| Boys and Girls of Colonial Days|
|by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey|
|An engaging collection of stories for the younger child, introducing him to activities and occupations of boys and girls in the colonial era. Focuses on children who responded with courage and resourcefulness when faced with unexpected circumstances and whose efforts played a key role in the safeguarding of their families and their communities. Famous personages of the time, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, figure in several of the stories. Dozens of detailed black and white illustrations complement the text. Ages 7-9 |
THE DEACON'S GRASSHOPPER
N their way to and from school, the boys and girls of old
Boston cast curious glances toward the shop of Deacon
It was over one hundred and fifty years ago, and they
were Colonial children. The boys wore short coats and
long trousers, and the little girls long, plain skirts
almost touching the tops of their shoes. When it
rained, as it often did in the long chilly days of late
winter, they wrapped themselves in heavy capes and ran
between the drops for they had no umbrellas.
But rain, or no rain, Samuel, and Abigail and the
others could not pass the deacon's tiny window. Through
it they knew they might have a peep at his strange
craft. Even the sound of his hammer thrilled them.
He was a coppersmith of old Boston, and his shop of one
room was down near the wharves where British ships lay
at anchor and the fishermen plied their trade all day.
On Sundays Deacon Drowne went to the white
meeting-house on the Common and passed the contribution
basket, and rapped the head of any child who went to
sleep during the sermon.
 When Monday came, though, the Deacon was a very
different person. He put on a little round cap and a
short leather apron. He perched himself upon a stool
beside his work bench and chuckled like some little,
wizened gnome of the mountain as he looked at his
sheets of copper and brass, his scissors, dies, and the
many hammers, large and small, that he used for shaping
The trade of a coppersmith was not one to interest
children greatly in those days. The Deacon had to patch
some housewife's preserving kettle, or make copper toes
for the shoes of a little Colonial lad who had worn out
the leather too soon to suit his father's sense of
economy. Sometimes he had a clock to mend, or a
teakettle that needed a new handle.
None of these were unusual enough tasks so to attract
the boys and girls of Boston. They were familiar with
teakettles, having to fill them often, and copper toes
on their shoes hurt their feet. It was something quite
different that drew them to the window and door of the
"What do you suppose Deacon Drowne will have hidden
under his work bench to-day?" Samuel would ask.
"Oh, I do not know. I am curious to see. Is he not a
person of great skill and many surprises?" Abigail
 It was quite true. The old coppersmith saw
possibilities in his craft that would have amazed his
patrons who thought that the Deacon's mind was bent all
day long on patches and wires. When his day's work was
over the old coppersmith closed his shutter and lighted
a candle. He lighted, too, a small stove in which he
could heat his metals and weld them into queer and
curious shapes. It seemed to him that the sheets of
copper and brass in which he worked were too beautiful
for the commonplace uses to which he had to put them.
His mind went back to the days of his boyhood in
England when he lived on a farm near the sea and could
watch the ships beyond the fields where the sea lay,
blue and clear. As these thoughts came to him, he
welded his metals to make the figures that his memory
painted for him. No wonder the children were excited at
what the coppersmith would show them that he had made
He would beckon to them to cross his threshold. Then,
with his eyes twinkling like stars through his
spectacles, he would hold up in triumph something that
he had made. Once it was a little brass rooster,
shining and beautiful from his comb to the last tail
feather. Once the Deacon showed the children a curious
little admiral made of copper and holding a telescope
as he looked far off at an imaginary sea. Then, to
please them, he made a small Indian
 of copper; the figure was complete even to the feathers
in his headdress.
How the children did laugh, though, when Deacon Drowne
showed them a copper grasshopper that he had welded! It
was so much larger than a real grasshopper that it
looked like some strange dragon. It quite filled the
tiny shop, its long slender legs stretching in every
"Why did you make it?" the children asked.
The old coppersmith chuckled as he replied.
"To show what can be done with my shining metal," he
said proudly. "It took skill to bend those legs and
make the veins in a grasshopper's wings."
