Did you know that the residents of Boston once threw a huge tea party in Boston Harbor? It was a revolutionary event that didn’t look anything like the tea parties you might throw for your friends when you’re playing!

On a cold night in December 1773, a group of American colonists called the Sons of Liberty — some of whom were disguised as Native Americans — boarded three British ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 crates of tea into the water. This event, which became known as the Boston Tea Party, was one of the major events that led to the American Revolution.

Why did the colonists do this? It was their way of protesting what they believed were unfair taxes being imposed upon them by Great Britain. They didn’t think it was right that Great Britain could force them to buy tea from the East India Trading Company (a British company) and pay high taxes on the tea (due to the Tea Act) — all without having a voice, or representation, in the British government.

The rallying cry the colonists used was “no taxation without representation.” They believed they deserved to have representatives to express their views in the British government if that government wanted to impose taxes upon them.

At first, the colonists refused to pay taxes on the tea and asked that it be returned to England. When the British government refused, they decided to dump the tea into the harbor instead. If you’re wondering what the big deal was, you should know that the containers of tea weighed about 90,000 pounds, which in today’s money would be worth about $1 million!

Even though many of the colonists had worn disguises, the British government knew who was responsible. It responded with a series of even more taxes and a set of laws known as the Intolerable Acts. Just two years later, the American Revolution would begin!

Here are some other fun facts about the Boston Tea Party:

  • The three British ships that had their tea dumped overboard were the Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver.
  • Paul Revere was one of the people who participated in the Boston Tea Party.
  • The tea that was dumped into Boston Harbor was originally from China.

44 Join the Discussion

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  1. Yayyyyyyyy I got the wonder right. That was a really long time ago. I thought the wonder was pretty good. I think it might be about ice or ice cream.

    • Way to go, Jthegreat! We’re proud of you and we’re glad you liked today’s Wonder about the Boston Tea Party! Thanks for letting us know what you think tomorrow’s Wonder might be about, too! We say, “Yayyyyyyy for ice cream!” :-)

  2. LOVE this wonder- so excited to bookmark this for next year’s fifth graders.. perfect for our American Revolution indicators as well as connecting it with government. After 10 trips to Boston with soon to be sixth graders, I had amazing connections. Thanks!

    • Happy Wednesday, Maria! We’re SO HAPPY to hear that you will be sharing today’s Wonder with your WONDERful “MC” students next year! We can’t wait to meet a new group of Wonder Friends from Bailey Elementary! :-)

    • We thought your guess yesterday was GREAT, Julia! We like it when our Wonder Friends (like YOU!) try to guess the next day’s Wonder. Even if the guesses might not be exactly correct, we appreciate every single one! Have a WONDERous day! :-)

    • WOW, Mr. P.! We think that is a SUPER COOL personal connection to today’s Wonder of the Day®! Thank you so much for sharing that you actually got to visit the location of the Boston Tea Party on your trip! You really helped add something extra special to this Wonder with your GREAT comment! :-)

    • We just LOVE your enthusiasm for WONDER, Betsy! Your comments help make our day even more WONDERful! Thanks for sharing that you enjoy learning about history…we do, too! :-)

    • GREAT JOB, Wonder Girl! We think it ROCKS that you guessed today’s Wonder would be about the Boston Tea Party! We really like your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, too…frozen sweet treats are especially AWESOME in the summertime, aren’t they? :-)

  3. Wow! I learned a lot about the Boston Tea Party. Tomorrow’s wonder is definitely going to be about ice cream.

    • We think it’s GREAT that you enjoyed learning about the Boston Tea Party today, LKvolleyballGirl! Thanks for letting us know that! We hope you have a SUPER day! :-)

  4. I think tomorrow’s wonder is ice cream and sorry I haven’t been here for a while. I was in Grande Prairy with my sister, 2 nieces and 2 nephews.

    • It’s AWESOME to hear from you, Zac! Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today! We hope you had a fun time visiting with your family! :-)

  5. I didn’t understand. There was just a black screen. I think the next wonder will be about popsicles. I will see the wonder tomorrow.

    Bye for now

    • Hello, Penguin! We’re super sorry you can’t see the video for today’s Wonder! You might want to check with your teacher or parent to see if there might be a video “block” that has been put on your computer to keep videos from certain websites from being played (to protect you from accidentally seeing something not-so-nice on other internet sites besides Wonderopolis). We hope you enjoyed learning about the Boston Tea Party as much as we did today! :-)

  6. I like Wonderopolis because if you don’t know what it means, you can find it on here so that’s why I like it here.

    • What a SUPER GREAT comment you left for us, Wonder Geek! We sure do appreciate the nice things you said, and we’re REALLY glad you like learning new things in Wonderopolis with us each day! Thank you for being a WONDERful Wonder Friend! :-)

  7. Jose guessed that Paul Revere was involved! He was right!!!! We are wondering the names of some of the other people involved.

