More Than a Shingle

What is It?
This item is a shingle from the Plymouth, New Hampshire Courthouse.

The label reads: “A shingle from the Old Court House at Plymouth New Hampshire where D. Webster made his first argument.”

Who was Daniel Webster?

Daniel Webster was a statesman, orator, and famed lawyer. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy (right next door to our museum!) and Dartmouth College. He was a passionate abolitionist, and his speeches were legendary and said to be so powerful that one nineteenth century journalist referred to him as “God-like.”

He argued cases before the Supreme Court, achieving many wins, at times moving those who heard him speak to tears.

His first case was argued in the Plymouth, New Hampshire Courthouse. He defended an accused murderer and while he was convincing enough to have the man’s execution delayed, Webster’s client ultimately was hung. The Old Webster Courthouse was built in 1774. Today it serves as the Plymouth Historical Society and is in the process of ongoing preservation efforts.

Webster's Legacy
This shingle commemorating Webster’s first case indicates the lasting legacy that Webster left in New Hampshire’s memory. His name can been today in many places across New Hampshire, including inside the Ladd-Gilman House at the American Independence Museum where the Society of the Cincinnati named a room for him.

Webster also became immortalized in a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet, “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” in which Webster successfully defends a farmer who had sold his soul to the Devil, highlighting the ways in which historical accounts of real people may become exaggerated overtime.