"Worcester, July 24…On Monday last a number of patriotic gentlemen of this town…assembled on the green near the liberty pole…"
Public readings of the newly minted Declaration of Independence took place in taverns, churches, town greens, or anywhere else people could gather. In New England, the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence is believed to have taken place in Worcester, Massachusetts. Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831)—a Bostonian printer who had resettled in Worcester at the beginning of the war—is said to have intercepted a post rider bound for Boston carrying a copy of the Declaration and subsequently read it to a large crowd from the roof of the portico of the Worcester Meeting House (later known as Old South Church).
Several days later, on July 22, a bigger and more formal celebration took place, coverage of which appeared in the July 24, 1776, issue of Thomas’s newspaper, the Massachusetts Spy. The article describes how “a number of patriotic gentlemen of this town, animated by a love of their country, and to shew their approbation of the measure lately taken by the Grand Council of America, assembled on the green near the liberty pole,” where they displayed the colors of the thirteen colonies, rang bells, beat drums, and read the Declaration of Independence to “a large and respectable body (among whom were the Select-men and Committee of Correspondence) assembled on the occasion, who testified their approbation by repeated huzzas, firing of musquetry and cannon, bonfires, and other demonstrations of joy.” They followed these demonstrations by removing the king’s arms from the courthouse and burning them, after which a “select company of the Sons of Freedom” went to a tavern that had been known as the King’s Arms and tore down the sign proclaiming it as such. According to this article, the tavern keeper—a woman named Mary Stearns—“cheerfully complied” with their wishes. The crowd then celebrated by drinking in her tavern to twenty-four separate toasts, among which were toasts for “Sore Eyes to all Tories, and a Chesnut [sic] Burr for an Eye Stone” and “Perpetual itching without the benefit of scratching to the Enemies of America.”