Apollos Rivoire, a French goldsmith, changed his family's name upon his arrival in America. His second oldest was born as Paul Revere in Boston's North End. At the age of 19, after his father died, Paul took over the family business and started supporting his family. In 1756, he volunteered to fight the French and served as a second lieutenant in the British army.
Devoted to Freedom
In the years leading up to the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Revere worked tirelessly for the patriot cause. A member of the Freemasons, the mechanics union, the Sons of Liberty and other groups, Revere became a nexus in the social networks of the revolution. In his workshop he printed anti-occupation propaganda: engravings illustrating the arrival of the British Navy and the Boston Massacre. In the evenings, he harassed officials charged with collecting the taxes that Americans found so unfair. On December 13, 1773, Revere and his associates dressed as Indians and dumped tea into Boston Harbor.
After the British seized a supply of the colony's gunpowder, Revere organized a system to detect and warn others in advance of British troop movements. He rode to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, fifty miles north of Boston, to warn the locals there of an impending seizure. On April 18th, 1775, Revere made the most famous ride of his life, to Lexington, to warn patriot leaders in hiding there.
During the Revolutionary War, Revere helped fortify Boston against a possible British attack. Frustrated by his defensive posting, he lobbied to be assigned to campaigns against the enemy. He had his chance in July 1779, when forty-five American ships sailed into Penobscot Bay, where the British held a half-finished fort. The British were grossly outnumbered, but the Americans, not trusting the intelligence reports, did not attack. They waited for weeks, during which time British reinforcements arrived by land and by sea. Finally, the Americans' ships fled up the Penobscot River. Afraid the British would seize their equipment, the colonists burned seventeen of their own ships and fled by foot. The Continental Army charged Revere, commander of artillery in the expedition, with cowardice and insubordination. He was acquitted at his court martial in 1782.
Bells and Pots
After the war, Revere participated in ratifying the U.S. Constitution in Massachusetts. He then returned to his business, expanding and adapting new techniques in metallurgy. His shop led American silversmithing to standard production and industrialization. He taught himself to cast bells, and sold many to churches all around New England. The brilliant copper dome of Massachusetts' State House came from Revere's factory. The Revere Copper and Brass Company still exists today, although the Revereware copper-bottomed pots that made the factory famous are now manufactured by another company.
Legend in His Own Time
Paul Revere died on May 10, 1818. He married twice, and each of his wives bore him eight children. When he died, he left behind more than fifty grandchildren. A local legend in his own lifetime, he became a national folk hero with the publication of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1861 poem, "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere."