The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere Essay
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In 1860, less than one hundred years after the event in which it is based on, the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere was immortalized in a children’s poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem became an instant classic and is mostly remembered by the opening line, “Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” Written at a time when the United States was on the brink of a Civil War, it made some accurate accounts of what happened that night however, it was a children’s poem therefore a lot of the events were distorted and dramatized. The most important being, Paul Revere was not alone on his “Midnight Ride” as the poem says. William Dawes Jr. and Dr. Samuel Prescott also rode with him that night. Whatever…show more content…
England made any town meeting, except authorized by the governor illegal, and housed British soldiers in select public buildings. In Massachusetts the British military governor, General Gage, ordered his 3,500 British soldiers in Boston to seize armories and storehouses in Charlestown and Cambridge. After the seizure, 20,000 colonial militiamen mobilized to protect other military supply depots and in the town of Concord the famous defensive force, the Minutemen, were organized.2 With these acts Parliament declared that Massachusetts was in open rebellion. British Secretary of State, Lord Dartmouth, quickly ordered Gage to send his soldiers on a search and destroy mission to capture colonial leaders, and military supplies in Concord. “At the same time Gage would attempt to find, capture, or kill John Hancock and Samuel Adams.”3 The stage was set for the first major engagements of the American Revolution. Early in the evening on April 18, 1775 Dr. Joseph Warren, a prominent leader of the Sons of Liberty, became aware that Gage’s soldiers were marching to Boston common.4 Warren knew the warning had to get out so he summoned William Dawes, a local tanner and active Boston militiaman, for the important mission. Dawes instructions, the land route, were to ride to Lexington and Concord and report on the British movements and to notify colonial leaders along his routes. Dawes immediately rode
Boston’s most famous patriot-silversmith trained with his father, the French Huguenot silversmith Apollos Rivoire, also known as Paul Revere, Sr. (1702–1754), whose shop he inherited in 1754. With a fully equipped shop and many local patrons, he soon developed a thriving business and took on several apprentices himself. His clients included a number of family members (69.147) and neighbors, as well as political associates. He was married twice, first to Sarah Orne (ca. 1736–1773) and then to Rachel Walker (1745–1813), and was the father of sixteen children. An ardent revolutionary, Revere was active in political and civic organizations, including the Sons of Liberty. He began his military service in 1756 and was promoted in 1776 to the rank of lieutenant colonel. His role as a courier for the Committees of Correspondence is well known from his midnight ride on April 18, 1775, an event later immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. As a member of St. Andrew’s Lodge, Revere was a devoted Freemason for fifty years, and many of his clients were also members of Boston’s Masonic lodges. His shop was large and exceptionally active, supplying patrons with merchandise as well as services, including the importation of foreign goods (46.40.1). Like other colonial merchants, he sold wrought silver and jewelry alongside imported textiles, foodstuffs, tools, and hardware. Documented instances of his relationships with other Boston craftsmen indicate a steady exchange of goods and services.
Revere’s work in silver is often divided into two periods, preceding and following the Revolutionary War. The earlier period features some of his most creative and varied designs, still under the sway of the curvilinear Rococo style (46.40.1; 38.98). By the postwar years, Neoclassicism was the dominant design aesthetic, and the output of Revere’s shop increased and became more standardized, aided by equipment such as the flatting mill he acquired in 1785, which simplified the production of sheet silver. Objects like the quintessentially Neoclassical teapots and sugar urns (33.120.543; 33.120.546a,b) were produced with newfound ease.
Many American silversmiths found it necessary or desirable to diversify their professional activities, and Revere was no exception. Following the Revolution, he branched into other fields, advertising in city directories as “Revere & Son, bell and cannon founders,” a joint venture with his son Joseph Warren Revere. He also expanded into the areas of copperplate engraving, printing, and dentistry and later established a copper rolling mill in Canton, Massachusetts. A silversmith, merchant, entrepreneur, family man, and patriotic citizen, Revere led a full and successful life. His surviving daybooks, kept intermittently between 1761 and 1797 (now in the Massachusetts Historical Society), offer a valuable window on the workings of an eighteenth-century silversmith’s business. By the end of his life, his silversmith shop was but one aspect of a wide-ranging business enterprise, and he took to styling himself “Paul Revere, Esquire.” One artistic measure of his success is the survival of two portraits, both now belonging to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The earlier one portrays Revere as a young craftsman, painted by the fashionable John Singleton Copley (1768); the later, Revere as a prosperous elderly gentleman, painted by Gilbert Stuart (1813) five years before his death.
Beth Carver Wees
The American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art