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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 116

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This is the grave of Paul Revere.

Born in 1734 in Boston, Revere became an apprentice to his father, a silversmith, at the age of 13. He served briefly in the Seven Years War as a lieutenant but returned him to take charge of the silversmith shop. He was good at his job and because he produced a wide variety of products, including high end products, he got to know leading people throughout Boston. Business was pretty bad by the 1760s, partly as a result of the war and then the new taxes the British instituted to make their colonists actually pay expenses for the violence they caused with indigenous peoples on the frontier. He took up dentistry to supplement his income and Dr. Joseph Warren became a client. Revere and Warren became close and became leaders in the anti-British movement. After 1765, Revere’s business improved and he became more deeply involved in radicalism. He produced many political engravings that remain well-known today, including the classic image of the Boston Massacre that most certainly lacks in accuracy as to what happened but which served as good propaganda.

In addition to producing engravings and silver goods that promoted the Boston cause, in 1773, Revere was one of the ringleaders of the Boston Tea Party. He was frequently part of the guard duty to watch British military movements and was on duty when the British started moving on Lexington, leading to his famed “Midnight Ride.” During the war, he built a gunpowder mill that played a key role in supplying the Continental Army. He then served in the Massachusetts militia. It was not filled with glory and he was court-martialed in 1779 after he resisted orders to rescue a ship in the failed attempt to drive the British out of Penobscot Bay. He was cleared of those charges in 1782. Revere was also quite a social climber and desperately wanted to be seen as a member of the gentry. He struggled to achieve these goals in a class-ridden society, which he felt when he was not granted an officer position in the Continental Army in 1776. But he did manage to increase his wealth during the war, becoming involved in a number of economic ventures. He began investing in larger metal operations, including ironmaking, becoming an early leader in what became the Industrial Revolution. His factories moved toward standardization while still holding on to the skilled production styles of the 18th century.

Revere became a staunch Federalist as the party system developed and was an admirer of Alexander Hamilton’s financial program. Given his prominence, it’s somewhat surprising that Revere did not play a more active role in politics in the Early Republic, but he stuck to his business and lobbied Congress for protective tariffs for his metal operations. He died in Boston in 1818, at the age of 83.

Paul Revere is buried in Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts.

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