Dec 7, 2014

The Boston Tea Party Museum

I enjoy visiting places where history comes alive. I especially like watching the visitors, young and old, get excited about historical events while learning more about history and it is even better when they get to participate in the event. Such is the case at the Boston Tea Party Museum.   Most of us know the basic facts of the Tea Party.  On the night of December 16, 1773, colonists dressed as Indians boarded three ships in Boston Harbor and threw crates of tea overboard as a protest to the Tea Tax but for many that is the limit of their knowledge and some of the facts get skewed with the retelling. 

At the Museum, the staff dressed in period costumes summoned
visitors to a meeting by ringing a bell.  Everyone got a feather to stick in their hair to resemble the colonists who were dressed as natives because their actions were illegal and considered a source of treason.  Their identity remained secret even after American Independence for fear they could still face civil
and criminal charges; also many did not want to be associated with mob behavior and destruction of public property. Inside the museum had recreated Old South Meeting House where the protestors met before dumping the tea. Visitors were given name cards of actual participants with a short biography. I was Francis Akeley, a self-employed wheelwright, who died in 1775 so he never lived to enjoy freedom under a new American government. Some were given roles to play shouting out protests to the Tea Tax – the rowdier the more realistic. 

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the Tea Act actually
reduced the tax on tea and would have allowed colonists to purchase tea at half the price paid by those in Britain. The protest was not on the tax itself but the fact that the colonists had no say in governing the colonies.  The cry was “no taxation without representation.” The British reaction to the Tea Party caused more protests.  It wasn’t called “The Boston Tea Party” until 50 years later. As punishment the British parliament passed what the colonists called the “Intolerable Act” which closed the port of Boston until damages were paid. The port was the focal point of business at that time.  Also, more hated British troops were sent to Boston. Other tea protests took place in the other colonies.

After the protest meeting visitors converged on the ship and took turns dumping the tea in the harbor.  The young patriots especially enjoyed the “act of civil disobedience” of tossing the tea into the harbor. No one died during the 1773 Tea Party but one participant was knocked unconscious by a crate and thought to be dead only to awake hours later. 

Our tour then continued to a museum where the only known
surviving tea chest is on display.  In the Minute Man Theater we saw an excellent multi-medium, giant screen presentation “Let it Begin Here” where the sounds of the horses galloping and musket firing made the events of the American Revolution come to life. 

After our Tea Party experience, John and I went to Old South Meeting House where the actual meeting took place on that fateful day and we learned more about the revolutionary actions in Boston. I think the Boston Tea Party Museum is one of the best museums of its kind that we have visited.