Case Study



Boston Tea Party Historical Society

David Kinnison

David Kinnison, the last survivor of the BTP lived until 115 years old and was actually photographed few years before he passed away.

The engraving was made from a dageuerreotype, an early type of photograph exposed directly onto a silver plate with photo coating. It was taken from life in August, 1848, when Mr. Kinnison was 111 years old. His actual signature is also presented here.

David Kinnison, soldier, born in Old Kingston, near Portsmouth, Maine on November 17, 1736. He died in Chicago, Illinois, on February 24, 1851. His predecessors from the father side were known for longevity. His great-grandfather, who came from England and settled in Maine, lived to a long age. His grandfather lived until the age of one hundred and twelve years and ten days. His father died at the age of one hundred and three years and nine months.

He was married four times, had four children by his first wife and eighteen by his second, none by the last two. He did not know how to read until he was sixty years old and was taught by his granddaughter, and learned to sign his name while a soldier of the Revolution, which is all the writing he has ever accomplished.

In Lebanon, Maine he owned a farm, and was one of seventeen men of Lebanon who formed a political club and gathered for secret meetings in a local tavern “Colonel Gooding” in a private room reserved for such gatherings. The owner of the establishment, was reportedly not aware of the exact object of their meetings. Similar clubs were formed in Philadelphia, Boston and the towns around. Between them they kept up a correspondence. The Lebanon club then determined, whether assisted or not to destroy the tea at all costs. The men arrived to Boston, where they were joined by others and twenty four disguised as Indians, rushed on board, twelve armed with muskets and bayonets, the rest with tomahawks and clubs, having first agreed to stand by each other to the last and that the first man who faltered should be knocked on the head and thrown over with the tea. They expected to have a fight, and did not doubt that an effort would be made for their arrest. “But” (in the language of the old man) “we cared not more for our lives than three straws, and determined to throw the tea overboard. We were all captains, and every one commanded himself.” They pledged themselves in no event, while it should be dangerous to do so, to reveal the names of the party – a pledge that was faithfully observed until the war of the Revolution was brought to a successful issue.

Kinnison was in active service during the Revolutionary war, and later settled in Danville, Vermont, where he again returned to farming for eight years. He then removed to Wells, Maine, and lived there until the war of 1812, through which he served, being wounded at Williamsburg. In 1845 he went to Chicago, reduced to extreme poverty, with a pension of $96 a year, and until 1848 earned money by manual labor. At a public anti-slavery meeting in the summer of 1848 he addressed the audience with marked effect. He was the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party.

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