb died-clubbed to death. Since  in Boston the celebration  reached its climax with the burning of Popes on Boston Neck, the site of the public gallows, the popes were often given a mock trial and execution there. Following the trial and execution the winning side burned the floats of the other as well as  all available lumber. Then there was hearty drinking as the evening ended.

For the author the importance of Pope's day celebrations is that they wsere both anti papal and anti authority. The plebeians rejoiced that they were free of the papal tyranny which oppressed so many others in foreign lands.  The Aristocracy could tolerate the anti-authority aspect because the focus remained upon the pope.  Eventually they were to gain the upper hand as the plebialn's lost the aspects of pope's day unrule which were traditionally their own. Violence was eliminated  and destruction limited.While legislated attempted to limit the festivities incidents such as the death of a young boy under the wheel of a North End Pope and excessive rioting (1764) gave authorities direct cause to crack down.

Employing Ebenezer Maddintosh and his followers the Whig elite helped keep order in 1765.  The Plebiean nature of the event had been changed:

James Freeman is cited as observing: "about noon the pageantry....were brought on stages and met at King Street where the Union was established in a very ceremonial manner, and having given huzzas they interchanged ground,  the South marched to the North and the North to the South until they again met...the whole proceeded to the Liberty Tree...they refreshed themselves for a while and returned to the northward agreeable to plan.  They reached Copp's Hill before six o' clock where they halted.  Having kindled a fire, the whole pagentry was committed to the flames."-p.33

The author notes that the pope's day mobs began to focus  their attention toward Britain as the 18th century progressed.  The British it was felt were drifting too close to papist ways and tolerance. In this way the pope's day celebrations plugged right into the anti British sentiments which fueled the revolution.

The aughor cites an example of one of the revelers eating at the house of one of the upper classes.  It seems a spoon was missing: "some of the Pope's attendences had some supper as well as Money given 'em at a House in Town.  One of the Company happene'd  to swallow a slilver spoon with his Victuals,Marked IHS.  Whoever it was is desired to return  it when it comes at hand"-Boston Gazette 1746, p.30.   To return to the menu click here

Boston: Pope Day Broadside from 1768

South end forever [cut] North end forever. Extraordinary verses on Pope-night. or, A commemoration the fifth of November, giving a history of the attempt, made by the papishes, to blow up king and Parliament, A. D. 1588. Together with some account of the Pope himself, and his wife Joan: with several other things worthy of notice, too tedious to mention. Sold by the printers boys in Boston [1768].

     1. HUZZA! brave Boys, behold the Pope,      Pretender and Old-Nick,      How they together lay their Heads,      To plot a poison Trick?      2. To blow up KING and PARLIAMENT      To Flitters, rent and torn:      --Oh! blund'ring Poet, Since the Plot,      Was this Pretender born.--      3. Yet, sure upon this famous Stage,      He's got together now;      And had he then, he'd been a Rogue      As bad as t'other two.      4. Come on, brave Youths, drag on your Pope      Let's see his frightful Phiz:      Let's view his Features rough and fierce,      That Map of Ugliness!      5. Distorted Joints, so huge and broad!      So horribly drest up!      'Twould puzzle Newton's Self to tell,      The D--l from the Pope.      6. See I how He Shakes his tot'ring Head      And knocks his palsy Knees;      A Proof He is the Scarlet Whore,      And got the soul Disease.      7. Most terrible for to behold,      He Stinks much worse then Rum:      Here, you behold the Pope, and here      Old Harry in his Rome.      8. D'ye ask why Satan Stands behind?      Before he durst not go,      Because his Pride won't let him Stoop,      To kiss the Pope's great Toe.      9. Old Boys, and young, be Sure observe      The Fifth Day of November;      What tho' it is a Day apast?      You still can it remember.      10. The little Popes, they go out First,      With little teney Boys:      In Frolicks they are full of Gale      And laughing make a Noise.      11. The Girls run out to fee the Sight,      The Boys eke ev'ry one;      Along they are a dragging them,      With Granadier's Caps on.      12. The great Ones next go out, and meet      With many a Smart Rebuf:      They're hall'd along from Street to Street      And call hard Names enough.      13. "A Pagan, Jew, Mahometan,      Turk, Strumpet, Wizzard, Witch;"      In short the Number of his Name's,      Six Hundred Sixty six.      14. "How dreadful do his Features show?      "How fearful is his Grin?      "Made up of ev'ry Thing that's bad;      He is the Man of Sin.      15. If that his deeden Self could see      Himself so turn'd to Fun:      In Rage He'd tear out His Pope's Eyes,      And scratch his Rev'rend Bum.      16. He'd kick his tripple Crown about,      And weary of his Life,      He'd curse the Rabble, and away      He'd run to tell his Wife.      17. [Some Wits begin to cavil here      And laughing seem to query,      "How Pope should have a Wife, and yet,      The Clergy never marry."      18. Laugh if you please, yet still I'm sure      If false I'm not alone;      Pray Critic, did you never hear      Not read of fair Pope-Joan.]      19. "Help Joan! see how I'm drag'd and bounc'd,      "Pursu'd, surrounded, -- Wife!      "And when I'm bang'd to Death, I shall      "Be barbacu'd alive."      20. Joan cry's, "Why in this Passion, Sir?      "And why so raving mad?      "You surely must mistake the Case,      "It cannot be so bad."      21. "You Fool! I saw it with my Eyes,      "I cannot be deceiv'd."      "Yes, but You told me t'other Day,      "Sight! must not be believ'd."      22. A sham'd, inrag'd, and mad, and vex'd,      He mutters ten Times more.      "I'll make a Bull, and my He-Cow      "Shall bellow, grunt and rear."      23. Oh! Pope, we pity thy sad Case,      So dismal and forlorn!      We know that thou a Cuckold art,      For thou hast many an Horn.      24. And eke sev'n Heads he has also.      Tho' but one on him flicks:      Ten Horns he in his Pocket puts,      And Heads no less than six.      25. His Pockets full of Heads and Horns,      In's Hand he holds his Keys;      So down He bends beneath their Weight,      With Age, Shame and Disease.      26. His End so near, each Cardinal      Quite old himself would feign:      He tries to stoop and cough that he      Might his Successor reign.      27. And now, their Frolick to compleat,      They to the Mill-Dam go,      Burn Him to Nothing first, and then      Plunge Him the Waves into.      28. But to conclude, from what we've heard,      With Pleasure serve that King:      Be not Pretenders, Papishes, South end forever [cut] North end forever. Extraordinary verses on Pope-night. or, A commemoration the fifth of November, giving a history of the attempt, made by the papishes, to blow up king and Parliament, A. D. 1588. Together with some account of the Pope himself, and his wife Joan: with several other things worthy of notice, too tedious to mention. Sold by the printers boys in Boston [1768].      Nor Pope, nor t'other Thing.

