Steeped In History: December PR History

Written by: Jeff Rodriguez, Historian

Long before there was a Tea Party, there was the Tea Party.

As we know, the Boston Tea Party was a protest against British taxation, as a band of Colonists disguised as Native Americans boarded three British ships and dumped their stock of tea into the harbor. It occurred on the night of December 16, 1773, and it was one of first great public relations efforts in our history; it also may have been one of the nicest.

According to contemporary media reports, none of the British sailors were hurt, the tea was the only merchandise damaged, and when one of “Indians” was caught trying to steal some, his associates ran him off. The raiders even replaced a padlock that had been broken and helped sweep the decks afterward. If only our visiting relatives were so thoughtful.

The group’s efforts were very well-received by the media. One paper’s headline read, “High Tea in Boston Harbor — Band of ‘Mohawks’ dump 342 chests of Darjeeling off Griffin’s Wharf.” The raid was called a “happy event,” with a number of “brave & resolute men” doing “all in their power to save their country from ruin.”

Missing among the admirers were George Washington and Ben Franklin, the latter of whom reportedly offered to personally reimburse the Brits (no doubt with Benjamins).

As we know, the British responded to the raid by cracking down harder on the Colonists. And the Colonists responded by, well, starting a new nation. Since that triumph, our nation has enjoyed a rich history, one that has been frequently celebrated on film by many great American actors, including Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale, Henry Cavill and Mel Gibson. We did win the war, right?

All of which goes to show: When it comes to great PR, sometimes, it’s okay to go a little bit overboard.