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Paul Revere
J S Copley - Paul Revere (cropped).jpg
John Singleton Copley, Portrait of Paul Revere. c. 1768–1770
Born (1735-01-01)January 1, 1735
(O.S.: December 21, 1734)
Died May 10, 1818(1818-05-10) (aged 83)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Silversmith, colonial militia officer
Spouse(s) Sarah Orne (1757–1773; her death)
Rachel Walker (1773–1813; her death)
Children 8 with Sarah Orne
8 with Rachel Walker
Paul Revere signature.svg

Paul Revere (January 1, 1735 - May 10, 1818) was an early United States Patriot and a leader of the American Revolution. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts and worked there as a silversmith. He was married twice and became the father of 16 children.

Revere was a member of a group called The Sons of Liberty. This group wanted better treatment for the American colonies from the British government. Revere made a silver engraving of the Boston Massacre. This engraving made Americans even more angry with the British.

Revere was a courier and soldier in the American Revolution. After the Revolutionary War, he operated a metal foundry in Boston. He died in Boston, and was buried in the Granary Burying Ground. He is most famous for alerting the colonial militia that British soldiers were coming before the Battles of Lexington and Concord. In 1860, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about this called "Paul Revere's Ride."

Midnight Ride

Paul Revere's ride
20th-century depiction of Revere's ride

Revere is most famous for his "Midnight Ride". It happened on the night of April 18–19, 1775. British officials had learned that American Patriots (the leaders of the American Revolution) were storing guns in Concord, Massachusetts. They wanted to destroy the guns. The Patriots thought the British also wanted to capture Patriot leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams. The two leaders were staying in Lexington, Massachusetts. Revere and a man named William Dawes rode on horseback from Boston to Lexington, Massachusetts to warn Adams and Hancock that the British were coming. Revere warned other Patriots along the way.

When Paul Revere arrived in Lexington, he shouted loudly to wake up and warn the people. Revere was soon joined by Dawes, who also told the people that the British soldiers were coming. In Concord, Samuel Prescott joined Revere and Dawes. All three were stopped by British soldiers in a field in the city of Lincoln, Massachusetts. Prescott and Dawes escaped quickly. However, the British soldiers held Revere for about an hour before letting him go. Because his horse was gone, Revere ran back to Lexington, where the fighting had already begun. Almost a hundred years later, Paul Revere's Ride (poem) revived his fame.

War years

Militia service

Entree de l escadre francaise en baie de Newport 1778 Ozanne
Drawing depicting the arrival of the French fleet in Narragansett Bay in 1778

Upon returning to Boston in 1776, Revere was commissioned a major of infantry in the Massachusetts militia in that April, and transferred to the artillery a month later. In November he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and was stationed at Castle William, defending Boston harbor. He was generally second or third in the chain of command, and on several occasions he was given command of the fort. He applied his engineering skills to maintaining the fort's armaments, even designing and building a caliper to accurately measure cannonballs and cannon bore holes. The service at Castle William was relatively isolated, and personality friction prompted some men to file complaints against Revere. The boredom was alleviated in late August 1777 when Revere was sent with a troop of soldiers to escort prisoners taken in the Battle of Bennington to Boston, where they were confined on board prison ships, and again in September when he was briefly deployed to Rhode Island.

In August 1778 Revere's regiment served in a combined Franco-American expedition whose objective was to capture the British base at Newport, Rhode Island. His regiment was responsible for erecting and maintaining artillery batteries on Aquidneck Island. The attempt was abandoned by the French when their fleet was scattered in a storm, and Revere's regiment returned to Boston before the British sortied from Newport to force the Battle of Rhode Island.

Penobscot disaster

The British in June 1779 established a new base on Penobscot Bay in present-day Maine (which was then part of Massachusetts). Massachusetts authorities called out the militia, pressed into service available shipping, and organized a major expedition to dislodge the British. The expedition was a complete fiasco: its land and naval commanders squabbled over control of the expedition, and could not agree on strategy or tactics. The arrival of British reinforcements led to the destruction of the entire Massachusetts fleet. Revere commanded the artillery units for the expedition, and was responsible for organizing the artillery train. He participated in the taking of Bank's Island, from which artillery batteries could reach the British ships anchored before Fort George. He next oversaw the transport of the guns from Bank's Island to a new position on the heights of the Bagaduce Peninsula that commanded the fort. Although Revere was in favor of storming the fort, Brigadier General Solomon Lovell opted for a siege instead. After further disagreements on how to proceed between Lovell and fleet commander Dudley Saltonstall, Lovell decided to return to the transports on August 12, a decision supported by Revere.