Sold by the Printers Boys in Boston.

Pope's Day in Boston as Cited by Peter D. Apgar in: Festivals of Colonial America from Celebration ot Revolution.  Masters Thesis, 1995, Texas Tech. pp. 52-67

1. Notes spectators obsrervance that: a boy was "placed under the platform to elevate and move round, at proper intervals, the moveable head of the pope."-(Source=Cohen and Coffin, Folklore of American Holidays, 319)

2. Notes that signs reading "The devil take the pope" and "Terror. Despair," were seen in Boston on Pope's day cart fronts (Source given-Lahvis, "Icons of American Trade," 223)

3. Notes that bonfires consumed effigies on Fort Hill. (Source-Lahvis, "Icons of American Trade." 223.)

4. Notes the competition between the gangs "North Enders and South Enders and the battle over the effigy of the Pope resulting in injury and death. (Source Shaw, American Patriots, 16-18)

 Boston Celebrations Cited in: Hennig Cohen and Tristram Coffin, eds. The Folklore of American Holidays (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1987)

1821-"Reminiscences" "A man used to ride on an ass, with immense jack boots, and his face covered with a horrible mask, and was called Joyce, Jr. His office was to assemble men and boys in mob style, and ride in the middle of them, and in such company to terrify adherents to Royal Government, before the Revolution.  The tumults which resulted in the Massacre, 1770, was excited by that means.-Joyce Junior was said to have a particular whistle which brought his adherents, &c. whenever they were wanted. "Publications of the Colonial Society of Mass. VIII (1903). 90-91. and Boston Daily Advertiser, Nov 9 1821.

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By John Gilmary Shea. (Editor's Note: Mr. Shea was a prominent American Catholic and he brings with him a strong Catholic Perspective so read with grain of salt! )

[Read before the United States Catholic Historical Society, January 19, 1888.]

The present Pope has recently had a day--a day of Jubilee, commemorated in all parts of the world. The faithful testified their joy at the celebration of his sacerdotal Jubilee, and renewed the protestation of their heartfelt allegiance to the See of Unity, to the one whom Christ has set to govern His kingdom. Princes and rulers of all lands, Mohammedan and heathen, as well as Christian, sent their courteous offerings and congratulations to His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII.

The Pope has just had a day, and a glorious day. But is this my topic? No, I am going back into the past.

There was a time when, in New England and other colonies, the Pope had his day, which was very enthusiastically celebrated. This, as a matter of history, will doubtless be new to most of my hearers, for it is not brought into prominence in the current histories of the country, and few would trace the only remnant left of the old-time celebration--the Fourth-of-July firecracker--to its real origin.

The celebration of Pope-Day arose in a curious way. After the overthrow of the English commonwealth, and the restoration of Charles II., New England was in a dilemma.

The English Crown was asserting its rights over New England, and State holidays had to be observed. But how were the Puritans to keep Guy Fawkes' Day, the 5th of November? A few misguided Catholics, driven to desperation by the penal laws, had plotted to blow up King James I. and his Parliament, led on by government detectives, in all probability. But how could the Puritans, who, as a body, drove the son of James from the throne, and sent his head rolling from the executioner's block--how could they hold up Guy Fawkes to public execration for an unaccomplished crime, when their own hands were reeking with royal blood?

The case was indeed a puzzling one. But New England shrewdness saw a way out of the difficulty. A clergyman of the Established Church in England, when he found his flock growing listless and indifferent, or, what was worse, inclined to criticize him, used to give them what he called "Cheshire Cheese"; he began a series of philippics against the Pope. This always roused them to zeal and friendly feeling.

New England, in the same way, resorted to "Cheshire Cheese," and by a happy device pleased Court and people. They would celebrate the 5th of November with all due noise and honor; but they had the Pope carried around in effigy, instead of Guy Fawkes, amid the noise of firecrackers, and finally committed it to the flames amid loud huzzas.

Thus, though they sang

"Let's always remember The fifth of November," the day became, on this side of the Atlantic, not Gunpowder Treason, but Pope-Day. The contrast between that annual insult of the last century, and the recent ovation of all loyal hearts, the tributes paid by the rulers of English-speaking lands, is striking enough. "Viva il Papa-re"

Boston, being a city of great cultivation and refinement, took the lead in celebrating Pope-Day. An effigy of the Pope was made, and generally one of the Devil; these were placed on a platform, and carried by the crowd, who kept firing crackers, home-made at first, but when New England enterprise opened intercourse with China, the Chinese firecrackers were imported for use on Pope-Day. On the front of the stage was a huge transparency, with inscriptions suited to the temper of the times. Boys below the platform worked strings, causing the figures to face toward the houses and make gestures. At the head of the procession went a man ringing a bell, and bawling a song, which ended:

"Don't you hear my little bell Go chink, chink, chink? Please give me a little money, To buy my Pope some drink."

Every house on the route of the procession was required to contribute to the expense of the show, under penalty of having the windows broken, or being otherwise damaged. The procession passed through the Common, past the State House, and often ended on Copp's Hill, where the effigies were consumed in a bonfire. Such was Pope-Day in Boston, which never dreamed in that day of the Old South Church existing to see Boston ruled by a Catholic mayor, the see of a Catholic archbishop, or its celebrating with loud acclaim an anniversary of a Pope. The newspapers of the day sometimes described these processions on Pope-Day as being carried on "with great decency and decorum"! But it was not always so. In the course of time, one quarter of Boston thought itself badly treated in the arrangements for the procession. Then North End and South End each had a Pope, and the processions generally met on Union Street, where a fight took place for the possession of all the figures; the North Enders burning them on Copp's Hill if they won the day, while their antagonists, when successful, burned the Pope on the Common. In 1745, the celebration of Pope-Day was especially disgraceful. A paper of the time says:

Tuesday last being the Anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, two Popes were made and carried thro' the Streets in the evening, one from the North, the other from the South End of the Town, attended by a vast number of negroes and white servants, armed with clubs, staves and cutlashes, who were very abusive to the Inhabitants, insulting the Persons and breaking the windows,&c., of such as did not give them money to their satisfaction, and even many of those who had given them liberally; and the two Popes meeting in Corn-hill, their followers were so infatuated as to fall upon each other with the utmost Rage and Fury. Several were sorely wounded and bruised, some left for dead, and rendered incapable of any business for a long time to the great Loss and Damage of their respective Masters.

