Paul Revere, one of the most celebrated figures of the American Revolution, has quite a colorful story. Given his involvement in a wide variety of endeavors, it’s difficult for even the most studied historians to separate the myths from the facts.
Revere was a true jack-of-all-trades. He had to be; he fathered 16 children and had hungry mouths to feed.
In addition to his military service, he was an accomplished silversmith. The exquisite Revere bowls that he designed are still manufactured by Reed & Barton today. He was a gifted engraver, book illustrator and political cartoonist. He even designed restaurant menus. The businesses he owned and operated included a foundry, a hardware store and a copper mill. According to the CIA, he once led a spy ring.
As if all that weren’t enough to keep Revere busy, he dabbled in dentistry. There is no truth to the rumor that he crafted wooden dentures for George Washington, but there’s an even more interesting tale that is true.
Revere did carve serviceable dentures from animal teeth or walrus ivory. The dentures were held in place with wire. It sounds painful, but it was probably preferable to going toothless.
It was Revere who unwittingly pioneered forensic dentistry in America. Nine months after his close friend Joseph Warren died in the Battle of Bunker Hill, Revere identified his body. The false tooth and wire that he had used on the physician and president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress were still in place.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow got a lot of things wrong, understandably, in his 1861 poem about Revere’s midnight ride. One inaccuracy is especially glaring.
It is inconceivable that Revere ever cried out, “The British are coming!” Since there was a redcoat hiding behind every bush, discretion and silence would have been of the utmost importance.