Paul Revere Opens Bell Foundry In Boston

Though best-known for his "midnight" ride and his work in silver and gold, several of Revere's most significant accomplishments came later in his life.

Eager to begin manufacturing other metal products, Revere built an iron and brass foundry in 1787 on the corner of Lynn and Foster Streets in Boston's North End. Revere supported the venture with income from his silversmith shop and financial assistance from his Hichborn cousins.

After several years of producing iron products -- firebacks and window weights -- he began making bolts and spikes for the shipbuilding industry, cannon and bells. The foundry proved to be a forerunner to what would be the most ambitious effort of his life, developing a mill for rolling copper. In 1800 at the age of 65, Paul Revere, motivated by patriotism and profit, and encouraged by a loan from the federal government, purchased and renovated a former gunpowder mill in Canton, Massachusetts for use as a copper rolling mill.

This venture depended on his success at learning a new technology, obtaining scarce raw materials and balancing other variables such as seasonal aspects of water power and the new and somewhat cumbersome federal government. Revere became the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets in a commercially viable manner. His customers included among others, the federal government for its naval vessels, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the dome of its new state house, and Robert Fulton who needed heavy copper sheets for boilers for his steamships.

After the Revolutionary War, in 1788, he built a furnace on the tip of North Boston Harbor. The furnace was used to make copper spikes, bolts and other ship fittings for American boats.

After a few years, the foundry was used to cast copper alloy bells. Up until that time, the technology to cast bells with good tonal quality was not present in the US and bells were imported from England. With the help of two experienced bell casters, Paul Revere cast the first bell in Boston in 1792. Revere cast a total of 398 bells in the North Boston Foundry and many of the Revere bells still hang in and around Boston today. The bell for King's Chapel in Boston was cast in the North Boston Foundry, it weighed 2437 lbs. and is still used today. A bell for the USS Constitution was also cast in the Revere Foundry, but it was shot away in the historic battle, in the War of 1812, with the British man of war HMS Guerriere.