Five big myths about Samuel Adams in the History Channel series

NCC Staff

American TV viewers got to see part one of the History Channel’s mini-series about Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty on Sunday night, and true to its word, the series was more fiction than fact.


Samuel Adams In 1774

The network was quite open about “Sons of Liberty” being a “dramatic interpretation of events that sparked a revolution.” Clearly, the facts were changed in many cases to make for a more contemporary, action-adventure story line.

“It is historical fiction, not a documentary. The goal of our miniseries is to capture the spirit of the time, convey the personalities of the main characters, and focus on real events that have shaped our past,” the network said on its website. It also included a resource section with facts from historians about the real story of how these Founders shaped our history.

That said, at least the first part of the series is focused on “Sam” Adams and his constant fight with the British government over various matters. Here is a quick look at how the fictional “Sam” Adams differed from the real “Samuel” Adams.

1. TV Sam Adams was a hunky hero who brawled with the British. The TV version of Sam Adams is in his early 30s, swings from rooftops, leads brawls and acts as a Bostonian “Robin Hood.” The real Samuel Adams was in his mid-40s when the first protests happened in Boston, and was known more as a publisher, politician and town leader with grey hair.

2. Sam Adams was a failure as a tax collector. That part is true about the fictional and real-life Adams. He failed at most business ventures during his time. In the TV series, Sam Adams had been a tax collector for one year; in reality, Samuel Adams was a tax collector for nine years and been involved in Boston politics for 18 years.

3. What is the deal with the beer? The story about Sam Adams’ father and the land bank depicted in the TV series is true. But Samuel Adams Sr. was better known as a master beer brewer. His son inherited the beer business when his father died, and he had other people run it for him, since he had little interest in running a business.

4. Sam Adams – Boston’s most eligible bachelor. In the series, Sam Adams is depicted as a hunky, brooding widower in 1765. The real Samuel Adams in 1765 had just married for a second time and had two children. His first wife had died in 1757 and the second wife, Elizabeth Wells, was 14 years younger than Adams.

5. What is the real deal with the Adams’ family? In the TV series, Sam Adams is seen flirting with Abigail Adams, the wife of his cousin, John Adams. But Abigail was also John Adams’s cousin. So how were they all related? John and Samuel Adams were second cousins; John and Abigail Adams were third cousins. Abigail’s cousin, Dorothy Quincy, was John Hancock’s wife. Also, Samuel Adams’s daughter from his first marriage married his second wife’s younger brother. And John Adams was 13 years younger that Samuel Adams.

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