Paul Revere Monument
The statue of Paul Revere is one of the most photographed sculptures in Boston. The sculptor portrayed Revere during the famous Midnight Ride.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem Paul Revere's Ride, written in 1860 and published in 1861 in the Atlantic Monthly, transformed Paul Revere from a relatively obscure, although locally known, figure in American history into a national folk hero. As a result, most people know him only for his famous ride to Lexington on the night of April 18-19, 1775. Revere's life, however, was a long and productive one, involving industry, politics, and community service.
Paul Revere's Early Life
Born in Boston's North End in December, 1734, Paul Revere was the son of Apollos Rivoire, a French Huguenot (Protestant) immigrant, and Deborah Hichborn, daughter of a local artisan family. Rivoire, who changed his name to Paul Revere some time after immigrating, was a goldsmith and eventually the head of a large household. Paul Revere was the second of at least 9, possibly as many as 12 children and the eldest surviving son.
Paul was educated at the North Writing School and learned the art of gold and silversmithing from his father. When Paul was nineteen (and nearly finished with his apprenticeship) his father died, leaving Paul as the family's main source of income. Two years later, in 1756, Revere volunteered to fight the French at Lake George, New York, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the colonial artillery.
In August, 1757, Revere married Sarah Orne. Together, they had eight children. Soon after Sarah's death in 1773, Revere married Rachel Walker with whom he had eight children.
Revere Silversmith / Craftsman
Revere's primary vocation, a trade he learned from his father, was that of goldsmith/silversmith, meaning he worked in both gold and silver. His silvershop was the cornerstone of his professional life for more than 40 years. As the master of his silversmith shop, Revere was responsible for both the workmanship and the quality of the metal alloy used. He employed numerous apprentices and journeymen to produce pieces ranging from simple spoons to magnificent full tea sets. His work, highly praised during his lifetime, is regarded as one of the outstanding achievements in American decorative arts.
Revere also supplemented his income with other work. During the economic depression before the Revolution, Revere began his work as a copper plate engraver. He produced illustrations for books and magazines, business cards, political cartoons, bookplates, a song book and bills of fare for taverns. He also advertised as a dentist from 1768 to 1775. He not only cleaned teeth, but also wired in false teeth carved from walrus ivory or animal teeth. Contrary to popular myth, he did not make George Washington's false teeth. Fabricating a full set of dentures was beyond his ability.
Political Activities / Revolutionary War
Revere's political involvement arose through his connections with members of local organizations and his business patrons. As a member of the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew, he was friendly with activists like James Otis and Dr. Joseph Warren. In the year before the Revolution, Revere gathered intelligence information by "watching the Movements of British Soldiers," as he wrote in an account of his ride. He was a courier for the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, riding express to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He also spread the word of the Boston Tea Party to New York and Philadelphia.
At 10 pm on the night of April 18, 1775, Revere received instructions from Dr. Joseph Warren to ride to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the British approach. The war erupted and Revere went on to serve as lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts State Train of Artillery and commander of Castle Island in Boston Harbor. Revere and his troops saw little action at this post, but they did participate in minor expeditions to Newport, Rhode Island and Worcester, Mass. Revere's rather undistinguished military career ended with the failed Penobscot expedition.
The Midnight Ride
Click here for a complete description, including map and images.
Paul Revere Industrialist - Post War Businesses
Revere expanded his business interests in the years following the Revolution. He imported goods from England and ran a small hardware store until 1789. By 1788 he had opened a foundry which supplied bolts, spikes and nails for North End shipyards (including brass fittings for the U.S.S. Constitution), produced cannons and, after 1792, cast bells. One of his largest bells still rings in Boston's Kings Chapel.
Concerned that the United States had to import sheet copper from England, Revere opened the first copper rolling mill in North America in 1801. He provided copper sheeting for the hull of the U.S.S. Constitution and the dome of the new Massachusetts State House in 1803. Revere Copper and Brass, Inc., the descendent of Revere's rolling mill is best known for "Revereware" copper-bottomed pots and pans. Revereware is now, however, manufactured by another company.
Revere's community and social involvements were extensive. He was a Freemason from 1760 to 1809 and held several offices in St. Andrew's and Rising States Lodges as well as the Massachusetts Grand Lodge. A member of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association, Revere also served as the association's first president. Founded in 1794, the group was an organization of artisans, and small businessmen who sought to improve the conditions under which their peers worked and aided members in "distressed" circumstances.
In 1811, at the age of 76, Paul Revere retired and left his well-established copper business in the hand of his sons and grandsons. Revere seems to have remained healthy in his final years, despite the personal sorrow caused by the deaths of his wife Rachel and son Paul in 1813. Revere died of natural causes on May 10, 1818 at the age of 83, leaving five children, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The son of an immigrant artisan, not born to wealth or inheritance, Revere died a modestly well-to-do businessman and a popular local figure of some note. An obituary in the Boston Intelligence commented, "seldom has the tomb closed upon a life so honorable and useful." Paul Revere is buried in Boston's Granary Burying Ground.