And he prints a letter from a subscriber, condemning the supineness of the authorities. This letter was as follows:

I hope you will not suffer the grand fray, not to say bloody, that happen'd before your Door last Tuesday evening to pass off without a public rebuke; and such an one as becomes a person zealous as well for the Peace and Good Order of the State as the Church. What a scandal and Infamy to a Protestant Mob, be it of the rudest and lowest Sailors out of Boston, or even of the very negroes of the Town, to fall upon one another with Clubs and Cutlashes in a Rage and Fury which only Hell could inspire or the Devil broke loose from chains there could represent! Is this a meet or sufferable show of Protestant zeal against Popery? Is this to honor the Protestant religion to the few French prisoners of war that are left among us? Or can our children or servants be safe in the streets at such a time if such Rioters be permitted? Or in a word, what madness must seize the two mobs, united Brethren, as they would appear against Popery, to fall upon each other, break one another's Bones or dash one another's Brains out?

Why this enormity above all others should be winked at, and the Inhabitants of the Town with their Dwellings left to the mercy of a rude and intoxicated Rabble, the very Dregs of the People, black and white, and why no more has been done to prevent or suppress such Riotous proceedings, which have been long growing upon us,

and as long bewailed by all sober Persons, must be humbly left to our betters to say.*

But the voice of "decency and decorum" could not stop the celebration of Pope-Day. As politics grew fierce, first the Pretender, then obnoxious English statesmen, were burned in effigy with the Pope.

In 1755, "the Devil, the Pope, and the Pretender, at night were carried about the city on a bier, their three effigies hideously formed, and as humorously contrived, the Devil standing close behind the Pope, seemingly paying his compliments to him, with a three-pronged pitchfork in one hand, with which at times the was made to thrust his Holiness on the Back, and a lanthorn in the other, the young Pretender standing before the Pope, waiting his commands."

The newspaper which gives these details adds: "In their route through the Streets, they stop't at the French General's Lodgings,"--this was General Dieskau, then lying wounded and a prisoner in Boston,--"where a guard was ordered to prevent mischief by the Mob. The General sent down some silver by the carriers, with which after giving three huzzas, they marched off to a proper place, and set fire to the Devil's tail, burning the three to cinders."†

The passage of the Quebec Act, by which Catholics in Canada and the country northwest of the Ohio were maintained in the exercise of their religion, as it was under French rule, excited a bitter feeling in the Thirteen Colonies. This revived the Pope-Day celebration, and gave it new zest.

We have accounts of the observance of the day in several places in the year 1774:

The last public celebration of "Pope Day," so called in Newbury and Newburyport (Mass.), occurred this year. To prevent any tumult or disorder taking place during the evening or night, the town of Newburyport voted October 24, 1774, "that no effigies be carried

* "Weekly Post-Boy," Nov. 18, 1745.

† "Annapolis Gazette," Dec. 4, 1755.

about or exhibited on the 5th of November, only in the day-time." Motives of policy afterwards induced the discontinuance of this custom which has now become obsolete. This year (1774) the celebration went off with a great flourish. In the day-time companies of little boys might be seen in various parts of the town, with their little popes dressed up in the most grotesque and fantastic manner, which they carried about, some on boards and some on little carriages for their own and others' amusement. But the great exhibition was reserved for the night, in which young men as well as boys participated. They first constructed a huge vehicle, varying at times, from 20 to 40 feet long, 8 or 10 wide, and 5 or 6 high, from the lower to the upper platform, on the front of which they erected a paper lantern, capacious enough to hold in addition to the lights, five or six persons. Behind that as large as life sat the mimic Pope and several other personages, monks, friars and so forth. Last but not least stood an image of what was designed to be a representation of old Nick himself, furnished with a pair of huge horns, holding in his hands a pitchfork and otherwise accoutred, with all the frightful ugliness that their ingenuity could devise. Their next step after they had mounted their ponderous vehicle on four wheels, chosen their officers, captain, first and second lieutenant, purser and so forth, placed a boy under the platform to elevate and move around at proper intervals the movable head of the Pope.*

This same year, the two rival factions in Boston united in one celebration of what they called a Union Pope.

Even down in the Carolinas the day was observed, feeling being very strong there, as we may see by the fact that South Carolina alone, of all the States, made Protestantism the established religion in her first Constitution.

A letter from Charleston in November, 1774, says:

We had great diversion the 5th instant in seeing the effigies of Lord North, Governor Hutchinson, the Pope and the Devil, which were erected on a moving machine, and after having been paraded about the town all day, they were in the evening burnt on the common with a large bonfire, attended by a numerous crowd of people.†

* "History of Newburyport," p. 249.

† "New York Journal," Dec. 15, 1774.

General and enthusiastic as was the celebration of Pope-Day in 1774, it was the last occasion of that crafty means to excite the ignorant and brutal to hatred and violence against Catholics, though it needs no philosopher to see in Pope-Day the genesis of some events in our own time.

Pope-Day ended with 1774.

The next year the din of arms sounded through the land. Protestant and Catholic alike shouldered their muskets, and marched side by side in the cause of America. Yet in the very camp of Washington, in the army where Catholic soldiers from Maryland and Pennsylvania were gallantly facing the foe, it was proposed to celebrate Pope-Day. But from the headquarters of the Army of Freedom came the words of George Washington, already strong in the attachment of his fellow-citizens:

November 5th.--As the Commander-in-Chief has been apprised of a design formed for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the effigy of the Pope, he cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be officers and soldiers in this army so void of common sense as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this juncture; at a time when we are soliciting, and have really obtained the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as brethren embarked in the same cause,--the defence of the Liberty of America. At this juncture and under such circumstances, to be insulting their religion, is so monstrous as not to be suffered or excused; indeed, instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our brethren, as to them we are indebted for every late happy success over the common enemy in Canada.*

This was the funeral oration on the celebration of Pope-Day. It was heard of no more.

It would be presumption in me to continue, after George Washington has spoken.

But I will merely add that the firecrackers of Pope-Day have been transferred to the Fourth of July.

* Washington's Works, iii., p. 144.

