PAUL REVERE — PATRIOT, SILVERSMITH, MASON
R. Baker Harris
Although Longfellow's poem about "the midnight ride" has immortalized the name of Paul Revere in verses familiar to every school child, it has also served to obscure the more substantial qualities and attainments of a long and notable life.
He was the third of twelve children of Paul and Deborah Revere, and the entire eighty-three years of his life were lived in the New England area. His father, of French Hugueuot descent, came to Boston at the age of thirteen as an apprentice in the shop of a silversmith, a trade he was to teach to his son in later years.
When the youneer Paul Revere was twenty-one years of age, he joined a military expedition, returning to Boston some six months later, at which time he married Sarah Orne. Not content to limit himself to strict practise of his trade as a silversmith, he began experimenting with copper plates, producing portraits, seals, certificates, crests, and even dental devices.
Actively participating in the growing unrest in the colonies over relations with Great Britain, he employed his talents in effective propaganda in the form of cartoons and broadsides.
As an artisan and tradesman, Paul Revere was known and patronized by important and intellectual leaders in Boston; but his social intercourse with them was restricted by standards and customs of that day and place. It was at this point in his career that Freemasonry plaved an important part in contributing to his future life and destiny.
Saint Andrew's Lodge in Boston was organized in 1760, but did not receive its charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland until September 4, 1760. On that day "it was laid before, the Lodge, and in the same evening work was commenced under it by receiving Paul Revere, a Goldsmith and engraver, as Entered Apprentice."
In Saint Andrew's Lodge at that time, Paul Revere was entering a carefully selected group based on neither wealth nor prestige, but upon character. The Brethren, many of them colonial leaders with fame awaiting them in the coming revolutionary period, met and associated on an equal level. Thus it was that in Saint Andrew's Lodge, when he was but twenty-five years of age, Paul Revere first had opportunity to form associations and friendships which might otherwise have been denied to him. And this was a good fifteen years before the muskets were fired at Lexington.
In this decade before the start of the Revolutionary War, Paul Revere enjoyed his Masonic work and became increasingly active in it. In December of 1769, he received the Degrees in Saint Andrew's Royal Arch Chapter, and in the following year he was elected Master of Saint Andrew's Lodge. He designed, and also engraved, Masonic membership certificates and notices. Some of these membership certificates, which he also signed as Master of the Lodge, still survive.
As the days of conflict approached, he was among the most active of colonial patriots. Having participated in the Boston Tea Party, he thereafter made a long horseback trip in the winter of 1773 to report on the "party" to the Sons of Liberty in New York. The following year he personally took the "Suffolk Resolves" [defying the "Intolerable Acts"] to Philadelphia. He became a very familiar figure throughout the northeastern states because of his many missions for the Massachusetts Provincial Assembly. Two days before the famous ride to Lexington, he was on an even more important errand to warn the patriots to move their military stores from Concord.
Anxious for active service in the field, he was denied a command only because his talents were needed for special work. He was assigned the task of designing and printing the first issue of Continental money. He made the first official Seal for the Colonies, and also the Massachusetts Seal which that state still uses today. For a time he directed the processes of manufacturing gunpowder, setting up the plant in a rebuilt mill at Canton, Massachusetts. In 1776, he was made a member of the important Committee of Correspondence.
In quieter days after the war, he turned to specializing in the design and production of unusually fine specimens of silverware, many of which are today preserved in numerous museums. A number of these were Masonic in design and purpose. From 1777 to 1782 he again presided as Worshipful Master of Saint Andrew's Lodge. In 1784 he was a charter member and first Master of the newly organized and appropriately named Rising States Lodge. From December 12, 1794, until December 27, 1797, he was Grand Master of Masons of Massachusetts, and in that capacity he laid the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House in Boston on July 4, 1795.
Well after the turn of the new century he persisted in one eccentricity which caused him to be noted wherever he went in Boston. He insisted upon wearing the then outmoded clothing styles of the revolutionary period. But even after passing the proverbial "three score and ten" he was energetic and active, continually turning his mind and talents to new ventures and undertakings. As late as 1809 he discovered a process for rolling sheet copper, and in that year he made copper plates for the boilers of a steam ferryboat for Robert Fulton.
The loss of his second wife and eldest son were the great sorrows of his old age, and he survived them by only three years, passing away on May 10, 1818, at the age of eighty-three.