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This Day in Boston History

April 14th, 1840

Isabella Stewart Gardner

On this day the source of some of Boston's greatest urban legends was born in New York City. Belle Steward married Jack Gardner of Boston when she was nineteen, and together they moved to Beacon Hill.

Boston society has often been described as unwelcoming to newcomers. Though Belle Gardner made some friends in society circles, it was her intellectual acquaintances with the writers and artists of Harvard that made her company most sought after.

She was a flamboyant social leader, who supported the Symphony, Sox, horse racing and art. Legends, none quite true, circulated that she: walked pet lions down Beacon Street, greeted visitors to her museum from a mimosa tree, laid in the buff on a bear rug in front of her prized painting Rape of Europe, and cleaned Trinity Church's steps with her tooth brush to atone for her sins. However, she did make the dowdy Boston shine brighter in the Victorian age, and continues to enliven the city through the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.


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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