On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty stormed down to Griffin’s Wharf and destroyed 340 chests of East India Company Tea. This tea was the tool by which British Parliament and King George III sought to assert their control over their American Colonies. For years, the colonies had been taxed without receiving equal representation in Parliament. Bostonians from all walks of life came together, as equal citizens, to make a peaceful protest against tyranny and “taxation without representation.”
Now in the sixth year of our partnership, the Annual Reenactment of the Boston Tea Party, presented by the Old South Meeting House and the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum (BTPSM), is a citywide event involving historical reenactors from across New England, youth fife and drum corps, a parade through the streets of Boston, and a dramatic recreation of the “destruction of the tea” in Boston Harbor.
The evening begins with “The Body of the People” at Old South Meeting House, the site of the meetings preceding the “destruction of the tea.” Boston’s largest colonial town meeting held up to 5,000 men on the night of December 16, 1773. New England re-enactors and cast members of BTPSM dramatically recreate the fiery tax debate. While the debate rages on inside of Old South, a town crier brings news to the streets and an outdoor performance occurs as some of Boston’s colonial ladies let their voices be heard. This performance includes both the Patriot and Loyalist perspectives, and gives greater context to what the crowd will ultimately experience down at the waterfront later on in the evening.
As the meeting comes to a close, the entirety of the Old South Meeting House empties into the street and joins the hundreds gathered outside.
Led by fife and drum corps (William Diamond Junior Fife & Drum Corps, Middlesex 4-H Junior Fife & Drum Corps, and Prescott’s Battalion), spectators join the “Huzzah for Griffin’s Wharf,” a parade through the Financial District of Boston down to the waterfront at the BTPSM. These organizations have been great supporters of the event for several years and have certainly added a dynamic element to the experience.
The “Destruction of the Tea” takes place aboard the fully restored, 18th-century sailing vessel: the brig Beaver. The 20-minute dramatic staging is fully supported by lights and sound and features actual tea being destroyed in the Fort Point Channel. The tea is generously donated by the East India Company (still in existence today!) and the Metropolitan Tea Company, as well as individuals who mailed in their dried, expired, loose tea. (The all-natural tea does no damage to the local waters, and the chests and all related debris are collected immediately following the presentation.)
The Annual Reenactment of the Boston Tea Party is one of the largest moving theatrical experiences in the country. The audience is immersed in the story and follows the footsteps of the daring Sons of Liberty of over 240 years ago. Join the excitement in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 16, or follow our social media channels for up-to-the-minute happenings to witness “the single most important event leading up to the American Revolution.”
Written by Kelly Horan Galante, Assistant Creative Manager, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
Photo Courtesy of Caroline Talbot