If one is asked to list some of the more recognizable artifacts with ties to 18th Century Lexington, it’s likely the responses will include Captain William Crosbie’s pistols (erroneously identified as Major Pitcairn’s pistols), William Diamond’s drum and John Parker’s musket.
Each of these objects witnessed the events of April 19, 1775 and play an important role in the retelling of the commencement of the American Revolution. However, there are other 18th Century artifacts that not only highlight the town’s wartime preparation efforts, but also give us a snapshot of some of the fashion and clothing choices of its residents.
Without further delay, here are five cool, but little known, artifacts attributable to 18th Century Lexington!
Wool Stockings (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA). The stockings are dated to the late 18th century and purported to have belonged to Stephen Robbins of Lexington. These Brown-gray ribbed stockings are made with a cotton and silk blend and have a saw-tooth top edge and white toe.
The Munroe Tavern Buttons (The Fiske Center, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA): During the summer of 2010, archaeologists from the Fiske Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston conducted a survey of the grounds of the William Munroe Tavern. On July 15th, five matching buttons with the linen thread still attached were recovered near an old well. Each of these pewter buttons has a matching geometric design and is dated to the mid to late 18th Century.
According to a newspaper article that was published shortly after the find, Project Archaeologist Christa Beranek believed that a whole piece of clothing with the buttons still attached was discarded near the well.
The referenced set of sleeve buttons is currently in the possession of the Lexington Historical Society and is on display at the Buckman Tavern.
Lexington Drum Fragment (Lexington Historical Society). In late 1774, the Town of Lexington voted to acquire a pair of drums for its use by the militia. On March 14, 1775, Parker signed a receipt stating “"Agreeable to the vote of the town, I have received by the hands of the selectmen the drums provided for the use of the military company in this town, until further order of the town." Receipt of Captain John Parker, Lexington Company, 1775.”
One of these drums went to William Diamond. The second is believed to have gone to James Brown of Lexington. Brown served as the company drummer in 1775 and drummer of Captain John Wood's Company, Colonel Baldwin's 26th Continental Regiment in 1776.
The Lexington Historical Society is in possession of a drum fragment purported to be Brown’s drum. The fragment is adorned with three red roosters on a white, green and yellow background.
The Parker’s Revenge Button (Minute Man National Historical Park, Lincoln, MA). In 2015, an archaeological study of the “Parker’s Revenge” site inside Minute Man National Historical Park was done. One of the items that was unearthed was a cast-copper button that matches the size of a waistcoat or breeches button.
The elaborate design on the button includes a running fox, a ridge line, a bridge, possibly trees and a windmill. There is some speculation the button may be attributable to a hunting club, a gentlemen's society or a family crest.
Although it was found near the site where the Lexington militia ambushed the retreating regulars, it is unknown if this item can be tied directly to the town. Likewise, historians and archaeologists have been unable to identify the origin of the button (military or civilian) or what the detailed image may actually depict.
While it may be a mystery, let’s be honest...it’s still an amazing find.