QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2005-01 > 1105062156
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2005 20:42:36 EST
Boston Tea Party chest going home?
BOSTON (Reuters) - A small wooden tea chest has returned to Boston more than
230 years after rebellious colonists dumped it overboard during a famous
protest that helped set the scene for the American War of Independence.
Or at least that's what the new owners would like you to believe.
Historic Tours of America unveiled on Wednesday what it said was a piece of
American history: one of only two known surviving tea chests from the Boston
Tea Party of December 16, 1773.
At a news conference overlooking the site of the original Tea Party,
Historic Tours Chief Executive Christopher Belland showed off the Robinson Half
Chest, which he called an "icon of extraordinary, perhaps incalculable value."
But some kind of value has been calculated for the chest: the privately held
Florida company acquired it from the Goodman family of Laredo, Texas, for an
The Tea Party, a seminal event in America's bid for independence from
Britain, involved a group of colonists who masqueraded as Indians, boarded three
British vessels in Boston Harbour and dumped several hundred bales of tea into
the water as a protest against British trade and tax policies.
Belland said the chest, about the size of a basketball, had changed hands
only six times since John Robinson, a 15-year-old colonist, plucked it from the
Massachusetts shoreline on December 17, 1773 -- the day after the Tea Party.
Dana Ste. Claire, director of museum services for Historic Tours, said it
would have been risky to keep souvenirs from the Tea Party, which may explain
why so few relics exist.
Rebellious colonists frowned on anyone keeping tea, while the British viewed
the destruction of cargo as a criminal act, so the chest was tucked away and
rarely shown to anyone in the immediate aftermath of the Tea Party, Ste.
Historic Tours has subjected the tea chest to a number of tests over the
last five years in an effort to authenticate it, but has relied primarily on the
Goodman family's own records, which suggest it left Massachusetts at some
point in the 18th century and travelled to Michigan and Tennessee before
arriving in Texas.
"No one can ever say (with 100 percent accuracy) that this was a tea chest
that came from the Boston Tea Party ... but the history, the provenance of
this piece is substantial," Ste. Claire said. "It's the oral history of the
piece that's so compelling."
In 2000, a laboratory study showed evidence that the chest was once partly
and temporarily submerged in sea water, suggesting that it floated in the
Harbour for a short time before coming ashore.
Studies also showed that the lid of the chest had been fractured in a manner
similar to that of the tea chest housed in the Daughters of the American
Revolution Museum in Washington -- the only other known one to survive the Tea
Historic Tours said the chest will be stored in a Boston bank vault until
2006, when the item goes on display at its Boston Tea Party museum. The museum
is being rebuilt following a fire in 2001.