( – May 10, 1818) was an American
and a patriot
in the American Revolution
glorified after his death for his role as a messenger in the
Lexington and Concord, and Revere's name and his "midnight ride" are
well-known in the United
States as a patriotic symbol. In his lifetime,
Revere was a prosperous and prominent Boston craftsman, who helped organize an intelligence and
alarm system to keep watch on the British military.
Revere later served as an officer in the Penobscot Expedition
, one of the most
disastrous campaigns of the American Revolutionary War
role for which he was later exonerated. After the war, he was early
to recognize the potential for large-scale manufacturing
likely born in very late December, 1734, in Boston's North End, the son of a French Huguenot father and a Boston mother.
Paul Revere worked at times as a
dentist—his tools shown here—before his later fame.
had numerous siblings with whom he appears to have been not
particularly close. Revere's father, born Apollos Rivoire, came to
Boston at the age of 13 and was apprenticed to a silversmith. By
the time he married Deborah Hichborn, a member of a long-standing
Boston family that owned a small shipping wharf, Rivoire had
anglicized his name to Paul Revere. Apollos (now Paul) passed his
silver trade to his son Paul. Upon Apollos' death in 1754, Paul was
too young by law to officially be the master of the family silver
shop; Deborah probably assumed control of the business, while Paul
and one of his younger brothers did the silver work. Revere fought briefly
in the Seven Years War (French and Indian War), serving as a
second lieutenant in an artillery regiment that attempted to take
the French fort at Crown Point, in present day New York.
Upon leaving the
army, Revere returned to Boston and assumed control of the silver
shop in his own name. He was a silversmith, and also a prominent
Revere's silver work quickly gained attention in Boston; at the
same time, he was befriending numerous political agitators,
including most closely Dr. Joseph
. During the 1760s, Revere produced a number of political
engravings and advertised as a dentist, and became increasingly
involved in the actions of the Sons of
. In 1770, he purchased, with his wife Sarah Orne, the house in North
Square which is now open to the public.
One of his most
famous engravings was done in the wake of the Boston Massacre
in March of 1770. It is not
known whether Revere was present during the Massacre, though his
detailed map of the bodies, meant to be used in the trial of the
responsible, suggests that he had first-hand knowledge. Sarah died
in 1773, leaving behind six children, and Revere married Rachel
Walker, with whom he would have five more surviving children.
Party in 1773, at which Revere was also possibly present,
Revere began work as a messenger for the Boston Committee of Public
Safety, often riding messages to New York and Philadelphia
about the political unrest in the city.
"The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street Boston on March
" by Paul Walker (1735–1818), engraving by Paul
Revere, hand-colored, 1770.
In 1774, Britain
closed the port of Boston and began to quarter soldiers in great
numbers all around Boston. At this time, Revere's silver business
was much less lucrative, and was largely in the hands of his son,
Paul Revere, Jr. As 1775 began, revolution was in the air and
Revere was more involved with the Sons of Liberty than ever.
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
for which he is most remembered today was as a night-time messenger
on horseback just before the battles of
Lexington and Concord. His famous "Midnight Ride" occurred on the
night of April 18/April 19, 1775, when he and William Dawes were instructed by Dr. Joseph Warren to ride from Boston to Lexington to warn John Hancock
and Samuel Adams of the movements of
the British Army, which
was beginning a march from Boston to Lexington, ostensibly to
arrest Hancock and Adams and seize the weapons stores in Concord.
The British army (the King's "regulars
") had been stationed in Boston since
the ports were closed in the wake of the Boston Tea Party, and was
under constant surveillance by Revere and other patriots as word
began to spread that they were planning a move. On the night of
April 18, 1775, the army began its move across the Charles River
toward Lexington, and the
Sons of Liberty
into action. At about 11 pm, Revere was sent by Dr. Warren
across the Charles River to Charlestown, on the opposite shore, where he could begin a ride
to Lexington, while Dawes was sent the long way around, via the
Boston Neck and the land route to
days before April 18, Revere had instructed Robert Newman, the
sexton of the Old North
Church, to send a signal by lantern to alert colonists in
Charlestown as to the movements of the troops when the information
One lantern in the steeple would signal the
army's choice of the land route, while two lanterns would signal
the route "by water" across the Charles River. This was done to get
the message through to Charlestown in the event that both Revere
and Dawes were captured. Newman and Captain John Pulling momentarily
held two lanterns in the Old North Church as Revere himself set out on his ride, to indicate
that the British soldiers were in fact crossing the Charles River
Revere rode a horse lent to him by John Larkin
, Deacon of the Old
through present-day Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Revere warned patriots along his route - many of
whom set out on horseback to deliver warnings of their own.
end of the night there were probably as many as 40 riders
throughout Middlesex County carrying the news of the army's advancement.
Paul Revere's ride.
