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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersBecoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690-1763
Becoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690-1763
Theme: GrowthTheme: PeoplesTheme: EconomiesTheme: IdeasTheme: American
Theme: Growth

2.
Boston, ca. 1730
Boston, ca. 1730
Cities & Towns
- Boston, Massachusetts
Descriptions, 1702-1769 (PDF)
Map (zoomable): A new plan of the great town of Boston, 1769
Engraving (zoomable): A south east view of the great town of Boston, ca. 1730

- New York, New York
Descriptions, 1697-1760 (PDF)
Map (zoomable): A plan of the city of New-York & its environs, 1766
Engraving (zoomable): A view of Fort George with the city of New York, depicted date, 1730s; published after 1764

- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Descriptions, 1704-1759 (PDF)
Map (zoomable): A map of Philadelphia and parts adjacent, 1752
Engraving (zoomable): An east perspective view of the city of Philadelphia, depicted date, 1752; created ca. 1778

- Charleston, [South] Carolina
Descriptions, 1700-1769 (PDF)
Map (zoomable) A plan of the town and harbor of Charles Town, inset of A compleat description of the province of Carolina, ca. 1711
Engraving (large tiff available): A view of Charles Town, the capital of South Carolina, 1776


Only five percent of the British Atlantic population of the 1700s lived in cities—the five largest being Boston, New York, Newport [RI], Philadelphia, and Charles Town [Charleston]—and none had more than 40,000 people in 1775.1 So why devote a section on these coastal commercial centers? There you have it—coast, commerce, and center. As port cities on the Atlantic, each was crucial for the colony's trade and defense. As commercial thoroughfares, they were central markets for colonies' crops, ores, and other output, and they stimulated the colonial "industry" of artisans and craftsmen. Finally, each port city was a center of the colony's political, social, religious, and intellectual life. It would be useful to contrast these texts with one bemoaning the lack of towns in one colony, Virginia (written in 1661 by a visiting Anglican bishop). Why would a colony's growth be inhibited by the lack of cities? Why would a clergyman be so concerned?

Read these collections of excerpts from observers' descriptions of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston in the 1700s (before the end of the French and Indian War in 1763). Note what the observers emphasize and ignore, praise and criticize, envy and deplore.

  • Boston. Founded in 1630 by the English Puritans of Massachusetts Bay colony, Boston remained the largest and wealthiest city in the Atlantic colonies. Here we read three descriptions of the city from 1702 to 1760 from a city resident (Cotton Mather), a colonist-visitor (Maryland physician Alexander Hamilton), and a visiting Englishman (Andrew Burnaby).
       Read the extended description of the city at the top of the (zoomable) 1769 map, and find the one-third-mile-long Hancock's Wharf in the map and the engraving (see slideshow on this page). Why is the wharf an important feature of the city?
    • - Descriptions by Rev. Cotton Mather, Daniel Neal, Dr. Alexander Hamilton, Rev. Andrew Burnaby, and mapmaker William Pierce.

  • New York. Founded in 1625 as a Dutch trading post, New York was captured by the English in 1664. By 1750 it had a population of about 37,000 including 2,000 free and enslaved black people. Here we read four descriptions from 1697 to 1760—one from a visiting Englishman (Andrew Burnaby) and three from visiting colonists (Bostonians Benjamin Bullivant and Sarah Kemble Knight, and the Maryland physician Alexander Hamilton).
       Note the extended description of New York in the (zoomable) 1766 map, as well as the fourteen churches of various denominations. Find Fort George in both the map (Structure A) and engraving. Why is Fort George an important feature of the city?
    • - Descriptions by Dr. Benjamin Bullivant, Sarah Kemble Knight, Dr. Alexander Hamilton, Peter Kalm, and Rev. Andrew Burnaby.

  • Philadelphia. Founded in 1682 by William Penn, Philadelphia was the youngest and ultimately most diverse of the four cities. Here we read five descriptions from 1604 to 1759—from a city resident (Benjamin Franklin), a recent German immigrant (Gabriel Thomas), a visiting colonist from Maryland (Alexander Hamilton), and two European visitors (Peter Kalm from Sweden and Andrew Burnaby from England). Read these accounts along with the 1685 letter of Robert Turner describing Philadelphia in the PERMANENCE section of the toolbox American Beginnings.
       Compare the engraving and the (zoomable) map of the city (both with a list of numbered structures). How many churches of what denominations are depicted? How is the State House (later Independence Hall) portrayed in each? Why is the State House an important feature of the city?
    • - Works by Franz Louis Michel, William Moraley, Titan Leeds, Joseph Breintnall, Dr. Alexander Hamilton, Peter Kalm, Gottlieb Mittelberger, Benjamin Franklin, and Rev. Andrew Burnaby.

