Concord Museum

Concord
MA

Lantern hung from the Old North Church
on the night of Paul Revere’s ride.

QUICK FACTS
  • Founded in 1886.
  • The Old North Church lantern reputed to have been used by sexton Robert Newman has a provenance that cannot be certified. But it has a tradition, going back to 1853, of being one of the lanterns he used.
  • While there is a unique display of Revolutionary Americana, the Museum is especially rich in 19th-century artifacts.
  • One of the period rooms is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s actual study; the one in the Emerson Memorial House, where Emerson lived, is a recreation.
  • The Museum has the world’s largest collection of possessions by Henry David Thoreau, including furnishings from his cabin at nearby Walden Pond.
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Recognized by curators, historians, and educators for more than a century, the Concord Museum displays Americana from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

The collection began around 1850 and was exhibited before the Civil War; only a handful of Americana collections can claim to be as old or as remarkably well-documented. It is especially strong in artifacts from Concord, with furnishings from Concord homes, including five period rooms and decorative arts. Its history galleries include Revolutionary War powder horns, muskets, cannonballs, and fifes.

There are also continually changing special exhibitions.

The French years provided Franklin’s detractors precisely what they needed: proof that the ur-American was un-American. Franklin was the Founding Father who had come the furthest, which makes him today the most compelling; he was also the Founding Father who traveled the farthest, which in his own century made him the most suspect. Few other homes in Philadelphia sported both Réaumur and Fahrenheit thermometers. The story goes that when Franklin proposed that Congress open its meetings with a prayer, Alexander Hamilton quipped that that body had no need of foreign aid. The story may be apocryphal but the sentiment was real. The expatriate patriot, Franklin was associated in many minds with the dependent chapter of American independence, one better expunged from the record.

Stacy Schiff
A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (2005)