WORCESTER, MA— The Worcester Revolution of 1774 Project has won a 2015 Leadership in History Award from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH). The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) accepted this award on behalf of the consortium of individuals and organizations that created the Worcester Revolution of 1774 Project. The award was presented at the AASLH annual conference in Louisville, Kentucky, on September 18, 2015.


John Dichtl, AASLH President and CEO; Jim Moran, Director of Outreach AAS; Julia Rose, AASLH Chair. (Photo: David E. Knapp)

Worcester Revolution of 1774 is a coalition of individuals and historical and cultural organizations from throughout Worcester County to commemorate the pivotal role Worcester played in starting the American Revolution. On September 6, 1774, 4,622 militia men from 37 communities closed the Royal Courthouse in Worcester and forced all court officials to resign their commissions. With this dramatic act of peaceful civil disobedience all British authority vanished from Worcester County never to return.

The project successfully created public history programming throughout the region involving all of the 37 communities that originally participated in this event. This programming included: creating a short promotional video in both English and Spanish that featured a historical character (Timothy Bigelow, 1739-1790) calling people to action as if it were 1774; sponsoring a series of lectures, exhibits and special programs in communities across the region; a county-wide reading of The First American Revolution by Ray Raphael; conducting workshops on historical research; developing a highly interactive website that included a 21st -century digital version of the Committees of Correspondence; reenacting the walk the Minute Men took to Worcester in 1774; and commissioning the writing of an original historic play titled The Chains of Liberty , which was professionally produced with Equity Actors to two “standing room”-only performances of over 300 people.

These events culminated in a daylong free festival that occurred on September 7, 2014, and included food, children’s activities, historic presentations, period musical presentations, and the performances of The Chains of Liberty – a total of 3700 hours of programming . This day culminated in a reenactment of the closing of the courts that involved members of each town’s historical society, elected officials, and the general public.

The organizations involved in the Worcester Revolution of 1774 project include: the American Antiquarian Society; Battle Road of the National Park Service; Congress of American Revolution Round Tables; Second Massachusetts Regiment; Preservation Worcester; Sons of the American Revolution; Daughters of the American Revolution, Massachusetts Society; the Tenth Regiment of Foot; Old Sturbridge Village; and Worcester Historical Museum.

The project received support from Commerce Bank, Fuller Foundation, Greater Worcester Community Foundation, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Kendall Productions, Massachusetts Society of Colonial Wars, Massachusetts Society of the Society of the Cincinnati, MassHumanities, Telegram & Gazette, WCRN Radio, and the Worcester Area Arts Council.

Presented annually by the AASLH, the Leadership in History Awards are the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. “The Leadership in History Awards is AASLH’s highest distinction and the winners represent the best in the field,” said Trina Nelson Thomas, AASLH Awards Chair and Director, Stark Art & History Venue, Stark Foundation. “This year, we are pleased to distinguish each recipient’s commitment and innovation to the interpretation of history, as well as their leadership for the future of state and local history.”

The Leadership in History Awards Program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history throughout America. Each nomination is peer-reviewed by AASLH’s state captains. Final awards are decided by the Awards Committee, comprised of AASLH’s fourteen regional representatives and the National Awards Chair.