The Tea Party Nobody Talks About

May 23, 2014

A reenactment of the Chestertown Tea Party.
Credit Geoffrey DeMeritt
Every American school kid knows that in 1773, colonists in Massachusetts angrily tossed tea into the harbor, furious about the new tax British Parliament had imposed tea.  Not as well known is the story of a similar incident five months later on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in Chestertown, then an important international port.  

Since the 1960s, the people of Chestertown have commemorated the event with a rousing reenactment of dumping tea into the Chester River, a parade, and a street fair.  Those festivities begin today, the 240th anniversary of the town’s defiance of the British. 

But did the Chestertown Tea Party actually take place?  Washington College historian Adam Goodheart says it’s not clear.  In 2005, he and his students set out to trace the historic record of the Chestertown Tea Party.  What he found – and didn’t find – is interesting.  He wrote a paper titled “Tea and Fantasy”  for the journal American Scholar with assistance from Washington College junior Erin Koster.   We talk with Adam Goodheart about his work.

If you're interested in visiting the Chestertown Tea Party this weekend, get more information here.