Thomas Melvill and the Boston Tea Party

One of the original primary sources you’ll hold on tour. Details about this document below.

Boston Tea Party participant Thomas Melvill certifies the import of a case of champagne by John Hancock’s nephews.

Thomas Melvill (1751-1832) Massachusetts patriot, a member of the Sons of Liberty, a participant in the Boston Tea Party at age 22 and a Revolutionary War veteran.

Partly printed Document Signed “Thos Melvill” as Inspector of the Port of Boston, dated September 12, 1797. A certification that “T & J Hancock imported according to law, in the Ship Apollo of which S. Jones is Commander, from London One Case Champaigne Wine, marked and numbered as in the Margin, containing Nineteen gallons.”

When John Hancock died in 1793 his nephews Thomas and John, sons of his brother Ebenezer, carried on their uncle’s mercantile business. According to a 1797 advertisement, the firm was located at 8 Merchant’s Row.

Thomas Melvill lived in Boston’s North End. Tea taken from his boots after the Boston Tea Party is on display at the Old State House Museum. Here you can also see a portrait of Melvill from the 1780s and his tricorn hat. Melvill wore a tricorn hat in Boston long after they went out of fashion. That hat and his style of clothing from a bygone era made him the inspiration for a poem called “The Last Leaf” written by Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1831. Holmes referred to Melvill as “the last of the cocked hats” and would later write that Melvill reminded him of “a withered leaf which has held to its stem through the storms of autumn and winter, and finds itself still clinging to its bough while the new growths of spring are bursting their buds and spreading their foliage all around it.”

The Last Leaf” was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite poems and it is said he could recite it from memory.