Navigating This Exhibit

We hope you’ve checked out the introduction to this website and description of a typical New England 5th of November from the mid-1700s. This exhibit is organized around virtual “rooms,” each exploring a different facet of that holiday in Boston. You can proceed through each room in order, or click around as you choose.

The rooms grouped as History of Guy Fawkes’ Day go back hundreds of years to explore the roots of the 5th of November holiday. Pages cover the long religious conflict in Britain, how the nation remembered the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, laws that limited Catholics’ rights, and the situation in New England.

Boston’s 5th of November offers many views of the seaport’s celebration: an overview of the town, the neighborhood gangs that made Boston unique, how boys and girls celebrated the holiday, rare eyewitness sketches of the wagons that rolled through town, and prominent citizens’ experiences of the 5th of November.

“Pope-Night” always featured public enemies paraded, hanged, and burned in effigy. The Enemies List profiles the men targeted for abuse: the Popes and Pretenders who were paraded in effigy, political villains of the day, and a particularly unpopular governor. This section ends with examples of how “Pope-Night” imagery popped up in political demonstrations and cartoons.

The End of a Tradition tracks the 5th of November’s fall off the American calendar, starting with a push from George Washington. The Revolution brought new attitudes toward religion, and less than ten years after Boston’s last “Pope-Night” the town had its first Catholic church. However, traces of the holiday survived in protests against traitor Benedict Arnold and some familiar customs today.

Image source: Globe from Minuteman Printshop clip art collection, Walden Font Company.

Text copyright © 2007 by J. L. Bell and The Bostonian Society.