Analyzing Nathaniel Currier's "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor"

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Words: 964 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jan 29, 2019

Words: 964|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jan 29, 2019

APUSH Collateral: A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor was lithographed in the year 1846 by the company Currier and Ives, and the artist of the piece of art was Nathaniel Currier. Nathaniel was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts on March 27th, 1813. His parents were Nathaniel and Hannah Currier, who were distant cousins. When Nathaniel was eight years old, his father passed away leaving eight year-old Nathaniel and his eleven year-old older brother Lorenzo to support their younger six year-old sister Elizabeth and two year-old brother Charles (Cunningham). He spent his time doing small random jobs in order to provide for the family, however when he was fifteen, he apprenticed in the Boston lithography shop of William and John Pendleton, who were the first successful lithographers in the United States (Lebeau). In 1835 Currier managed to create his own lithography business, Currier & Ives, which is what created his legacy.

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The subject of the painting, The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor, is the dumping of tea into the water by men dressed as Indians. The painting also shows other colonists cheering these men on as they dump the tea in the harbor. The purpose of this piece of work is to portray the rebellion of the colonists from England during the time preceding the American Revolution. Interestingly enough, this lithograph was the only prewar event of the Revolution that the company Currier and Ives chose to illustrate (Lebeau 52). His tone in the painting implies that he favored the colonists since the painting portrays the colonists as having entire control over the situation. The attitude of Currier in his painting is a positive one, which can be supported by the fact that he portrays the colonists in a decent manner cheering on the organized destruction of tea. Even those who are destroying the tea seem to be calm and their actions are well organized as they drop entire chests of tea into Boston Harbor. Currier’s attitude revealed in the depiction of the event gives the impression that that the rebels were justified in the dumping of the tea into the harbor, showing his optimistic views concerning the Boston Tea Party. His positive view of the event is biased considering the fact that he was an apprentice to a Boston lithographer, and he grew up during a time in which the city had a revived attitude towards the tea action (Young 184). Another factor to take into account was that Currier was making this painting in order to sell it to other Americans, which could also possibly influence his upbeat portrayal of this event. The painting only includes American colonists and neglects to show any British influence at all, even though a firsthand account from George Robert Twelve Hewes, a shoemaker from Boston who participated in the Boston Tea Party, said, “We were surrounded by British armed ships” (Young 30). This piece of art was well known at its time and was sold for several decades at the Currier & Ives store located in New York City, and was sold by peddlers throughout the country (Young 184).

The event depicted in the piece of art is known today as the Boston Tea Party. On December 16th, 1773, a group of Bostonians protested the monopoly on American tea importation recently granted by Parliament to the East India Company, and seized 342 chests of tea in a midnight raid on three tea ships and threw them into the harbor (Kennedy and Cohen 121). Nathaniel Currier’s lithograph does not accurately display the events of the Boston Tea Party. The painting only includes two ships, however there were actually three ships that were raided, the Dartmouth, Eleanor and the Beaver (Destruction of British East India Company Tea). Hewes says, “We were then ordered by our commander to open the hatches and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard, and we immediately proceeded to execute his orders; first cutting and splitting the chests with out tomahawks, so as thoroughly to expose them to the effects of the water” (Young 30). The picture shows a different story, and the rebels onboard the ship are shown throwing entire chests of tea into the sea, not cutting open the chests and emptying them, which is what Hewes claims to have happened. Hewes also claims in his story that people were trying to escape with stolen tea, however the painting shows that all the colonists were in support of the destruction of tea and does not suggest that there were any colonists trying to run away with any stolen tea. Currier’s lithograph doesn’t fail at portraying the events of the Boston Tea party; however, it is slightly distorted from the truth.

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A modern day issue that relates to the Boston Tea Party is the formation of the Tea Party Movement. The Tea Party movement is an extremist right wing party. They want almost no federal government, no federal taxes, and often include Christian ideologies in their social ideas. It is considered a grass roots movement, which means that the “ordinary people” started it, but now billionaires trying to make a profit, are ultimately the ones funding it. The Tea Party believes in the acronym TEA, meaning Taxed Enough Already. They want to cut almost all federal government programs so that there would be nothing to pay. This means no social security, no DEP, and no Medicare/Medicaid, and they strongly oppose Obamacare. Although the Tea Party Movement is similar to the Boston Tea Party in the sense that they both call for no taxation, the Tea Party Movement’s ideals would ultimately hurt the nation by removing the crucial federal programs that many citizens need in order to survive.

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Analyzing Nathaniel Currier’s “The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor”. (2019, January 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from
“Analyzing Nathaniel Currier’s “The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor”.” GradesFixer, 28 Jan. 2019,
Analyzing Nathaniel Currier’s “The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 May 2024].
Analyzing Nathaniel Currier’s “The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Jan 28 [cited 2024 May 25]. Available from:
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