MHS Madness64 of our favorite items in head-to-head competition

In honor of our 225th anniversary—and this time of year—the MHS hosted a tournament to select the favorite object from the Society’s collection. The 64 competitors, divided into four centuries of American history, were hand-picked to showcase the range of items in our collection.

View the Full Bracket


Click completed rounds to view final vote counts.

FINAL RESULTS FOR:Round 1: 18th Century

Matchup 1

Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776

John Adams wrote this letter to Abigail Adams one day after the 2 July 1776 resolution of the Continental Congress to declare independence from Great Britain. He describes what the Declaration would mean for Americans and how independence would be celebrated by future generations…on the second of July.

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A Voyage Round the World Onboard the Ship Columbia-Rediviva and Sloop Washington

Robert Haswell's log kept aboard the ship Columbia-Rediviva and the sloop Washington documents the young merchant's journey on the newly opened trade route from America to the East Indies and Canton, China. Sea otter fur was among the most desired goods exchanged for Chinese tea.

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Matchup 2

Tea leaves in glass bottle collected on the shore of Dorchester Neck the morning of 17 December 1773

This small glass bottle contains tea leaves gathered on the shore of Dorchester Neck, across the harbor from Boston, the morning after the Boston Tea Party. This is one of five relics of the Boston Tea Party (including tea caddies and a china punch bowl) in the collections of the MHS.

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Prescott and Linzee swords

The swords of Col. William Prescott and Capt. John Linzee, who fought on opposite sides at the Battle of Bunker Hill, were mounted in 1859 for the MHS. The swords cross through a wreath of olive leaves underneath the crests of the two families, who later came together through marriage.

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Matchup 3

U. S. Constitution (first printing) with annotations by Elbridge Gerry

This copy of the first printed draft of the U.S. Constitution shows the evolution of the text as it was amended during the debates at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. Massachusetts delegate Elbridge Gerry, who refused to sign because it lacked a Bill of Rights, annotated the draft with his handwritten notes.

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Massachusetts Pine Tree penny

This 1776 Massachusetts Pine Tree copper penny, attributed to Paul Revere, was unearthed during an excavation in Boston's North End in the early 19th century. Since Massachusetts did not issue copper coins in 1776 (probably due to the scarcity of copper), this penny is the only known original.

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Matchup 4

Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March - 5 April 1776

In the spring of 1776, with talk of independence in the air, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband and famously advised: "in the New Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, & be more Generous & favourable to them than your ancestors."

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Phillis Wheatley's writing desk

Phillis Wheatley's Chippendale-style mahogany writing desk dates to about 1760. Wheatley was a slave of John Wheatley of Boston, who taught her to read English, Greek, and Latin. Her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, the first book of poetry by a black American, was published in London in 1773.

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Matchup 5

Newburgh Address, 15 March 1783

In the waning months of the Revolution, disgruntled—and long unpaid—army officers at Newburgh, New York, threatened open revolt. George Washington delivered this eloquent address, written in his hand, to quell their agitation by appealing to both their honor and their sentiments.

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Letter from Benjamin Franklin to [John Franklin] (copy), 25 December 1750

This copy of a letter from Benjamin Franklin, probably written to his brother John, describes his ill-fated electrical experiment on a turkey. Franklin had conducted several similar demonstrations in front of audiences at his home, but this time it didn't go exactly as planned.

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Matchup 6

In Congress, July 4, 1776. A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled.

The first printing of this founding document is the single most important published item at the MHS. On 18 July 1776, Abigail Adams was in the crowd that gathered outside Boston's Old State House to hear the Declaration read aloud—perhaps from this very copy.

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John Hancock

John Singleton Copley was Boston's preeminent portrait painter in the 18th century. He painted this portrait of John Hancock after the 1768 seizure of one of Hancock's ships, the Liberty, which transformed the wealthy Boston merchant into a patriotic victim of English oppression.

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Matchup 7

Monticello: Final elevation of the first version

This drawing shows the final elevation of Thomas Jefferson's famous home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia , as originally conceived by the self-taught architect. Begun about 1769, the house was nearly finished by 1782. The upper portico was apparently never completed, and the octagonal side bays are not shown.

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Henry Knox diary, 20 November 1775 - 13 January 1776

One of the most notable generals in George Washington's army was Henry Knox of Massachusetts. In a remarkable feat, he recovered cannon and mortars from Fort Ticonderoga and transported them to Cambridge. His diary documents the difficulties of this midwinter journey, which was plagued with obstacles.

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Matchup 8

Letter from Paul Revere to Jeremy Belknap, circa 1798

In this undated letter, Paul Revere describes his famous ride on 18 April 1775, when Dr. Joseph Warren urged him to ride to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of British troop movements. Revere wrote this letter at the request of Jeremy Belknap, corresponding secretary of the MHS.

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Indian archer weathervane

This copper weathervane, crafted by Shem Drowne, was installed atop Boston's Province House around 1716, when it was purchased for use as the official residence of the Massachusetts provincial governors. Unlike most weathervanes, the archer's arrow points with the wind rather than into it.

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