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.
Paul Revere's inflammatory engraving The Bloody Massacre was one of the most evocative propaganda pieces printed during the American Revolution. Revere lived in Boston and made his living as a silversmith, engraver and metalworker. A member of the Sons of Liberty, a militant group formed in 1765, he produced engravings with proto-revolutionary themes to raise money for the dissident organization. The best known among these are a depiction of the arrival of British troops in 1768 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.
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, particularly Massachusetts. 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), pp. 52-53). Revere's powerful depiction was based on a sketch of the bloody confrontation by Henry Pelham. Revere's engraving was advertised for sale in the March 26th editions of the Boston Evening Post and the Boston Gazette as "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.
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's poem "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" (1860), which recounted the patriot’s dangerous mission in April 1775 to warn colonists 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.”