Did You Know? Weston’s Paul Revere Bell

Paul Revere bell, 1801. First Parish Church, Weston (photo credit)

One of the loveliest sounds to come from “downtown” Weston is the ringing of the bell from the First Parish Church, the so-called “stone church” at the corner of Church Street and Boston Post Road By-Pass. The tolling of the bell marks solemn occasions such as the planes of September 11, and the deaths from Covid, as well as reminding you when you have lost track of time while picnicking on the Green. But did you know that bell was made by one of the midnight riders? Everyone needs a second career.

In 1800, the First Parish congregation raised $443.12 to purchase the bell when the 1721 church building was being repaired and enlarged with two porches and a steeple. Weighing in at a svelte 997 pounds, the Revere bell replaced an earlier bell, which seems a little flimsy at only 164 pounds. That first bell was probably brought down from Canada during the French and Indian wars, according to the History of the Town of Weston. Apparently, the need to buy American started pretty early around Weston.

The Revere bell was moved to the 1840 church building and later to the 1888 fieldstone church, where it still rings today.

According to the Weston Historical Society webpage, Revere has been called “one of the few competent bell makers in the United States.” He got into the business in 1792 when the bell at his own church cracked. Revere offered to recast it, though he knew nothing about molding and casting bells. Though it seemed easy, his first attempt was not a success, but fortunately he had plenty of time to practice before Weston got its sweet-sounding bell.

Paul Revere is a fascinating character–did you know he had 16 children?–eight by his first wife who died in 1773 and eight by his second wife who he married in 1773 (not a typo: Sarah died in May, Rachel moved in around October). Busy guy. Revere and his sons Paul, Jr, and Joseph Warren went on to cast 398 bells between 1792 and 1828, first at their North End foundry and after 1804 in Canton, Mass. Paul Revere died at the age of 83 in 1818.

If you want to learn more about Paul Revere, you can check out this wonderful webpage by the Paul Revere House…or you can come to the upcoming April 29 Weston Historical Society meeting.

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Portrait by John Singleton Copley, 1768

Paul Revere:
From Midnight Rider to Industrial Revolutionary

A Zoom lecture by Dr. Robert Martello

Thursday, April 29, 7:30 pm

“Listen my children and you shall hear of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

Americans rightfully celebrate Paul Revere’s patriotic service during the American Revolution, but in this talk we will explore how his greatest role in building the new nation took place in workshops and manufactories, via a lifetime of groundbreaking metal work. Revere’s artisan training in the silversmith trade positioned him for new fields such as iron casting, bronze bell and cannon making, and eventually he became the first American to roll copper into sheets for the young United States Navy. Throughout these endeavors Revere pioneered innovative technical and entrepreneurial practices that enabled America to close the technological gap with England, advance its economic strength, and transition into the industrial age.

Dr. Robert Martello is a Professor of the History of Science and Technology at Olin College of Engineering. Professor Martello teaches innovative interdisciplinary courses such as “Six Microbes that Changed the World.” A graduate of MIT’s program in the History and Social Study of Science and Technology, he is the author of Midnight Ride, Industrial Dawn: Paul Revere and the Growth of American Enterprise, a study of how Paul Revere’s manufacturing career impacted America’s transition into the industrial age. Professor Martello is currently researching Benjamin Franklin’s printing and business endeavors, and he regularly lectures on Revere and Franklin, our “Founding Makers.”

To Register

Email info@westonhistory.org and then watch for your Zoom invitation.

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