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This Day in Boston History

November 18th, 1755

Faneuil Hall's Grasshopper Escapes

Made by Shem Drowne in 1742, Faneuil Hall's grasshopper weathervane has had a lively existence.

Why a grasshopper? The London Exchange had six grasshopper weathervanes in honor of its founder Sir Thomas Gresham, who's family seal bore a grasshopper. When Peter Faneuil donated Faneuil Hall, he had been a member of the London Exchange, and made sure his hall had its own grasshopper too.

On this date, Boston was rocked by an earthquake which threw the grasshopper from Faneuil Hall. Shem Drowne, then in his seventies repaired it with his sons, but the grasshopper would continue to find its way to earth.

The freedom loving grasshopper fell to earth when the original Faneuil Hall was destroyed by fire a decade later. Once rebuilt, it would be knocked from its perch by a flag being lowered, and it would be stolen, leading to the discovery of a ring of weathervane thieves.


England's Prime Minister never expected this tea tax to cause an outcry, let alone revolution. In 1767, England reduced its property taxes at home. To balance the national budget they needed to find a mechanism for the American colonies to pay for the expense of stationing officials in them. The officials would generate their own revenue by collecting taxes on all imported goods, and once paid affixing stamps on them. This Stamp Tax generated more in the way of protests and smuggling than added revenue.

Religion. Politics. Rebellion. Boston’s pedigree was forged back in England in the midst of religious dissension, where Puritans and Pilgrims sought religious reform, and Cavaliers and Roundheads vied for political power. The question isn't where did Boston get its name – but how.

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