Tea Party tea chest unveiled; will be showcased at waterfront museum

The outraged colonists who threw it in Boston Harbor are long gone. But the chest hurled into the water during the Boston Tea Party — and the nation that sprang from that unrest — are still around.

Bostonians got a sneak peek today at the Robinson Half Tea Chest, a crate that colonists tossed overboard in protest of British taxes prior to the Revolutionary War.

The chest, one of two remaining, was passed down through generations after John Robinson retrieved it from the marshes that are now South Boston — then Dorchester Heights — the morning after the “party,” said Christopher Belland, chief executive of Historic Tours of America, which owns the Boston Ships and Tea Party Museum, where the chest will be showcased.

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The museum bought the chest from a Texas family six years ago.

A fife and drum corps playing in front of the Old South Meeting House this afternoon caught the attention of many who stopped to listen in the midst of a light rain. Several officials with connections to the museum and meeting house spoke — from the same spot where Samuel Adams once addressed the patriots.

The chest was then marched from the meeting house to the waterfront museum, which is located on the exact spot the chest was cast overboard more than two centuries ago. The possibility of such a chest existing and ever returning to the Tea Party scene were minuscule, said Robin DeBlosi, director of marketing at the meeting house.

“Most artifacts from this treasonous event were buried in the mud so people wouldn’t keep them,” DeBlosi said, “which is what makes this so rare.”

Ninety third-graders from Davis Hill Elementary School in Holden followed the corps, re-enactors, and chest through the streets. At the museum, they were given first look at the replica ship’s hold to see what the colonists saw when they first saw the chest.

The rest of Boston eager to glance back into time through the chest will have to wait, however. The crate will not be viewable by the public until June 26 when the museum reopens after being closed for 11 years. The museum’s troubles began when it was struck by lightning in 2001.

Paying a visit will be much more than simply looking at an old box, DeBlosi said, it will be a reminder of how different the world would be without the colonists’ “treason.”

“Looking at this one tea crate it reminds you how differently things could have happened,” she said. “We could be in a British colony today.”