Boston: Latin School Site and Benjamin Franklin Statue

Welcome back from our one-week hiatus!  This week we'll delve into the next stop along the famous Freedom Trail, and given that this is the first week back from a school break it seems only fitting that we're discovering the nation's very first public school.  Boston Latin School, founded in 1635, was a place where boys of any social standing could come and learn, although due to its success it has attracted children from the upper echelon of Boston's population.  Still active to this day, although now in a different location, the school's proud motto proclaims "Sumus primi" - We are first.

It also boasts quite an interesting history related to the American Revolution.  Five signers of the Declaration of Independence studied at this location, but the only one who didn't graduate is now memorialized on the site with his own statue - Benjamin Franklin was, in fact, a dropout.  A quick study of Franklin's story during the Revolution will show that he and his son were adamantly opposed to one another on the issue of American independence, and that was also the case of the teachers of Boston Latin School leading up to war.  John Lovell had been the headmaster since 1734, and in 1760 his son, James, was appointed as the usher (a term used for the assistant teacher).  The father was a pro-England loyalist, while his son was a vocal patriot.  In a famously stirring moment on April 19, 1775 - the morning of the skirmishes of Lexington and Concord which ushered in the Revolution - John Lovell closed the school with the shout, "War's begun and school's done; deponite libros!"  This Latin declaration that was typically used to end the school day effectively shut the school down and ended the elder Lovell's tenure.  He would leave Boston for Nova Scotia until his death in 1778, while his son would become a member of the Continental Congress and signer of the Articles of Confederation.

Today the original site of Boston Latin School is marked by a sidewalk mosaic behind King's Chapel, in front of the Old City Hall structure that housed the city council in the late 19th- and early 20th-century.

A more complete summary of the school's full history, including the time since American independence was won, can be found at their website here (


  1. Interesting that the school didn't have a library for 200 years!


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