The Paul Revere House  
Revere Silver

Paul Revere was a versatile craftsman. He did some work in brass. In addition to making silver objects, he also engraved decorations on the silver at his customer's request, such as monograms or family crests, for which he charged extra. He also used his skill to engrave copper and other metals for printing. On a small printing press in his shop, Revere produced thousands of prints, such as the money he engraved and printed for the State of Massachusetts. He also printed advertising pieces such as labels for clocks and hats, as well as illustrations for books, magazines and newspapers. One of his most famous engravings is his depiction of the Boston Massacre of March 1770.

Revere's shop activities can be divided into two periods - before and after the American Revolution. There are two daybooks that survive for the silver shop (at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston), covering the period from 1761 to 1797, although Revere was working before and after these years. The daybooks record the making of over 5000 silver objects, and almost 24,000 prints. More silver objects were produced in the post-war period (4210) than before the war (1145). Around 1787, Revere entered into alliances with several saddlers and harness makers for whom he made over 1000 metal fittings, such as bridle buckles and saddle nails. After the Revolution, Revere also pursued other business ventures, such as a hardware store and a foundry. Items made in his shop in this later period were more likely to be standard forms that his journeymen or his son Paul could make, such as spoons.

Paul Revere had a large variety of customers. It is a misconception that he only worked for the wealthy. Although Revere made some large tea services for wealthy persons, much of his work consisted of small sales to persons of middling means. For example, over 1000 personal items were sold, mostly buckles and clasps, buttons, rings and beads. 414 repairs are recorded, such as mending, cleaning and polishing.

Although Revere's daybooks are the best source of information about what he made, keep in mind that there are known pieces of Revere silver that do not appear in his daybooks, such as his now-famous "Liberty Bowl," in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The shape of the Liberty Bowl has inspired many reproductions, called "Revere Bowls," which are often engraved as gifts or presentation pieces.



What did Revere's shop make? (According to the daybooks of 1761-1797)

Paul Revere eagerly supplied the needs of his customers, not hesitating to create new forms or adopt the latest styles. His shop made a great variety of items, at least 90 different types. His products included flatware, mostly spoons; table wares such as cups, tankards, porringers, salts, casters, trays and bowls; tea and coffee equipment such as coffee and teapots, creamers, sugar tongs and sugar urns; personal items such as gold jewelry and buttons and silver buckles; and metal harness fittings, among other things. His most unusual items were made before the Revolution, when he crafted a chain for a pet squirrel an ostrich egg snuffbox, and a child's whistle. Other miscellaneous items included silver letters for the back of a chaise, surgical instruments, and a sword hilt.

Silver



Here's a sampling of the 5000 silver objects made in Revere's shop:

2479 pieces of Flatware (mostly spoons) - 410 before the war (1761-1783) and 2069 after the war (1783-1797)

64 Teapots (some with stands) - 15 (1761-1783); 49 (1783-1797)

60 Creamers (creampots) - 23 (1761-1783); 37 (1783-1797)

89 Canns - 56 (1761-1783); 33 (1783-1797)

50 Sugar Tongs - 16 (1761-1783); 34 (1783-1797)

400 Buckles (mostly pairs) - approximately 201 (1761-1783) and 199 (1783-1797)

30 Porringers - 20 (1761-1783); 10 (1783-1797)

30 Ladles - 11 (1761-1783); 25 (1783-1797)



How expensive was Revere's silver?

Paul Revere's income fluctuated from year to year. Before the Revolution, it was as high as 294 pounds or as low as 11 pounds. As a successful master craftsman and shop owner, his average annual income was 85 pounds per year. A journeyman might earn 40-45 pounds per year, while a laborer in Boston would be lucky to take home 30 pounds with steady work.

In the early 1760s, a laborer earning 30 pounds per year might be able to afford a child's spoon for 8 shillings or a pair of silver knee buckles for 6 shillings 8 pence but not a coffee pot, worth over 17 pounds, or a large tray worth 19 pounds 6 shillings. In this period, before buying his home in North Square, Paul Revere paid 16 pounds for an entire year's rent on a house.

A small creamer, called a creampot in Revere's daybooks, cost 2 pounds, 2 shillings and 3 pence in 1762. At the same time, a teapot with a wooden handle, probably much like the one he is holding in the portrait by John Singleton Copley, cost 10 pounds, 16 shillings and 8 pence. In 1763, 6 teaspoons cost 9 shillings, while a pair of silver canns cost 3 pounds 6 shillings and 8 pence, and a pair of porringers to the same client cost 1 pound 6 shillings and 8 pence. Ten years later, in 1782, Revere charged 9 pounds and 12 shillings for a teapot and 2 pounds 3 shillings for a pair of shoe buckles.



Revere's Maker's Marks

Authentic silver made in Paul Revere's shop, whether crafted by the patriot himself or by one of his apprentices or journeymen, almost always bears one of his maker's marks. The mark served to identify the silver and to insure its quality.

Revere's marks featured either his surname "REVERE" in a rectangle, used on larger items, or his initials "PR" in italic or block letters, used on smaller items such as teaspoons. Since the mark was impressed into the metal, struck with a die, the lettering appears slightly raised. Revere also used some of his father's marks. Items made early in his career are often marked "P REVERE" while later marks bear his full surname with or without a pellet before it ("REVERE"). The surname mark is approximately 7/16" wide and 1/16-3/16" high.

Although there appears to be some variety among these known marks, Paul Revere did not mark his work using his signature, other numbers or letters, or with a picture of a horse and rider or a patriot's head. Any silver marked in this way was not made in Revere's shop. Revere also did not work in pewter.

Paul Revere also worked in gold, which is why he called himself a "Goldsmith." He made and repaired small items such as jewelry. There is no known marked jewelry made by Revere although several rings have survived which are attributed to him. The jewelry was too small to bear the marks that were used on the silver.

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