The first episode of History Channel’s “America: The Story of Us” stated that the value of the tea dumped into the harbor during the Boston Tea Party was $1 million. That reminded me of Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet from April 18, 1774, which published some interesting post-party items, including one about the value of the tea.
According to the Packet, “it is said that the tea thrown into the Sea at Boston is valued at 18,000 l. at 1s. 6d. per pound. The whole sent to America is said to be worth about 300,000 l. which is returning home, not being suffered to be landed.”
Using the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, £18,000 in 1774 (I rounded up) translates to £2,023,200 today. That’s an average of two percent inflation per year. Converting £2.023 million to USD via XE.com, I found the value of the tea destroyed on December 16, 1773 to be $3,091,687 (more than $2 million higher than the History Channel’s estimate).
According to Wesley Griswold’s The Night The Revolution Began “the figure varies with nearly every source, and ranges from as low as £8000 to as high as £18000.”
So I checked to see if the History Channel was using the low estimate. Using the £8000 variable, I found today’s value of the tea destroyed on December 16, 1773 is $1,374,083 (still much higher than the History Channel’s quote).
If £8000 was the low estimate and £18,000 was the high, that leaves £13,000 as the median estimate. Figuring £13,000 would be the most accurate measure, I threw it in the inflation and conversion calculators and found today’s value of the tea dumped in Boston harbor on December 16, 1773 to be $2,232,885.
Can anyone tell me how/where the History Channel came up with $1 million? What’s the most accurate estimate?