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In the Crucible by Arthur Miller, he describes John Proctor as being in his thirties and an affluent landowner. In every website portraying him though, it says Proctor was in his 60s at the time of the Salem witch trials and was a tavern owner, as well as a landowner. None of the town maps of Salem show his tavern. What real proof (from a primary source) do we have of his birth date? Even his tombstone only has his date of death.

I want to write an essay about why Miller changed these facts but I need proof that they are accurate.

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    One possible reason Miller might have changed the facts might have been to let Arthur Kennedy, then in his late thirties, play the role. Kennedy had won a Tony as Willy Loman in ”Death of a Salesman” a few years earlier and also played a leading role in other plays by Miller. – Davislor Oct 26 '18 at 20:38
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Johns age can be ascertained with a little background genealogy work. John was son of John Proctor Sr, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1635 from the Encyclopedia of Massachusetts, Biographical--genealogical, Volume 4 (emphasis mine)

I. John Proctor sailed with wife and two children from London and settled in 1635 in Ipswich Massachusetts He gave his age at that time as forty his wife twenty eight son John aged three and daughter Mary aged one year He removed to Salem and in 1667 deposed that he was aged seventy five years His will dated August 18 1672 proved November 28 following bequeathed to wife Martha to daughters Martha White Abigail Var ney Sarah Dodge and Hannah Weeden to sons John Joseph and Benjamin

II. John 2 Proctor son of John 1 Proctor was born 1632 in England married at Ipswich December 1662 Widow Elizabeth Thorndike Bassett He fell a victim to the witchcraft delusion and he was hanged August 19 1692 Two

Another volume, A History of the Shoe and Leather Industries of the United States ..., Volume 2By Charles H. McDermott, gives us the name of the ship the Proctor arrived on:

...He was the eighth in descent from John Proctor who came from London England in the ship Susan and Ellen in 1635 at the age of forty and settled at Ipswich Massachusetts With John Proctor came his wife Martha and two children John aged three years and Mary aged one year

To cross check the arrival and age info we can look at the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild page for the ship 'Suzan and Ellen', which left England on 11 March 1635:

1  Procter, John          Husbandman  40
2  Proctor, Martha                    28
3  Proctor, John                       3
4  Proctor, Marie                      1

So genealogical sources seem to agree upon the year of birth of 1632, three years before emmigration to the colonies.

The tavern ownership is discussed in the Historical Collections of the Danvers Historical Society, Volumes 6-9, By Danvers Historical Society, including his petition for a license in 1666:

I Live At Mr Downings far me weh Is In y Common Readeway wch occationeth severall travellours To Call In for some Refreshment as they pass Alonge & findinge It Like to bee Verrv Chargable In Case I should continue to Accommodate such Upon free Cost doe therefore Earnestly Request you yt you would bee pleased to graunt mee Liberty To sett up a house of Entertainment To sell Beare Sider Liquors etc

This article also discusses some legal issues the Proctors had over the tavern:

In 1678 he was fined 40 shillings for selling a quart of cider to one Joseph an Indian and to other Indians upon testimony of Giles Cory Abraham Wolcot John Parker who deposed concerning Goodwife Proctor saying that she had sold cider to the Indians in exchange for baskets and that she had as good right to let them have drinks as other folks John Gloid and George Lockhartt servants of Proctor John Phelps and John Pudney patrons Benjamin and Elizabeth Proctor children of John the latter having charge of the sale of liquors testified in behalf of Proctor Zerubbabel Endecott said he had been sent for several times when Indians came there and saw no liquor and believed the complaint was out of Ill will more than matter Robert Lord marshal of Ipswich also affirmed that he had not been able to obtain liquor at Proctor's house for a year

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    On a personal note, I found an ancestor of mine was one of those executed in 1692, Samuel Wardwell, an 8thGG. – justCal Oct 26 '18 at 16:40
  • did you find that as part of the research for this answer? – Mindwin Oct 26 '18 at 18:00
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    Oh, no. I discovered that on Halloween day, in 2009. – justCal Oct 26 '18 at 18:01
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    Just as awesome. – Mindwin Oct 26 '18 at 18:03
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    So tempted right now to start a meta-question titled Should we allow answers from descendants of witches? – pipe Oct 27 '18 at 18:57
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To add to the sources that @justCal has identified, John Proctor is also mentioned as a keeper of an 'ordinary' or public drinking house in a list contained in A Letter from Rev. John Higginson to the County Court, June 25, 1675:

... Being credibly informed that there are at this time belonging to Salem about 14 Ordinaries & publick drinking Howses , some of them licensed others of them unlicensed, (viz . 1 Mr Gidny, 2 Mr King, 3 Capt More, 4 Ellin Hollinwood, 5 Jo: Procter, 6 Nath. Ingersoll, 7 Darling, 8 Mr Croad, 9 Will: Lake, 10 Edw: Bridges, 11 Gilbert Taply, 12 Fra: Collins, 13 Goodie Kippin, 14 Ruben Guppa ...

  • My emphasis

The original is held in the Essex County Court Files, Vol. XXIX — leaf 39


Although peripheral to your main area of research, I am sure you are also aware that many of the primary sources records relating to the Salem Witch Trials have been transcribed (often with links to images of the original documents) at the website of the Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project.

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