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History of Early American Landscape Design

Paul Revere

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Paul Revere (December 21, 1734 – May 10, 1818) was a prominent Boston silversmith, engraver, proto-industrialist, and patriot who played a key role in mobilizing the Colonial activism that led to the American Revolution. He is best known for the “midnight ride” during which he alerted the Colonial militia to the approach of British forces on the eve of the battle of Lexington.


Paul Revere produced some of the most sophisticated engravings of the Revolutionary era, including political cartoons intended to undermine British rule. [1] A veteran of the French and Indian War (1754-63), Revere later joined the Sons of Liberty, a militant group formed in response to the passing of the 1765 Stamp Act. [2] To mark the Act’s repeal in 1766, Revere designed an “obelisk of liberty” which he erected on Boston Common. Fashioned of translucent paper on a thin frame and illuminated from within by 280 lamps, the obelisk was ornately decorated with symbols, allegories, portraits, and inscriptions representing the triumph of American liberty and its heroic defenders. [3] Following its display on Boston Common the illuminated obelisk was to be removed to the Liberty Tree, a large elm that had become a site for acts of political dissent. [4] Before this could be accomplished, however, the obelisk was destroyed by fireworks launched from its apex in a celebratory pyrotechnical display. [5] Revere had already documented the appearance of the obelisk in a large copperplate engraving [Fig. 1]. The engraving (now extremely scarce) depicted the portraits, allegories, and texts that appeared on each of the obelisk's four sides. [6] The copper plate was subsequently re-purposed for the design of a Masonic certificate. [7]

During the build-up to war with Britain in the 1770s, Revere regularly contributed propagandistic engravings to the Royal American Magazine, while simultaneously helping to organize an intelligence system to gather and disseminate information about the movement of British troops. [8] In April 1775, he was instrumental in preventing British capture of rebel leaders and weapons supplies in Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts, by sounding an alarm that called area militias into action. After the American Revolution, Revere became a successful businessman, operating a hardware store, a foundry, and the first rolling copper mill in the United States. [9]

--Robyn Asleson


  • Anonymous, May 19, 1776, describing in the Boston Gazette Boston Common, Boston, Mass. (quoted in Brigham 1954: 21) [10]
"[to] be exhibited on the Common, an Obelisk — A Description of which is engraved by Mr. Paul Revere; and is now selling by Edes & Gill."



Library of Congress Authorities
Dictionary of National Biography
Oxford Art Online
Illustrated Inventory of Paul Revere's works at the American Antiquarian Society


  1. Elizabeth Louise Roark, Artists of Colonial America (Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 2003), 135-40 view on Zotero.
  2. Jayne E. Triber, A True Republican: The Life of Paul Revere (Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001), 44-67, view on Zotero.
  3. David Hackett Fischer, Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 99-101, view on Zotero.
  4. Arthur M. Schlesinger, "Liberty Tree: A Genealogy," The New England Quarterly, 25 (1952): 437-40, view on Zotero.
  5. Clarence Brigham, Paul Revere’s Engravings (Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1954), 26-29, view on Zotero. For the iconography of Boston illuminations and the use of obelisks in political celebrations, see Peter Bastian, "Celebrating the Empire in the Changing Political World of Boston, 1759-1774." Australasian Journal of American Studies, 16 (1997): 26–44, view on Zotero.
  6. Elbridge Henry Goss, The Life of Colonel Paul Revere, 8th , 2 vols. (Boston: Howard W. Spurr, 1909), 1: 37-49, view on Zotero; Brigham, 1956, 26, 29-31, view on Zotero.
  7. Brigham, 1956, 29, view on Zotero.
  8. John Bakeless, Turncoats, Traitors, and Heroes: Espionage in the American Revolution (New York: J. B. Lippincott, 1959), 68-82, view on Zotero.
  9. Robert Martello, Midnight Ride, Industrial Dawn: Paul Revere and the Growth of American Enterprise (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), 204-323, view on Zotero.
  10. Brigham, 1954, 21, view on Zotero.

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History of Early American Landscape Design contributors, "Paul Revere," History of Early American Landscape Design, , https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Paul_Revere&oldid=7563 (accessed December 2, 2023).

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