Edes family Tea Party punch bowl
To order an image, navigate to the full
display and click "request this image"
on the blue toolbar.
This porcelain bowl belonged to journalist and publisher Benjamin Edes of Boston. On the afternoon of the Boston Tea Party, some of the conspirators met at Edes's home on Brattle Street and drank punch from the bowl before proceeding to Griffin's Wharf.
In the period leading up to the Revolution, bookseller, printer, publisher and journalist Benjamin Edes (1732-1803), in partnership with John Gill (1732-1785), maintained the most radical of Boston newspapers. From 1755 to 1775 the two men published the Boston Gazette, along with religious tracts, annual sermons, scientific lectures, almanacs, and advertising broadsides. In the 1760s, as the local response to Great Britain's efforts to tax and control its colonies intensified, Edes and Gill began to publish political works and broadsides expressing the patriot point of view. Edes was the more politically active partner and was a member of the Sons of Liberty. The firm Edes & Gill continued through 1779, when Edes established a new firm, Benjamin Edes & Sons (Peter and Benjamin, Jr.).
"Destruction of the Tea"
In May 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act, legislation designed to promote the sales of the British-owned East India Company and to assert British authority in the face of colonial resistance to outside regulation or taxation. Even with the new tax of three-pence per pound, the price of East India tea would be competetive with the tea being smuggled into the colonies. In Boston and other towns, the Tea Act was seen as one of a series of encroachments upon American liberties. Protestors opposed any attempt to favor the consignees of the East India tea over other merchants, including those who smuggled tea. That summer and fall of 1773, as news spread of the impending arrival of East India tea, a campaign of political agitation against the tea tax and the tea consignees began.
On 28 November 1773 the first of three ships carrying East India Company tea sailed into Boston Harbor. For the next seventeen days, many residents of Boston and surrounding communities demanded the resignation of the East India Company tea consignees and the return of the tea before it was even unloaded. When these appeals and demands failed, the citizens took matters into their own hands. On the afternoon of 16 December 1773, a group of men assembled in the parlor of Benjamin Edes' house on Brattle Street. Edes, who was closely involved in the deliberations surrounding the arrival of the tea, had recruited his guests to help plan and carry out an audacious attack on the property of the East India Tea Company. While waiting for darkness to fall, the party enjoyed Edes' hospitality--which his son, Peter Edes, recalled in a letter to his grandson:
I recollect perfectly well that in the afternoon preceding the evening of the destruction of the Tea a number of gentlemen met in the parlour of my father's house how many I cannot say as...I was not admitted to their presence. my station was in another room to make punch for them in the bowl which is now in your possession and which I filled several times-- they remained in the house till dark...
Edes and his guests then made their way to his office on Queen Street to disguise themselves as Indians, before joining others on Griffin's Wharf, where the three ships carrying tea were docked. Well-organized and methodical, within a period of three hours, the "Indians" had disposed of three hundred and forty-two chests containing over 92,000 pounds of tea.
The punch bowl remained in the Edes family for several generations. Mary Cuming Edes, presented the punch bowl to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1871. Mary was the widow of Benjamin Edes (the grandson of the printer, Benjamin Edes).