Paul Revere (Boston 1734-1818)
The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street, BOSTON, on March 5th 1770, by Party of the 29th REGt. Boston: Engrav'd Printed & Sold by Paul Revere, March 1770.
Print: 10 ½ x 9 3/16 in. Sheet: 11 x 9 3/8 in. Brigham, plate 14. This variant with small clock at left center reading 10:20 (Brigham notes a later variant, altered to the more correct time of 8:00). Printed on laid paper with indistinct watermark. Beneath the heading and the image are 18 lines of engraved verse ("Unhappy Boston! see thy sons deplore, / Thy hallow'd Walks besmear'd with Guiltless Gore...") At the bottom of the sheet, engraved in italics, is a detailed list of the casualties: "The unhappy sufferers were Saml Gray, Saml Maverick, James Caldwell, Crispus Attucks, and Patrick Carr," plus "Six wounded; two of them (Christr Monk & John Clark) Mortally." WITH BRIGHT CONTEMPORARY HAND-COLORING (probably by Christian Remick) in red, green, black, dark Blue (touched with gilt stars in the sky at top left; the small moon at left-hand also gilt). CONDITION: Browning from old mat, edges of the sheet chipped in several places, several very small holes, otherwise in good condition for a print often found in poor condition.
Paul Revere, the celebrated patriot of the American War of Independence, made his living as a silver smith, engraver and metalworker. A member of a militant group formed in 1765 and known as the ‘Sons of Liberty’, Revere produced engravings and other artifacts with proto-revolutionary themes the sale of which raised money for the dissident organization. Among these, the best known are a depiction of the arrival of British troops in 1768 (which he termed ‘an insolent parade’) and the present depiction of the March 1770 Boston Massacre. Revere also made a Sons of Liberty punch bowl (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) in 1768, which is widely regarded as the most famous example of American presentation silver. Commissioned by the Sons of Liberty, the bowl is inscribed with the names of its fifteen members and a message in celebration of a vote against repressive British policies taken by the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Revere was a ringleader in the Boston Tea Party of 16 December 1773, when, in protest of unfairly levied taxes, American colonists dumped tea into Boston Harbor from the British merchant ship Dartmouth. Revere’s exalted place in American legend was cemented by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem -- know to every schoolboy -- The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1860), which recounted the patriot’s dangerous mission in April 1775 to warn colonists along the road to Lexington and Concord of the impending invasion of British troops: famously, one lantern would be lit in the steeple of the North Church in Charlestown to alert townspeople if the British were arriving by land, and “two if by sea”.
"Few prints have influenced history as much as Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre of 1770" (D. Roylance, American Graphic Arts, Princeton, 1990, p.48). Revere immediately recognized the propaganda value of the incident, and "saw the opportunity of furthering the patriot cause by circulating so significant a print" (Clarence S. Brigham, Paul Revere's Engravings, New York, 1969, p.52-53). Revere's powerful depiction was based upon a sketch of the bloody confrontation by Henry Pelham. Both Pelham and another engraver, Jonathan Mullikan, produced competing prints of the bloody event. Revere's engraving was advertised for sale in the March 26th editions of the Boston Evening Post and the Boston Gazette: "a Print, containing a Representation of the late horrid Massacre in King-street." Two days later Revere noted in his Day Book that he paid the printers Edes & Gill to produce 200 impressions. Pelham's depiction was advertised for sale in the same publications a week later. Today, some 29 copies of this iconic print are recorded.
The sanguinary events of 5 March 1770 in which five Bostonians died by British musketry-- took on great symbolic significance in the highly charged tenor of public affairs between England and its colonies, Massachusetts in particularly. Paul Revere's incendiary Bloody Butchery powerfully fanned the embers of opposition to British rule. The event, commemorated annually in following years, was a significant factor in radically altering Americans' attitude toward the King's armies quartered among them. There can be little doubt that Revere's dramatic depiction remained vivid in the minds of the patriots who composed the Declaration of Independence; enumerating America's grievances against the Crown, it indicted the King "for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us...."