Today’s Keyhole to History October 28, 1701 William Penn’s Charter of Privileges, becomes effective. Pennsylvania’s new colonial government endorsed religious tolerance and established procedures for the protection of property and personal freedoms. Penn emphasized local governance and law-making using the democratic process. With the support of colonial leaders, these important concepts were arranged into the Charter of Privileges. Some say the charter was a forerunner to the Declaration of Independence, written more than seventy years later. The French philosopher Voltaire said that in writing this document, Penn may have “brought down upon Earth the Golden Age, which in all probability, never had any real existence but in [Penn’s] dominions.”
Today’s Keyhole to History looks at the Bedford Flag, the oldest flag in the United States. This original crimson banner depicts an armored arm holding a sword and emerging from clouds with the Latin phrase “Vince Aut Morire” (inche aught mor-re-ray), or “Conquer or Die.” Originating in Bedford between 1704 and 1720, this flag was passed down through the Page family, several of whose members served in cavalry units of the Massachusetts Bay colonial militia. At the battle at Concord on April 19, 1775, Minuteman Nathaniel Page carried the flag at the North Bridge. In 1885, the Page family donated the historical Bedford Flag to the Bedford Free Public Library, where it can be viewed today.”
Today’s Keyhole to History investigates Benjamin Franklin’s history as a printer. While Franklin enjoyed professional success in fields from science to politics, he began as a printer. Franklin apprenticed in his brother James’ Boston print shop, helping him print the New England Courant. After learning printing skills in London and working for printers in Philadelphia, at the young age of 22 he opened a printing house with partner Hugh Meredith and in 1729 purchased the Philadelphia Gazette. In the 1730s he franchised his printing shop to other cities, founding the first franchise system in the United States. Franklin retired from printing in 1748 to concentrate on other professional ventures and left his printing business to his partner David Hall.
Keyhole to History: April 8, 1732. That’s the date David Rittenhouse was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania. When Sir Isaac Newton and others were making giant scientific strides in Europe, Rittenhouse was making his own discoveries right here in America. While in his thirties and still unknown, he produced America’s first planetarium. It was a mechanical reproduction of our solar system that ran like a huge clock. Today, that planetarium is housed at Princeton University. Rittenhouse’s prediction that Venus would move across the sun was looked forward to with much interest and a lot of skepticism. It is said that when the exact moment came on June 3, 1769, and his prediction was proven correct, Rittenhouse fainted.
Today’s Keyhole to History June 4, 1738, King George III of Great Britain was born. During his reign, he was a powerful force in British politics. Though he did not develop the policies which led to the American Revolution, King George supported the conflict. After the surrender at Yorktown, the British monarch continued to gain support and popularity. His ministers tried to strip him of influence, but George III used his skill as a statesman to overcome their political opposition. Family quarrels and illness eventually led to his declining ability to reign in 1801. George’s failing mental health forced him to step aside for his son, Prince George, to rule from 1810 until George III’s death in 1820.
Keyhole to History: June 26, 1739. That’s the day when Captain Hubbard Burrows was born in Groton, Connecticut. On a chilly September morning, as Hubbard was plowing in his field, he was told that Fort Griswold was coming under attack. He left his oxen hooked to the plow and ran back to the house for his musket and horse. He had his twelve-year-old son John ride along with him to bring his horse home while he defended the fort. When the British sailed into the Thames River from Long Island Sound, Fort Griswold was not much more than a pile of dirt situated on a high bluff. The following day, young John found his father’s lifeless body among twenty-seven others at the fort. Captain Hubbard’s grave, along with the other brave men who died that day, is marked with a simple monument.