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Wells Tavern Sign

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Date: c. 1780
Dimensions: height 57" width 30"
About this artifact

Taverns in the 18th and early 19th centuries provided food and lodging to paying travelers. These establishments also functioned as gathering places for local men to drink, socialize, and talk politics. This tavern sign swung in front of the tavern of Ephraim Wells (1772-1818) in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Ephraim was Reuben Wells' cousin. The painted images on each side symbolized America to its citizens and the wider world in this period. President George Washington represented American military glory and the rising republic. The Native American on the other side was a traditional symbol of America at home and abroad. The square and compass on the sign were symbols of the Masons, a fraternal society that flourished in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and which still exists today. Although many of the nation's founders, including George Washington, were Masons, anti-Masonry erupted in the early 1800s as many Americans began condemning secret societies as undemocratic and subversive.

Courtesy Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield, MA