    We think the next wonder is either a popsicle, snow cone, or ice cream.

    • Way to go, Jose, and thanks for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day® and learning some interesting facts about the Boston Tea Party with us, Ms. Drisdom’s Class! We think it would be LOTS of FUN to WONDER more about some of the other people involved! Thanks, also, for sharing your GREAT guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder. We like all of them! :-)

    • We’re really glad you loved exploring this Wonder and learning new things about the Boston Tea Party, Annie! Thanks so much for leaving us a comment to let us know that! :-)

  8. I was very close to guess today’s wonder. :) I loved today’s wonder! :D I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is about ice cream.

    Sorry for such the late comment, you have probably been wondering if I was too busy today.

    TJ

    • Thanks for visiting us today, TJ! We’re super glad you stopped by! Thanks, also, for letting us know you think the next Wonder will be about ice cream…that sounds AWESOME! We think you are a SUPER Wonder Friend! :-)

  9. I knew it would be about the Boston Tea Party! I just couldn’t send the whole message so all it said that I said was “Wow!”

    • That’s OK, Ashley! We think any comment from you is AWESOME! Thanks for being such a GREAT Wonder Friend and WAY TO GO for guessing this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  10. I once read about the Boston Tea Party in social studies class. I learned that the colonists dumped the Britain’s tea into the
    ocean. The people dumping the tea were on the Boston Harbor disguised as Native Americans/Indians. I love this video so much!
    :-)

    • WOW! Thanks for sharing your background knowledge about the Boston Tea Party, Julie! You helped add something extra WONDERful to this Wonder of the Day® with your comment! :-)

  11. Hi wonderopolis, this is Harshitha from Mrs.Caplin’s class. I liked talking about Native Americans and the Boston Tea Party too. And I like this wonder because this helps me remember what we did when we were talking about the Boston Tea Party. We talked a lot, I mean, many times about slavery and I also liked it. I remember what we did. What we did is, we lay down under our desks and we felt whats it’s like to be in that ship. I felt sorry for those people who got stuck in the slave ship.
    Rallying, Intolerable, Protesting, Imposed are some phenomenal words that I like.
    Bye
    Best Regards,
    Harshitha Madhavan

    • It’s SO WONDERful to hear from you, Harshitha! We hope you are enjoying your summer so far! It sounds like you are keeping your Wonder brain happy by filling it with cool new knowledge in Wonderopolis…we think that’s AWESOME!

      Thanks for sharing about the activity you participated in last year. We think Mrs. Caplin was AWESOME for helping you and your MC classmates feel what it must have been like to be aboard one of the slave ships. We can tell that experience has stayed with you and that you have a super big heart for caring so much about others. We appreciate you sharing those awesome Wonder Words, too! :-)

  12. It’s funny. The day I read this wonder was about 3 days after I learned about this. They dumped the tea because the patriots hated the tax on tea.

    • What a coincidence, Tyler J! How cool that what you learned in school was also on Wonderopolis! WOW! We learned what the word “boycott” meant from this Wonder! :)

    • We’re so glad you learned something new, Mustafa!! We were excited to Wonder about how taxes affected the American Revolution! :)

    • Thanks so much, Sylas! We Wonder if you’re learning about the Boston Tea Party in school? It’s so much fun to Wonder about history! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who came to the Boston Tea Party?
  • Why were the colonists upset with Great Britain?
  • What was the result of the Boston Tea Party?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Can kids take part in the political system today? Sure they can! If you’re unhappy about something your government is doing, then let the elected representatives who represent your area know about it.

There’s no need to look for a harbor with a ship full of tea to dump. Instead, peacefully make your opinions known to those who vote on the issues before Congress.

Not sure who your representatives in Congress are? No problem! Just jump online to Contacting the Congress and type in your address. You’ll be shown the names and contact information for your representatives in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Feel free to ask a friend or family member for help. Always be respectful in your letters to representatives, and clearly set forth the issue you’re concerned about and what your position is. Learning to play an active role in your government is an important step toward becoming a concerned citizen!

Still Wondering

Smithsonian’s History Explorer features a fantastic War of Independencecollection that will help you dive deeper into the history of America’s fight for freedom.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is an icy and tasty treat. Won’t you join us?

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