Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

One of the best experiences we had while in Boston was visiting the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. Naturally, the museum is at the water though the original location has subsequently been filled in. We were maybe two blocks away from the actual historical site of the Tea Party.

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

One of the ships

Out front is the statue of one of the organizers of the Tea Party, Samuel Adams. Adams belonged to the group who called themselves The Sons of Liberty and were advocating for colonial rights and against British taxes. My children loved posing with his statue.

Another Son of Liberty

They had daughters of liberty too, didn't they?

We arrived a little early and so walked through the gift shop to Abigail's Tea Shop, where they serve a variety of refreshments.

Paul Revere in the gift shop

Abigail's Tea Room

Toddler by tea samples (after eating a snack)

Since it was 9:30 a.m., we decided to have a little snack before our 10 a.m. experience started. In addition to cookies, I ordered the "bottomless" tea cup that let customers sample the different types of tea that were thrown overboard back in 1773.

A tea dispenser

Samples of Singlo and Hyfon

Bohea tea

Congou and Souchong

I had only tried Souchong tea before, a smoky black tea that I really like. The others were okay, though the Congou caught my tongue with its flavor and my imagination with one of its alternate spellings--Kung Fu tea!

Cuppa and cookie

The shop also has vintage board games on the tables to entertain guests.

Shut the Box and Draughts

Time came for us to start our experience. Our first stop was a facsimile of the Old South Meeting House, where, on December 16, 1773, Samuel Adams held a meeting with the people of Boston to discuss the situation. Three ships (the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver) had arrived with tea that would be taxed by the British government as soon as it had been offloaded. And the cargo needed to be offloaded in twenty days. The deadline for the first ship was December 17. The Sons of Liberty had arranged a guard to keep the tea on the ship and so far were successful. One last appeal was made to the British governor to allow the ships to return to England with the tea still on board. Governor Hutchinson refused. The meeting continued into the evening but several men left, put on very basic disguises, and headed to the wharf. Interestingly, Adams along with other leaders in the Sons of Liberty stayed behind in the meeting house with the crowd so they would have an air-tight alibi for what would happen next.

We were given roles and feathers. The feathers were not for writing but to be used as a disguise--as if Native Americans were dumping the tea. Historically, the disguises were meant to protect peoples identities, not to put the blame on the natives.

My son with an invisible black feather

My daughter's stylish white feather

My feather--pointing out the speaker in the ceiling?

My role in the event

After a thorough explanation and a rousing speech from Sam Adams (or an actor portraying him, I should say), we headed out to the ships to commit either an act of treason or of patriotism. On board the ship, another fellow told us about what happened that night.

On board a recreation of one of the ships

After a brief discussion of the plan and a quick oath not to reveal what we did, we had the chance to throw some tea crates overboard.

My daughter pushes one off

My son throws one

We did a quick tour of the ship's interior, seeing where the cargo was stored. The tea was in large boxes of varying sizes. The cargo also had other items.

A patriot ready to take out the tea

Barrels of goods

The front of the ship has the captain's desk. The captain was sympathetic to the colonists' cause and agreed to let the men throw the tea overboard as long as no one was injured and no other cargo was harmed. Some of the sailors even helped out, though they may have been keeping the colonists from getting to excited just as much as they were participating in the act.

Captain's desk

Ship's galley

Back on deck, we had a chance to explore a bit before moving on. Our guide, a lady who had a brother among the tea raiders, gave us some pointers.

On deck with our guide

Trying to steer

The call to leave the ship

The actual event took about three hours. The tea had to be pulled up from the hold before it could be tossed over. As a demonstration, our guide showed the benefits of having multiple pulleys for raising the crates out of the hold (the old block-and-tackle routine). My son was picked out of the crowd to demonstrate the ease of using an extra pulley.

Two set-ups

Trying the first (more difficult) crate

She's impressed with his second effort

She also gave us a description of other item on board, including lemons, china from which to serve the tea (stored in those barrels), and coal.

Display of goods

Our tour then went indoors and we saw some impressive displays (including talking paintings) about the aftermath of the Tea Party and the Battle of Concord and Lexington. They also have on display a surviving tea chest that a boy found washed up on the shore. Pictures weren't allowed in the museum, so you'll have to go see for yourself.

The experience was about an hour and a half long, so we decided to have lunch at Abigail's Tea Room. I had the New England Clam Chowder and a half sandwich, which was yummy.


The whole thing was very impressive and well executed. Even though the cost is a bit pricey, it was well worth it.

The other identities

Our feathers, which are marked for the occasion

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