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John Rowe.
Engraving by unidentified artist.
Published in Tea Leaves: being a collection of letters
and documents relating to the shipment of tea to the
American colonies in the year 1773, by the East
India Tea Company
Boston: A. O. Crane, 1884.

John Rowe (1715–1787) was a successful and prominent Boston merchant. Born in Exeter, England, in 1715, he emigrated to Boston with one of his brothers at an early age. He imported and sold a wide variety of goods and owned several properties in Boston; one of his properties, now the site of the Boston Harbor Hotel, is still known as Rowe's Wharf. Rowe also owned whaling and commercial ships, including one carrying a shipment of tea that was destroyed during the Boston Tea Party. During the conflicts with England that led to the American Revolution, Rowe expressed allegiance to the Patriot cause but did not go so far as to endorse independence. As a successful supplier of goods to the British Navy, Rowe may have been unwilling to let his political concerns interfere too strongly with his business interests. Rowe married Hannah Speakman in 1743; the couple lived the remainder of their lives in Boston, near what is now Essex Street in Chinatown.

John Rowe's diaries, held by the Massachusetts Historical Society, cover the years 1764–1779 and include many valuable observations about people, events, and daily life in Boston.


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