J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Old South Remembers the Tea Crisis in December

Old South Meeting House, site of the large public meetings that led up to the Boston Tea Party, will host three events next month looking back at that history.

First come two lunchtime lectures by Prof. Benjamin Carp of Tufts University, drawing on his research for the upcoming book Teapot in a Tempest.

  • Thursday, 3 December, 12:15 P.M.: “what led to American outrage in 1773, who became politically active in protesting the Tea Act, and why it ended with the destruction of the tea in Boston harbor. Learn about the global forces of trade and empire that influenced the colonies and why Boston became the site for this grassroots protest."
  • Thursday, 10 December, 12:15 P.M.: “The Boston Tea Party lives on in history and memory, inspiring speakers for and against slavery, women’s suffragists, anti-immigration advocates, Gandhi, Sun Yat-sen, Martin Luther King, Jr. and countless modern tax protests. But most of the images of the Tea Party are wrong, the Mohawk disguises are misunderstood and Americans’ penchant for coffee has little to do with politics.”
Admission to each lecture is $5.00, $4.00 for students and seniors, free for Old South members. Lunching is encouraged.

Finally, on Sunday, 13 December, from 5:30 to 7:00 P.M., Old South presents the annual reenactment of the Tea Party. The site’s press release says:
Old South’s Tea Party Players will portray historic icons such as Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and John Hancock and recreate the events of Dec. 16, 1773, when more than 5,000 colonists gathered at Old South Meeting House to debate a British-imposed tea tax.

The reenactment is open to the public, and audience members are invited to choose sides—Patriot or Loyalist—and lend their support for or against the tariff. They will witness first hand how the fiery debate that evening in 1773 decided the fate of over 46 tons of tea and set into motion the events that ultimately led to the Revolutionary War.
That debate will be followed by “a theatrical storytelling piece that will transport you back to Boston Harbor on the night of December 16, 1773.”

Tickets are $8 per person, available through the Old South website, direct from the ticket service, or by calling 800-838-3006.

(Image above from Salada Tea, the reenactment’s “official tea sponsor.” Folks can also sign up for Salada’s “Too Good To Toss” Sweepstakes.)


Chaucerian said...

I see women and children sitting in the hall, even on the same side of the hall as the men. Would that have been the case in this period? Or is this a modern adaptation so that the whole family gets to reenact together? I had just assumed that the women and children were at home and the men were making the complex political decisions.

J. L. Bell said...

The tea meetings were of “the Body of the People,” in contrast to official town meetings, which were supposed to be for only men living in town who owned enough property to vote. That said, I don’t think there’s any evidence of women participating in these meetings, or even attending them. Young children would have stayed home; older teen-aged boys might have attended.