Gaspee Days Committee
The Gaspee Days Committee is a civic-minded, nonprofit organization that operates many community events in and around Pawtuxet Village, including the famous Gaspee Days Parade each June. These events are all designed to commemorate the 1772 burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspée, by Rhode Island patriots as America's ‘First Blow for Freedom' TM.
The first recorded celebration of the Gaspee Affair was in 1774 near Williamsburg, Virginia where George Washington himself related in his diary that he spent 3s.9d. to see the fireworks in celebration of the second anniversary of the burning of the Gaspee.
Participants in the raid on the Gaspee were fêted annually in parades throughout Rhode Island until all had died by the year 1841. Large celebrations took place in Rhode Island for several years surrounding the 100th anniversary of the burning of the Gaspee. The trademarked motto of the Gaspee Days Committee, America's "First Blow for Freedom" TM is taken from teacup and saucer sets sold at these events. Sporadic observances of the Gaspee burning have formed a hit-or-miss pattern, the last known parade previous to the formation of the modern Gaspee Days Committee took place around 1907.
The present Gaspee Days Committee was formed in 1965 to ensure a fitting commemoration to the 200th anniversary of the Gaspee Affair. Among the founding members were local historians and community activists, such as David Stackhouse and Hazel Wade Kennedy, both of whom were also involved in the establishment of Pawtuxet Village as a historic district.
The Gaspee Days Parade and celebrations have been a continuous, annual event since 1966, and in the year 2012 mark the 47th such observance. Generations of Rhode Island citizens crowd Pawtuxet Village for the Parade and other Gaspee Days festivities each year. Every effort has been made to provide a schedule that is both entertaining and informative to all ages. Foremost is the desire to acquaint the public with an event that is as much a part of our national heritage as Paul Revere's ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The burning of the Gaspee was the first link in the chain of events that led directly to America's Declaration of Independence.
The Committee has been the recipient of the George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedoms Foundation, and the first Certificate of Merit from the Rhode Island Bicentennial Commission. Gaspee Days has been listed by Discover America as one of the top twenty tourist attractions in the United States. In 2003 The Gaspee Days Committee was the subject of a front page feature in the Wall Street Journal.
Each annual Gaspee Days Parade is the result of a year-long planning process by many dedicated volunteers of the Gaspee Days Committee. Current projected cost of production for the Gaspee Days Parade is $40,000. Necessary funds for the Parade are raised throughout the year with fee revenue generated by the Memorial Weekend Gaspee Days Arts & Crafts Festival, other fundraising events, and public and private donations.
The mission of the Gaspee Days Committee is not solely found in the celebrations it is best known for. The Committee also helps to acknowledge the importance of the Gaspee Affair in the independence movement that led to the American Revolutionary War. The Gaspee Days Committee operates the Gaspee Virtual Archives, an extensive on-line resource for historical research regarding the burning of the Gaspee.
- Little, Shelby. George Washington. New York: Minton, Balch & Company. 1929. Page 99 on-line at: http://gaspee.org/WashingtonGaspee.htm
- Brown, Henry A. L. "1826: The Jubilee Year". The Bridge, newspaper of the Pawtuxet Village Association, Spring 2000
- "Gaspee Anniversary". Providence Evening Press, June 12, 1875
- Stackhouse, David L. "Origins of Gaspee Days" Gaspee Days program, Gaspee Days Committee, June, 1978
- Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2003, Page 1