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Newberryport Mass.

as Cited by Peter D. Apgar in: Festivals of Colonial America from Celebration ot Revolution.  Masters Thesis, 1995, Texas Tech. pp. 52-67

1. Cites observation of a spectator: (1764) "in addition to the images of the pope and his company" on a cart 40 feetx10 feet "there might be found on the same platform, half a dozen dancers and fiddlers." (Source cited: Cohen and Coffin, Folklore of American Holidays. 319)

2. Provides the following:

Mummer's Poem In Newburyport, Massachusetts (1760 ?) The Fifth of November,
As you well remember,
Was gunpowder treason and plot;
 I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
When the first King James the septre swayed,
This hellish powder plot was laid.
Thirty-six barrels of powder placed down below
All for old England's overthrow:
Happy the man, and happy the day
That caught Guy Fawkes in the middle of this play.
You'll hear our bell go jink, jink, jink;
Pray madam, sirs, if you' something give,
We'll burn the dog and never let him live.
We'll burn the dog without his head,
And then you'll say the dog is dead.
From Rome, from Rome, the pope is come,
All in ten thousand fears;
The fiery serpent's to be seen,
All head, mouth, nose and ears.
The treacherous knave had so contrived,
To blow king parliament all up alive.
God by his grace he did prevent
To save both king and parliament.
Happy the man, and happy the day,
That catched Guy Fawkes in the middle of his play.
Match touch, catch prime,
In the good nick of time.
Here is the pope that we got,
The whole promoter of the plot.
We'll stick a pitchfork in his back
And throw him in the fire.
-Hennig Cohen and Tristram Coffin, eds. The Folklore of American Holidays (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1987), 319.
3.Notes that when the term "boys" is used that it may refer as much to adults of a lower status as to the age of the individual   Newberryport Mass. 1775

"In the day time, companies of little boys might be seen, in various parts of the town, with their little popes, dressed up in the most grotesque and fantastic manner, which they carried about, some on boards, and some on little carriages, for their own and other's amusement.  But the great exhibition was reserved for the night, in which young men, as well as boys, participated.  They first constructed a huge vehicle, varying at times, from twenty to forty feet long, eight or ten wide, and five or six high, from the lower to the upper platform, in the front of which they erected a paper lantern, capacious enough to hold, in addition to the lights  five or xix persons.  Behind that, as large as life, sat the mimic pope, and several other personages, monks, friars and so forth.  Last, but not least, stood an image of what was deisgned to be a represntation of old Nick himself, furnished with a pair of huge horns, holding in his hand a pitchfork, and otherwise accoutred, with all the frightful ugliness that their ingenuity could desire.  Their next step, after they had mounted their ponderous vehicle on four wheels, chosen their officers, captain, first and second  lieutenant, purser and so forth, placed a boy under the platform, to elevate and move round, at proper intervals, the moveable head of the pope and attached, ropes to the front part of the machine, was to take up their line of march through the principal streets of the town.  Sometimes in addition to the images of the pope and his company, there might be found, on the same platform, half a dozen dancers and a fiddler, whose "Hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels Put life and Mettle in their heels,

Together with a large crowd who made up a long procession.  Their custom was, to call at the principal houses in various parts of the town, ring their bell, cause the pope to elevate his head, and look round upon the audience ,and repeat the following lines...(see above)--Publications of the Colonial Society of Mass., XII (19809), 293-4. also Henry W. Cunningham on the Contents of a colonial Diary quoting from Joshua Coffin's History of Newbury...1635-1845, Boston, 1845, 249-516. cited in: Hennig Cohen and Tristram Coffin, eds. The Folklore of American Holidays (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1987)

Charleston S.C.

as Cited by Peter D. Apgar in: Festivals of Colonial America from Celebration ot Revolution.  Masters Thesis, 1995, Texas Tech. pp. 52-67

1.Notes that in 1753 a Charleston newspaper worte:The anniversary of our happy Deliverance from a most horrid Popish Plot, and the glorious Revolution...was observed here as usual.: (Source cited-South Carolina Gazette, Nov. 16, 1753.

2.Notes that in Charleston a person represented the devil: "curiously tarred and feathered," and with a sign- "HOWL-Ye! Prepare my Way.-Lie on one Side, then on the other; and proclaim hyour Candour on each. You are my Beloved-be dilligent in your calling."-(Source cited: South Carolina Gazette.,Nov. 21, 1774

"Saturday last, being the Anniversary of the Nation's happy Deliverance fro mthe infernal Popish POWDER-PLOT in 1605, and also of the glorious REVOLUTION by the Landing of King William in 1688, two Events which our Brethern in England seem of late to have too much overlooked, the Morning was ushered in with Ringing of Bells, and a "Magnificent Exhibition" of Effigies, designed to represent Lord North, Gov. Hutchinson, the Pope, and the DEVIL, which were placed on a rolling stage, about eight feet high and fifteen feet long, hear Mr. Ramadge's Tavern in Broad street, being the most frequented place in town.  The Pope was exhibited in a chair of state superbly drest in all his priestly Canonicals; Lord North (with his Star, garter, & showing the Quebec Bill) on his right hand , and Governor Hutchinson on his left, both chained to stakes; the Devil with extended ARms, behind the Thre, and elevated above them, holding in one Hand a Javelin directed at the Head of Lord North, and in the other a scroll, inscribed" Rivington's New York Gazetteer;" on his arm was suspended a large Lanthorn, in the shape of a Tea Cannister, on the side of which was writ in Capitals, "Hyson, Green, Congo and Bohea Teas."  The Exhibition was constantly viewed by an incredible Number of Spectators, among whom were most of the Ladies and Gentlemen of First Fortune and Fashion.  The Pope and the Devil, were observed frequently to bow, in the most complaisant manner, to sundry individuals, as if in grateful Acknowledgement of their past services.  About 8 o'clock, A.M. the whole was moved to the square before the State-House, and back again to Mr. Ramadge's, where Devine services began in St. Michael's Church; in which situation it remained throughout the day without the least Appearance of Opposition, Tumult, or Disorder. The figure Representing Lord North, was reckoned a tolerable Likeness, and that of Governor Hutchinson a very striking one; both their heads having been carved from very good Designs.  IN the Evening the whole Machinery was carried thro' the principle (sic) streets, to the Parade, without the Town Gate, when a pole 50 feet high was erected, strung with and surrounded by a great numnber of Tar Barrels.  The tea collected by young Gentlemen the Tuesday before, being placed between the Devil and Lord North, was set on fire,  and brought on our Enemies in Effigy, that Ruin they had designed to bring on us in Reality.  The whole was consumed in a short time, in the Presence of some Thousands who rejoiced to see the Abbertors of American Taxation consumed,  By that very Engine of Oppression.  It is remarkable, that during the whole Transaction not the least Disorder Happened; and by 8'o clock at Night the Town was in a great a Quiet as on a Sabbath Evening... Besides the above exhibition, the young Gentlemen from the schools, prepared another Pope and Devil, which they also burnt in the Evening, after parading all the Streets with them throughout the Day.  Their Devil was a most grotesque figure, curiously tarred and feathered.  Their Pope was also in a fitting Posture, which a large lLanthorn before him , on the Front of which was writ- Liberty, Prosperity, and Carolina Forever--on one side was drawn, a large Cannister of Tea in Flames- on the other the Figure of America hurling a Spear at the Lord North, Kneeling upon a chest of tea, and bound with a cord, held by a hand representing Magna Charta...-South Carolina Gazette, Nov. 21, 1774. cited in: -Hennig Cohen and Tristram Coffin, eds. The Folklore of American Holidays (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1987)


as Cited by Peter D. Apgar in: Festivals of Colonial America from Celebration ot Revolution.  Masters Thesis, 1995, Texas Tech. pp. 52-67   1. Notes that a Savannah paper wrote in 1765 about sailors taking part in "usual" or Customary Pope day celebrations. (Source cited: Georgia Gazette, Nov. 7, 1765

