• Exploring American History

Let's Party On!

Following the excitement of the Boston Tea Party in 1773, the colonists decided not to allow an opportunity for merriment to pass them by. As a result, other colonies decided to host their own 'parties' in the wake of Boston’s celebration.

New York was first. They hosted its party on April 22, 1774 when a consignment of tea arrived on the ship London. Soon after the ship docked in New York Harbor, she was boarded by a ‘welcoming committee’ with questions for her captain, James Chambers. When he denied the ship’s cargo included tea, the skeptical patriots threatened to open every crate on the vessel to verify the truth of his statement. Realizing the seriousness of their threat, Captain Chambers confessed there were eighteen chests among the cargo.

News of the tea’s presence reached the local chapter of the Sons of Liberty. In like manner to their brothers in Boston, they decorated themselves as Mohawk Indians. The time they spent doing so, however, caused them to miss out on the festivities because the crowd on the dock boarded the ship at 8:00 p.m. and held the party without them. Filling the gang plank of the London, the mob quickly poured across her deck. Climbing into the hold, they found the tea chests which they hoisted top-side, ripped open and dumped into the Hudson River; thus concluding Tea Party #2.

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Annapolis, Maryland was the setting for Tea Party #3. October 19, 1774, the British ship Peggy Stewart arrived in Annapolis Harbor carrying 2,320 pounds of boycotted tea intended for T. C. Williams & Company. Williams and the ship’s owners had a history of challenging boycotts and their behavior left a bad taste in the mouths of the patriots. Though some felt a tea party along the lines of Boston fame should be held on the deck of the Peggy Stewart, more radical patriots had a different ‘celebration’ in mind. They informed Anthony Stewart he would be the guest of honor at a tar and feathering unless the ship was destroyed. Thus the Peggy Stewart was run aground and set on fire by her captain. Patriots cheered as the ship burned and then sank. Though not conducted in the same manner as the two previous events, Maryland's tea party ended in a blaze of glory.

The tea party which followed took place in Edenton, North Carolina and had no need for lemon to incorporate a special twist. Referred to as the Edenton Tea Party, this event was ladies-only, becoming one of America’s earliest organized women’s political events. Mrs. Thomas (Penelope) Barker, wife of the treasurer of the Province of North Carolina, invited a large number of her friends to gather on October 25, 1774 at the home of Elizabeth King.

During the gathering, 51 ladies agreed to stop drinking tea (at that time a long-standing social tradition) and buying English clothes. In an effort to express their patriotism, they also signed a petition. This shocked both loyal colonists and the British. A true political first because prior to the 1770s, women never signed petitions.

“. . . determined to give memorable proof of their patriotism” and could not be “indifferent to any occasion that appears nearly to affect the peace and happiness of our country . . . it is a duty that we owe, not only to our near and dear connections . . . but to ourselves.

In the day in which the Edenton Tea Party took place, organized women’s movements were unheard of, thus it shocked the Western world. As a result, the ladies gathered that day demonstrated the important role they played in the creation of a virtuous republic.

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Two elements were involved in the party hosted by the genteel patriots of Charleston, South Carolina. As tea shipments arrived in Charleston, they went unclaimed and were then seized. Rather than dumping the cargo into the harbor, the chests were stored in the cellar of the Old Exchange Building. Over time, an accumulation of several hundred chests was amassed.

On November 3, the British ship Britannia, arrived in Charleston Harbor. Among the passengers on board were two Royal appointees and seven chests of tea consigned to three local merchants. Given the rising tempers of the area patriots, the three merchants decided it best they decline the delivery. Instead, they boarded the Britannia and personally dumped the contents of the seven chests into the Cooper River.

In 1776, the tea which was still being stored in the Old Exchange Building was removed and sold to benefit the state of South Carolina. Thus, unlike the other colonies, South Carolina was able to have her tea and dump it too!

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On December 22, 1774, all eyes were on Greenwich, New Jersey as they played host to the year’s final tea party. Located forty miles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Greenwich was and is the principal settlement of Cumberland County, New Jersey. Running through the county is Cohansey Creek, a navigable stream of sufficient size which empties into Delaware Bay.

In the autumn of 1774, residents of this quiet community were surprised to see the Greyhound, a British brig, sail up the Cohansey and dock in Greenwich. The Greyhound’s crew felt no concern over the cargo they carried, due to the English sympathizer (a ‘Tory’) Daniel Bowen. One would think Daniel might have misgivings with this due to the previous events, but alas, he allowed the Greyhound to store its contraband in the cellar of his home.

When word got out about the stored tea, 35 representatives from around the area met to plan their strategy. With knowledge of Boston’s success, they felt fate had dealt them a winning hand to enact their own event. On the evening of December 22, 1774, forty young Whigs, again disguised as Indians, entered Bowen’s cellar, confiscated the tea chests and carried them into an adjoining field. After piling them together, the chests were set on fire, proving to one and all the fact water was not a necessary ingredient for hosting a tea party.

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