The Paul Revere Bell
The following address was delivered as a “Story for All Ages” by historian Charles E. Wainwright to First Parish Church on December 1, 2013:
Paul Revere was a great Revolutionary War Patriot. He is best remembered for riding his horse from Boston to warn residents that British soldiers were coming to confiscate their weapons and ammunition.
When he wasn’t out warning people about the arrival of the British, Paul Revere was a silversmith- a person who casts silver into spoons, forks, cups, and goblets. In fact, he was pretty good at it. Here is a picture of him eying one of his silver teapots. Later, he made cannons for the war.
His exploits during the War made Paul Revere a pretty popular guy in Boston. In fact, if he were around today, we would probably call him a rock star. Everyone knew his name. Everyone wanted to be his friend. Everyone wanted to buy his products. After the war, he cashed in on his popularity by manufacturing metal goods- things like pots, pans, nails, hinges, and other objects made of cast iron. He bought a furnace and set up shop in the North End of Boston. As you might expect, he sold everything he could make. No matter whether they were of good quality (and they were good), the important thing was that they had Paul Revere’s name on them.
One day, he decided to expand his business by making bells for all the new Churches that were getting started in the area. Unlike his other products which were relatively small, Church bells are huge, weighing as much as a horse. Bell making is a difficult craft, and Revere was not so good at it. Nevertheless, churches wanted Revere bells more than almost anything, so he made and sold many.
In 1803 our Church ordered a new bell from Paul Revere to place in its steeple. “Surely it was the best bell that could be had anywhere—and it would have Paul Revere’s name on it,” thought the chairman of our Parish Board. He could hardly wait for it to arrive!
The huge bell finally came and was paid for. It was hoisted to the top of our steeple, and connected to a brand new rope so it could be rung. At a celebration attended by the Town Selectmen and most of the townspeople of Beverly, the bell was rung for the first time. #Booong. It sounded horrible! The Selectmen, considering that Paul Revere had made the bell (Paul Revere!) pronounced the bell to be a patriotic asset to the Town. The Parish Board Chair, considering that Paul Revere’s name was on the Bell (Paul Revere!), decided that, in spite of its lack of musical qualities, the church bell was a great asset to the church.
But the bell wasn’t. Every hour of every day, for years and years afterwards, the bell rang sour and off-key. The Sexton hated to ring it. Members of the Church Choir dreaded its sound, but no one would come out and say that the Paul Revere did not make such a good bell.
Finally, in 1896, the bell was removed, melted down, recast, and rehung in the steeple, where it remained for another 35 years sounding somewhat more musical. But such was the magic of the great Revolutionary War patriot, that Paul Revere’s name was again placed on the recast bell.
You can see this bell today encased in concrete in front of the Immanuel Church on Bridge Street.