An Artisan of Revolution: Paul Revere

Esmond Wright remembers the dramatic role in the American Revolution played by Paul Revere, an engraver and silversmith from Boston.

Paul Revere was born and lived practically all his life in Boston. If not yet the hub of the Universe, it was to be the hub of the Revolution; and up to 1760 it was the great entrepot, market-town and port of the continent. It was then the largest town in North America, and certainly - not least in its own eyes - the most important. Burnaby, visiting it in 1760, likened it to a thriving English town.

In his map of 1722, thirteen years before Paul Revere’s birth, Captain John Bonner already claimed for it ‘near 12000’ people, with ‘42 streets, 36 lanes and 22 alleys’, and ‘Houses near 3000, 1000 Brick, the rest Timber’. The streets were crooked and irregular, paved with cobbled stones, with open gutters in the middle; the houses a maze of crowded, timbered tenements, all tiny, most of them fire-traps — Boston had had eight great fires in the previous eighty years, and six visitations of smallpox. Families were large and lived public lives; privacy was impossible, so much so as rarely to be mentioned. Everyone knew everyone else’s business. The Revere house was just across the street from the Hutchinson mansion. Democracy owed a lot to proximity and congestion.

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