Tea was introduced to the American colonies when the Dutch imported it into New Amsterdam (modern day New York) in the mid-17th century. In the early 18th century, the high cost of tea meant that it was reserved for medicinal purposes and for the ceremony of official greeting. From 1717, after the British East India Company had secured direct access to Canton, Britain began bringing tea to the colonies on a regular basis, while vast amounts were also smuggled. Like in Europe, tea drinking became a marker of social distinction and polite hospitality and became widespread among the colonies.
In an attempt to emulate the aristocracy of their homeland, colonists commissioned beautiful tea wares to be displayed on the tea table. Initially, they relied on silver imports from Europe however by the early 1700s silversmiths began to make teawares in response to this high demand. This teapot was made in ca. 1740 by the Boston silversmith John Potwine, for the wealthy Boston merchant Edward Bromfield (1695-1756). In 1749 it passed to his son Henry Bromfield (1727-1820) and his wife Margaret Fayerweather Bromfield, of whom there is a portrait in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.