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From an early entry in the “New York Gazette” of November 7, 1737, we learn how it was celebrated that year, and find that illuminations, as in England, formed part of the day’s remembrance. Bonfires, fantastic processions, and “burning a Guy” formed, in fact, the chief English modes of celebration.
“Saturday last, being the fifth of November, it was observed here in Memory of that horrid and Treasonable Popish Gun-Powder Plot to blow up and destroy King, Lords and Commons, and the Gentlemen of his Majesty’s Council; the Assembly and Corporation and other the principal Gentlemen and Merchants of this City waited upon his Honor the Lieutenant-Governor at Fort George, where the Royal Healths were drunk, as usual, under the discharge of the Cannon, and at the Night the city was illuminated.”
All through the English provinces bonfires were burned, effigies were carried in procession, mummers and masqueraders thronged the streets and invaded the houses singing Pope Day rhymes, and volleys of guns were fired. In some New England towns the boys still have bonfires on November 5th.
In the year 1765 the growing feeling with regard to the Stamp Act chancing to come to a climax in the late autumn, produced in New York a very riotous observance of Pope’s Day. The demonstrations really began on November 1st, which was termed “The Last Day of Liberty.” In the evening a mob gathered, “designing to execute some foolish ceremony of burying Liberty,” but it dispersed with noise and a few broken windows. The next night a formidable mob gathered, “carrying candles and torches in their hands, and now and then firing a pistol at the Effigy which was carried in a Chair.” Then the effigy was set in the Governor’s chariot, which was taken out of the Fort. They made a gallows and hung on it an effigy of the Governor and one of the Devil, and carried it to the Fort, over which insult soldiers and officers were wonderfully patient. Finally, gallows, chariot and effigies were all burnt in the Bowling Green. The mob then ransacked Major James’s house, eating, drinking, destroying, till £1500 of damage was done. The next day it was announced that the delivery and destruction of the stamps would be demanded. In the evening the mob started out again, with candles and a barber’s block dressed in rags.