  • Charleston. Founded in 1670 by English settlers from the island of Barbados, Charles Town grew quickly due to its strategic location for commerce and defense. Here we read five descriptions from 1700 to 1769—by an English naturalist, a Carolina resident, a German clergyman, a Philadelphia merchant, and a British sea captain. Read these accounts along with the 1682 description of Charles Town in the PERMANENCE section of the toolbox American Beginnings.
       Compare the engraving of the city with the map (see the right inset in the zoomable 1711 map). How do they differ from the maps and engravings of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia? How are they similar? What is an important feature depicted in the map? In the engraving, why is the city almost an afterthought?
    • - Descriptions by John Lawson, Eliza Lucas [Pinckney], Rev. Johann Martin Bolzius, Pelatiah Webster, and "Capt. Martin," a British sea captain.

Compare these descriptions and images of coastal American cities with those of Mexico City, Quebec, and Philadelphia in the PERMANENCE section of the toolbox American Beginnings. What do observers find most important to describe in these colonial cities? What is their main function in an empire? (28 pages.)


Discussion questions
  1. Overall, what impressions do you get from these readings of the four coastal cities in the 1700s?
  2. What functions do the cities serve for the colonies? for England? for the empire?
  3. What kind of lives do they support for their inhabitants?
  4. What features are commonly noted by the observers?
  5. Why would these features be most noteworthy in a colonial overview of a city?
  6. What commercial and military features are most noted? Why?
  7. Describe the cities' religious diversity. How do the observers describe and respond to this diversity?
  8. Describe the cities' ethnic and economic diversity. How do the observers describe and respond to this diversity?
  9. What features of 21st-century cities that one finds in tourist pamphlets or in government reports are missing or minimized in these colonial descriptions? Why?
  10. How do the European observers judge the colonial cities and people? What criteria do they emphasize?
  11. How do recent immigrants' descriptions differ from other settlers'?
  12. Choose one city, and compare descriptions from two observers, e.g., a resident and a visiting European.
  13. Choose two cities, and compare two texts from similar observers, e.g., residents, or visitors from other colonies.
  14. Compare the four colonial coastal cities. In which would you choose to live in 1750? Why?

Framing Questions
  •  What factors fostered or hindered the growth of the British Atlantic colonies (that later became the United States of America) from 1690 to 1763?
  •  How did the European colonists respond to the growing diversity among them—by religion, ethnicity, economic status, and country of origin?
  •  How did the colonies’ growth affect Native Americans and enslaved Africans?
  •  How were the inhabitants’ concepts of liberty and rights affected by the colonies’ growth?
  •  List the power relationships that influenced the colonies in this period, e.g., between the colonies and England, the colonies and the French and Spanish on their borders, the settlers and the Native Americans, the clergy and their congregants, the southern planters and their servants and slaves, etc. How did the totality of these power relationships affect the colonies’ growth and self-perception?


Printing
Boston:  6
New York:  7
Philadelphia:  8
Charleston:  7
View maps & engravings online.    
TOTAL 28 pages
Supplemental Sites




1 T. H. Breen & Timothy Hall, Colonial America in an Atlantic World: A Story of Creative Interaction (New York: Pearson/Longman, 2004), p. 304.



Images:
- A south east view of the great town of Boston in New England in America; John Carwitham, engraver; depicted date, ca. 1730; probably printed after 1764; detail. New York Public Library, Digital ID 53917. Permission pending.
- A view of Fort George with the city of New York from the SW; John Carwitham, engraver; depicted date, 1731-1736?; print issued after 1764; detail. New York Public Library, Digital ID 54695. Permission pending.
- An east perspective view of the city of Philadelphia, in the province of Pensylvania, in North America; taken from the Jersey shore; John Carwitham, engraver; George Heap, artist; depicted date, ca. 1734; created date, ca. 1778; detail. New York Public Library, Digital ID 53923. Permission pending.
- Thomas Leitch, A View of Charles-Town, the Capital of South Carolina, engraving by Samuel Smith, 1776, detail. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, #LC-DIG-pga-02794.


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GROWTH
1. The Colonies: 1690-1715   2. Cities & Towns   3. Coming to America
4. New Settlers   5. Servants & Slaves   6. New Colonies
7. Indian Lands   8. The Land   9. The Colonies: 1720-1763








TOOLBOX: Becoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690-1763
Growth | Peoples | Economies | Ideas | American


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