"What will you do with it, Deacon Drowne?" asked the
The old man shook his head.
"Perhaps it has no use," he said, looking sadly at the
copper grasshopper sprawled before him.
That was what the sober people of Boston thought, too,
all except Mr. Peter Faneuil.
No one could quite understand Mr. Peter Faneuil. He had
inherited quite a fortune, but he lived in a simple way
and was fonder of children and the sea than of wearing
fine broadcloth and having a coach. He joined the
children one day when they went to Deacon Drowne's shop
and he saw the grasshopper. They had thought that Mr.
 would laugh at it. He did not even smile. He looked at
the shining copper wings and the delicate workmanship
of the slim legs. Then he grasped the coppersmith's
"It is a wonderful piece of work," he said. "It ought
to be placed where every one in Boston could see it."
The Deacon smiled with happiness as Mr. Faneuil and the
children left him. He touched the grasshopper's
perfectly shaped head.
"How could that be?" he said wonderingly.
The years went on, and at last no one heard Deacon
Drowne's hammering, for he was too old to work any
longer at his trade. The children grew up, and Samuel
graduated from Harvard College. He was called Samuel
Adams now, and was quite an influential young man in
Boston. He was one of those called to attend a meeting
in Boston at which an important decision was to be
Should, or should not Boston accept a gift that Mr.
Peter Faneuil wished to make the city from his
boundless wealth? He wished to build for Boston a
public hall. But this was the unusual part of his wish.
The hall was to have a market on the ground floor where
the incoming ships could display their fruits and tea
and cloth, and the housewives of Boston might come and
buy. On the top of the hall there was to be a high
tower, and on
 top of the tower a weathervane that the sailors could
see at quite a distance from shore.
"Where shall we transact our important business in this
hall?" the meeting asked Dr. Peter Faneuil.
"Over the market," was his quick reply.
Then they argued the question and wrangled about it. A
market in a public building did not seem fitting to
them, even though there was no public market in Boston
at that time. Neither did a weathervane on top of the
tower seem suitable. Some were for it, and more were
against it. It did not matter that the hall was to be a
free-will gift to Boston. They wished no new ideas to
break in upon the old ones that belonged to England and
Samuel Adams and his friends were opposed to the idea,
but suddenly Mr. Peter Faneuil sent a message to Samuel
that made him smile and change is his mind. The meeting
closed, and the day was carried for Mr. Peter Faneuil.
He was to build his hall just as he wished, and give it
 Every one watched it with great excitement. It looks a
low, humble enough building now, but it seemed quite
huge to old Boston. The people who had been opposed to
it grew to like it when they realized how much they had
needed a market. The magistrates and other officers of
the town found that they could hold their meetings
quite as well over the market as downstairs. They could
come down and help their good wives carry home the
day's dinner when they had finished with more weighty
Every one liked the weathervane. It could be seen for a
long distance on land or sea, and its arrow never
failed to fly north, south, east, or west. At first all
Boston was puzzled by the figure on the top of the
weathervane. It was different from any that they had
ever seen. Persons came from a distance by stage-coach
to see it. It shone and glittered in the sunlight.
"Who wrought it?" the people of Boston asked, and when
they found out, the maker was acclaimed as almost a
Patient old Deacon Drowne! He lived long enough to look
up through his spectacles and see his great copper
grasshopper perched on top of the weathervane of
The grasshopper is there to-day. It has been on Faneuil
Hall since 1742. It saw the Boston Tea
 Party, and heard the shots of the Lexington farmers. It
heard the hoof beats of Paul Revere's horse, and the
splash of the oars of the British troops, rowing into
Boston Harbor. It watched battle and ruin, and then saw
the coming of peace and plenty again.
Thousands of storms have beaten against its copper
wings and legs, but the good workmanship of the old
smith has helped the grasshopper to stand them all. It
has been replated and strengthened in places, but the
main part of the figure remains just as Deacon Drowne
made it, an emblem of the humble, but preserved for
almost two centuries in beautiful workmanship.
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