"The Bloody Massacre..."
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Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre was probably the single most effective piece of propaganda of the pre-Revolutionary war period.
Samuel Adams, a friend of Revere's, was among the middle and upper-class Patriots who orchestrated the large-scale anti-British actions, and who wrote many of the more than 400 pamphlets that circulated prior to the war. Up to this point, these Patriot propagandists had often decried the fighting and destruction of property by mob action. But the outrage generated by the event that Adams dubbed the "Boston Massacre" provided them with an unparalleled opportunity to unite the colonists in common cause. Where before they had attempted to distance themselves from the behavior of the laboring classes, they now attempted to shape it.
At Adams' request, Revere prepared an engraving of the scene before the Custom House. The image appeared in the March 12, 1770 issue of the Boston Gazette, along with Revere's "An account of a late Military Massacre at Boston..." and was later reprinted and widely distributed as a broadside.
Revere's engraving was a nearly exact duplication of a drawing by Henry Pelham, stepbrother of painter John Singleton Copley. Pelham published his design nearly two weeks after Revere's.
The picture shows seven British soldiers firing into a peaceful crowd as the eighth raises his sabre in command -- unlike the actual event, in which Bostonians had provoked the soldiers. In the picture, a tall man lies prostrate in the left foreground. The figure probably represents Crispus Attacks, a mulatto seaman and ropemaker who was the first man killed in the skirmish.
Image Credit: Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society
The Boston Massacre
Portrait of Crispus Attucks in Boston Massacre
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