340 chests of British East India Company Tea, weighing over 92,000 pounds (roughly 46 tons), onboard the Beaver, Dartmouth, and Eleanor were smashed open by the Sons of Liberty armed with an assortment of axes and dumped into Boston Harbor the night of December 16, 1773. The cargo was worth more than $1,700,000 dollars in today’s money. Merchant John Andrews wrote in his December 18, 1773 letter, “ten thousand pounds sterling of the East India Company’s tea was destroyed the night, or rather the evening before last…” The British East India Company reported £9,659 worth of damage caused by the Boston Tea Party.
1773 boston tea throwing
The Bostonians throwing the tea into the water. 1773. New York Public Library.
No Damage and No Theft
Besides the destruction of the tea, historical accounts record no damage was done to any of the three ships, the crew or any other items onboard the ships except for one broken padlock. The padlock was the personal property of one of the ships’ captains, and was promptly replaced the next day by the Patriots. Great care was taken by the Sons of Liberty to avoid the destruction of personal property – save for the cargo of British East India Company Tea. John Andrews recorded, “…to Griffin’s wharf, where Hall, Bruce, and Coffin lay, each with 114 chest of the ill-fated article on board; the two former with only that article, but the latter, arrived at the wharf only the day before, was freighted with a large quantity of other goods, which they took the greatest care not to injure in the least…”
Destruction of tea at Boston. Destruction of the tea at Boston. 1773. New York Public Library.
Nothing was stolen or looted from the ships, not even the tea. One participant tried to steal some tea but was reprimanded and stopped. The Sons of Liberty were very careful about how the action was carried out and made sure nothing besides the tea was damaged. After the destruction of the tea, the participants swept the decks of the ships clean and anything that was moved was put back in its proper place. The crews of the ships attested to the fact there had been no damage to any of the ships except for the destruction of their cargoes of tea. Boston Tea Party participant George Hewes remembered