In my last I inform'd you that this Congress had Appointed George Washington Esqr. General & Commander in Chief of all the Forces Rais'd or to be Rais'd by the United Colonies.... I have the Honor to Transmitt you a Commission from this Congress appointing you First Major General & Second in Command of the Forces of the United Colonies.

—Letter from John Hancock to Artemas Ward, 22 June 1775

Signed “John Hancock, President”

Artemas Ward, a general from Massachusetts, was in charge of the colonial forces camped in Cambridge after the battles of Lexington and Concord. He wrote to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia about the difficulties in organizing an army and asked for assistance. As he waited for a response, a debate broke out in Congress: should it authorize the creation of an Army of the United Colonies? If so, who should lead it? While Artemas Ward had experience and knew his troops, he was relatively unknown outside of New England. Some members in Congress believed it was important to raise support outside of the turbulent New England area. Attention turned to a Virginian, George Washington, who had come to Congress repeatedly in his military uniform.

Read the entire letter and view it up close here.

Upcoming Events


Tuesday, 30 January | 5:00 PM

Deported Americans: US Citizens & the Expanding Global Deportation Regime during the Interwar Era

Emily Pope-Obeda, Lehigh University, with comment by Kunal Parker, University of Miami School of Law

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Register to attend online.


Tuesday, 6 February | 5:00 PM

The Social World of Revolutionary New England

Nicole Breault, University of Texas, El Paso, and Christopher Walton, Southern Methodist University, with comment by Mark Peterson, Yale University

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Thursday, 8 February | 5:00 PM

“A New Witch Hunt in Salem”: The Rise & Fall of Low-Cost Birth Control Clinics during the Great Depression

Jeanna Kinnebrew, Boston University, with comment by Lauren MacIvor Thompson, Kennesaw State University.

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Tuesday, 13 February, 5:00 PM: Farm, Factory & Mine: Worcester Coal & the Role of Extractive Industries in Early 19th-Century New England with Katheryn Viens, Independent Scholar, with comment by Brian C. Black, Pennsylvania State University. This is a seminar.

Thursday, 15 February, 6:00 PM: First Family: George Washington’s Heirs & the Making of America with Cassandra Good, Marymount University, in conversation with Sara Georgini, MHS. This is a public program.

Monday, 19 February, 9:00 AM–2:00 PM: Teacher Workshop: Perspectives on the Boston Massacre & the Legacy of Crispus Attucks. This is a teacher workshop.

Tuesday, 20 February, 5:00 PM: Back from Canada, After the Underground Railroad: Recovering Family Stories & Tracing a Mass Migration in the Emancipation Generation of Black North Americans with Adam Arenson, Manhattan College, and Irene Moore Davis, Public Historian and President of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society, with comment by dann j. Broyld, University of Massachusetts, Lowell. This is a seminar.

See full calendar.

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Exhibition and Library Hours

Now Open! The Dye is cast: Interests & Ideals That Motivated the Boston Tea Party. The exhibition is open through 29 February 2024. Learn more about the exhibition and explore items from our collection related to the Tea Party


Our galleries and library are open Monday and Wednesday through Friday, from 9:30 AM to 4:45 PM, Tuesday from 9:30 AM to 7:45 PM, and Saturday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM (the galleries and library open at 12:00 PM the second Tuesday of the month). Please note that the last admission is 45 minutes prior to closing.

Please check our hours and admissions for hours, building closings, and other events.

An advance appointment is strongly encouraged. Please log in to your Portal1791 account to select your preferred visit dates.


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Learn more at

2024 Making History Gala

Join us for an unforgettable evening on 6 June 2024, with featured speaker Doris Kearns Goodwin at the iconic Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston. Visit to purchase tickets.  

The MHS Fund and Membership

Our Members make it possible for us to offer an array of complimentary services including admission to our exhibition galleries and library, online access to our collections and digital editions, and onsite and remote reference services for all. Membership begins with a fully tax-deductible contribution of $250 or more to the MHS Fund. All Members enjoy a full year of social, cultural, and educational experiences, including invitations to our annual Holiday Party, FREE program registration, and Member Week perks. Learn more and join today!
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