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Object Name Sign, Informational
Title The Portsmouth Liberty Pole
Artist James L. Garvin
Date 1976
Place of Origin Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Description "The Portsmouth Liberty Pole." "Liberty, Property, and No Stamp." "Legend records these as the words on the flag which was raised on the first Portsmouth Liberty Pole. In January, 1766, the Portsmouth Sons of Liberty assembled at the bridge crossing the waterway here. They returned the royal commission of stamp agent George Meserve to England. They then erected the flagstaff and re-christened the old span "Liberty Bridge" --- a name it bore until after 1899, when the City of Portsmouth filled the waterway."

"The fate of the original flagstaff at Liberty Bridge is unrecorded. On July 4, 1824, however, Portsmouth citizens contributed the sum of $159.42 to erect "an elegant Liberty Pole, adorned with a cap, and surmounted with a splendid eagle ... to perpetuate to posterity the memory of glorious actors in the early history of their country." The cap and the eagle are said to have been carved by Laban S. Beecher of Boston. Later, in 1857, a wooden shield carved by the Bow Street firm of Gleason and Henderson was fastened to the lower part of the staff."

"It was necessary to take the old pole down in 1872 and splice in a new section. By 1899 the pole was once again dangerously weak. Private citizens raised the sum of $300 to erect the present pole, which is made from Oregon pine and was 110 feet high before lightening damaged it. The old carved cap, eagle, and shield were placed upon the new flagstaff, and in 1913 the newly-formed Liberty Pole Association attached a bronze tablet summarizing the pole's history to the lower section of the shaft. The Portsmouth Liberty Pole, though restored several times, has been a continual reminder of "the times that tried men's souls."
PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPH OF ABOUT 1880, SHOWING THE 1824 LIBERTY POLE AND LIBERTY BRIDGE. THE 1824 POLE WAS REPLACE BY THE PRESENT FLAGSTAFF IN 1899.
Accession Number 2016.11