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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Great Boston Barbecue of 1793 - Roast Ox and the French Revolution

Southwest view of the Old State House on State Street as it appeared in 1793.
(Illustration from State Street: A Brief Account of a Boston Way)

State Street (named King Street in 1770) in Boston, Massachusetts, in front of the Old State House, is where the first blood of the American Revolution was shed during the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770. Twenty three years later, Bostonians were celebrating not only their own freedom from oppression but also the belief that liberty was sweeping France in the 1790s as a result of the French Revolution. Here is an account of the great State Street barbecue that took place on January 23, 1793 excerpted from State Street: A Brief Account of a Boston Way by State Street Trust Company, Boston, 1906.
The strangest scene that State Street has witnessed was the barbecue at the time of the French Revolution. America was full of its partisans, and nowhere was this friendly sympathy keener than in Boston. Bostonians of this era delighted in calling each other “citizens,” and strove in many other ways to show their sympathy with the spirit of liberty then sweeping through France. The feeling found expression, two days after the execution of Louis XVI in the barbecue. A thousand pound ox was killed, and its horns gilded and placed on an altar twenty feet high. Drawn by fifteen horses and preceded by two hogsheads of punch pulled by six horses, and accompanied by a cart of bread, it was escorted through the streets of Boston, and finally deposited in State Street. Tables had been spread from the Old State House to Kilby Street, and the citizens feasted upon roast ox and strong punch, to the subsequent confusion of many. Boston’s fair women decked the windows of the neighboring houses, and amused themselves by throwing flowers upon the feasters, until the scene culminated in what some of the best citizens characterized as a “drunken revelry.” When the news of the execution of the king reached America, there was a sudden revulsion of feeling against his executioners.

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