Needham, MA (PRWEB) December 20, 2010
Robert Martello, an associate professor of the history of science and technology at Olin College of Engineering, has published a new book that greatly expands the understanding of colonial-era patriot Paul Revere, of “Midnight Ride” fame.
His book, Midnight Ride, Industrial Dawn: Paul Revere and the Growth of American Enterprise (Johns Hopkins University Press) is the culmination of more than a decade of research that began in graduate school. The study delves into the facets of Revere’s life beyond the famous ride, finding in him a perfect exemplar of America’s transformation from craft-based manufacturing to industrial-scale capitalism.
Martello’s enthusiasm for Revere was fueled by the fact that at every stage of his research there was always more to explore about the colonial hero—everything from his business sense to his relationship to the environment. “What I thought was a simple question led to these other issues,” said Martello.
In Martello’s view, it was no accident that Revere was chosen to ride out from Boston to warn the patriots of the approaching British. As a silversmith, Revere belonged to the artisan class, which occupied a middle rank in colonial American society—still close to the working class, but respected by the upper classes. Thus Revere was viewed as a credible messenger by all levels of society.
According to Martello, Revere had a lifelong ambition to join the upper classes, but lacked the connections and background to become a merchant or receive a government appointment, two common avenues to the social position he coveted. And although he never quite attained his dream, he got close to it after the Revolution by becoming a manufacturer and entrepreneur.
It was during this period, in the 1790s and beyond, that Revere began casting cannons and bells (a Needham church has one), becoming a major military supplier. He was a pioneer in the process of rolling copper sheets, a material that the Navy needed to cover the hulls of its ships. This led to a lucrative government contract and a measure of the social standing he sought.
Exhibiting the versatility that stood him such good stead during the Revolution, Revere drew on his varied background in metalworking to find solutions that had eluded others. “Revere had a sharp mind and an experimental mind set,” noted Martello. “He could cross from one field to another and solve different problems.”
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