Today is the 246th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. As I understand it the name of this pivotal event that helped lead to the American Revolution is a construction of nineteenth century historiography; Americans began using the expression “Boston Tea Party” in the 1820s, shortly after the War of 1812. This Nathaniel Currier lithograph from 1846 does not use the term “Boston Tea Party” at all, but the still common “destruction of tea at Boston harbor.” In the lead-up to the Civil War Americans both North and South used and misused the memory of the Revolution for their own purposes. Those purposes could with be either nefarious or to appeal to people’s better angels. Lincoln in his First Inaugural hoped that “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave” might forestall civil war, which of course is not what happened in 1861. A century and a half later in our own time it remans the same, with people using and misusing the iconography of the Revolution for purposes good and ill.

We are now just two weeks away from the 2020s. As early as next March will come the first big 250th anniversary of the events leading to the American Revolution: the Boston Massacre of March 1770. I know that some communities are in the nascent stages of preparing for various anniversaries. Major League Baseball has already set the 2026 All-Star Game for Philadelphia, just as they did fifty years previously in 1976 during the Bicentennial. It is my understanding that other professional leagues intend to follow suit, but I guess time will tell.

(image/Owensboro Community & Technical College)