Portsmouth New Hampshire

"The celebration of the anniversary of Guy Fawkes' night on Saturday by the young people of this city was not so extensive as in former years, no doubt owing to the condition of the streets, but nevertheless small bands paraded the streets and made the early part of the evening hideous with music (?) from the tin horns they carried for the occasion.  Some carried the usual pumpkin lanterns. The ringing of door-bells was also extensively indulged in.  Very few of the paraders knew that the celebration was in keeping of the old English custom of observing the anniversary of the discovery of the famous gunpowder plot to blow up the House of Commons.-From the Portsmouth Republican News, Nov. 7 1892.

Portsmouth/New Castle New Hampshire."It is said there are only three places left in New England in which Pope Night continues to be celebrated.  These are Newburyport, in Massachusetts, and Portsmouth and Newcastle, in New Hampshire.  In regard to Newburyport I can only speak from common report; but of Portsmouth and New Castle I can bear eye-witness, or rather ear-witness, for it is a celebration in which noise is the main element.  It is boys, however, and rather young boys who maintain a custom once pretty general in the cities and larger towns of New England, and the small boy's enjoyment and way of manifesting himself is  and ever has been by making a noise helping himself thereto by every sort of instrument that will produce the loudest sound with the least music.  It has been said that human beings in the various stages of growth, from infancy to manhood, pass through and typify the progressive stages in the development of races.  The so-called music of the barbarian and half-civilized man corresponds to the strange and rude sounds which seem to delight the ears of boyhood.Pope Night, in Portsmouth and new Castle, which is a seaside village below and very near to Portsmouth, is at present celebrated by boys from six to fourteen years of age by the blowing of horns and the carrying of lights of all kinds.  They march through the streets in procession, or in small bands, gathering in , as they march, single groups, or dividing again and sending off detachments, so as to leave no street unvisited.  The horns are of all sorts, from the penny whistle to those of two and three feet in length.  Whence the origin of the custom of blowing horns on Pope Night I am uncertain. But the lanterns and other devices for lighting the darkness of the November night have evidently something to do with the discovery of Guy Fawkes under the chambers of Parliament in the act of blowing them up with gunpowder.  In childhood I remember well looking at pictures of the scene which represented armed men with lanterns searching about in a subterranean place while the dwarfish Guy crouched among great casks of supposed gunpowder.  Formerly the lights used by the boys in their observance of Pope Night were candles set in hollowed-out pumpkins, the light showing through holes in the shells of the pumpkins, cut to represent a very squat human face.  To the lighted pumpkin heads have now been added all sorts of illuminations, chiefly lanterns and torches.

There is no doubt that in Portsmouth at least Pope Night has been observed from the earliest times, and formerly by older boys than at present; those indeed who knew what they were celebrating and in which they took a serious interest.  It is doubtful if the children who now take a part in it know what their own act signifies orcommemorates.  I shall presently produce a curious proof of this in the case of the boys of New Castle. It is a very singular fact thatt in Portsmouth, hwich long since outgrew its early local boundaries, the observance of Pope Night is entirely confined to the ancient portion of the town.  This portion has remained substantially unchanged since the colonial period; and along with its antique houses, streets, alleys and docks, there remain the remnants of old families, many local names and traditions, and this historic survivor of the observance of the Gunpowder Plot. But it will not apparently survive much longer in Portsmouth.  Every year the interest grows less and less and the boys who take part in it fewer and of a younger age.

The same may be said of New Castle, where even the name, Pope Night, has been  confounded and the whole meaning of the celebration obliterated. I sufficiently attests, the easy loss of the primitive significance of customs and observances and the complete transformation of their names, to note that in this obscure village the name Pope Night has undergone the absurd change to Pork Night"- Journal of American Folklore, V (1892), 335-36 and VI (1893), 68-69. John Albee of New Castle contributed two newspaper cuttings and the "eye-witness or rather ear witness" accounts. -Cited in -Hennig Cohen and Tristram Coffin, eds. The Folklore of American Holidays (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1987)

The New York Times
Nov. 15, 1891
An Old English Custom
How Pope Night is Celebrated in Portsmouth
In Remembrance of the Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605-
Former fierce hostilities between bands of boys.

Portsmouth, N. H. Nov. 14.--It is believed that this is the only place in the United States where the old English custom of celebrating Pope Night is continued yearly in remembrance of the discovery of the plot of Guy Fawkes to blow up the Parliament House in London, with the King, Lords, and Commons, on Nov. 5, 1605, in revenge for the penal laws against Roman Catholics.  The anniversary was formerly celebrated in England by the carrying and burning of effigies of Fawkes, and until a few years ago it was a legal holiday there.  The youthful descendants of the English settlers on the banks of the Piscataqua have never relinquished the custom, and the anniversary was celebrated last week by boys parading in the streets, blowing tin horns and carrying pumpkin lanterns.  The occasion ws not marked by an outbreak of hostilities although there was considerable emulation in having the biggest and most pumpkins and making the most noise.
The custom can be traced back in the records to the early days of the town, the name of which changed in 1653 from Strawberry Bank to Portsmouth.  In 1603, or two years before the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, as it is known in history, the Piscataqua was explored by Martin Ping, who came here with thirty men in the ship Speedwell, of 50 tons, and thirteen men in the bark Discoverer, of 26 tons.  But the name of Capt. John Smith is more closely connected with that of the Pisataqua, because he came here in 1614, discovered the Isles of Shoals off the coast, drew a map of the coast, and presented it to Prince Charles, who called the newly-discovered country New-England.
The first settlers came here from England in 1623, landing at Odiorne's Point, and as they were loyal Englishmen, bringing in their vessel the materials for building the manor house on a manor to be established according to the English custom-the occupants of the land to be held as tenants by the proprietors under the grant-it is more than likely that they celebrated an event of as much importance as the plot, Fawkes and other conspirators having been hanged only seventeen years previous to their arrival.  The names signed to the petition for changing the name of the "toune at present called Strabery Banke" to that of Portsmouth, " being a name most suitable forthis place, it being the river's mouth, and good as any in this land," are good old English names, the petitioners being the representatives of the fifty or sixty families in the limits, and as the records indicate that the growing colony observed the old English customs, it is probable that anniversary of the discovery of the plot was celebrated in some mild way.

