Paul Revere

Portrait by John Singleton Copley, 1776


Baptized 1 January 1735 in Boston, Massachusetts
10 May 1818 at his home in Boston
Buried in the Granary Burial Ground, Boston

  • Apollos Rivoire, emigrated from France and settled in Boston in 1715/16. He was a 13-year-old (Calvinistic) Huguenots, who like others left France to escape religious persecution. 20 years later he became the father of Paul Rivere.
  • Revere called himself a goldsmith. While he worked in gold periodically, as an artisan he is chiefly remembered for his work with silver.
  • He was also a dentist for many years.
  • Revere was one of the original Sons of Liberty when it was formed it 1765. He was an organizer, a propagandist (see, for example, his popular and inflammatory engraving of the Boston Massacre), and express rider.
  • Along with other Sons of Liberty, he participated in the Boston Tea Party (1773).
  • The signal of lanterns from the Old North ChurchOne if by land, and two if by sea — was a signal to colonists in Charleston; Revere had not yet left Boston. And he was not the only rider that night: William Dawes also rode to Lexington and Concord, but by a different route.
  • Coincidentally, Revere cast his first bell, and the first American made bell in Boston, for the Old North Church (1792).
  • He and his son, Joseph Warren Revere, together cast nearly 400 bells, including the famous bell for the tower of King’s Chapelthe sweetest bell we ever made according to Revere himself — which continues to ring today.
  • In December 1800, at 65 years old, Revere began contracting for materials for setting up a Mill in Canton, MA, for Rolling Copper into sheets which for me is a great undertaking, and will require every farthing I can rake or scrape. This became the Revere Copper Company (1801). It was the first copper rolling mill in America and its quality equaled that of the best imports.
  • Early commissions included the copper for the dome of the new Massachusetts State House and copper fastenings for the USS Constitution.
  • Revere Copper Company continued intact until the 20th century, then went through a number of mergers. It exists today as Revere Copper Products.

Paul Revere, American engraver and patriot, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1735. He had meager schooling, but in his father’s shop learned the trade of gold and silversmith. He became a proficient copper engraver and engraved several anti-British caricatures in the years before the War of Independence.

In 1756 he was second lieutenant of artillery in the expedition against Crown Point, and for several months was stationed at Fort Edward, in New York. He was one of the Boston grand jurors who refused to serve in 1774 because parliament had made the justices’ salaries independent of the people; was a leader in the Boston Tea Party; was one of the thirty North End mechanics (tradesmen) who patrolled the streets to watch the movements of the British troops and Tories; and in December 1774 was sent to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to urge the seizure of military stores there, and induced the colonists to attack and capture Fort William and Mary — one of the first acts of military force in the war.

His midnight ride from Charleston to Lexington on 18-19 of April 1775, to alert of the approach of British troops from Boston, is Revere’s most famous exploit, and his warning to John Hancock and Samuel Adams prevented them from being arrested by the British.

In 1775 Revere was sent by the Massachusetts provincial congress to Philadelphia to study the working of the only powder mill in the colonies, and although he was allowed only to pass through the building, he obtained sufficient information to enable him to set up a powder mill at Canton. He was commissioned a major of infantry in the Massachusetts militia in April 1776; was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel of artillery in November; was stationed at Castle William, defending Boston harbor, and finally received command of the fort. He served in an expedition to Rhode Island in 1778, and in the following year participated in the unsuccessful Penobscot Expedition, a battle fought on both land and sea, in what is today Maine. After his return he was accused of having disobeyed the orders of the commanding officer, was tried by court-martial, and was acquitted.

After the war he engaged in the manufacture of gold and silverware, and became a pioneer in the production in America of copper plating and copper spikes for ships. In 1795, as grandmaster of the Masonic fraternity, he laid the cornerstone of the new State House in Boston, and in this year also founded the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, becoming its first president.

He died in Boston in 1818.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 ed.

Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense (1775), urging the colonies to declare their independence, found 150,000 purchasers in a population of less than 3 million — the equivalent today of a sale of 14 million.

Richard Brookhiser
Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris, the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution (2003)