Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Quest For Edes & Gill

Reading J.L. Bell's Boston 1775 blog has, for the second time this year, inspired one of my infamous Boston Adventures, this time coinciding with my birthday (you know....the birthday I really didn't want). On August 8, Mr. Bell posted "A New Old Print Shop in Boston," announcing the new re-creation of The Printing Office of Edes & Gill. This printing office, in the 18th Century, played a significant role in turning public sentiment against England, arguably fueling the American Revolution. If you'll follow the link to Mr. Bell's post and scroll  down through the comments, you'll notice my eager inquiry as to whether the site was accessible to power wheelchairs, and later my discouragement about it (mingled with relief at not having to negotiate the narrow streets of the North End).

Another of Mr. Bell's readers encouraged me to contact Gary Gregory, the Executive Director and Master Printer of Edes & Gill. Throughout August and September, I toyed with the idea. On the one hand, visiting the site seemed natural to me, given my love for Boston's role in the American Revolution and the fact that I studied journalism in college. But on the other hand, the North End is so hostile to wheelchairs, and the last time I was in the vicinity was...shall we say...less than pleasant (see "Puritans, Tea And Why Grade School Field Trips Don't Thrill Me"), so I kept putting off the email.

Late Wednesday afternoon, however, I finally convinced myself to email Mr. Gregory. I couldn't come up with any other ideas for spending my  birthday. Sulking, maybe? Well, yeah...doing that would really honor God, right? Okay, so it wouldn't. And I didn't have anything to lose by contacting him. So I opened my email program and typed:

Dear Sir,

As a follower of J.L. Bell's Boston 1775 Blog, I heard about The Printing Office of Edes & Gill. I love 18th Century American History, and I studied journalism back in college, so  your office greatly intrigues me. This coming Friday is my birthday, and I'd dearly love to spend it visiting Clough House.

The problem, however, is that my husband and I are both wheelchair users, depending on power wheelchairs for mobility. I know we cannot get inside the building. But is there any possibility that someone could meet us outside the building about 1:00 (maybe a bit earlier, depending on the T) to tell us about the Boston Gazette and its role in the Revolutionary War? If so, I would greatly appreciate the time. I can receive email until 6:00 pm tomorrow evening. Thank you for reading this inquiry.

Joyfully in Christ,
Thursday, I anxiously checked my email multiple  times  between blogging, posting on Twitter and spending way too much time on Facebook. When I logged off the  Internet at 7:00, there was still nothing in my inbox from Mr. Gregory. Shrugging, I went to bed knowing only that John and I would spend my birthday in Boston. We considered going to Back Bay, Quincy Market, or the waterfront. Maybe an Italian Restaurant in the more wheelchair-friendly part of the North End (if we could find one that was accessible).

After showering Friday morning, however, I asked John to check my email, on the off chance that a reply from Mr. Gregory would be in my inbox. To my surprise, an email indeed was waiting!

Dear Debbie,

We can certainly meet you at the door of Clough House and I have had a wheel chair in the house b4 so maybe there is a chance. See you Friday

I am
Your most Humble servant

Gary Gregory
Lessons on Liberty Inc.
A 501 c (3) Non-Profit Corporation

Yahoo! On that note, John and I rushed to get the bus to Ashmont, the Red Line to Downtown Crossing and the Orange Line to Haymarket. We followed Hanover Street all the way to Paul Revere Mall, avoiding the narrow streets around Paul Revere's house that had caused us such angst on previous excursions to that part of the North End. The terrible cracks we'd struggled with on Hanover Street last April were, to our delight and amazement, no longer there, making the trip easy! North End, easy? Who would have thought? Giddy with our newfound mastery of the North End, we decided I needed my picture taken with Paul Revere!

We wheeled through the Mall, and immediately across the street we spotted the Edes & Gill sign! Clearly, while a manual chair could (with skill and effort) be maneuvered over the threshold, this wasn't a place for power wheelchairs. Still...we were really and truly there!
We were half an hour early, so we wheeled around the corner to Old North Church and listened to the familiar story of Robert Newman hanging the two lanterns to let  Paul Revere know that the Regulars were crossing the Charles River to Lexington and Concord. The young man giving the five-minute lecture showed us the window Newman used to escape arrest:
We look forward to spending more time at Old North Church next year, but we needed to get back to Edes & Gill. We arrived on time, and asked a tourist to tell Mr. Gregory that DebbieLynne was outside. He came out immediately, hoping to find a way to get me inside to see a demonstration of the printing press.

Convinced that we couldn't enter the building, Mr. Gregory kindly photographed the press for us. (He hopes to make a way for us to  get inside next summer.)
I asked how the Boston Gazette influenced the Revolution, to which he replied that John Adams, James Otis and others wrote articles (usually under pen-names) with spin calculated to inflame passions against English "oppression." The Gazette was circulated in all 13 Colonies, and did much to persuade the colonists that rebellion against the Crown was necessary.

Mr. Gregory left me wondering if the Crown was actually as tyrannical as we Americans have always been taught, or if the Boston Gazette, like today's media, molded 18th Century American ideology. Interesting stuff to occupy my mind, to be sure. I look forward to visiting Edes & Gill again, as well as to the next adventure that J.L. Bell's blog will most likely inspire.


  1. I love reading about your adventures!
    Happy Birthday! :0)

  2. LOVE IT, as always, DebbieLynn!!! And NOW, I understand WHY you are such an amazing writer!!! Nina

  3. "Mr. Gregory left me wondering if the Crown was actually as tyrannical as we Americans have always been taught, or if the Boston Gazette, like today's media, molded 18th Century American ideology"

    I wonder that too, DebbieLynne. When I cross the border to Canada, and see signs that have the name "Loyalists" on it, and see how polite and proper people there are compared to the states, I have to wonder if we were on the wrong end of that war? We are still rebellious and rude, and I often wonder how things would have turned out if we were more polite like those wonderful Canadian neighbors to the north were....?


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