Paul Revere is famous for his patriotic midnight ride, in 1775. But did you know that he was also an artist? It’s true! Paul Revere was a silversmith. He created beautiful and usable plates, bowls, teapots, spoons, and many other household items from silver. He is considered one of colonial America’s most important silversmiths.
KEY IDEA TWO
Silver, a precious metal indeed
Silver is a very valuable metal, second only to gold. Throughout history silver has been linked with wealth and social status. It has been used as coin currency for trade, made into jewelry, and formed into special possessions for peoples homes, like this tea service. Paul Revere made this tea service for the wealthy Boston merchant John Templeman and his wife, Mehitable.
The Templemans were loyal customers and ordered many household items from Revere’s shop. For such items, Revere often used coin silver. Making silver objects from melted coins was a common practice at that time. If later on the owner needed money, he could sell an object for the value of the silver it was made from or else have the silver melted down and sell the metal.
To create this tea service, Paul Revere used two different processes: forging and casting. In forging, the metal is hammered into the desired shape. To prevent cracks or breakage, the hammered silver must be annealed heated red hot and then slowly cooled. Revere used rolled sheet silver for the teapot, tea caddy, creamer, and sugar urn and their stands, which made it easier to form their straight edges. The casting process was used for the small feet on the teapot stand and caddy stand and the finials (tips) on the lids of the teapot, tea caddy, and sugar urn. Molten silver was poured into a mold made in the right shape. After the silver cooled and hardened, it was removed from the mold.
Silver objects could be decorated in various ways. The intricate designs on this tea set are engraved, or carved, into the metal. They include draped fabric and tassels and also the Templemans initials, JMT, in fancy script on the spoon handles and on the stands and sugar urn. Including the buyer’s initials added beauty, made the owner proud, and also served as insurance. If the item was stolen, finding the owner would be easier. Revere signed his work by stamping (pressing) REVERE, his maker’s mark, into the metal.
Try your hand at the art of silversmithing! Cover a paper plate, paper cup, or plastic spoon with a layer of tinfoil. Using a dull pencil or a blunt tool, draw gently on the tinfoil to create your own monogram, an intricate design composed of your initials.
Fashion in Action
Visit the home of Paul Revere by going to the Paul Revere House website . Read the biography section to learn more about the famous silversmith’s life. Find out about Revere’s family and the house he lived in. Present something you learned to a small group in your class.
A Day in the Life
Read the book A Day in the Life of a Colonial Silversmith, by Cathy Wilmore. How is life today different from life in colonial America? Would you like to have been a colonial silversmith?