Mohawks, Axes and Taxes: Images of the American Revolution

At the Boston Tea Party the Americans not only flouted the unpopular tax laws on tea imposed on the colony, they also retrieved the image of the Mohawk from the hands of British cartoonists and reinstated him as the symbol of American liberty.

Few events of the Revolutionary era have been engraved on popular memory like the Boston Tea Party. Nearly everyone, regardless of sophistication in matters American and revolutionary, knows that the patriots who dumped tea in Boston Harbor dressed as American Indians Mohawks, specifically. On why the tea dumpers chose this particular form of disguise, we are less fortunate. Not even scholars of American history have paid much attention to that. What little writing on the subject exists relays a vague impression that the Mohawk disguise was picked out of sheer convenience – as if a gaggle of patriots had stopped by a costume shop on their way to the wharf and found 'The Mohawk' the only party costume available in quantity at short notice.

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