Any person born in Portsmouth can bring to mind the hostilities between the Northenders, Southenders, and Westenders on former anniversaries of Pope Night. It appears in the old records that Northenders nad Southenders were recognized parties long before 1800.  In his "Rambles About Portsmouth," the late Charles W. Brewster referes to the parties in describing the agitation of the subject of laying side pavements between 1790 and 1800.  The town had none except very narrow ones in Paved Street, so called, and they had been laid only for the accommodation of ladies who desired to trade in the principal dry goods store.  The residents could not agree on the location for the commencement of the pavements, and the difficulty was increased by the attitude and belligerency of the boys of the town who had made Buck Street the dividing line between the Northenders and the Southenders, and had made the street, by common consent, neutral ground on which decorations of war were made and parleys held.  The Whigs and the Torys had taken sides on the question, and influenced the boys to take part in the agitation.
But at an annual town meeting a wise and farseeing townsman took advantage of the influence that the boys had created in regard to neutral ground in Buck Street and moved that the northwest side be paved with Durham flat stones….The most intense strive, however, was between the Northenders and Sputhenders, and during and for some time after the rebellion the boys took sides with the Republicans and the Democrats, the celebration of the victory of either on election night being an additional occasion for hostilities.  Any middle-aged resident can remember the days when he as an intense partisan, prepared to venture forth for the fray on election night or Pope Night.  Pockets were filled with horse chestnuts, and, with a cord or belt around the waist, the inside of one's jacket was jammed full also.

The gathering of chestnuts was begun as soon as they began to fall, and reserve stocks were stored in secret places. Under the steps of the. Universalist Church, within a block and a half of the dividing line, was a favorite hiding place for some of the reserve stock of the Southenders until it was raided one night by venturesome Northenders.  A dried chestnut propelled by a lusty arm has a stinging effect on the cheek of an opponent.  It will break windows, also, but the residents in the neighborhood of the scene of hostilities learned by experience to close their blinds early on the nights of the attacks.  Each force was divided into squads for approaching in different directions.  The plans of a battle were carefully prepared, the natural leaders among the boys having command.  Overcoats were discarded, fleetness being essential in the attack and the retreat.  Pickets were posted early in the day to guard against the secreting of squads for attacks in the rear, and toward nightfall it was not wise for any one of either party to be seen beyond the dividing line.  Boys who had errands in their opponent's district hurried through them in the afternoon, and only a brave lad could be induced to go over the line after dark.
One night a Southend boy was sent by his mother, who knew nothing of the fray, to summon a physician to the bedside of a sick sister. The physician lived over the line, but the boy had spunk enough to start on the errand before the time for the beginning of the battle.  He put on his lightest shoes, jammed his cap on hard, filled his pockets with the biggest chestnuts, and without calling for aid, as that would attract attention, he by keeping in the shadows of the houses, reached the physician's house.  While he was waiting at the door he saw flitting shadows near the trees on the opposite side, and suspecting that the Northenders were approaching.  It was a hurry call for the physician from that minute, and as the boy started to return he heard the challenging whistle.  He pretended not to have heard but quickened his pace.  The challenge was answered ahead of him, and he stepped behind a tree to reconnoiter.  Half a block away was a corner by turning which he could head for home.  He dashed for it.  A Northender sprang at him from a darkend doorway, but was tripped. Another sprung from the shadow of a high doorstep and caught him by the neck, but he twisted away and started again on a dead run.  He reached the corner in a hail of chestnuts one of which split one of his ears, but he took an extra breath and fled down the hill.  He kept in the middle of the street to avoid being tripped, and with head down took the volleys of chestnuts.  He reached the line, but he had to go to bed as soon as he reached home, and his body was covered with blue spots for a week or more.

There being several ways of approach, and as each party would not show its strength any earlier than possible, the first part of a battle consisted of skirmishes, the shadows flitting from tree to tree or dropping over fences, with the occasional ping of a chestnut against the side of a house.  Signals, generally in imitation of the voices of animals, passed from squad to squad, and sorties for the capture of prisoners enlivened the proceedings, although captures were rare, the boys dreading the treatment dealt out to prisoners.

Once a boy was kept bound and secreted for two days with hardly anything to eat.  To attack the flanks squads had to go through back yards, climb fences, cut across swamps, wade through streams, and save themselves from attacking dogs, but they got there somehow, and then the real battle began.  Chestnuts flew in all directions switches were used in close conflicts, and rough-and-tumble wrestling was indulged in where spaces permitted.  The chances of victory changed continually, until one party swept the field and drove the other far beyond the dividing line.  The largest force did not win always.  When the mill boys joined the Northenders toughness counted for more the numbers.  In the course of time the feeling ran so high that pebbles instead of chestnuts, and hickory sticks instead of switches, were used in the conflicts and the wounds and bruises were serious.  For a while the animosity was so extended that a boy who ventured at any other time of the year than Pope Night too far beyond the boundary was likely to be assaulted.  A Northender could not skate on the South mill Pond, and Southenders would not dare to be seen on the North mill Pond.  At length the parents took notice of the extent of the enmity and by threats and punishments stopped the yearly attacks.

The making of pumpkin lanterns by scooping  out the pulp and seeds, cutting openings to represent eyes, nose, and mouth in the rind, and using a short length of candle inside was always a part of the  preparations for the celebration of the victories.  The defeated force always made use of its lanterns, after the great bother of making them, but with not so much hilarity as the victorious force. Any boy who ventured too near the line with his lantern after the battle had it smashed on general principles, and the lanterns of the goody-goody boys who had to stay at home suffered the same treatment in the course of the celebrations.  The moderate celebrations of the anniversary in recent years have been marked contrasts with those of twenty-five years ago and the rising-generation may drop the custom before many years.

Marblehead Mass.

"Portsmouth is not alone in this peculiar observance, for down at Marblehead the night of the 5th of November is rememberd by a huge bonfire on the Neck, around which the cahps with horns dance in fantastic glee.  The Blaze Saturday night on the Marblehead Neck was a bigger one than usual." "It's a queer custom for the youths of Portsmouth and Marblehead have.- From the Portsmouth Daily Evening Times, November 7, 1892.

