Another tavern sign, though of later date, was that of the Good Woman, at the North End. This Good Woman was painted without a head.
THE GOOD WOMAN
Still another board had painted on it a bird, a tree, a ship, and a foaming can, with the legend,--
"This is the bird that never flew, This is the tree which never grew, This is the ship which never sails, This is the can which never fails."
The Dog and Pot, Turk's Head, Tun and Bacchus, were also old and favorite emblems. Some of the houses which swung these signs were very quaint specimens of our early architecture. So, also, the signs themselves were not infrequently the work of good artists. Smibert or Copley may have painted some of them. West once offered five hundred dollars for a red lion he had painted for a tavern sign.
DOG AND POT.
Not a few boards displayed a good deal of ingenuity and mother-wit, which was not without its effect, especially upon thirsty Jack, who could hardly be expected to resist such an appeal as this one of the Ship in Distress:
"With sorrows I am compass'd round; Pray lend a hand, my ship's aground."
We hear of another signboard hanging out at the extreme South End of the town, on which was depicted a globe with a man breaking through the crust, like a chicken from its shell. The man's nakedness was supposed to betoken extreme poverty.
So much for the sign itself. The story goes that early one morning a continental regiment was halted in front of the tavern, after having just made a forced march from Providence. The men were broken down with fatigue, bespattered with mud, famishing from hunger. One of these veterans doubtless echoed the sentiments of all the rest when he shouted out to the man on the sign, "'List, darn ye! 'List, and you'll get through this world fast enough!"
"HOW SHALL I GET THROUGH THIS WORLD?"
In time of war the taverns were favorite recruiting rendezvous. Those at the waterside were conveniently situated for picking up men from among the idlers who frequented the tap-rooms. Under date of 1745, when we were at war with France, bills were posted in the town giving notice to all concerned that, "All gentlemen sailors and others, who are minded to go on a cruise off of Cape Breton, on board the brigantine Hawk, Captain Philip Bass commander, mounting fourteen carriage, and twenty swivel guns, going in consort with the brigantine Ranger, Captain Edward Fryer commander, of the like force, to intercept the East India, South Sea, and other ships bound to Cape Breton, let them repair to the Widow Gray's at the Crown Tavern, at the head of Clark's Wharf, to go with Captain Bass, or to the =Vernon's Head=, Richard Smith's, in King Street, to go in the Ranger." "Gentlemen sailors" is a novel sea-term that must have tickled an old salt's fancy amazingly.
The following notice, given at the same date in the most public manner, is now curious reading. "To be sold, a likely negro or mulatto boy, about eleven years of age." This was in Boston.
The Revolution wrought swift and significant change in many of the old, favorite signboards. Though the idea remained the same, their symbolism was now put to a different use. Down came the king's and up went the people's arms. The crowns and sceptres, the lions and unicorns, furnished fuel for patriotic bonfires or were painted out forever. With them disappeared the last tokens of the monarchy. The crown was knocked into a cocked-hat, the sceptre fell at the unsheathing of the sword. The heads of Washington and Hancock, Putnam and Lee, Jones and Hopkins, now fired the martial heart instead of Vernon, Hawk, or Wolfe. Allegiance to old and cherished traditions was swept away as ruthlessly as if it were in truth but the reflection of that loyalty which the colonists had now thrown off forever. They had accepted the maxim, that, when a subject draws his sword against his king, he should throw away the scabbard.
Such acts are not to be referred to the fickleness of popular favor which Horace Walpole has moralized upon, or which the poet satirizes in the lines,--
"Vernon, the Butcher Cumberland, Wolfe, Hawke, Prince Ferdinand, Granby, Burgoyne, Keppell, Howe, Evil and good have had their tithe of talk, And filled their sign-post then like Wellesly now."
Rather should we credit it to that genuine and impassioned outburst of patriotic feeling which, having turned royalty out of doors, indignantly tossed its worthless trappings into the street after it.
Not a single specimen of the old-time hostelries now remains in Boston. All is changed. The demon demolition is everywhere. Does not this very want of permanence suggest, with much force, the need of perpetuating a noted house or site by some appropriate memorial? It is true that a beginning has been made in this direction, but much more remains to be done. In this way, a great deal of curious and valuable information may be picked up in the streets, as all who run may read. It has been noticed that very few pass by such memorials without stopping to read the inscriptions. Certainly, no more popular method of teaching history could well be devised. This being done, on a liberal scale, the city would still hold its antique flavor through the records everywhere displayed on the walls of its buildings, and we should have a home application of the couplet:
"Oh, but a wit can study in the streets, And raise his mind above the mob he meets."