Today, the Bicentennial Quarter Coin remembers the “Patriotick Barber of New York” of 242 years ago.
Was there a real barber who stopped shaving the British captain?
Or, was this story a way for the Sons of Liberty to gain interest in the cause of defending independence.
A description of the events can be found in The Boston Port Bill As Pictured By A Contemporary London Cartoonist – R. T. H. Halsey and published in 1904.
In the preceding pages frequent reference has been made to the practice of the Sons of Liberty of issuing “Cards” and “Addresses to the Public,” which circulated throughout the city and surrounding towns and thereby disseminated information of their calls for meetings, warnings against acts considered detrimental to the general welfare of the Colonies, and addresses upon topics which were then engrossing the public attention.
On October 3d, 1774
, another of these cards made its appearance in the streets of New York, was reprinted freely in various English newspapers early in the following January, and thereby furnished our cartoonist with the knowledge of the droll incident which he utilized to portray, in a humorous manner, the attitude assumed by the people living in the Colonies towards those actively engaged in the royal service.
The extract printed below, which appeared in the Kentish Gazette of January 7th, 1775, tells the story of the cartoon issued 14 Feb., 1775, a reproduction of which may be seen on page 215.
“The following card, copies of which were circulated at New York, is too singular not to merit insertion:
“New York, Oct. 3rd.
“The thanks of the worthy sons of liberty in solemn Congress assembled, were this night voted and unanimously allowed to be justly due to Mr. Jacob Vredenburgh, Barber, for his firm spirited and patriotic conduct, in refusing to complete an operation, vulgarly called Shaving, which he had begun on the face of Captain John Crozer, Commander of the Empress of Russia, one of his Majesty’s transports, now lying in the river, but most fortunately and providentially was informed of the identity of the gentleman’s person, when he had about half finished the job.
“It is most devoutly to be wished that all Gentlemen of the Razor will follow this wise, prudent, interesting and praiseworthy example, so steadily, that every person who pays due allegiance to his Majesty, and wishes Peace, Happiness, and Unanimity to the Colonies, may have his beard grow as long as ever was King Nebuchadnezzar’s.”
The main feature of the scene, the ejectment of the half-shaven customer, after the disclosure of his identity by the letter addressed “To Captain Crozer.” (which may be seen in the hands of the messenger), humorously delineated America’s determination to refrain from contributing to the comfort of those in the royal service.
The wording of the title “The PATRIOTICK BARBER of NEW YORK, or the CAPTAIN in the SUDS” and the accompanying verse,
Then Patriot grand, maintain thy Stand,
And whilst thou sav’st Americ’s Land,
Preserve the Golden Rule;
Forbid the Captains there to roam,
Half shave them first, then send ’em home,
Objects of ridicule.
evidence a London print-seller’s conviction that America’s stand in behalf of Boston was receiving the approval of the British public.
The shop represented was located on Barclay Street, as indicated by the name over the doorway.
The wall decorations, mezzotint portraits of Pitt and Camden, and the Broadsides containing a recent speech by Lord Chatham, and the “Articles of Association,” give evidence of the artist’s belief that the Sons of Liberty in New York were only contending for that justice for Boston demanded by statesmen on both sides of the water.
The wig boxes, which may be seen among the furnishings of this well-appointed barber shop, are the extraordinary feature of the cartoon, labeled, as they are, with twelve names of the patrons of this rabidly patriotic tonsorial artist, Jacob Vredenburgh.
The selection of the names was a remarkable one, as diligent search through, not only contemporary literature but also subsequent historical writings upon these Sons of Liberty, fails to disclose the source whence the list was compiled.
Only by tracing the later records of certain of the personages here named can the assumption be made that all of those here inscribed were either members of the organization whose gathering-place is here pictured, or were in sympathy with it.
The Bicentennial Quarter Coin shows with the artist’s image of the Patriotick Barber of New York, circa 1775.