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Press Release - August 25, 2018
1770s Cartoon Cheering the Boston Tea Party Sold for $37,500 at Heritage AuctionsCartoon directly tied to outbreak of the American Revolutionary War
Sold by Heritage Auctions, the rare political cartoon was published was published after December 23, 1773 and before April 1774, mere months after the Sons of Liberty, disguised as Mohawk Indians, took to Boston Harbor and destroyed more than 92,000 pounds of tea. Just six copies of the copper engraved cartoon are known in institutional holdings.
The winning bidder does not wish to be identified at this time.
"This political cartoon is a tremendously important historical artifact from the American Revolution," said Don Ackerman, Americana specialist at Heritage Auctions. "Britain"s response stripped self-government in Massachusetts. Colonialists across all 13 Colonies pushed back, escalating the crisis and the American Revolutionary War began near Boston in 1775, a year after the cartoon was published."
Titled: "Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression," the illustration shows the response of New Englanders to the British Tea Tax, enacted in 1773, drawn over a map of the northern and middle colonies. Probably published in Philadelphia or New York, the cartoon is attributed to Henry Dawkins, an engraver who was arrested in 1776 on suspicion of counterfeiting continental and provincial currency, which resulted in a $1,500 fine.
The Boston-based Sons of Liberty, a secret society formed to protect the rights of the colonists and to fight taxation by the British government, targeted the Tea Act of 1773, which allowed the British India Company to sidestep some tax liability while selling tea from China in American colonies, thereby effectively undercutting local tea merchants. Protestors, some of whom were disguised as Native Americans, destroyed an entire shipment of tea on December 16, 1773, forcing the closing of Boston Harbor.
The image is decidedly busy, filled with captions and quote balloons from nearly all of the 30 characters. The left side of the cartoon shows British politicians and merchants with the devil, and American colonists — seven of whom are dressed as Native Americans representing those at the Boston Tea Party — on the right.
Captions at the bottom of the cartoon serve as a key to explain the people and symbolic figures portrayed in it. Most of those on the left are representatives of the East India Company; those in the lower right are colonial merchants who opposed the Tea Party but deemed it better to acquiesce, since the deed was done. On the far right side of the cartoon is a British ship like those the protesters wanted to redirect back to England, prevented from discharging its cargo of tea.
The December 16, 1773 Boston Tea Party was the most dramatic act of civil disobedience to the Tea Act passed the previous spring. Mass protests in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston effectively prevented the unloading of cargo, leading to the passage of the "Intolerable Acts" and the forced closing of Boston harbor.
Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world"s largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, London, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.
The Internet"s most popular auction-house website, HA.com, has over one million registered bidder-members and searchable free archives of four million past auction records with prices realized, descriptions and enlargeable photos. Reproduction rights routinely granted to media for photo credit.
Eric Bradley, Director, Public Relations
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