In real life, Thomas Putnam was the father of Ann Putnam Jr, one of the afflicted girls in Salem. In January 1692, the afflicted girls began to show symptoms like unexplainable seizures, behaving like animals, and feeling as though they were being pinched by an invisible force. The local doctor declared the girls bewitched, this led to three women being blamed. These women were Sarah Osborne, Sarah Goode, and Tituba. The girls under the bewitching were to young to charge complaints, so Thomas Putnam and three other men accused for them. The day after the complaints were filed the women were jailed and examined for marks of witchcraft. One of the women Tituba confessed to being a witch and claimed that there many others like her in Salem.
Thomas Putnam and his daughter became a sort of center for the trials that followed. Thomas Putnam became one of the main instigators of the trials, he also wrote a letter to the trial judges thanking them and offering his help. Putnam wrote a second letter to Judge Sewall, he claimed that Giles Corey was bewitching his daughter. This led to Corey dying as he did not confess to witchcraft even as he was pressed to death. Thomas Putnam, by the end if the trials, had personally filed complaints against 43 people, 12 of which were executed. Putnam along with other men of Salem used their daughters accusations to help themselves by accusing those that were in the way of their goals.
In the play The Crucible, Thomas Putnam is shown as a greedy person. His greedy drove him to convince Reverend Parris that he had to be strong against the witches among them. He used his daughter as a way to accuse the people who owned property he wanted. It is likely that this was either partly true or more so because the accusations of witchcraft came out of motives such as greed and other selfish desires. In the play he was the first to blame unnatural causes for the girls symptoms. Miller's portrayal of Thomas Putnam was pretty accurate when it came to his motives for charging so many people, though in actuality it was not him who first deemed the girls illnesses as unnatural but the local doctor of Salem.