Late the next day British sails were spotted. A mad scramble ensued, and on the 14th the fleet was in retreat heading up the Penobscot River. Revere and his men were put ashore with their stores, and their transports destroyed. At one point Brigadier General Peleg Wadsworth ordered Revere to send his barge in an attempt to recover a ship drifting toward the enemy position. Revere at first resisted, but eventually complied, and Wadsworth told him to expect formal charges over the affair. The incident separated Revere from his men. Moving overland, he eventually managed to regroup most of his troops, and returned to Boston on August 26. A variety of charges were made against Revere, some of which were exaggerated assignments of blame made by enemies he had made in his command at Castle William. The initial hearings on the matter in September 1779 were inconclusive, but he was asked to resign his post. He repeatedly sought a full court-martial to clear his name, but it was not until February 1782 that a court martial heard the issue, exonerating him.

Business and social connections

Tea Urn MET DP208084
Tea urn for Hannah Rowe, 1791, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During the Revolutionary War, Revere continued his efforts to move upwards in society into the gentry. After his failed efforts to become a military officer he attempted to become a merchant, but was hindered by a number of factors: while he was a fairly well-off member of the artisan class, he did not have the resources to afford the goods he would have sold as a merchant, nor were lenders in England willing to lend him the required startup capital. Other American merchants of the time were able to continue their business with colleagues in England. However, Revere's inexperience as a merchant meant that he had not yet established such relationships and was not able to communicate as effectively on unfamiliar matters. Another factor preventing Revere's success as a merchant was the economic climate of the time period after the war known as the Confederation Period; while the colonies had seen a time of economic growth before the war, the colonies experienced a severe post-war depression, constraining the overall success of his business.

Revere Coat-of-Arms engraved by Paul Revere
Revere Coat-of-Arms engraved by Paul Revere

While Revere struggled as a merchant, his success as a silversmith enabled him to pursue and leverage more advanced technological developments for the purposes of mass production. For example, rolling mills greatly improved the productivity of his silver shop and enabled his business to move further away from manufacturing high-end customized products in order to focus instead on the production of a more standardized set of goods. In the 18th century, the standard of living continuously improved in America, as genteel goods became increasingly available to the masses. Revere responded particularly well to this trend because his business was not solely manufacturing custom, high end purchases. Smaller products like teaspoons and buckles accounted for the majority of his work, allowing him to build a broad customer base.

Revere's increased efficiency left financial and human resources available for the exploration of other products, which was essential to overcoming the fluctuating post-war economic climate. In addition to increasing production, the flatting mill enabled Revere to move towards a more managerial position.

Later years: entrepreneurship, manufacturing, and politics

1813 portrait of Revere by Gilbert Stuart

After the war, Revere became interested in metal work beyond gold and silver. By 1788 he had invested some of the profits from his growing silverworking trade to construct a large furnace, which would allow him to work with larger quantities of metals at higher temperatures. He soon opened an iron foundry in Boston's North End that produced utilitarian cast iron items such as stove backs, fireplace tools, and sash-window weights, marketed to a broad segment of Boston's population. Many of Revere's business practices changed when he expanded his practice into ironworking, because he transitioned from just being an artisan to also being an entrepreneur and a manager. In order to make this transition successfully, Revere had to invest substantial quantities of capital and time in his foundry.

Technological practices

The quasi-industrialization of his practice set Revere apart from his competition. "Revere's rapid foundry success resulted from fortuitous timing, innate technical aptitude, thorough research, and the casting experience he gained from silverworking." This technical proficiency allowed Revere to optimize his work and adapt to a new technological and entrepreneurial model. Revere's location also benefited his endeavors. Revere was entering the field of iron casting in a time when New England cities were becoming centers of industry. The nature of technological advancement was such that many skilled entrepreneurs in a number of fields worked together, in what is known by Nathan Rosenberg as technological convergence, by which a number of companies work together on challenges in order to spur advances. By accessing the knowledge of other nearby metal workers, Revere was able to successfully explore and master new technologies throughout his career.

Labor practices

One of the biggest changes for Revere in his new business was organization of labor. In his earlier days, Revere primarily utilized the apprenticeship model standard for artisan shops at this time, but as his business expanded he hired employees (wage laborers) to work for his foundry. Many manufacturers of the era found this transition from master to employer difficult because many employees at the onset of the Industrial Revolution identified themselves as skilled workers, and thus wanted to be treated with the respect and autonomy accorded to artisans. An artisan himself, Revere managed to avoid many of these labor conflicts by adopting a system of employment that still held trappings of the craft system in the form of worker freedoms such as work hour flexibility, wages in line with skill levels, and liquor on the job.

Manufacturing: church bells, cannon, and copper products

After mastering the iron casting process and realizing substantial profits from this new product line, Revere identified a burgeoning market for church bells in the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening that followed the war. Beginning in 1792 he became one of America's best-known bell casters, working with sons Paul Jr. and Joseph Warren Revere in the firm Paul Revere & Sons. This firm cast the first bell made in Boston and ultimately produced hundreds of bells, a number of which remain in operation.

