The Franklin Historical Society’s May program will offer John A. Hodgson talking about the man for whom Potter Place in Andover was named. “Richard Potter: America’s First Black Celebrity” will be discussed in the Society’s meeting room at Webster Place, 21 Holy Cross Road, on Thursday, May 2, at 7 PM.
Mr. Hodgson, in his own words, “…taught English and American literature at Yale University, the University of Georgia, and Harvard University before serving twenty years as the Dean of Forbes College at Princeton University until his retirement in August 2014. He is the author of books on Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, and on the Sherlock Holmes stories. Recently he contributed an article on Holmes for the Blackwell Companion to Crime Fiction.
He now lives in Andover, New Hampshire, where he serves on the board of the Andover Historical Society, and where the subject of his most recent book (printed by the University of Virginia Press, 2018), lived for many years and is buried. For those wishing to learn more about the life of Richard Potter, Mr. Hodgson’s book will be available for purchase.
Apart from a handful of exotic–and almost completely unreliable–tales surrounding his life, Richard Potter is almost unknown today. Two hundred years ago, however, he was the most popular entertainer in America–the first showman, in fact, to win truly nationwide fame. Working as a magician and ventriloquist, he personified for an entire generation what a popular performer was and made an invaluable contribution to establishing popular entertainment as a major part of American life. His story is all the more remarkable in that Richard Potter was also a black man who lived during an era when few African Americans became highly successful, much less famous.
The presentation is free and open to all. Light refreshments will be offered between the talk and the annual meeting, during which election for officers and the board will be one of several important business matters on which members’ (and guests’) input will be sought.