The 17th of June may be the former day of national unity in Germany, but the anniversary of a celebrated Revolutionary War battle has again emerged as a divisive date here in Massachusetts.
That some local and state employees have the day off irritates Republican lawmakers, who charge that legally mandated "hack holidays" such as Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day (March 17—yes, coincidentally, St. Patrick's Day) for the few constitute an insult to all the rest of us who have to work, and moreover result in great overtime costs and losses of productivity (though they produced no evidence to support this claim). Some Democrats responded by insisting on the historic importance of the Revolutionary holiday and drily noting that the Commonwealth might be better served if Republicans focused their energy on ethics reform and other more susbtantive matters.
The huge granite obelisk (221 feet tall) that marks the site has a story of its own. After the legislature declined to fund the project, conceived for the fiftieth anniversary of the battle, it fell to citizens' volunteer groups—in particular, the women of the Ladies' Fair at Quincy Market—to raise the necessary funds (a process that, ironically, anticipated the struggle we here in Amherst faced in microcosm when we sought to create the now immensely popular history mural in West Cemetery). Although the laying of the cornerstone in 1825 was occasion for a huge festival, marked, inter alia, by the oration of Daniel Webster and the presence of the Marquis de Lafayette, then making his triumphal American return tour, the project was not completed till the formal dedication in 1843, marked by festivities almost as impressive. (MassMoments provides a nice synopsis.)
The story is told in capsule form on the commemorative cup plate produced by the prolific Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, the motto of which reads:
This was but one of a host of commemorative products that appeared in a steady stream for decades. The battle and site were memorialized in speeches, poems, prints (see above), and souvenir objects