The Andover Historical Society will dedicate its new historical marker commemorating the life and works of celebrated black ventriloquist and magician Richard Potter, one of America’s first showmen to become a nationwide celebrity. Festivities will be held on Sunday, August 7, at the Potter Place Museum in conjunction with Andover’s annual Old Time Fair.
Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire
The Andover Historical Society has been invited to join the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, which tracks historic places across the state that are important to New Hampshire’s African American history. An audience from across the state will witness the unveiling of the Richard Potter historic marker stone at the Andover Historical Society’s Old Time Fair on Sunday, August 7, at 10:30 AM alongside the Potters’ gravestones. The Richard Potter marker will put Andover on the map of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire.
Old Time Fair
The Old Time Fair is the Andover Historical Society’s biggest fundraiser and community event of the year, and this year the society is celebrating its 40th anniversary. After two years of the pandemic, the Andover Historical Society returns with a grand entrance, bringing back some favorite festivities including history displays, craft vendors, pumper car rides, food, music, on-site museum tours, and miniature train rides for kids.
The fair runs from 9 to 2 PM on Sunday, August 7, on Depot Street in Andover off Route 11.
The AHS will bring back its flea market, set up inside the Freight House, next to the historic Boston and Maine boxcar, and will offer a variety of furniture, lamps, jewelry, toys, and household items. All proceeds of the sale will go to support the AHS historic buildings: the Potter Place Train Station, Emmons General Store (1912), Lull House, and the Little Red Schoolhouse on Tucker Mountain Road in East Andover.
For musical entertainment, starting after the Richard Potter marker ceremony, back by popular demand, Lindsey Schust and the Ragged Mountain Band will play some country, folk, old-time music and original songs like “Slow Train” (by Grace Schust) and “Parallel Lines” (by Lindsey Schust).
Food will be available for sale, provided by Donna Thompson and the Andover Community Church. All proceeds of the food sales will go toward the renovation of the historic Highland Lake Grange Hall in East Andover, home of the local music nights sponsored by the Andover Hub and the Andover Community Coffeehouse.
More About Richard Potter
Two hundred years ago, Richard Potter (1783-1835), for whom Potter Place is named, was the most popular entertainer in America and the first showman to win truly nationwide fame.
A masterful magician and ventriloquist, he personified showmanship and contributed to making popular entertainment a major part of American life. He was also a black man; his mother had been captured on the Guinea coast and sold as a slave in Boston.
Richard Potter moved to Andover in 1815 and lived there until his death in 1835. “Mr. Potter will cause Money to leap through a China plate, table, and cloth, pass and repass; to leap out of one man’s hand into that of another,” according to a broadside, courtesy of the JV Fletcher Library, Westford, Massachusetts.
Andover resident and historian John A. Hodgson heard about Potter when summering in Andover in the 1970s. His interest led to a 25-year research project, culminating with the publication of his 2018 book about Richard Potter. Hodgson’s book has reached local schools, which now include a chapter on Richard Potter in their US History classes.
This new trend of New Hampshire schools, adding local history into their curriculum, inspired Proctor Academy to host an evening in September to celebrate Potter’s influence on American theater history. This night will include an act by a professional ventriloquist and a talk by John Hodgson. This event will be co-sponsored by the Andover Historical Society and the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire.
For more information or to donate to the Andover Historical Society, visit their Facebook page at Andover NH Historical Society or visit AndoverHistory.org. The AHS is run by community talent, who take care of the historic district of Potter Place. Their Old Time Fair is the second biggest town event behind the Fourth of July, and they are always looking for helpers on the fair day.
If you are interested in joining the Old Time Fair 2022 volunteer team, please message the AHS on the Facebook page or email their marketing assistant, Lindsey Schust, at LindseySchust@nullgmail.com.
The Andover Historical Society museum and the Freight Shed at Depot Street will be open this summer through Columbus Day weekend. Museum visiting hours are Saturdays from 10 AM to 3 PM and Sundays from noon to 3 PM. The Freight Shed will be open on Saturdays from 10 AM to 2 PM.
The Little Red Schoolhouse on Tucker Mountain Road in East Andover will be open the second Sunday of the month, June through October, from 1 to 3 PM.
For more information on the Andover Historical Society, visit AndoverHistory.org. For more information on the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, visit BlackHeritageTrailNH.org.