Chronological Listing of U.S.A. Newspaper Citations

New York Gazette Monday October 31-Nov 7, 1737

Saturday last, being the fifth of November, it was observed, here in Memory of the horrid and Treasonabnle Popish Gun-Powder Plot to blow up and destroy King, Lords and Commons, and the Gentlemen of his Majesty’s Council, the Assembly and Corporation and other the principal Gentlemen and Merchants of this City waited upon his Hounour the Leut. Governour at Port-George, where the Royal Health's were drank, as usual, under the Discharge of the Cannon, and at Night the City was illuminated.

The Georgia Gazette 894 Nov 8, 1764 Savannah November 8 Monday last the fifth inst. being the anniversary of the Gunpowder Treason, was observed here as usual.

Georgia Gazette Thurs. Nov. 7, 1765 American Intelligence Savannah November 7

Tuesday last being the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, the same was observed here by firing of the great guns, &c. A number of sailors having assembled together in order to parade through the streets, as is usual on that day, one of them, representing a Stamp-master, was placed upon a scaffold supported by six others, having a paper in his hand, and a rope fastened under his arms and round his neck; at certain stages they made a stand, where this pretended Stamp-master was obliged by several severe blows with a cudgel to call out in a pitiful tone, No Stamps, No riot act, Gentlemen, &c. After thus sufficiently exposed him to the view of the inhabitants, and used him with every indignity they could think of, they conducted him to the Machenry’s tavern before which they concluded the whole by hanging him up for a little while, and afterwards cut him down, in the presence of a crowd of spectators, who were highly diverted with the humour of the tars.—In all they exhibitions here of this kind, private as well as publick property has remained unmolested, and no outrages have been committed.

Boston Gazettte Monday November 11, 1765 #55 Boston

Tuesday last being the Anniversary of the Commemoration of the happy Deliverance of the English Nation from the Popish Plot, commonly called The Powder Plot, the Guns at Castle William and at the Batteries in Town were fired at One o’Clock; as also on board the Men of War in the Harboar.

It has long been the Custom in this Town on the Fifth of November for Numbers of Persons to exhibit on Stages some Pageantry, denoting their Abhorrence of POPERY and the horrid Plot which was to have been executed on this Day in the Year 1605; these Shews of late Years has been continued in the Evening, and we have often seen the bad Effects attending them at such a Time; the Servants and Negroes would disguise themselves, and being armed with Clubs would engage each other with great Violence, whereby many came off badly wounded; in short they carried it to such Lengths that two Parties were created in the Town, under the Apellation of North End and South-End: But the Disorders that had been committed from Time to Time induced several Gentlemen to try a Reconciliation between the two Parties; accordingly the Chiefs met on the First of this Instant, and conducted that Affair in a very orderly Manner; in the Evening the Commander of the South entered into a Treaty with the Commander of the North, and after making several Overtures they reciprocally engaged in an UNION and the former Distinctions to subdue; at the same Time the Chiefs with their Assistants engaged upon their Honor no Mischiefs should arise by their Means, and that they would prevent any Disorders, on the 5th—When the Day arrived the Morning was all Quietness, --about Noon the Pageantry, representing the Pope, Devil, and several other Effigies signifying Tyranny, Oppression, Slavery, &c. were brought on Stages from the North and South, and met in King Street, where the Union was established in a very ceremonial Manner, and having given three Huzzas, they interchanged Ground, the South marched to the North ,and the North to the South, parading thro the Streets until they again met near the Court-House.

The whole then proceeded to the Tree of Liberty, under the Shadow of which they refreshed themselves for a while, and then retreated to the Northward, agreeable to their Plan;--they reached Copp’s Hill before 6 o’ Clock, where they halted, and having enkindled a Fire, the whole Pageantry was committed to the Flames and consumed: This being finished every Person was requested to retire to their respective Homes.—It must be noticed to the Honor of all those concerned in this Business that every Thing was conducted in a most regular Manner, and such Order observed as could hardly be expected among a Concourse of several Thousand People—all seemed to be joined, agreeable to their principal Motto Lovely Unity- The Leaders, Mr. McIntosh from the South, and Mr. Swift from the North, appeared in Military Habits, with small Canes resting on their Left Arms, having Musick in front and Flank: their Assistants appeared also distinguished with small Reeds, then the respective Corps followed among whom were a great Numberof Persons in Rank: These with the Spectators filled the Streets; not a Club was seen among the whole, nor was any Negro allowed to approach near the Stages;-after the Conflagration the Populace retired, and the Town remained the whole Night in better Order than it had ever been on this Occasion—Many Gentlemen seeing the Affair so well conducted, contributed to make up a handsome Purse to entertain those that carried it on.-This Union, and one other more extensive, may be look’d upon as the (perhaps the only) happy Effects arising from the S—p A—t.
  Norwich [Conn.]

Thanksgiving day, Fast day, Election and Training days were the great holidays of the year. The Weekly Register of November, 1792, hopes that "the savage practice of making bonfires on the evening of Thanksgiving may be exchanged for some other mode of rejoicing, more consistent with the genuine spirit of Christianity." Mrs. Daniel Lathrop Coit (b. 1767. d. 1848), used to tell her grandchildren of the Guy Fawkes day. observed in Norwich in her childhood. An effigy of straw was carried through the streets, and afterward burned, and she remembered snatches of the doggerel sung : —


The fifth of November


You must always remember ;


The Gunpowder Plot


Must never be forgot.


Ding ! Dong !


The Pope's come to town.


It is said that in Portsmouth, N. H., November 5th is still observed by the boys with bonfires. Miss Caulkins mentions that Washington, in one of his

Thanksgiving barrel burning on Jail Hill Clarence E. Spalding


army orders, prohibited the soldiers from any demonstrations on Guy Fawkes or Pope-day out of deference to our French allies, and that the New London boys,


or the same reason, were persuaded during the war to give up their usual celebration.


After the Revolution was over, Pope-day revived again, and the New London authorities then prevailed upon the populace to substitute Sept. 6th, the day that Arnold burnt the town, and to burn the traitor in effigy instead of the Pope. Patriotic motives may have also influenced the Norwich boys to transfer their annual barrel burning to our New England festal day, and long may they keep up this custom, peculiar to the town.


-Perkins, Mary Elizabeth, Old Houses of the Antient Town of Norwich [Conn.] 1660-1800,  1895, p,19,

Brendan McConville, The King’s Three Faces, 2006

“Pope’s Day Established,”  p.56.

McConville makes a case for the “imposition” of  Pope’s Day celebrations by “Empire” over the colonists. He sees it as san “impearlialization of public time in British America” and the “reconciliation of the colonial past and the cosmopolitian future”.  It is very important to note that for English colonists arriving after 1605 the round of calendar customs always included celebration of Guy Fawkes Day on the Fifth of November each year. This was also always a state holiday celebrated as dictated by the book of common prayer with official sermons, local expenditures for firewood and bell ringing as well as drink. The holiday had a wide range of public manifestations which complimented official rituals. If there was an “Colonial version” it was that which developed with the evolution of Stamp Act Protests.

