Boston Tea Party engraved cartoon
This copper engraved cartoon on laid paper commemorates the Boston Tea Party is estimated to sell at over $20,000 in Heritage Auctions’ Americana sale. Image: Heritage Auctions.

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Far from being buried in oblivion, this cartoon remains a sought-after – if rare – illustration of American colonial resistance of British rule. Titled Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression, the copperplate engraving shows residents of New England responding to the 1773 Tea Act.

It is offered at Heritage Auctions’ Americana auction on August 25, where it is expected to make over $20,000.

Probably produced in Philadelphia or New York, the cartoon is attributed to engraver Henry Dawkins and is one of only six copies of the engraving known, all in institutional holdings.

The Tea Act allowed the British East India Company to sell tea in the American colonies without paying taxes, undercutting local merchants.

Sons of Liberty

The print was published just months after the Sons of Liberty, a secret society formed to protect the colonists’ rights, took to Boston Harbor and destroyed an entire shipment of tea, boarding East India Company ships and throwing chests containing 92,000 pounds of tea into the water.

British merchants and politicians on the left side are shown in league with the devil, while the Sons of Liberty are shown on the right, some disguised as Mohawk Indians. The composition is drawn over a map of the northern and middle colonies.

“Revolutionary era cartoons are in exceedingly high demand and this is an extremely rare print,” said Heritage Auctions’ Tom Slater, director of Americana. “This is a very important cartoon that addresses on of the most successful acts of civil protest in the history of our country.”