Fascinating Facts About The Real 'Sons of Liberty'

With the upcoming premiere of the History Channel’s “Sons of Liberty” miniseries, we’re taking a look at some fascinating facts about the real men who fought for America’s independence. Who cheated death again and again? Who was a forensics pioneer? Who liked to get naked? Read on to find out. . .
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With the upcoming premiere of the History Channel’s “Sons of Liberty” miniseries, we’re taking a look at some fascinating facts about the real men who fought for America’s independence. Who cheated death again and again? Who was a forensics pioneer? Who liked to get naked? Read on to find out. . .

Before America could have any Founding Fathers, the country needed Sons of Liberty to stand up to the British government. These men harnessed the outrage that had spread following Parliament's Stamp Act of 1765, which levied an internal tax on the colonies. Though the Stamp Act was repealed, the disagreement over "taxation without representation" wouldn't go away, resulting in events like the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party. 

The History Channel miniseries Sons of Liberty takes a dramatic look at the men who led the protests and upheavals that eventually resulted in revolution and independence. But maybe you’d like to delve further into the lives, intrigues, failings and accomplishments of the men in this group? Read on for some fascinating facts about the real-life Sons of Liberty.

Samuel Adams

Sam Adams Illustration

Samuel Adams played by Ben Barnes in "Sons of Liberty." (Illustration by Nigel Sussman)

Adams used his organizational and writing skills to fan American ire about unfair British taxes and laws—one man who'd been targeted by Adams complained that "his pen stung like a horned snake."

Did you know?

It was lucky for Adams that he excelled at politics, because he failed at every other occupation he put his hand to: He was fired from his job at a mercantile firm; he lost the money his father had given him to start a business; and the family brewing business soon shut down after Adams inherited it.

Adams also displayed the same shortcomings as a Boston tax collector—after eight years on the job, he was approximately £8,000 behind in collections (perhaps not surprisingly, the people of Boston didn't mind that last part).

John Hancock

John Hancock Illustration

John Hancock played by Rafe Spall in "Sons of Liberty." (Illustration by Nigel Sussman)

A merchant who was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies—and who had a ship seized when he was accused of smuggling—Hancock joined forces with Samuel Adams to support American independence.

Did you know?

It was his business interests that made Hancock oppose unfair taxes and duties, and therefore to chafe at British rule. However, he was supposed to become a minister, not a merchant.

Hancock’s father and grandfather had both been clergymen, and they wanted him to follow in their footsteps. But after his father died, the young boy was taken in by his uncle, who made Hancock his heir.

Without this change in circumstances, Hancock likely would have spent more time thinking about the Bible than the British, and wouldn't have become the first man to sign the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams

John Adams Illustration

John Adams played by Henry Thomas in "Sons of Liberty."(Illustration by Nigel Sussman)

John Adams used his knowledge of the law to argue against the Stamp Act, and to successfully defend the British soldiers who'd been accused of murder after the Boston Massacre.

Did you know?

As the United States took shape, Adams—the first vice president of the new country—made a proposal that ran counter to the ideals of the revolution he'd supported. He wanted Congress to come up with a fancy title for the presidency. His suggestions? "His Majesty the President," "Excellency" or "His Highness the President of the United States of America and Protector of the Rights of the Same."

The Senate, whose members had to endure Adams lecturing them on the question of titles, declined to adopt any of his ideas. However, the portly Adams did acquire a cruel, yet apt, title of his own—he was nicknamed "His Rotundity."

Joseph Warren

Joseph Warren Illustration

Joseph Warren played by Ryan Eggold in "Sons of Liberty."(Illustration by Nigel Sussman)

Warren was a doctor who gathered the intelligence that sent Paul Revere (as well as William Dawes) on the famous midnight ride of April 18-19, 1775.

Did you know?

Despite being commissioned as a major-general, Warren joined 1775's battle of Bunker Hill as a regular fighter and was killed at the age of 34. Warren's wife had died in 1773, so his death orphaned his four children. However, they received assistance from a surprising source: Benedict Arnold.

Arnold, who'd been friends with Warren, gave the children $500 in 1778. He also supported a request that they be allocated a major-general's half pay.

If Arnold had been as loyal to America as he was to Warren, perhaps his name wouldn't have become a synonym for traitor.

Paul Revere

Paul Revere Illustration

Paul Revere played by Michael Raymond-James in "Sons of Liberty." (Illustration by Nigel Sussman)

An artisan who'd worked as a silversmith, goldsmith and engraver (and sometime dentist), Revere became a courier for the independence movement.

Did you know?

Revere engaged in America's first instance of forensic dentistry. After examining bodies found in a mass grave, Revere recognized the dental bridge he'd created for his friend Joseph Warren and was therefore able to identify his body.

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin Illustration

Benjamin Franklin played by Dean Norris in "Sons of Liberty." (Illustration by Nigel Sussman)

A printer who'd become an esteemed statesmen by the time of the American Revolution, Franklin joined the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence.

Did you know?

While living in London, where he worked as a colonial representative, Franklin began to enjoy an unusual activity: taking "air baths." He described the practice in 1768: "I rise early almost every morning, and sit in my chamber without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season."

This was done in front of an open window, so anyone in the neighborhood also became aware of the importance Franklin placed on good ventilation.

George Washington

George Washington Illustration

George Washington played by Jason O'Mara in "Sons of Liberty."(Illustration by Nigel Sussman)

Washington, a veteran of the French and Indian War, grew frustrated with British rule while serving in Virginia's House of Burgesses, then agreed to use his military talents as the leader of the Continental Army.

Did you know?

In his lifetime, Washington cheated death as often as some people cheat on their taxes. As a young man, he contracted malaria, smallpox, dysentery and tuberculosis (fortunately not all at once).

After becoming a soldier, Washington had two horses shot from under him during a 1755 battle. At the end of that fight, he also noticed his cloak had four brand-new bullet holes.

Despite those experiences, Washington remained a fearless fighter during the Revolutionary War. At one point during 1777's battle of Princeton, he was only 30 yards away from British troops. Luckily, he remained unharmed despite being in the line of fire. In fact, he rode after the fleeing British soldiers, telling his own men, "It is a fine fox chase, my boys!"

"Sons of Liberty," the three-part miniseries, premieres on the History Channel on January 25th, 9/8c.