Paul Revere Rides Again: An Interdisciplinary Study of Early American Metalworking and Industrialization

Saturday, January 8, 2011
Ballroom C (Hynes Convention Center)
Robert Martello , Olin College, Needham, MA
Jonathan Stolk , Olin College, Needham, MA
Paul Revere’s greatest contributions to American history resulted not from one heroic midnight’s work, but instead from a lifetime of technological and managerial innovation that helped define America’s transition from craft practices to industrial capitalism. Starting as a silversmith, Revere expanded his product line and use of machinery after the war, branching into iron working, bell and cannon casting, and copper working. In 1800 he became the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets, which started a new national industry and aided the Navy Department’s drive towards self-sufficiency.  Revere served as his nation’s “Midnight Rider” for two revolutions, helping prepare his country for the impending military conflict, but also adopting new technologies and managerial practices that would enable his countrymen to enter the industrial age and close the economic and technical gap with Britain.
Revere’s success depended upon his ability to integrate old and new manufacturing and business practices, particularly in the areas of labor training and management; capital raising and expenditure; technology transfer and machine use; and raw material procurement.  Revere’s example suggests a “proto-industrial” transition between artisan traditions and the methods and values of industrial capitalism.  The study of Revere’s manufacturing endeavors also provides a new look at early America’s changing social structure and turbulent economy, as well as a practical understanding of the importance of manufacturing and metalworking trades in the new socioeconomic climate. 
Revere’s metalworking and entrepreneurial experiences offer many educational opportunities for students to explore the connections between technological development and societal and economic context. In addition to telling Revere’s story, this poster will also illustrate how narratives such as Revere’s allow students to develop history and materials science skills and knowledge through integrated hands-on projects. This integration increases student motivation and fosters the stronger contextual understanding of both the technical and historical material.
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