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Thomas Marshall, Tailor and Town Officer

Yesterday I tripped across this webpage from the National Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in Washington, D.C., highlighting a portrait from its collection.

The subject is Thomas Marshall (1719-1800), a Boston tailor. That profession included very poor men and rather rich ones. Marshall was on the rich side, as the mere existence of this portrait shows. He served as colonel of the Boston militia regiment and a selectman.

Marshall shows up at a number of notable moments in the town’s Revolutionary history:

  • When angry merchants confronted pistol-wielding printer John Mein during the non-importation arguments of October 1769, Marshall swung at Mein’s back with a handy shovel.
  • Marshall testified about the night of the Boston Massacre in 1770, saying he saw fights between soldiers and locals, and insisting there were no more than 100 people in King Street during the shooting.
  • As a selectmen Marshall stayed in Boston through the siege; at the end, he was one of the officials who helped to convey an unofficial message from Gen. William Howe to Gen. George Washington in March 1776.

The painter was John Singleton Copley, early in his career. His technique hadn’t fully developed, but already he was conveying a sense of individual character.

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