The Spy Detector – How to know if you’re from Boston

written April 20, 2015, by contentadmin

One of our favorite places to visit on an educational or class trip to Boston is Faneuil Hall.

This is one building with a lot of history and stories attached to it.

Faneuil is a name of French origin. Peter’s family, Huguenots (French Protestants) left France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

Born in 1700 in Massachusetts he would become a wealthy businessman and build a marketplace building that would carry his name. The city was reluctant to let him build it at first but he made the concession of creating public meeting spaces. Inaugurated in 1742 it would burn down in 1762 and be rebuilt again.

The top part of the building was often used secretly by Revere, Adams, Hancock and others, the Sons of Liberty, to plan their strategies against the British. It would be referred to as ‘the Cradle of Liberty’.

Flying above the tower is a very distinct weather-vane. It is a grasshopper.

Designed by Shem Drowne it would serve multiple purposes:

  • serve as a weather-vane to indicate wind direction
  • it is a time capsule: every 100th anniversary objects are removed and replaced by current objects for another century
  • It was also…a spy detector

It’s quite interesting that a weathervane sitting atop a building could be of such use.

During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 it was still very difficult to distinguish the British from locals and suspicions could run high. If someone doubted the origins or intentions of another one could simply ask what flies atop Faneuil Hall?

Any true Bostonian or local would instantly know it was a grasshopper.

If you hesitated you could perhaps be a spy…or today, a student on an educational tour or class trip to Boston.


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