Polly Sumner is a historic treasure with an incredible story

Polly Sumner’s incredible ability to inspire young people to learn about Revolutionary and civic history, and the founding ideals at the heart of our nation, is all the more remarkable when you consider that she’s just a doll.

Well, actually, not just any old doll. Polly Sumner “lived” through the Revolutionary period, watched the parade of colonists disguised as Mohawks march to the docks to destroy the tea and experienced the outbreak of war and the thundering cannonades during the siege of Boston. She learned about liberty and patriotism because she was there, and she speaks to kids with special authority. So much so, that she has even inspired fan-mail from young visitors.

For 250 years, Polly has taught these lessons. first as a playmate to five generations of the same family, then as a museum piece to many thousands of young visitors to the Old State House in Boston. Polly became a member of the Sumner/Williams family shortly after she arrived in Boston with the Tea. According to Williams family lore, Polly was purchased by Mrs. Polly (Sumner) Williams shortly after the dumping of the tea, and became the beloved playmate of five generations of Williams children.

She watched the Battle of Bunker Hill from the rooftop of the Auchmuty House in Roxbury, saw George Washington inspecting colonial entrenchments during the Siege of Boston, and waved to Lafayette during his Grand Tour 50 years later. After being exhibited with some celebrity as a historic treasure during the late nineteenth century, she joined the collection of the Old State House in 1919. There, for more than a hundred years, she has inspired children with her unique story.

In 1967, she inspired the young adult novel, Daughter of Liberty, by Edna Boutwell, and now at age 250, she tells her own story in Polly Sumner: Witness to the Boston Tea Party.

Three-year-old Annie Williams Langley holding Polly Sumner (ca. 1882). Annie was the fourth generation to play with Polly.

About Polly Sumner: Witness to the Boston Tea Party