National Geographic : 1936 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Photograph by Luis Marden ". . . AS I WAS SAYING, WHEN SO RUDELY INTERRUPTED . . ." Self-anointed Ciceros on Boston Common tackle any theme from the Single Tax to Infant Baptism. Speech is free, and so are listeners-free to laugh, heckle, and contradict (page 57). Machinery building reveal American con ceptions; they recall a German saying that our finest architectural feat is seen in western grain elevators. NOBODY ASKED, "HOW DO YOU LIKE BOSTON?" Boston's career as an American city be gan on that exciting day in March, 1776, when General Howe evacuated with his British troops and sailed for Halifax. When General Washington entered next day, all he could find for lunch was a piece of salted beef! Life was strict and simple. Governor John Hancock himself once paid a fine for taking a buggy ride on Sunday. Men and boys were punished for swimming on Sun day. In the Centinel a wag wrote: "In superstition's days, 'tis said, Hens laid two eggs on Monday, Because a hen would lose her head That laid an egg on Sunday. Now our wise rulers and the law Say none shall wash on Sunday; So Boston folks must dirty go, And wash them twice on Monday." "Stage plays" were illegal. Drama lov ers, circumventing this, advertised plays as "moral lectures," and once staged "Mac beth" as "A Dialogue on the Horrid Crime of Murder." To smoke on the street was a penal of fense until 1880, although a "smokers' circle" was set aside on the Common. All that was long ago. Time's changes in the city's physical and racial structure have of course brought corresponding changes in customs, behavior, and thought. Stubbornly, however, the spirit of the An glo-Saxon founders still survives. Like its old families, Boston itself is simple, digni fied, reserved. "How do you like Boston?" During a long visit nobody asks you that. Simple hospitality, effective aid in your quest for facts, these you do meet; also, a caution that leans to understate ment rather than guesses, and never to ex aggeration. Yet opinion, after evidence is all in, is your own responsibility; no one seeks to influence that. Should you err, Boston will not be disturbed. Age has mellowed her, and eventful history records the true story of those achievements which make her, to one born in the Middle West, America's most interesting city.