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April 2001


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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
"Daniel H. Weiskotten" <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 25 Apr 2001 22:22:56 -0400
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"A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
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At 08:40 PM 4/19/01 -0400, Chris Andrle wrote:
> I've read that the colonist in NYC put up "Liberty Poles".  What is a
>Liberty Pole?  Is it a flag pole?

Liberty Poles were found in many communities during and following the
American Revolution with a resurgence in time of war and especially around
the Civil War (both north and south).  They were know in the colonies
before the Rev. War and they are not exclusive to the US, and seem to
derive from ancient classical symbolism.  I came across references to them
being used in Canada and Mexico as well.
        Generally they were simple flag poles erected in the name of the
anti-Crown cause.  Occasionally they were topped with an eagle or shield
and often had patriotic words or slogans.  They were usually erected in the
center of public grounds, meeting sites, or other conspicuous gathering
spots.  They were defended by the locals when under attack and if one was
taken or cut down it was immediately replaced.  I found references to
Tories being strung up on them as punishment or they served as the local
whipping post.
        Other Liberty Poles may be the short sticks topped with a liberty cap and
carried by individuals, as seen on many of the early coins of the US.
        Many communities still have what are termed Liberty Poles and associated
festivals, but from what I could find most today treat it like a May Pole,
and dance around it rather than talk rebellion (which I guess is a good
thing).  A radical Second Amendment rights group has a newsletter they call
the Liberty Pole but their articles surely have real American patriots
spinning in their graves.
        Earl Stott, the man who owned Rogers Island at Fort Edward (near Glens
Falls) was for many years an avid Liberty Pole Carver in the 1960s and
there abouts.  Whether they were like their 18th century ancestors I do not
know, but he carved them with stars and stripes, eagles, and other
patriotic symbols, all painted white with red and blue detailing.  There is
or was one of Earl Stott's Liberty Poles in Castleton, VT, a few years past
and I have seen three or four others but do not recall where (in the upper
Hudson valley, but I recall seeing a similar one in PA south of
Binghamton).  They are really beautiful things.
        Liberty Pole also seems to have once been a popular place name, but now
long lost to modernism of the landscape.  It survives on a local level as
Liberty Pole Park, Street, ...  Perhaps a similar example is surviving in
New York as Painted Post.  There were settled communities in Vermont and
Wisconsin actually called Liberty Pole.
        In some communities in the mid-19th century the village flag pole was
called the Liberty Pole and was the focus of the neighborhood gathering
place.  In larger communities the various political parties would put up
their own poles.  In Cazenovia they had a Republican pole at one end of the
business district and a Democrat pole at the other end.  These first
appearded about the time of the civil war and photos show them to be simple
white-painted wooden flag poles.  One of them was replaced in the 1890s by
a taller pole which was similar to a two-piece ships mast.  I never heard
of these Cazenovia poles referred to as Liberty Poles tho.  It looked like
the Rochester Liberty Pole in a web page given below.

Here's some web pages on the subject:


        Dan W.