Revere did not shout the famous phrase later attributed to him
("The British are coming!"), largely because the mission depended
on secrecy and the countryside was filled with British army
patrols; also, most colonial residents at the time considered
themselves British as they were all legally British subjects
. Revere's warning,
according to eyewitness accounts of the ride and Revere's own
descriptions, was "The Regulars
coming out." Revere arrived in Lexington around midnight, with
Dawes arriving about a half hour later. Samuel Adams and John
Hancock were spending the night at the Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, and they spent a great deal of time
discussing plans of action upon receiving the news.
and Dawes, meanwhile, decided to ride on toward Concord, where the militia's arsenal was hidden.
They were joined by Samuel Prescott
a doctor who happened to be in Lexington "returning from a lady
friend's house at the awkward hour of 1 a.m."
Dawes, and Prescott were detained by British troops in Lincoln at a roadblock on the way to Concord.
Prescott jumped his horse over a wall and escaped into the woods;
Dawes also escaped, though soon after he fell off his horse and did
not complete the ride. Revere was detained and questioned and then
escorted at gunpoint by three British officers back toward
Lexington. As morning broke and they neared Lexington
Meeting-house, shots were heard. The British officers became
alarmed, confiscated Revere's horse, and rode toward the
Meeting-house. Revere was horseless and walked through a cemetery
and pastures until he came to Rev. Clarke's house where Hancock and
Adams were staying. As the battle on Lexington Green continued,
Revere helped John Hancock and his family escape from Lexington
with their possessions, including a trunk of Hancock's papers.
The warning delivered by the three riders successfully allowed the
militia to repel the British troops in Concord, who were harried by
guerrilla fire along the road back to Boston. Prescott knew the
countryside well even in the dark, and arrived at Concord in time
to warn the people there. An interactive map showing the routes
taken by Revere, Dawes, and Prescott is available at the Paul
Revere's role was not particularly noted during his life. In 1861,
over 40 years after his death, the ride became the subject of
"Paul Revere's Ride
poem by Henry Wadsworth
. The poem has become one of the best known in
American history and was memorized by generations of
schoolchildren. Its famous opening lines are:
- Listen, my children, and you shall hear
- Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
- On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
- Hardly a man is now alive
- Who remembers that famous day and year
Today, parts of the ride are posted with signs marked "Revere's
Ride." The full ride used Main Street in Charlestown, Broadway and Main Street in Somerville, Main Street and High Street in Medford, to Arlington center, and Massachusetts Avenue the rest
of the way (an old alignment through Arlington Heights is called
"Paul Revere Road").
Myths and legends of the Midnight Ride
Paul Revere's house in Boston.
In his poem, Longfellow took many liberties with the events of the
evening, most especially giving sole credit to Revere for the
collective achievements of the three riders (as well as the other
riders whose names do not survive to history). Longfellow also
depicts the lantern signal in the Old North Church as meant
Revere and not from
him, as was actually the
case. Other inaccuracies include claiming that Revere rode
triumphantly into Concord instead of Lexington, and a general
lengthening of the time frame of the night's events. For a long
time, though, historians of the American Revolution as well as
textbook writers relied almost entirely on Longfellow's poem as
historical evidence, creating substantial misconceptions in the
minds of the American people. In re-examining the episode, some
historians in the 20th century have attempted to demythologize Paul
Revere almost to the point of marginalization. While it is true
that Revere was not the only rider that night, that does not refute
the fact that Revere was riding and successfully completed the
first phase of his mission to warn Adams and Hancock. Other
historians have since stressed his importance, including David Hackett Fischer
in his 1995 book
Paul Revere's Ride
, an important scholarly study of
Revere's role in the opening of the Revolution.
Popular myths and urban legends
persisted, though, concerning Revere's ride, mainly due to the
tendency in the past to take Longfellow's poem as truth. Other
riders such as Israel Bissell
are often suggested
as having completed much more impressive rides than Revere's;
however, the circumstances behind the others' rides were entirely
different (Bissell was a news-carrier riding from Boston to
Philadelphia with news of the battle at Lexington; Revere had made
similar rides with the news in the years preceding the war. The
only evidence for Ludington's ride is an oral tradition.)
Longfellow's poem was never designed to be history and there are
few serious historians today who would maintain that Revere was
anything like the lone-wolf rider portrayed in the poem.
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
. 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
and the Massachusetts Committee of
, riding express to the Continental Congress
spread the word of the Boston Tea Party to New York and Philadelphia, and rode to Portsmouth,
New Hampshire to warn of an imminent landing of British
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.
beginning of the war, when Boston was occupied by the British army
and most supporters of independence were evacuated, Revere and his
family lived across the river in Watertown. In 1775, Revere was sent by the
Massachusetts Provincial Congress to Philadelphia to study the working of the only powder mill in the colonies.
arrival in Philadelphia he met with Robert Morris
and John Dickinson
who provided him with the
following letter to present to Oswald
Philada. Novr. 21st 1775
I am requested by some Honorable Members of the Congress to
recommend the bearer hereof Mr. Paul Revere to you. He is just
arrived from New England where it is discovered they can
manufacture a good deal of Salt Petre in Consequence of which they
desire to Erect a Powder Mill & Mr. Revere has been pitched
upon to gain instruction & Knowledge in this branch. A Powder
Mill in New England cannot in the least degree affect your
Manufacture nor be of any disadvantage to you. Therefore these
Gentn & myself hope You will Chearfully & from Public
Spirited Motives give Mr. Revere such information as will inable
him to Conduct the bussiness on his return home. I shall be glad of
any opportunity to approve myself.
