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The New York Tea Party and other key NYC moments in the American Revolution

For seven years during the Revolutionary War, New York City was occupied by the British, serving as their North American headquarters.

Throughout those years, the city was a contested territory, with skirmishes and battles fought between the two forces, decimating infrastructure and killing scores of people on both sides.

Even before occupation, though, the city was a haven for Revolutionary agitation, British spies and sedition.

But once the war had ended, the triumphant Americans made the city the country's first capital, and people flocked from all across the young nation to engage in panning and debate that would shape the future of the United States.

Here are seven facts about the history of the American Revolution in New York City, curated by our friends at the New-York Historical Society, just in time for Independence Day.

New York's Tea Party

New Yorkers have always loathed paying full price
Photo Credit: New-York Historical Society

New Yorkers have always loathed paying full price for anything. The British Parliament's 1773 Tea Act did not go over very well, as it forced colonists to buy tea from the East India Company, rather than from smugglers who imported tax-free tea to the colonies.

On the lookout for tea ships since the previous December, the Sons of Liberty got their moment in April 1774 when -- dressed as Mohawk Native Americans -- they joined ordinary townsfolk in boarding the ship London and emptying its cases of tea into New York harbor.

The Sons of Liberty issued the broadside pictured above in advance of the tea party.

--Mariam Touba, New-York Historical Society reference librarian

Statue of King George melted for bullets

A gilded lead statue of British King George
Photo Credit: New-York Historical Society

A gilded lead statue of British King George III once stood in the middle of Bowling Green park. After General Washington ordered "The Declaration of Independence" be read aloud at the City Common, many New Yorkers marched down Broadway to Bowling Green and pulled down the statue.

The dismembered monument was then melted down into bullets for use by revolutionary forces.

Sitting up on a high horse didn't save King George!

--Isabel Mandelbaum, New-York Historical Society teen historian and co-curator of the "Revolution" pop-up exhibition on Governors Island.

A stealthy retreat from New York

The largest confrontation of the American Revolution was
Photo Credit: New-York Historical Society

The largest confrontation of the American Revolution was the Battle of Brooklyn (also called the Battle of Long Island), during which George Washington's troops were outflanked and outmanned.

After a dramatic and stealthy retreat into Manhattan under the cover of darkness and fog, the Continental army ceded New York to the British, which remained their base of command until the end of the Revolutionary War.

--Dr. Valerie Paley, New-York Historical Society?s chief historian

The hanging of patriot spy Nathan Hale

On September 22, 1776, British soldiers arrested patriot
Photo Credit: New-York Historical Society

On September 22, 1776, British soldiers arrested patriot spy Nathan Hale. Before the redcoats hanged him in Manhattan for his betrayal, Hale, only 21, uttered his famous last words, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

While it was long believed that Hale was captured and executed by the British in Lower Manhattan, a British officer's orderly book at the New-York Historical Society places the site in the Upper East Side.

--Ted O'Reilly, New-York Historical Society's head of manuscripts

Evacuation Day

For years after the Revolution ended, New Yorkers
Photo Credit: New-York Historical Society

For years after the Revolution ended, New Yorkers celebrated Evacuation Day on November 25, which marked the end of the Revolutionary War and the date on which the final British troops departed New York City in 1783.

Boisterous celebrations lasted ten days, culminating in Washington's farewell to his officers on December 4 of that year at Fraunces Tavern.

--Dr. Valerie Paley, New-York Historical Society's chief historian and curator of the current exhibition "Lafayette's Return" on view through Aug. 15.

George Washington's inauguration

Did you know George Washington slept and became
Photo Credit: New-York Historical Society

Did you know George Washington slept and became president here?

On April 30, 1789, George Washington became president of the United States on the balcony of Federal Hall in lower Manhattan. The inauguration was one of many legislative and diplomatic milestones between 1785 and 1790, when New York served as the national capital.

The New-York Historical Society exhibits the chair Washington actually sat in for his inauguration (alongside an illuminated linen painting depicting the momentous occasion).

--Margi Hofer, New-York Historical Society curator of decorative arts

A party for the Constitution

New Yorkers knew how to throw a great
Photo Credit: New-York Historical Society

New Yorkers knew how to throw a great party.

On July 23, 1788, to celebrate the ratification of the Constitution, they organized a massive parade with creative floats and banners representing the city's trade guilds.

While the bakers' float carried a ten-foot-long "federal loaf" with the names of the ratifying states, the Society of Pewterers carried an enormous silk banner painted with images of craftsmen at work and the lofty slogan, "The Federal Plan Most Solid & Secure / Americans Their Freedom Will Ensure."

The Pewterers Banner is the only artifact to survive from that jubilant day.

--Margi Hofer, New-York Historical Society curator of decorative arts

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