Children's Colonial Costume Contest June 4, 1995
Held annually in the city of Warwick, Rhode Island,
Gaspee Days celebrates the June 1772 burning of the British revenue
HMS Gaspee by the colonists of Rhode Island.
Provoked by the "Intolerable Acts" of the government of King George
III, which levied taxes on colonial goods -- everything from glass
to stamps to tea -- some colonists turned to smuggling to avoid the
unjust levies. One haven for such smuggling was the site of
modern-day Warwick on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.
To enforce the Crown's anti-smuggling policies,
George III sent the British revenue schooner,
HMS Gaspee under the command of Lt. Wm. Dudingston to the waters of
Narragansett Bay. Lt. Dudingston and his crew stole firewood and
livestock from the locals and required that all ships lower their
flags as a sign of respect to the
Gaspee. The packet sloop
Hannah, under the command of Captain Benjamin Lindsay,
refused to lower her flag. When Dudingston and his crew gave chase,
Gaspee became stranded on a sandbar. After Capt.
Lindsay alerted officials in Providence to the
misfortune, the colony's leading citizens were called to a meeting
at Sabin's Tavern on Planet Street in Providence to decide on a
course of action. Fortified by anger and ale, 64 Rhode Island
colonials rowed out into Narragansett Bay to the Gaspee under cover of darkness, boarded the ship, took the crew prisoner,
and shot Dudingston with a musket ball -- marking the first blood
shed for American independence -- and then set the vessel on fire.
The news of the destruction of the Gaspee soon reached the
other colonies, who started debating what course of action to take.
The burning of the Gaspee was the first step toward the
formation of the Committees of Correspondence, the convening of the
Continental Congress, and the signing of the Declaration of
In 1965, the Gaspee Days Committee was formed to find
appropriate ways to commemorate these 64 brave Rhode Islanders'
inaugural blow for freedom and to educate the general public about
the importance of the buring of the HMS Gaspee in the
fight for American independence. The Pawtuxet Rangers, Rhode
Island's first militia, was rechartered, the Pawtuxet Village
Association was founded to preserve the village, the Warwick
Historical Society was founded and the Daughters of the American
Revolution unveiled monuments -- all in time for the 1972
bicentennial of the burning of HMS Gaspee.
The "first real blow for freedom" is now celebrated
annually in June, under the leadership of the Gaspee Days
Committee, by both colonial and contemporary events. The colonial
events include a ball, children's colonial costume contest,
colonial dinners, johnnycake breakfasts, colonial muster and
encampment, and a re-enactment of the burning. The contemporary
celebration features an arts and crafts festival, parade, band
concert, 5K road race, kayak and boat races, softball games,
dances, steak fries, and raffles. The diversity of events is
carefully planned to engage and stimulate as many visitors as
The project is documented with an 8-page written
report, fourteen 8 x 10 photographs with descriptions, a videotape
of the 1993 Gaspee Days Parade, a newspaper clipping, brochures, a
poster, bumper sticker and map, a 45 rpm record of the "Ballad of
Gaspee," a blue banner, four muster streamers, and a silver coin
specially minted for the 1972 bicentennial.
Originally submitted by: Robert Weygand, Representative (2nd District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.