Not about to bag the Tea Party

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November 23, 2005|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Chestertown takes its history seriously, so when it marks its 1774 Tea Party with a festival each year, its more than just an excuse to eat funnel cakes and dress up like patriots, who tossed the British tea into the Chester River.

There's a whole academic curriculum built around the event. Local schoolkids learn about taxation without representation, sing sea chanteys and put their hands on period navigational instruments.

But the towns celebrated tea party might be as rooted in fact as the Mad Hatter's.

If it's not a complete fiction, theres a good chance the tale has been embellished beyond recognition -- like authentic East India Company brew whipped into a Dunkin Donuts sprinkle-topped chai.

So says Washington College professor Adam Goodheart, who with student Erin Koster went searching for original sources of the story and "hit a dead end in the late 19th century."

"I soon reached a somewhat awkward conclusion: There was not a scrap of proof that the Chestertown Tea Party had ever happened. No known 18th-century letter, diary, court record, or newspaper account described what is supposed to have occurred, Goodheart writes in an essay called "Tea and Fantasy."

The piece is included in a book, Here On the Chester, published last week by the colleges Literary House Press.

Goodheart doesnt conclude that the tea party a reputed copycat crime of the Boston version months earlier never happened. He just finds the lack of contemporary records a little fishy.

Local guardians of the legend are taking Goodhearts essay in stride. Not that theyre going to quit celebrating the towns greatest claim to Colonial fame. In fact, theyve invited the American studies professor to help them raise funds.

Imagine a wanted poster offering a reward for the capture and consequent public dunking of the villainous Adam Goodheart, who dared to question the validity of our towns beloved (ahem, oral) history, GibsonM-5 Anthony, president of the nonprofit group that puts on the festival, wrote to Goodheart. We could march you down High Street (looking like a Tory) and make you walk the plank.

I thought about tar-and-feathering, Anthony added, but that seemed a bit extreme, unless we used dark chocolate, and Im not sure if thats legal.

Call in the troopers

Councilman Keiffer Mitchell is calling for state troopers to help Baltimore police fight crime in the city.

He is hardly the first to make that suggestion. State and city leaders have taken turns offering and calling for such assistance in recent years most notably when Baltimore Police Commissioner Ed Norris left the force to become Maryland State Police superintendent in December 2002.

But troopers have never made it to Baltimore.

Mitchell revived the idea yesterday while appearing on WBAL radios Chip Franklin Show. Franklin was criticizing the council for passing a resolution against the Iraq war at a time when the city has been ranked as one of the most dangerous in the nation.

Did the council, Franklin asked, take any action on crime? Mitchell said no, but added that he planned to introduce a resolution next month calling for state police to help the city force.

Off the air, Mitchell told me he was aware that such talk had gone nowhere before. But he wasnt daunted by that even though, with Mayor Martin OMalley running for governor, the political climate is worse than ever for city-state cooperation.

(For the record, OMalleys office said hed welcome the help. Gov. Robert Ehrlichs office did not return a call yesterday seeking comment.)

"I don't think the citizens care who takes the credit or if its a Republican or Democratic issue, Mitchell said. Its a human issue. Its a safety issue. They want help."

A real Hollywood hero

Music High, the tentatively titled movie that wrapped up filming in Baltimore on Sunday, isnt an action flick.

But try telling that to location manager Shawn Boyachek, who saw an elderly woman fall into the harbor while he was dismantling the film location near City Pier yesterday morning.

"He and a construction guy went in and got her," said Katherine Orloff, publicist for the movie. "The EMTs took her to the hospital. Its nice to have a hero among us even after the movie wraps."

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