How Much Money Was The Tea In The Boston Tea Party Worth?

On December 6, 1773, colonists in Boston, Massachusetts protested Great Britain's imposition of taxation without representation by boarding ships at Griffin's Wharf in Boston Harbor and dumping overboard 342 chests of tea from the British East India Company, itself the most powerful corporation in history. As reported by History, British Parliament had enacted the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts in its American colonies, which levied taxes on printed paper, paint, paper, glass, lead, and tea. The money collected via the Acts was intended to pay Britain's many debts, several of which came from fighting wars on behalf of the Colonists. Colonists, however, resented having to pay taxes despite having no representation in British Parliament. Tensions increased after the Boston Massacre of 1770, when five colonists were killed and six more were wounded during a street brawl with British soldiers. 

Great Britain eventually removed all taxes but those on tea. Colonists drank almost 1.2 million pounds of tea annually and the tea tax was too great of a money-maker for Britain to abolish it. The tea tax furor reached its apex on December 6, 1773 when three ships loaded with tea from the British East India Company sat at Griffin's Wharf. A group of colonists convened and "voted to refuse to pay taxes on the tea or allow the tea to be unloaded, stored, sold or used." Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to allow the ships to return to England and insisted the tea be unloaded and taxed.

They wore disguises to dump the tea

That night, per History, a group of colonists dressed up in traditional Native American clothing and stormed the ships, throwing over 45 tons of tea into the harbour over the course of three hours. The names of the rioters remain unknown, although the protest is thought to have been organized by John Hancock and carried out by Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty, "a group of colonial merchants and tradesmen founded to protest the Stamp Act and other forms of taxation."

No one was hurt in the course of the Tea Party and no property was harmed, other than the tea and a padlock. Still, 45 tons of tea is worth lots of money and the Tea Party left it all steeping away in Boston Harbor. How much was the tea worth? According to the Boston Tea Party Museum's website, the British East India Company reported £9,659 worth of damage resulting from the protest. This is the modern equivalent of $1.7 million. Today, Bostonians gathering in the city's Seaport District are less likely to be thinking about tea and more likely to be enjoying an extra large iced "coffee regular" — two sugars, two creams.