On December 16 we recognize the 242 year anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Over the years, this important event in American history has been commemorated in many ways, including plaques, reenactments, poems, and songs – like “Tea Tax”, the lyrics of which are currently on display in our library.
According to our catalog, this broadside dates to circa 1862. It published the lyrics to “Tea Tax” with a notation that it was “sung with unbounded applause at the Boston Theatre, by Mr. Andrews.” While researching this song, I found some references to it being a "Yankee Comic Song." It certainly does not make light of the events that occurred on the evening of December 16, it does present the narrative in a lighthearted tone. One part of the song describes dumping the tea into the harbor and goes, "And did'nt care a tarnal curse, for any King or Minister / We made a plaguy mess o'tea, in one of the biggest dishes / I mean, we steep'd it in the sea, and treated all the fishes."
If you look closely at the lyrics, you'll also be able to see that they point out locations in Boston that have changed since 1773, specifically that State Street was called King Street and that the bridge to Charlestown had not been built yet.
Besides this broadside, we do not have too many other Tea Party related artifacts in our collection. But if you are in the area, be sure to stop by the Colony to Commonwealth exhibit at the Old State House to see one of our other important Tea Party artifacts - a vial of loose tea that was allegedly removed from the boots of Thomas Melvill after the Tea Party. According to the story, Thomas found the tea on his boot when he returned home from the night's activity, and collected it to be saved. The tea was then donated to the Society in 1899 by Miss Mary Melville, a descendant of Thomas.
By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager