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History of the Paul Revere Heritage Site – Part 4: The Reveres

On October 22, 1685 King Louis XIV issued the Edict of Fontainebleau, removing legal protections for Protestants living in France. This, in part, lead to the mass exodus of the Huguenots – a particularly vocal and defiant group of Calvinists. Among them was a boy named Apollos Rivoire who came to America in 1715 at the age of 13. He ended up in Boston and by the 1720s he started an apprenticeship in silversmithing and had anglicized his name to Paul Revere. Revere married Deborah Hitchbourn in 1729 and they had 11 children. Their third child (and oldest surviving son) born in 1734 would take his father’s name – Paul Revere, and become a founding father of this country.

While many people today remember Paul Revere for the famous midnight ride, in his time he was known as a skilled craftsman and entrepreneur. For many years Revere’s primary trade was as a silversmith, a trade he learned as an apprentice to his father.

 

Revere teapot

Over the years he also became a skilled goldsmith, coppersmith, blacksmith, engraver, artist, courier, dentist, and coroner. He was a member of The Sons of Liberty and obtained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts Militia. In his later years he managed multiple factories, was the director of the Boston Board of Health, and became the grandmaster of the Massachusetts Freemasons. He also married twice and had sixteen children.

In 1801 Revere was looking to expand into copper rolling, a process that produced large flat sheets of copper that could, among other things, be used to line the bottom of ships to prevent rotting and damage.

USS Constitution Copper Sheet, donated by David Arrowsmith of Capital Construction

While looking for a site to build his new factory he remembered the location along the Neponset River where the US Army had commissioned him to build an ammunition factory back in 1776. With all of his savings and a sizable loan Revere purchased the land.

There was only one problem – no one in the US knew how to roll copper. The process was a well guarded secret among the few European craftsmen that produced the product. Undeterred, Revere sent one of his sons, Joseph Warren Revere, to England to learn the process. In what is often considered the first instance of industrial espionage in the fledgling United States, Joseph posed as a potential investor for a tour of a rolling mill. With a mind for mechanics and a photographic memory Joseph was able to draw up an accurate blueprint for the rolling machinery.

The Reveres’ gamble paid off. Within a year of building the mill they landed a contract to make the 6000 square feet of copper sheeting needed to cover the dome of the Massachusetts State House.

Then in 1803 they secured the contract to provide the copper sheeting to resheathe the hull of the USS Constitution. Success continued with the addition of other copper and brass products including brass cannons for the US Navy. Eventually they moved the family’s bell making factory from Boston to the site as well. Part of their success came from Revere’s willingness to hire people solely on ability; perhaps due to his own humble beginnings Revere hired people regardless of race, creed, or place of origin.

With a well established business, Paul Revere was able to effectively retire in 1811 leaving most of the business operations to the very capable Joseph. Under Joseph’s direction the Revere Copper Company was truly able to expand and flourish. In 1835, along with the construction of the Canton Viaduct, Joseph was able to get a spur directly to the factory from the Boston and Providence Rail Line.

Through the 1840s and 1850s they had around 40 employees and were able to construct new buildings including the copper rolling mill and draft horse barn that both still stand today. 

By the mid 1860s the Revere Copper Company employed over 100 people and was making cannons for the Union Army.

After Joseph Warren Revere’s death in 1868 the company was taken over by his son John Revere and later his Grandsons: William Bacon Revere and Edward H.R. Revere. In 1900 the company merged and became the Taunton-New Bedford Copper Company, moving all operations to New Bedford at that time. Another merger in 1928 created Revere Copper and Brass, Inc., headquartered in Rome, New York. After a reorganization in the 1980s the company continues to this day as Revere Copper Products, Inc.

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