Giants of the Colonial Era

I happened across this paragraph, in Tod Andrlik's Reporting the Revolutionary War, from the marginalia of the July 20, 1764, Portsmouth New-Hampshire Gazette:

A giant, 14 feet high (who was the same at nine years old) arrived the 14th ult at Dre[ can't tell; it's lost in the binding of the book ] from Trent, to make a shew of himself.

The next paragraph says an Ambassador discussed fishery stocks. Isn't this a magnificent glimpse into Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from before the Flood of '42 swept its hyphen away and probably did the fishery stock no harm besides putting it higher? Consider the article's implications.


First, the writer doesn't name the giant. Maybe he guessed a person fourteen feet high didn't need naming, which is probably so. I know dozens of folks over sixty feet high, but fourteen feet is distinctive, and if I knew anyone that high, you'd just have to say ``that person who's fourteen feet high'' and I'd know who you meant. That'd actually work well for me, since I'm bad at remembering names; I'll typically guess a guy I'm not sure about is named ``David''. You'd be surprised how often that's right. Everyone I met from 1996 through 2008 was named David, or is now, anyway.


Second, our giant wasn't making a shew of himself in Portsmouth, or even Trent, but had to go farther afield for work. Imagine the scene, near the Trent village green in mid-July, as a farmer or smithy or cooper-blunderbusserist discusses the giant-disappointment with his wife.


``Did you see, Martha, that poor David tried making a shew of himself by being fourteen feet tall in the public square?''


``What, again, Henry?''


``Aye,'' he says, while throwing a rock at a Stamp Tax collector (who actually preferred collecting other Coercive Acts, as everyone was into Stamp Taxes in 1764). ``Fourteen feet tall and he thinks that's fit entertainment.''


``Isn't that the same as when he was nine years old?''


``To the inch and quarter-barleycorn,'' cracks Henry as he indentures a servitude. ``Not half a pottled king's earlobe taller to-day.''


``Someone should tell the lad, fourteen feet won't earn an audience here. Maybe he could find a paying crowd in Dre[ mumbled into the fold ], but this is Trent. This is the big time.''

``Verily. David needs more if he wants to shew us anything.''


Beside the farm's tavern's print-shop's coffee-house, a lone tear runs down David's cheek. David considers finding some apples, but Johnny Appleseed won't be born until 1774, so he swipes rocks and slinks off to Dre[ something or other ], hoping he can juggle-and-tall his way back up to Trent, and maybe Portsmouth or even Worcester. He does, reaching the last town in 1839, ready to retire, which is just as well as he's upstaged by the first giraffe brought to North America.


(PS, the United States won the Revolutionary War, sixteen feet to thirteen and a hog's plunder in height.)