A Brief History of the John Paul Jones House
Part 5: Portsmouth’s Most Famous Tenant
Sketch by the late maritime scholar and artist William Gilkerson of the USS Ranger, built at Portsmouth Harbor in 1777. Used by permission.
By J. Dennis Robinson
With a crew including men from the Piscataqua region, John Paul Jones waged what amounted to a one-ship war along the coast of Great Britain during the American Revolution. Although his guerilla raids aboard Ranger in 1778 caused little damage, they had a chilling effect on the British population.
After capturing HMS Drake, Jones sent Ranger home. He resumed his war against England the following year aboard Bonhomme Richard.
Jones’ ferocious battle against HMS Serapis sealed his reputation as a naval hero. Honored by French King Louis XVI, Jones sailed again to the United States. Appointed commander of the 74-gun USS America in 1782, he was back in Portsmouth and, legend says, to his rented room in the home of Sarah Purcell.
America was only half finished, Jones discovered, with little funding left to equip, provision, and man the ship. Launching America, he reported, was “the most lingering and disagreeable service” he faced during the Revolution. Fearing the huge ship of the line (182 feet long by 50 feet wide) might be sabotaged by the enemy during construction in Kittery, Jones mounted artillery on board and posted guards at his own expense. He also staged a huge public celebration with flags, dancing, and fireworks–but all for nothing. Congress chose to give America to the French in 1782. John Paul Jones left the United States without fanfare, but the return of his remains in 1905 captured headlines around the world.
New Hampshire Now Prints for Sale in the Museum Shop
Remember our great exhibit last fall of 46 New Hampshire photographers who traveled the Granite State from 2018-2020 taking pictures of daily life and majestic scenes? Now you can own one of these beautiful prints. Some are available online, but most are displayed in our newly-renovated theater! Come in and have a peek!
Plus, we still have a few copies of the catalogue left!