In 1794, Revere decided to take the next step in the evolution of his business, expanding his bronze casting work by learning to cast cannon for the federal government, state governments, and private clients. Although the government often had trouble paying him on time, its large orders inspired him to deepen his contracting and seek additional product lines of interest to the military.

By 1795, a growing percentage of his foundry's business came from a new product, copper bolts, spikes, and other fittings that he sold to merchants and the Boston naval yard for ship construction. In 1801, Revere became a pioneer in the production of rolled copper, opening North America's first copper mill south of Boston in Canton. Copper from the Revere Copper Company was used to cover the original wooden dome of the Massachusetts State House in 1802. His copper and brass works eventually grew, through sale and corporate merger, into a large corporation, Revere Copper and Brass, Inc.

Steps towards standardized production

During his earlier days as an artisan, especially when working with silver products, Revere produced "bespoke" or customized goods. As he shifted to ironworking, he found the need to produce more standardized products, because this made production cheaper. To achieve the beginnings of standardization, Revere used identical molds for casting, especially in the fabrication of mass-produced items such as stoves, ovens, frames, and chimney backs. However, Revere did not totally embrace uniform production. For example, his bells and cannons were all unique products: these large objects required extensive fine-tuning and customization, and the small number of bells and cannon minimized the potential benefits of standardizing them. In addition, even the products that he made in large quantities could not be truly standardized due to technological and skill limitations. His products were rarely (if ever) identical, but his processes were well systematized. "He came to realize that the foundry oven melded the characteristics of tools and machines: it required skilled labor and could be used in a flexible manner to produce different products, but an expert could produce consistent output by following a standard set of production practices."


Registration of Lodge Membership for Paul Revere, Joseph Warren and William Palfrey
Extract from membership register for Revere, Warren and Palfrey.

Revere was a Scottish Freemason. He was a member of Lodge St Andrews, No.81, (Boston, Massachusetts). The Lodge continues to meet in Boston with the number 4 under and the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. The date he joined the Lodge is not known but was sometime after the inauguration of the Lodge on St Andrew's Day, November 30, 1756, and May 15, 1769, when he is recorded in the Grand Lodge of Scotland membership register as the Lodge Secretary. Joseph Warren and William Palfrey are also recorded, on the same page, as members of the Lodge and being Master and Senior Warden respectively. (see image)

He subsequently became the Grand Master of the Freemasons of Massachusetts when a box containing an assemblage of commemorative items was deposited under the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House on July 4, 1795, by Governor Samuel Adams, assisted by Grand Master Revere and Deputy Grand Master, Colonel William Scollay.

Politics and final years

Paul Revere Memorial, Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts
Paul Revere's grave site in the Granary Burying Ground

Revere remained politically active throughout his life. His business plans in the late 1780s were often stymied by a shortage of adequate money in circulation. Alexander Hamilton's national policies regarding banks and industrialization exactly matched his dreams, and he became an ardent Federalist committed to building a robust economy and a powerful nation. Of particular interest to Revere was the question of protective tariffs; he and his son sent a petition to Congress in 1808 asking for protection for his sheet copper business. He continued to participate in local discussions of political issues even after his retirement in 1811, and in 1814 circulated a petition offering the government the services of Boston's artisans in protecting Boston during the War of 1812. Revere died on May 10, 1818, at the age of 83, at his home on Charter Street in Boston. He is buried in the Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street.


After Revere's death, the family business was taken over by his oldest surviving son, Joseph Warren Revere. The copper works founded in 1801 continues today as the Revere Copper Company, with manufacturing divisions in Rome, New York and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Revere's original silverware, engravings, and other works are highly regarded today, and can be found on display in museums including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Revere Bell, presented in 1843 to the Church of St. Andrew in Singapore by his daughter, Mrs. Maria Revere Balestier, wife of American consul Joseph Balestier, is now displayed in the National Museum of Singapore. This is the only bell cast by the Revere foundry that is outside the United States. For a time, it was displayed behind velvet ropes in the foyer of the United States Embassy in Singapore.

The communities of Revere, Massachusetts and Revere, Minnesota bear his name, as do Revere Beach in Revere, Massachusetts; Revere Avenue in The Bronx, New York City; Paul Revere Road in Arlington, Massachusetts; and Paul Revere Apartments in Seattle.

A 25-cent 1958 U.S. postage stamp in the Liberty Series honors Paul Revere, featuring the portrait by Gilbert Stuart. He also appears on the $5,000 Series EE U.S. Savings Bond. Ryan Reynolds releases a Mint Moble comcercial that features Avery Revere, a direct descent of Paul Revere.

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