Who actually boarded the ships and dumped the tea overboard on December 16, 1773? 

Over 5,000 colonists participated in the fateful meetings at Old South Meeting House that decided the fate of the tea in December of 1773, but only about 100 to 150 men actually boarded the ships to destroy the tea. Participants in the destruction of the tea swore themselves to secrecy and did not acknowledge each other when aboard the ship. Had the men's names become known to British authorities, they would have been arrested and punished. Even years later, some retained secrecy for fear of lawsuits by the British East India Company. Some of the participants' families had become well-to-do and were not proud of identifying with this act of "civil disobedience," although today it is seen as one of the most significant acts leading to the American colonies' break with Great Britain.

The following list was compiled by Benjamin Carp for his book Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America (available in the Old South Meeting House Museum Shop.) Carp’s list includes only those participants who made a written claim of their participation before the year 1853, and excludes a few pre-1853 names that he considers to be unlikely participants. We thank him for generously sharing his research with us.  

Abbreviations and Notes:

  • Approximate birth and death dates follow in parentheses.
  • Abbreviations include: “NEC” for North End Caucus, “SOL” for Sons of Liberty, “MAS” for members of St. Andrew’s Lodge of Freemasons, “petition” for signers of the November 1773 petitions to town selectmen, and “watch” for the volunteers who guarded the ships at the wharf.

Nathaniel Barber, (1728-1787): merchant and insurer, NEC, SOL, petition

Samuel Barnard, (1737-1782): farmer

Adam Beals, (1754-1834): cabinet-maker

Thomas Bolter (Bolton), (1735-1811): housewright or ropemaker

James Brewer, (1742-1805): pump and block maker, watch

Thomas Brimigion, (1754-1843): later a farmer

Stephen Bruce, (1746-1806): merchant, SOL, MAS, petition, watch

Benjamin Burton, (1749-1835): mariner, ship carpenter

Jeremiah Cady, (1752-1848): mason

Nicholas Campbell, (1732-1829): sailor

Thomas Chase, (1737-1787): distiller, Loyal Nine, SOL, NEC, MAS, watch

Benjamin Clarke, (1727-1783)

John Cochran, (1749-1839): later an innkeeper

Gilbert Colesworthy, (1744-1818): caulker

Adam Collson, (1738-1798): leather dresser, NEC, SOL, MAS, watch

James Foster Condy, (1746-1809): bookseller, NEC, petition, watch

Charles Conner, (1734-1793): coastal trader, innkeeper, horse trader

Samuel Coolidge (1753-1816)

Samuel Cooper, (1755-1840): cooper’s apprentice

John Cowdery, (1757-1835): later a soldier and prison supervisor

John Crane, (1744-1805): house carpenter, SOL, watch

Edmund Dolbeare, (1757-1796): cooper’s apprentice, later ship carpenter

Joseph Eaton, (1750-1825): hatter

Joseph Eayres, (1733-1790): housewright, SOL, watch

Benjamin Edes, (1732-1803): printer, SOL, Loyal Nine, NEC, watch

William Etheridge, (1739-1776): mason

Nathaniel Frothingham, (1746-1825): coachmaker

John Gammell, (1751-1828): carpenter

Thomas Gerrish: mariner

Samuel Gore, (1751-1831): painter

Moses Grant, (1743-1817): upholsterer, NEC, petition, watch

Nathaniel Greene, (1738-1791): merchant, SOL

Samuel Hammond, (1749-1842): farmer

William Hendley, (1748-1830), mason

George Robert Twelves Hewes, (1742-1840): shoemaker

John Hooton, (1754-1844): oarmaker’s apprentice

Elisha Horton, (1757-1837): later a papermaker

Samuel Howard, (1747-1840): caulker

Edward Compton Howe, (1741-1821): ropemaker, petition

Richard Hunnewell, (1737-1805): 1731-1805: mason, watch

Daniel Ingersoll (Ingollson), (1750-1829): carpenter

Samuel Larrabee, (1753-1844): coastal trader

Joseph Lee, (1744-1831): merchant

Amos Lincoln, (1753-1829): housewright’s apprentice

Matthew Loring, (1751-1829): leatherworker

Ebenezer MacIntosh - 36, 1737-1812, early revolutionary.

