April 18th Holidays and Observances

Paul Revere’s Ride, 1775

“On the eighteenth of April, ’75…” Thanks to Longfellow’s poem, most of us remember the date of Paul Revere’s Ride, and at least some of the details of the event. The trouble is, some of the details we think we know aren’t quite right.

First of all, the real concern of the patriots was to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Adams and Hancock were both wanted by the British, and troop movements would mean that they were on their way to arrest them, as well as to confiscate the arms being held in readiness at Concord.

Secondly, Revere wasn’t the only messenger. Revere and William Dawes both rode out to deliver the warning, Revere taking the route directly from Charlestown to Lexington (where Hancock and Adams were) and Dawes taking a longer route by way of the Boston Neck. Dawes was less well-known than Revere, and it was thought less likely that he would be recognized and stopped. The riders warned patriots they met along the way, who set out to spread the message as well. Before the night was over, there were probably about 40 men spreading the news.

That business with the lanterns in the Old North Church? Well, that did happen, but not for the reason you might think. Revere and Dawes already knew which way the British were coming. Revere had made arrangements with the sexton of the church, Robert Newman, and Captain John Pulling to raise the signal for the residents of Charlestown. If both Revere and Dawes were captured, someone else needed to know that the British were on their way.

Paul Revere didn’t ride about yelling, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” (To give Longfellow credit, he never said he did, but the phrase seems to have lodged in our national collective consciousness nonetheless.) To begin with, as far as anyone Revere met was concerned, they were British. Secondly, it was a secret mission, remember? There were British army patrols out everywhere, as well as loyalist citizens. When Revere did get to the house where Hancock and Adams were staying, he was reproached by a sentry for making too much noise. His response was, “Noise! You’ll have noise enough before long. The regulars are coming out!” (Doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?)

After warning the two men in Lexington, Revere and Dawes decided to go on to Concord to warn the militia. At this point they were joined by a local doctor, Samuel Prescott, who was returning home at 1:00 am. (He had been visiting a lady.) There was no triumphant entry into Concord by Revere, however, as portrayed in Longfellow’s poem. The three men were stopped by British troops at a roadblock. Dawes and Prescott escaped, although Dawes was unhorsed and ended his ride there. Prescott alone continued to warn the folks at Concord.

Revere was escorted by the British back to Lexington. When they were nearly there, they heard gunshots and the British officers took Revere’s horse and rode on ahead. Revere walked back to the house where Hancock and Adams were staying, and helped them to escape.

National Coin Week

This week, April 17 through 23, is National Coin Week. The event takes place the third week of April every year, and was started in 1924 by the American Numismatic Association as a chance to get people excited about the collecting and studying of coins. This year’s theme is “Blue, Gray, and Greenbacks,” a celebration of the coins and currency of the Civil War period.

The history of money during the American Civil War is a complicated and fascinating story. There was a shortage of coinage on both sides: the Confederates because they soon ran out of metals to mint, and the Union because people started hoarding coins to the point where there were virtually none available. Both sides issued a whole lot of paper money, some as small as a 3-cent note. Even postage stamps were used as currency.

One of more interesting developments of this situation was that many commercial concerns started minting their own coinage. They originated as a way for an individual merchant to give “change” but were soon accepted in other transactions. One of the better-know tokens was the Lindenmueller token, issued by Gustavus Lindenmueller, a New York bar owner. He had over a million one-cent Lindenmuellers minted and placed into circulation. They were frequently used for streetcar fare, but when they railroad company asked Lindenmueller to redeem them, he refused and there was nothing the railroad company could do about it. Due in part to incidents like this, Congress enacted the Coinage Act of 1864, which made the creation of non-government coinage illegal.

A Slow News Day, 1930

On April 18, 1930, at 6:30 pm, the BBC signed on for their newscast and said, “Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.” They then paid instrumental music for a few minutes and then returned to regular broadcasting.

That must have been a very good day.

Sources: Chase’s Calendar of Events, 2011 Edition: The Ultimate Go-To Guide for Special Days, Weeks and Months, Editors of Chase’s Calendar of Events; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_18th; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Revere; http://history.howstuffworks.com/revolutionary-war/paul-revere-ride1.htm; http://www.paulreverehouse.org; http://www.coinweek.com; www.money,org; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_War_token; http://www.us-coin-values-advisor.com/civil-war-coins.html; http://newslite.tv/2011/04/18/on-this-day-in-1930-bbc-said-t.html.