We’re going back into the archives to revisit these classic posts by James Norwood Pratt. This post includes two different three-part sequences: “Bootleg Tea” and “Colonial America”. We have added a link to the end of each one to take you to the next if you would like to read them as a sequence, or you can choose which you want to peruse below. Enjoy!

Bootleg Tea

I like a smuggler. He is the only honest thief.
He robs nothing but the revenue – an abstraction I never cared
greatly about. I could go out with him in his mackerel boat, or about
his less ostensible business, with some satisfaction.

John Company clerk Charles Lamb (1775 – 1834)

Part One

Tea had become England’s national drink by 1800 and she was importing an average of twenty-four million pounds a year, it is said. It is now time for…(Read more)

Part Two

Many a fine old home near the English coast was built on the proceeds of a venturer, one who put up the smuggling capital but kept well in the background, leaving the risks to the captain and the lander. The captain purchased…(Read more)

Part Three

Without regard for secrecy, smugglers boldly stole their cargoes back from government customs houses more than once. Long cavalcades of horses loaded with tea were…(Read more)

Colonial America

I am heartily glad that we shall keep Jamaica and the
East Indies another year, that one may have time to
lay in a stock of tea and sugar to last for the rest of
one’s days. I think only of the necessaries of life….
The friends of government, who have thought on
nothing but reducing us to our islandhood and
bringing us back to the simplicity of ancient times,
when we were the frugal, temperate, virtuous old
England, ask how we did before tea and sugar were
known. Better, no doubt; but as I did not happen to
be born two or three hundred years ago, I cannot
recall precisely whether diluted acorns and barley-
bread spread with honey, made a very luxurious

Horace Walpole writing to Sir H. Mann,
15 November 1779

Part One

As expected of good colonists everywhere, the American colonists did their damnedest to ape the fashions of their mother countries. Thus when the English…(Read more)

Part Two

In imitation of London, New York City came to support numerous coffeehouses and tea gardens. Over the course of the century there were…(Read more)

Part Three

A scene much the same was played in New York the following April and months afterwards at Annapolis, Maryland. The brig Peggy Steward landed with…(Read more)

Photo “International Silver Tea Set” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License to the photographer “Housing Works Thrift Shops” and is being posted unaltered (source)