Why did the Boston Tea Party meetings take place at the Old South Meeting House?
Where did the Boston Tea Party take place?
Why did the Boston Tea Party participants dress as Indians?
What kind of tea was destroyed at the Boston Tea Party?
How much tea was destroyed and what would it be worth today?
Who participated in the Boston Tea Party?
- Why did the Boston Tea Party meetings take place at the Old South Meeting House?
The Old South Meeting House was built as a Puritan meeting house, or church, but it was also the largest building in all of colonial Boston. It was used for many large public meetings that were too big for Faneuil Hall, the official town meeting place for Boston. On December 16, 1773, a crowd of over 5, 000 met at Old South to protest the Tea Act and decide what should be done about three shiploads of East India Company tea sitting at Griffin’s Wharf.
- Where did the Boston Tea Party take place?
The three tea ships Beaver, Dartmouth and Eleanor were docked at what was known as Griffin’s Wharf in 1773, just a few blocks away from the Old South Meeting House. Griffin’s Wharf no longer exists today due to massive landfill projects in the 19th century that dramatically changed Boston’s wharves and shoreline. The site is no longer underwater, but a historical marker on the corner of Congress and Purchase streets shows where Griffin’s Wharf once stood.
- Why did the Boston Tea Party participants dress as Indians?
Many accounts of the Boston Tea Party portray colonists dressed in full feather headdresses and leather hides as they marched to Griffin’s Warf to dump the tea into the Harbor. However, when compared with a few reminiscences of the event, it is clear this was not the case.
Destroying the tea was an act of treason; as a result many men did disguise themselves as Indians to hide their identity. According to accounts, a group of men disguised as Indians arrived at Old South Meeting then preceded to Griffin’s Wharf to dump the tea into the harbor. (Some indicate that men were dressed as Mohawks, while other reports state that they were dressed as Narragansett Indians.) Many accounts mention that “war whoops” were heard from the participants throughout the evening.
“The body meeting in the Forenoon adjourned until afternoon. Broke up at Dark—Severall things passed between Mr. Rotch and Them. A number of people appearing in Indian Dresses went on board the three ships…” –From the diary John Rowe, 16 December 1773.
“Previous to the dissolution [of the meeting at Old South Meeting House], a number of persons, supposed to be the aboriginal natives, from their complexion, approaching the door of the assembly, gave the war-whoop, which was answered by a few in the galleries of the house….”— The Evening Post, 20 December 1773.
“Thursday, December 16. …among them were a number dressed and whopping like Indians.”— Entry in log book of Dartmouth, 16 December 1773.
What did “Indian Dress” look like?
Some eye witnesses state that a group of men who arrived at Old South Meeting House were indeed dressed as Indians. Yet, according to some accounts “Indian Dress” did not include leather hides, but rather wool blankets and a darkening of the face with soot:
“They say the actors were Indians from Narragansett. Whether they were or not to a transient observer they appear’d as such, being cloth’d in blankets with the heads muffled and copper color’d countenances, each being arm’d with a hatchet or ax.”
–John Andrews, 1773 [Hart, Albert Bushnell, American History as Told by Contemporaries, 1901]
“To prevent Discovery we agreed to wear ragged clothes and disfigure ourselves, dressing to resemble Indians as much as possible, smearing our faces with grease and lamp black or soot, and should not have known each other except by our voices.” –Joshua Wyeth, reminiscing in 1827. [Drake, Francis S. Tea Leaves: Being a Collection of Letters and Documents Relating to the Shipment of Tea to the American Colonies in the year 1773 by the East India Tea Company, 1884]
“…I immediately dressed myself in the costume of an Indian, equipped with a small hatchet…after having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith.” –George Robert Twelves Hewes, 1835]
Why did the colonists dress as “Indians”?
Historians aren’t sure.
Historian Phillip J. Deloria suggests that “Playing Indian” is a tradition in American culture that has persisted for centuries. Deloria argues that dressing as “Mohawks” provided the colonists with a shared identity that was distinctly not British. In fact, prior to the Revolution there were several instances of colonists dressing as Indians while protesting British rule. [Deloria, Philip J. Playing Indian, 1998]
Other historians argue that the “Mohawk” costume was simply an attempt to disguise the identities of the colonists as they destroyed the tea. In addition, disguises can make people feel uninhibited or give them a sense of “freedom” to behave without worrying about the repercussions
- What kind of tea was destroyed at the Boston Tea Party?
340 chests of Bohea tea were destroyed at the Boston Tea Party. Bohea was a term used for black tea in the 18th century tea trade. Bohea tea came from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Province, China. Despite the fact that the importer of the tea was the East India Tea Company, the tea that was cast overboard in the Boston Tea Party was not from India, as many have mistakenly assumed.
- How much tea was destroyed and what would it be worth today?
Participants in the tea party destroyed 340 chests of tea on the night of December 16, 1773. According to Charles Bahne, author of The Complete Guide to Boston’s Freedom Trail, this amounted to more than 46 tons of tea leaves. Such an amount could have brewed 18,523,000 cups of tea! The East India Company reported losses of £9,659 after the Boston Tea Party. This would amount to a million dollars in today’s money!
- Who participated in the Boston Tea Party?
It is well known that patriots Samuel Adams, Josiah Quincy and John Hancock were present at the December 16, 1773 meeting at the Old South Meeting House preceding the dumping of the tea. However, the men who actually destroyed the tea at Griffin’s Wharf are less well-known. Most of the estimated 200 Boston Tea Party participants remained anonymous for many years for fear of punishment. Among the purported participants, the best known are silversmith and patriot Paul Revere, and Dr. Thomas Young, John Adam’s family physician. George Robert Twelves Hughes, a 31 year old shoemaker (whose statue stands in the exhibit at the Old South Meeting House) told the story of his participation in the Boston Tea Party to a journalist in 1835 when he was in his 90’s. His account can be read in Alfred Young’s book The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution.
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239th Anniversary Boston Tea Party Annual Reeanctment on Sunday, December 16,
2012, at 4 pm. Early Bird Tickets available October 15- November 1. Click
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