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Paul Revere: What You Didn’t Know About This American Hero

Historical Facts | September 21, 2018

American silversmith, engraver, and Revolutionary patriot, Paul Revere (1735-1818), on his famous ride spreading the alarm that the Royal troops were advancing by boat. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Most of what we know, or think we know, about the Revolutionary War hero, Paul Revere, probably comes from either vague memories of Second Grade history lessons or from the famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Paul Revere’s Ride”. Yes, it is true that he rode his horse through Boston and into some surrounding small towns late one night to warn the residents that the British were on their way. And, yes, he was an accomplished silversmith, famed for his ‘Revere Ware”. But there was much more to Paul Revere than that. Here’s what you didn’t know about the American Patriot. 

Paul Revere was Named After His Father…But His Father Wasn’t Born as Paul Revere

It is true. Paul Revere was named after his father. But it is a bit more complicated than that. His father, who was born in France in 1702, was given the name Apollos Rivoire at birth. He actually fled to the New World to avoid religious persecution, settled in Boston and married a girl from a prominent, old Boston family. She encouraged him to Anglicize his first name from Apollos to Paul. He, himself, decided to adopt an English spelling of his last name because, he once wrote, “the Bumpkins could pronounce it easier.” When he and his wife had a son, he was named Paul Revere. 

Paul Revere Was A Freemason

Like many of our Founding Fathers, Paul Revere was a Freemason. In fact, he was the Grand Master of the Freemasons of Massachusetts. During the construction of the Massachusetts State House, Revere, along with his Deputy Grand Master, Colonel William Scollay, and then-Governor, Samuel Adams, met on July 4, 1795, to place a commemorative box in the cornerstone of the building. 

Revere Was A Silversmith, But He Made Some Unique Items

Paul Revere apprenticed under his father and learned the trade of silversmithing. Although he mostly made typical silver items, like cups, plates, and platters, he liked to dabble in artistic endeavors. He fashioned a snuff box to look like an ostrich egg, and he created several ornate sword hilts. He even made a silver chain for his pet squirrel. He eventually established a prosperous business as a silversmith. Many of the items he made are still around today and can be identified by is scrolled initials on the bottom. 

Dudley Saltonstall

Paul Revere Was Very Nearly Court-martialed

On July 19, 1779, during the Revolutionary War, Paul Revere, then holding the rank of lieutenant colonel, led a 100-man artillery detachment to accompany a flotilla of warships to the upper Penobscot Bay to reclaim an area that had been seized by the British a month earlier. The battle, which took place over a three week period, was held on land and on sea, but there was a big problem. The land and sea efforts were not well-coordinated, with fleet commander, Dudley Saltonstall, and Brigadier General, Solomon Lovell, in constant disagreement and Revere stuck in the middle, forced to choose sides. The Penobscot Expedition was a disastrous failure and resulted in the United States’ worst naval defeat until the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Saltonstall was court-martialed on September 7, 1779, and accepted full responsibility for the defeat. Paul Revere was accused of “disobedience and cowardice” and dismissed from military service. His name was later cleared. 

Paul Revere Dabbled in Dentistry

Paul Revere expressed an interest in dentistry and studied under a local dentist, John Baker. From him, Revere learned how to make false teeth out of ivory and to attach them using a wire. Without formal training or a dental education, Revere posted an ad in the local newspaper in 1768 stating that he could “fix teeth as well as any surgeon dentist who ever came from London.” His dental experience came in handy when…

Paul Revere Did the First Forensics-Style Identification

After the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, the dead…including Dr. Joseph Warren…were buried in a mass grave. After ten months had passed, the bodies were exhumed and an attempt was made to identify the dead. Paul Revere once did dental work for Warren and was able to identify his remains based on the dental work and false tooth he had created for Warren. By doing so, Paul Revere became the first person to use dental record as a means to identify a body, and thus, the first forensic scientist. 

Revere Used His Silversmith Skills to Make Money

Paul Revere put his silversmithing skills to use making money, but not in the way you are thinking. He carved the engraved printing plates used to print the currency for the state of Massachusetts. Later, he was asked to designed the engraving plates for the Continental currency. One of the weirdest things about Revere’s plates is that they ranged in denominations from one-sixth of a dollar to 80 dollars. 

Paul Revere Was an Early Labor Organizer

As Paul Revere’s silversmith business grew, he opted for a different approach to organizing his labor. Instead of following the apprenticeship model that was standard of the time, he chose to pay his skilled, trained employees. This wasn’t his first foray into labor organization. When he was just fifteen years old, he worked as a bell ringer at the Eight Bell Church. He and his friends organized a bell ringers’ association and drafted guidelines and by laws. 

Paul Revere Wasn’t Alone on His Midnight Ride

Leading up to the invasion of Concord, Paul Revere and William Dawes planned that they would ride out to warn the minutemen and alert John Hancock and Samuel Adams. They asked Samuel Prescott to come along. Revere was actually captured by the British about halfway through his ride and his horse was confiscated. It was Prescott who completed the mission, not Revere. But history credited Revere with the midnight ride, thanks to the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Longfellow’s Famed Poem is Filled With Inaccuracies

Penned in 1861, some forty years after Paul Revere’s death, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” is credited with elevating Revere to folk hero status based on his famous horse ride. Although Longfellow did research the event and made an attempt to be historically accurate, he did take some poetic license with the Revolutionary War tale. 

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.