Auction  August 27, 2018  Chandra Noyes

Rare Cartoon Celebrating the Boston Tea Party Sells at Auction

Heritage Auctions, HA.com

"Liberty Triumphant: Or the Downfall of Oppression." Attributed to the Philadelphia & New York engraver Henry Dawkins, published after December 27, 1773, but before April 1774.

This weekend Heritage Auctions’ Americana and Political Auction saw the sale of a rare piece of American history. Celebrating the recent civil disobedience of the Sons of Liberty protesting the Tea Act, "Liberty Triumphant: Or the Downfall of Oppression," is a rare engraving attributed to the Philadelphia and New York engraver Henry Dawkins, published in late 1773 or early 1774. One of only six known copies of this pre-Revolutionary work, it shows how crucial the events of December 16, 1773, the Boston Tea Party, were in galvanizing colonists against the crown.

Heritage Auctions, HA.com

detail, "Liberty Triumphant: Or the Downfall of Oppression"

The cartoon depicts British Politicians, Loyalists, and East India Tea Company merchants colluding with the devil on the left. Opposite these figures, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, are American colonists, some dressed in the American Indians costumes worn during the Boston Tea Party.

Heritage Auctions, HA.com

detail, "Liberty Triumphant: Or the Downfall of Oppression"

In the top left and right corners, respectively, are allegorical figures representing Britain and the Goddess of Liberty. Brittania laments, “The conduct of those my degenerate Sons, will break my Heart.” But the Goddess of Liberty proclaims to the cherubic Fame, "Behold the Ardor of my sons and let not their brave Actions be buried in Oblivion." The cartoon features extensive dialogue, nearly every character spouting a speech bubble. A figure identified as a Son of Liberty exclaims, "Lead us on to Liberty or Death"

In this highly-detailed work, numbered labels above each figure identify them via a key at the bottom of the image. Costumes are rendered in careful detail, and bodies of water and land masses are labeled. This engrossing piece of art and American history, sold for $37,500, gives its new owner both fascinating minutiae to examine and a glimpse into pre-Revolutionary America.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra Noyes is Managing Editor for Art & Object.

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