December 16th was the 238th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. On that day in 1773, colonists met in Old South Meeting House in downtown Boston to discuss the fate of the tea ship the Dartmouth. British law demanded that the ship pay the recently imposed tea tax, but this did not sit well with colonists (that whole “no taxation without representation” thing). Our founding fathers favored sending the ship back without paying duty. We all know how this meeting ended: a group of men boarded the ship under the cover of darkness and turned Boston Harbor into a tea pot!
This is one of the most enduring stories of our country’s inception; it has just the right amount of interest and subversion to be beloved by school children and historians alike. And it began right here, at Old South Meeting House! For the last thirty-odd years, Old South has been having Tea Party reenactments in their space, and I was there to document this one.
The reenactor culture of New England is strong; dozens of volunteers donned their breeches, frock coats, and wigs to participate.
The house was packed as the hour for the reenactment approached. It’s said that 5,000 colonists crowded into Old South Meeting House (the largest meeting space in Boston in 1773) on the night of Tea Party, but I really don’t see how! We had upwards of 600 in attendance and it was crowded!
Everyone was all anticipation as the lights were lowered and the evening began …
It was a very lively and accurate depiction of the night in question. Members of the audience were invited to participate, and the colonists sprinkled throughout the hall played their parts to perfection.
When Samuel Adams had proclaimed, “This meeting can do no more to save our country!” (a secret signal to send a band of men down to the wharves to destroy the tea), Old South Meeting House turned into a wash of blue, green, and purple light. The moon rose and ships’ rigging was visible on the walls. The harbor came to us as the story of the tea was brought to life!
After the fanfare was over, the reenactors mingled with civilians and everyone continued to have a jolly good time. What an eventful evening!
I have been so privileged to have a lasting relationship with Old South Meeting House. You can see my other work with them on this blog (the clock and bell tower, architectural details, the bell-raising ceremony). They even have a gallery of my work on display near their gift shop!
Thanks, Old South Meeting House, for having me (again)! And can someone please get married here (how cool would that be?) and hire me already? I cannot wait to do an Old South wedding …
And that’s a little history for the holidays!