Click to enlarge.

Paul Revere (1735-1818).
Oil on canvas by Chester Harding, ca. 1823,
after the original by Gilbert Stuart.


Paul Revere (1735-1818)

A man of legendary stature in American history, Paul Revere nonetheless came from relatively modest origins. His father had trained as a silversmith in his youth and established his own shop in the North End of Boston, where he and his wife raised 12 children. Born in 1735, Paul followed his father's trade, learning silversmithing in the shop while he attended grammar school in the family's neighborhood. He had a brief stint of military service in 1756, after which he returned to the North End to start his own family.

As a businessman, Revere achieved considerable success in his silversmithing trade and also expanded aggressively into other fields of production. By the 1760s, Revere was becoming more prolific than almost every other silversmith in Boston, as he simultaneously built a solid reputation in the community for his craftsmanship. During the same period, he established himself as an engraver of portraits, illustrations, and cartoons—many of the latter political in nature—as well as seals, certificates, trade cards, and similar items. His dramatic rendering of the Boston Massacre of 1770 influenced popular sentiment against the British (read more about the print). Revere also set up a foundry, from which he provisioned the American forces during the Revolutionary War, and early in the 19th century he created a new process for rolling sheet copper.

Revere's position in his community as a respected tradesman and entrepreneur benefitted as well from his active commitment to American independence. He joined and sometimes became a leader in a number of the major political organizations, including the North End Caucus, his local Freemasons lodge, and the Sons of Liberty. He took part in the Boston Tea Party in 1773—one among the "Indians" throwing imported tea from a ship in Boston Harbor—and ended up on the London Enemies List, which posted those Patriots deemed most threatening to British rule. He also became the official courier of the Massachusetts Provincial Assembly to Congress, and in this capacity, he rode from Boston to Lexington on April 18, 1775, to deliver the message that precipitated the famous Battle of Lexington (read transcription for Revere's account). Revere's contributions to the cause continued throughout the war, as a printer and a gunpowder manufacturer, in several military posts, and always as a vocal advocate for independence.


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