McConville sees the holiday as an imperial imposition- a mechanism for extending power and belonging to empire. While it can not be disputed that  the celebration contributed to national solidarity and belonging it is also true that the holiday arrived with the colonists and was not imposed upon them. Without any prompting other than that of an almanac or prayer book they would have looked forward to if not insisted upon the celebration as was seen in Georgia below. The fact that a diverse population of those of many national origins and religious persuasions is more evidence of the general enculturation of all the colonists than it is evidence of an imposition of the ritual. It is likely that non English colonists were won over to the reality of English cultural, political and linguistic dominance as a matter of practicality. McConville is correct that the celebration is not so much a product of a specifically colonial “mobocracy” or “popular culture”. It was the product of the continuity of English culture and enculturation of non English colonists. Yes, it was recognized by the state/empire and tolerated but other than via the requirements of the prayer book it was not necessarily always imposed.


“Yesterday being the Anniversary  Thanksgiving for the Gunpowder Treason Plot, when King, Lords and Commons were deliver’d from the bloody Designs of the Papists, was kept ass usual.”

-Virginia Gazette, Williamsburg, Feb. 4-11, 1736.



“”the fifth of November” should be kept  for thanksgiving for “the miraculous preservation of our king and country from the gunpowder treason”

-Massachusetts General Court, May 1665

An  annual Holiday recognized on November 5 by the Massachusetts ligislatioure for public thanksgiving and humiliation.

-Shurtleff, Nathaniel, B, ed. Records of the bovernor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, VI (Boston, Mass, 1854), part 2 211-212, 346.


“Sewall (Samuel)  and thee rest of the Puritan elite continued subtle resistance to the holiday until after 1688.”

-Sewall, Samuel, III, The Diary of Samuel Sewall, 1674-1729, MHS. Collections,  5th Ser., VII ( Boston, 1882), 19.


McConville claims a special appeal of the Calvinists in the Colonies for the holiday because they saw it as “providential intervention that upheld a Protestant ruler and referred, at least early in the eighteenth century, to the Glorious Revolution’s triumph over a Catholic, popish ruler.” This awareness also pre dated colonial America and is often cited as foundation for the continued celebration of  the holiday in England despite political transitions.

p. 57

1689 – Jacob Leisler reports the burning of a apope effigy in New York City.

Leisler, Jacob, “Papers of Jacob Leisler, placed on H- Net by David Voorhees, associate editor: “ Jacob Leisler to Edwin Stede, Nov. 23,1689.



Expanded from source…..


Coulter, ed., Journal of Wiliam Stephens, I,p. 134

Secretary of Georgia, Savannah

1742 November 5, Friday

The divine Service appointed for the day was duly observed, when Mr. Dobell read the prayers and after it one of the Church Homilies……Our Flag was hoisted in Commemoration of the  day; but I was of Opinion, that burning more powder, would be a needless Waste, of what we might stand in Need of on a more urgent Occasion.



Vol. II p. 36 (Coulter)

“Expectations of our people in taking the usual notice” (re. 5th of November)  He tried in 1743 to limit celebration to flag raising…..not firing guns due to gunpowder shortage…people objected and he was forced to fire guns and joined in loyal toasts….

p. 272

1764-1776 Coronet Joyce who arrested Charles I before the execution added as parade effigy. Custom continues beyond independence.

-Matthews, “Joyce Junior Once More,”  in: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Publications, XI, 294n.


-p. 301, 1767 North End Cart in Boston carried a British Flag and the British dissident John Wilkes an ally to colonists anti taxation efforts.


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 New  Hampshire Legal Action

New Hampshire Law


[Chapter 9.]

An Act To Prevent the Disorders Commonly Committed on the Fifth of November & the Evening following under pretence of celebrating the anniversary of the deliverance from the Gunpowder Plot.


[Passed Oct. 28, 1768. 9 George III. Original Acts. Vol. 6, p. 21: recorded Acts, vol. 3, p. 90. This act is revived and extended for ten years by the act of Jan. 10, 1771.]

                Whereas it Often Happens that many Disorders & Disturbances are Occasiond and Committed by Loose Idle People under a Notion & Pretence of Celebrating and keeping a Memorial of the Deliverance from the Gunpowder Plot on the fifth of November & the Evening following as Servants & boys Tempted to Excessive Drinking & Quarreling – Surrounding Peoples doors with Clamor & rudely Demanding money or Liquor making mock Shows of the Pope & other Exhibitions making bonfires whereby buildings are in Danger in Populous places & Stealing Materials for such fires with many other Irregularities which Disturb the Peace of Such places & tend much to Corrupt the Manners of Youth – for Prevention whereof.

                Be it enacted by the Governor Council and Assembly That Henceforth all Such Clubs Companies & Assemblies for Celebrating or Commemorating the Day aforesaid with the usual shows & mock representations of the Pope & other Exhibitions usually Carried from place to place with the Rude Noisy speeches  & Demands of Money or Liquor frequently made at Peoples Doors and the making of bonfires are hereby Strictly forbidden to be done, on the said Day or evening following or any other on the Account of & for the Cause Aforesaid on pain of Imprisonment for the Space of forty eight hours of all concernd in perpetrating any of the Offences aforesaid. And it shall be Lawful for any Justice of the peace Judge of the Superior Court of Judicature Inferior Court of Common pleas or the Sheriff of the Province upon their own View, or the Information of any Credible Witness to Cause any such Offenders or Offender to be brought before him & on Conviction to Commit the Offender for the space aforesaid unless they shall upon warning & being forbid to proceed therein which shall be first given by any householder, they shall Immediately Disperse & Retire.

                Provided that the Punishment of Imprisonment shall not be Inflicted on Boys under twelve years of Age.

                This Act to Continue and be in force for three years and no Longer.

A Poem from Newfoundland

1628, Robert Hayman, governor and poet of Newfoundland,“Of the Gunpowder Holly-day, the 5. of November,”

The Powder-Traytors, Guy Vaux, and his mates,
Who by a Hellish plot sought Saints estates,
Have in our Kalendar unto their shame,
A joyfull Holy-day cald by their Name.

-Robert Hayman, Quodlibets Lately Come Ouer From New Britaniola, Old Newfound-land Epigrams
and Other Small Parcels, Both Morall and Diuine . . . All of Them Composed and Done . . . in Britaniola,
Anciently Called Newfound-Land . . . (London: Elizabeth All-de [and Felix Kyngston], 1628), 27.

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