REVERE, Paul (1735-1818). Partly printed document signed ("Paul Revere," with flourish), Boston, "Commonwealth of Massachusetts," 21 September 1798. 1 page, small 4to (5¼ x 7 in.), decorative woodcut design on left-hand margin of the document, accomplished in a bold secretarial hand.
A BOSTON PATRIOT'S ROLE IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE U.S.S. "CONSTITUTION"
A rare partly printed receipt documenting the role this celebrated Boston patriot and early industrialist played in the construction of the most celebrated warship of the U.S. Navy, the Constitution, launched exactly a month later. It reads: "Received of Henry Jackson, Naval Agent for the United States, at Boston [$985.09] on full for sundry Copper and Composition Work for the United States Frigate Constitution per account rendered this day...."
The U.S.S. Constitution was one of a group of six heavily gunned frigates ordered in 1794 by the Congress, designed by Joshua Humphreys, and built "to a noble and spacious plan" (Fletcher Pratt, The Navy, p.83) at Edmund Hartts' Boston shipyard. Aside from his work as a silversmith and engraver, for which he is better known, Revere was an early industrialist, and established in 1788 an active metal foundry in Boston which specialized in casting cannon and bells and also supplied a wide variety of sheet, wire and finished millwork; he is known to have furnished bolts, spikes, pumps, brass accessories (probably the "Composition-Work" mentioned here) plus heavy copper sheathing for the hull while the Constitution was under construction. "The national recognition he earned for his skill in manufacturing ordnance and ship fittings gave Revere the honor denied him on the battlefield," a recent biographer notes (J.E. Tribor, A True Republican: The Life of Paul Revere, p.166). The ceremonial launch of the Constitution, attended by thousands, took place on 21 October 1798. After commissioning, the Constitution served on patrol off the southeast coast. Five years later, the Constitution served as the flagship of Commander Edward Preble's squadron in the Mediterranean and along the dangerous Barbary coast. During the war of 1812 the vessel participated in several of the war's most significant naval battles against British warships (the Guerrière, the Java), and acquired the nickname "Old ironsides" when sailors witnessed heavy solid shot bouncing harmlessly off her solid oak hull. In 1830, she was saved from the scrap heap (partly thanks to William Dean Howells' evocative poetic tribute "Old Ironsides") and remains today the oldest commissioned warship in the American Navy.
Revere's foundry at Canton, Massachusetts, the first rolling mill for copper in the United States, later supplied copper sheathing for many vessels, including Robert Fulton's steam ferry in 1808 and 1809, and during the War of 1812 made armor-plate for the world's first steam warship, the U.S.S. Fulton the First.