You’re probably familiar with the Boston Tea Party, one of the famous events leading up to the American Revolution. But did you know that the Boston event wasn’t unique? Up and down the East Coast in 1773 and 1774, patriots were demonstrating their opposition to the Tea Act by destroying shipments of tea—sometimes in quite dramatic ways. One such demonstration was the Annapolis Tea Party in Maryland in the fall of 1774.
It all started when the Peggy Stewart sailed into the Annapolis port from London in October 1774. On board were 53 indentured servants and 17 chests of tea (about one ton). The captain hadn’t known there was tea on board until he was already through customs in England, having been told by the merchant who had put the tea on the ship that it was a shipment of linen. But when the ship arrived in Annapolis with tea on board, the ship’s owners and the merchant firm who owned the tea knew they were in for trouble if they tried to take the tea off the ship.
So they told the local tea-boycott committee that there was tea on board and asked what they should do. But in the meantime, Anthony Stewart, one of the owners of the ship, paid the tea tax in order to get the indentured servants off the ship. Even though Stewart had left the tea on board untouched, when the locals found out that Stewart had paid the tax, things did not go well for him or the merchant firm. They had to make multiple apologies in writing, and the committee finally voted that the tea needed to be burned as recompense. However, some citizens demanded that the ship be burned as well, and worried that things would escalate even further otherwise, ship’s owners consented to burning the ship.
So on October 19, they beached the ship with its sails up and colors flying, and set it—and the tea on board—on fire.
Read more about the Annapolis Tea Party here, here, or here. Or search Fold3 for newspaper articles on the subject. You can also find out more about the Revolutionary War and the events leading up to it in our Revolutionary War collection.