This Day in Norwood History-February 3, 1948-Count Von Rumford Branded Spy By Historical Society Speaker

Painting of Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford by Thomas Gainsborough 1783

A letter written in a nut-bark fluid to General Thomas Gage, British leader in the American Revolution, has recently been discovered and proves that one of America’s greatest historical figures was an informer against his country, Dr. Kenneth Scott told members of the Norwood Historical Society at their meeting last week.

The writer was Benjamin Thompson of Rumford, Massachusetts, a country boy whose genius brought him high acclaim as an inventor and scientist, as well as military honors from this country and titles from foreign lands. Dr. Scott, a teacher at the Westminster School in Connecticut, has made a thorough study of Count Von Rumford, and in his address described the discovery of the letter to General Gage that branded Rumford a spy. He also recounted his boyhood in Massachusetts where he became a druggist’s apprentice and taught himself mathematics, science, ballistics and other subjects, before beginning his long hikes to Cambridge to attend lectures at Harvard. The Rumford Chair at the university was endowed by him in his later, wealthy years. He received high political honors and array commissions in this country and in England and France before receiving his title from Bavaria. His early interest in drugs, gunpowder, heating and lighting led to the invention of the first flame thrower, modern stoves, and in many inventions and improvements in artillery.

In revealing the espionage activities of this great Revolutionary figure, Dr. Scott said that since Rumford was always prompted by the best intentions, he really believed that it would be to the advantage of the American colonies to remain English possessions.


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