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October 12, 2010

Program Examines the Ritual of Tea in 18th-century Virginia and the Symbolism of Tea in Revolutionary Protest

Ceramics expert Liza Gusler explores the ritual of tea drinking in colonial Virginia in the program, George Washington Sipped Here: Tea and Liberty in 18th-century Virginia, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 21 at Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

George Washington wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but, like other members of Virginia’s gentry, he grew up with a teacup in his hand. By the 1760s Virginians so loved the Chinese brew, imported via England, that Parliament’s tax on tea created a political furor. “No Stamp Act” teapot! Boston Tea Party! The talk examines how Virginians embraced the equipage and etiquette of the tea ceremony soon after it was introduced into English aristocratic society, and how the teapot, usually the emblem of domestic contentment, became the symbol for America’s Revolutionary protest.

Gusler brings a lifelong passion for history and antiques to her position as product manager in Colonial Williamsburg’s licensed home furnishings program. She served on Colonial Williamsburg’s curatorial staff for more than 20 years, training interpreters about the Foundation’s collections of English and American decorative arts and leading museum education programs for the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. She has done extensive research on tea equipage used in 18th-century Virginia and has published and lectured on 18th-century interiors, ceramics, and on tea and dining rituals.

In her current “chinaholic’s dream job” as a Foundation’s product manager, she works with manufacturers to develop table wares and decorative accessories based on Colonial Williamsburg’s collections.

Gusler also served as vice president of the George Washington Foundation in Fredericksburg, Va., where she supervised the restoration of Washington’s sister’s home, Kenmore, and the excavation of Washington’s boyhood home, Ferry Farm.

A native Virginian, Gusler received a master’s degree in history from the College of William and Mary.

A Colonial Williamsburg admissions ticket, museum pass or Good Neighbor Card provides access to this lecture.

The Oct. 21 presentation is part of an 11-month series celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Wallace Museum. Programs are scheduled through December 2010.

All hour-long lectures begin at 7 p.m. Dates and topics of upcoming presentations include:

  • Thursday, Nov. 18. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Using Prints to Re-create the Past. Laura Barry, Colonial Williamsburg associate curator of prints, maps and paintings, explores the role of 18th-century prints and other graphics in revealing the day-to-day lives of early Americans.
  • Thursday, December 16. Decking the Halls: The Evolution of Holiday Decoration at Historic Sites. Amanda Rosner, Colonial Williamsburg assistant curator of historic interiors and household accessories, looks at Christmas decorations in the house museum and reveals what is fact and what is fancy.

    Programs and exhibitions at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are supported by the DeWitt Wallace Endowment Fund.

    The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.

    The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at the intersection of Francis and South Henry Streets in Williamsburg, Va., and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

    The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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