BWW Blog: James Beaman of Cape Playhouse's 1776 - The Adams Papers, Part One

BWW Blog: James Beaman of Cape Playhouse's 1776 - The Adams Papers, Part One

In this week's post, I literally touch a piece of history.

One of the best things about researching John Adams is that he is one of the most documented men in American history, mainly due to his extensive journaling, and the preservation of his personal correspondence by the succeeding generations of the Adams family. These extraordinary documents offer a window into the mind and heart of this impassioned patriot. And fortunately for us all, they are lovingly preserved by the Massachusetts Historical Society.

As I was planning a visit home to Massachusetts to explore the Adams National Historical Park, I decided to send a note to the Historical Society to request an on camera interview with someone there to talk about Adams. Imagine my delight when I received an invitation from librarian Peter Drummey to come and enjoy a private viewing of original Adams letters and documents! Peter, and his colleague Sara Georgini, Assistant Editor of the Adams Papers, enthusiastically and generously opened the doors to the inner sanctum of their archive!

Peter is a charming, eloquent man who clearly loves what he does, and he is also a fan of 1776 so he was able to give me wonderful insights into the inspirations for the role from the historical record, and the ways the writers took liberties in their creation of Adams. Being a history geek, I need not tell you how thrilling it was to go into the archives and to have Peter pull out actual letters that had been held by John and Abigail Adams-and then touch them myself. Peter wanted me to make sure I told viewers of my video blog that there are different schools of thought about the handling of these precious papers. Some institutions require the wearing of cotton gloves; Peter and his colleagues believe that having a barrier between the hands and the document can actually cause more damage, and so they handle them gently with bare hands.

There was so much fascinating information that Peter and Sara shared with me, I had to do two segments for the vlog to really give a sense of what I learned during my visit to the Historical Society. This segment is focused on the letters of John and Abigail and their extraordinary partnership, captured beautifully in 1776. In addition to seeing some of their most famous letters, I also got to view the earliest known portraits of the couple by Benjamin Blyth, also housed at this wonderful institution. Tune in again next week for part two of my visit with the Adams papers! For more information, visit

And to catch up on all the posts of my vlog, check out the playlist I created on YouTube:

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