Sir Your very Obed Servt. Robt Morris
P.S. Mr. Revere will desire to see the Construction of your Mill
& I hope you will gratify him in that point.
Sir, I heartily join with Mr. Morris in his Request; and am with
great Respect, Your very hble Servt. John Dickinson
complied with the letter completely and allowed Revere to pass
through the building to obtain sufficient information, which
enabled him to set up a powder mill at Canton.
Upon returning to Boston in 1776, Revere was commissioned a
Major of infantry in
the Massachusetts militia in April of that year. In November he was
promoted to the rank of Lieutenant
Colonel of artillery, and was
stationed at Castle William, defending Boston harbor, finally
receiving command of this fort. He served in an expedition to Rhode Island in 1778, and in the following year participated in
the disastrous Penobscot
Expedition. Revere and his troops saw little action at
this post, but they did participate in minor expeditions to
Rhode Island and Worcester. Revere's rather undistinguished military
career ended with the failed Penobscot expedition. After his return
he was accused of having disobeyed the orders of one of his
commanding officers, and dismissed from the militia. Revere
returned to his businesses at that time, but was later cleared of
the charges by a court martial.
friend and compatriot Dr. Joseph
Warren was killed during the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. As soldiers killed in
battle were often buried in mass graves without ceremony, Warren's
grave was unmarked. On March 17, 1776, after the British army left
Boston, Warren's brothers and a few friends went to the battlefield
and found a grave containing two bodies. After being buried for ten
months, Warren's face was unrecognizable, but Revere was able to
identify Warren's body, because he had placed a false tooth in
Warren's mouth and recognized the wire he used for fastening it.
Warren was given a proper funeral and reburied in a marked
After the war, finding the silver trade difficult in the
ensuing depression, Revere opened a hardware and home goods store
and later became interested in metal work beyond gold and silver.
By 1788 he had opened an iron and brass foundry in Boston's North
End. As a foundryman he recognized a burgeoning market for church
bells in the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening that followed
the war. He became one of the best-known metal casters of that
instrument, working with sons Paul Jr. and Joseph Warren in the
firm Paul Revere & Sons. This firm cast the first bell made in
Boston and ultimately produced more than 900 bells. A substantial
part of the foundry's business came from supplying shipyards with
iron bolts and fittings for ship construction. In 1801 Revere became
a pioneer in the production of copper
plating, opening North America's first copper mill south of
Boston in Canton, near the Canton Viaduct. Copper from the Revere Copper Company was used to
cover the original wooden dome of the Massachusetts State House in 1802.
His business plans in the late 1780s were stymied by a shortage of
adequate money in circulation. His plans rested on his
entrepreneurial role as a manufacturer of cast iron, brass, and
copper products. Alexander
Hamilton's national policies regarding banks and
industrialization exactly matched his dreams, and he became an
committed to building a robust economy and a powerful nation. His
copper and brass works eventually grew, through sale and corporate
merger, into a large national corporation, Revere Copper and Brass,
Revere died on May 10, 1818, at the age of 83, at his home on
Charter Street in Boston. He is buried in the Old Granary
Burying Ground on Tremont Street.
Paul Revere appears on the $5,000 Series
EE Savings Bond issued by the United States Government.
copper works he founded in 1801 continues as the Revere Copper
Company, with manufacturing divisions in Rome, New York and New Bedford, Massachusetts.
original silverware, engravings, and other works are highly
regarded today and can be found on display at prominent museums
such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Places and institutions named for Paul Revere
Paul Revere Village,
- Revere, Massachusetts, named 1871
- Paul Revere Village in Karlsruhe, Germany, former US Army residence,
- Paul Revere Village, a townhouse condominium
Massachusetts, founded 1984
- Paul Revere Middle School, Los Angeles,
California, opened 1955
- David Hackett Fischer;
Paul Revere's Ride. Oxford University Press, 1994.
- Esther Forbes, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In.
Houghton Mifflin, 1942.
- Paul Revere, Artisan, Businessman and Patriot—The Man
Behind the Myth. Paul Revere Memorial Association, 1988.
- Paul Revere's Three Accounts of His Famous Ride,
introduction by Edmund Morgan. Massachusetts Historical Society,
- Edith J. Steblecki, Paul Revere and Freemasonry. PRMA,
- Jayne E. Triber, A True Republican: The Life of Paul
Revere. U of Massachusetts Press, 1998.
- Gettemy, Charles, "The
True Story of Paul Revere" Accessed 2009-09-30