John Martin, (1752-1817): journeyman, distiller or trader

Thompson Maxwell, (1742-1832), farmer and teamster

Archibald McNeil, (1750-1840): ropermaker

Henry Mellus, (1752-1832): mariner

Thomas Melvill, (1751-1832): merchant’s clerk

William Melvin, (1742-1832)

William Molineaux, (1718-1774): hardware merchant, SOL, NEC

Francis Moore, (1740-1833): baker

Thomas Moore, (1753-1813): operator of a commercial wharf

William More

Anthony Morse, (1753-1803): later a tavern keeper

Eliphalet Newell, (1735-1813): later a tavern keeper

Samuel Nowell, (1744-1833): boat builder or ship carpenter

Joseph Pearse Palmer, (1750-1797): merchant, petition, watch

Joseph Payson, (1743-1833): housewright

Samuel Peck: cooper, MAS, watch

William Pierce, (1744-1840): barber

John Peters, (1732-1832): mariner or shopkeeper

George Pillsbury, (1753-1832): schoolteacher or mariner

Lendall Pitts, (1747-1787): merchant

Thomas Porter, (-1800): merchant

Henry Prentiss, (1749-1821): merchant

Edward Procter, (1733-1811): merchant, tavern keeper, SOL, NEC, MAS, petition, watch

Henry Purkitt, (1755-1846): cooper’s apprentice, later a farmer

John Randall, (1750-): farmer

Paul Revere, (1735-1818): silversmith and engraver, SOL, NEC, MAS, petition, watch

Benjamin Rice, (1722-1796)

Isaac Ridgeway, (1758-1840): caulker’s son

Joseph Roby, (1753-1836): tinman or trader

John Russell, (-1778): mason

William Russell, (1748-1784): schoolteacher

Robert Sessions, (1752-1836): laborer, later a farmer

Joseph Shed, (1731-1812): carpenter, later a grocer

Benjamin Simpson, (1755-1849): bricklayer’s apprentice

Peter Slater, (1760-1831): ropemaker’s apprentice

Ephriam Smith, (1752-1835): mariner

Thomas Spear, (1753-1812): blacksmith

Samuel Sprague, (1753-1844): mason’s apprentice

John Spurr, (1749-1822): carpenter

James Starr, (1740-1830): cooper

Phineas Stearns, (1736-17980: farmer, blacksmith

Ebeneezer Stevens, (1752-1823): carpenter

Elisha Story, (1743-1805): physician, SOL, NEC, watch

James Swan, (1754-1831): counting house clerk, NEC, petition

Abraham Tower, (1752-1832): shipbuilder, farmer, fisherman

Lemuel Trescott, (1750-1826): carpenter

Bartholomew Trow , (1736-1806): cordwainer

Thomas Urann, (1723-1792): ship joiner, NEC, MAS, watch

*Thomas Wells, (1746-1810): blacksmith, MAS

Alexander Whaley, (1746-1833): later a blacksmith or gunsmith

Nathaniel Willis, (1755-1831): housewright, watch

Joshua Wyeth, (1758-1832): blacksmith’s apprentice

*Although Thomas Wells does not appear on Benjamin Carp's list of participants because his name did not appear in a written claim before 1853, we have included his name here because extensive research by his descendant Charles Chauncey Wells indicates that he was present at the Boston Tea Party. Thomas Wells was a member of St. Andrew's Lodge of Freemasons, many of whom participated in the Boston Tea Party.

Benjamin Carp and many other historians have contributed greatly to our understanding of the Boston Tea Party and its legacy, including Alfred Young, Benjamin Labaree, Jill Lepore and Francis S. Drake, whose 1884 book “Tea Leaves,” remains a useful classic. We are also grateful to Charles Chauncey Wells for sharing his extensive research on participants in the Boston Tea Party, and for the generous donation of a Chinese tea crate label handed down through the Wells family as a souvenir of the Boston Tea Party. You can view that tea label on permanent exhibit at Old South Meeting House.

1729
Year Built
140+
Years as a Museum
80,000
Annual Visitors
10,000
Annual Educational Group Participants
1
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