Much of Johnny Tremain’s enduring popularity rests in its meticulous attention to historical detail. The world of 18th century Boston comes to life in Forbes’s story, as do a number of famous historical events and figures. The novel includes minute details about the Boston Tea party, Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride, and the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Historical figures include Sam Adams, Paul Revere, Robert Newman, James Otis, Dr. Joseph Warren, Dr. Benjamin Church, Josiah Quincy, John Hancock, William (Billy) Dawes, the Reverend Samuel Cooper, Governor Hutchinson, General Gage, and General Earl Percy. Students should be aware that Johnny, the Laphams, the Lytes, and the Silsbees/Lornes are fictional, but that most other characters with both first and last names are based on real people. For this reason, Johnny Tremain pairs nicely with history classes and/or research assignments. Students may benefit from learning a little background on the pivotal players and events.
The various trades depicted in Johnny Tremain also add historical realism to the novel. When the novel opens, Johnny is a silversmith. Because this profession is little known today, students will benefit from a little background on it. Youtube includes several helpful videos on blacksmiths, though not silversmiths. Teachers might also preview the following trade-specific vocabulary used in the novel: smith, crucible, ingot, anvil, hood, cast, annealing furnace. Historically, Paul Revere was a famous silversmith, and additional information can be found in researching him. The Paul Revere Memorial Association provides helpful information, including photos of Revere’s surviving silver work.
The importance of printers in fomenting revolutionary fervor is also clearly conveyed in Johnny Tremain. The Observer’s Club, which meets in the loft above Uncle Lorne's print shop, is based upon the real historical Long Room Club which met above the print shop of the Boston Gazette. The following link contains interesting background information on the Long Room Club and its members (many of which were included in Forbes’s Observer’s Club) along with a number of related primary documents.
The print shop in which the meetings took place also has a useful website, which can be accessed at https://bostongazette.org/about.