Love, Liberty, and Quarantine: The Story of Bedloe’s Island

In 1956, the United States Congress officially named the outcrop of land surrounded by New York Bay, and home of the Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island. For almost 300 years prior to this, it was called Bedloe’s Island, for Isaac Bedloe, a Dutch colonist, merchant, and shipowner born in New Amsterdam. By the time he purchased it, the Dutch had already forced out the Lenape Indians who had used the island for seasonal hunting and fishing for hundreds of years. Because of its vast oyster beds, the Lenape called it Oyster Island.

That makes for a neat, linear history of a small holding of the Borough of Manhattan situated in the middle of New Jersey waters. There is so much more to tell.

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The Sons of Neptune

Prior to 1765, a secret society composed of a diverse, radical group of sailors in the American colonies formed. They called themselves the Sons of Neptune.

The Press Gang, 1770

During peacetime, the Royal Navy sent press gangs through dockside neighborhoods searching for able-bodied men to join their crew. It was imperative to the British Empire to have as strong a naval force as possible to maintain their dominance around the world. That being said, merchant sailors earned higher pay than the navy, and few went willingly into impressment.

Impressment, to the Sons of Neptune, was a prime example of British tyranny. Their response to it launched America’s rebellion.

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Public Houses, Inns, Taverns

Churches and taverns had a complicated relationship in Colonial America. As early as 1656, it was a finable offense in Puritan Massachusetts for a town not to have an ordinary.

As you can see by their definitions, the words for a drinking-eating-lodging establishment are mostly interchangeable. (Ordinary became the regional word for a tavern throughout New England.) However, only places called “inns” were reliably somewhere to stay while switching horses or waiting for one’s horse to rest for the next length of travel.

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