HAVERHILL — She's been immortalized through a variety of products over the years, ranging from a Jim Beam whiskey bottle to ceramic coffee mugs and commemorative coins.
Hannah Duston, whose name is intimately tied to Haverhill's history, is considered the first woman in America to be honored with a statue. She was the subject of local controversy when her image was used in posters that advertised the first Haverhill Rocks music festival in 2006. But instead of Hannah holding a hatchet, as she does in her statue in GAR Park, the promoters placed an electric guitar in her hands. That controversial image helped launch a number of successful products locally, including T-shirts and hats, as well as the 2006 concert posters — which are in high demand.
Now, the image of Hannah Duston holding the fabled hatchet she used to scalp and kill her Native American captors during Haverhill's Colonial days is available for purchase, only this time as a bobblehead doll — offered through the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Local historian Thomas Spitalere enjoys collecting Hannah Duston memorabilia and hopes to buy the bobblehead of Hannah.
"A bobblehead is just another way of promoting local history," Spitalere said. "She's a hero in my eyes."
A debate has raged over whether Hannah Duston was a heroine or villain for killing several Native Americans who held her captive in 1697 after they raided her home and killed her baby. They took her to New Hampshire before she escaped.
Bill Veillette, executive director of the New Hampshire Historical Society, based in Concord, N.H., said his organization was searching for 17th century characters to create bobbleheads of — and characters that are important to New Hampshire history.
"It's a little tougher to find women," he said. "So when you put it all together, Hannah Duston rises to the top."
He said the most popular bobbleheads are of the Old Man of the Mountain, which sold more than 4,000 pieces since it was introduced in 2006.
"I think Hannah could rival the Old Man in sales," he said. "Plus, she's our only action hero. She has a weapon, a hatchet."
Veillette said her image was based on the statue in GAR Park in Haverhill. He said his society has already provided the Haverhill Public Library's Friends Shop with Hannah Duston bobbleheads.
Charles True of Whitefield, N.H., speaker for the Abenaki Nation of New Hampshire, has no plans to purchase a Hannah Duston bobblehead doll.
"It seems like a silly way of commemorating historical figures," True said.
As many Haverhill schoolchildren know, Duston made history March 30, 1697, when she escaped from Abenaki Indians who had kidnapped her and killed her infant daughter by bashing her head against a tree. Two weeks later, on an island in the middle of the Merrimack River near what is now Boscawen, N.H., Duston, her nursemaid Mary Neff and a boy named Samuel Leonardson, who'd been previously captured, escaped by killing and scalping as many as 10 of their captors.
Duston returned home to Haverhill in a canoe, and the government rewarded her with 50 pounds. In 1879, she became the first woman in America to be immortalized with a statue, and her story was told by such literary giants as Cotton Mather and Henry David Thoreau.
True called the story of Hannah Duston and her escape from Native Americans "unlikely."
"It was probably hyped-up by history books in the 1800s," he said.