The Boston Boys and General Gage, 1775, 1875
Inspired by the 100th anniversary of the American Revolution, this work was first shown at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The painting tells the story of a winter confrontation between General Thomas Gage (1721-1787), the British commander of the occupation of Boston, and an angry group of local children. With sleds in tow, the boys describe how British soldiers have infringed upon their rights by repeatedly breaking up their sledding hills on the Boston Common. Initially amazed at the effrontery of the young Americans, General Gage is shown halting all action with a slight gesture of his hand. He suspected that they had been sent by their rebellious parents, but the boys vehemently denied it. Gage was so impressed that he promised them redress. According to Benson L. Losing's popular History of the United States, which inspired Bacon, the story ends with Gage's statement: "The very children here draw in a love of liberty with the air they breathe."
William W. Corcoran visited the Philadelphia Centennial and purchased several paintings; this one reportedly cost $10,000. In 1886, Mr. Corcoran donated this major historical genre painting to the Preparatory School of the Columbian University, "for the adornment of the general hall of the Preparatory School." In 1898-99, this painting was loaned back to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, while the Law School was undergoing expansion.