Tag Archives: Paul Revere

Fabricating Revere’s Ride

Because of his entrepreneurial engravings, his silverwork, portraits of him and by him, his storied ride, and his boundless brand, Paul Revere as always been the most material of our Founding Fathers: he didn’t just act, he produced, and after his legendary life was over he continued to be a focus and force of production. As we head into (a rather early) Patriots Day weekend, I am thinking about Revere, mostly in reference to Grant Wood’s 1931 painting The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, which supposedly aims to highlight the mythology overwhelming the event from the publication of Longfellow’s 1863 poem. The painting is so very accessible, however, that I fear that it simply reinforces Revere’s singular ride, or it has just become an aesthetic object: Wood himself transformed the image into a textile design (in which the rider gets lost in the landscape) for the Association of American Artists, and now you can even buy laminated placemats of it on Etsy! Revere the Midnight Rider was featured in a design by Anton Refregier in another “Pioneer Pathways” design, issued in several colorways by Riverdale Fabrics in 1952. A few decades earlier, Walter Mitschke also included Paul Revere’s ride in drawings for his “Early America” series of textile designs produced by R. Mallinson and Company.

Revere Wood

Reveres Ride of Paul Revere Textile

Revere the Rider Pioneer Pathways

Revere Red

Reveres Ride Mallinson

Grant Wood, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, 1931, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Textile designs by Grant Wood and Anton Refregier for the Association of American Artists, produced by Riverdale Fabrics as part of the “Pioneer Pathways” series, 1952, Cooper Hewitt Museum; Walter Mitschke’s drawings for the Mallinson Company, 1927, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Obviously Paul Revere’s Ride is larger than the man himself in terms of its myriad representations in text, image, and fabric, but I think the most effective displays are those that were created close to home: Robert Reid’s 1904 mural in the State House, the iconic statue of Cyrus Dallin, the Paul Revere pottery produced by the Saturday Evening Girls Club, all those calendars issued by another institution with a founding- father-affiliation, the John Hancock Life Insurance Company. For a more updated presentation of the route rather than the ride, there is an exhibition of drawings by artist and illustrator Fred Lynch on view now at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in Lexington (which used to be called the National Heritage Museum) titled “Paul Revere’s Ride Revisited”.

Massachusetts-State-House-Mural-Paul-Reveres-Ride-Boston-MA-2016-09-26

pp-caproni-and-brother-painted-cast-plaster-relief-panel-paul-reveres-ride (1)

Reveres Ride Tile MFA

Revere Calendars

Robert Reid mural in the Massachusetts State House, 1904, Caproni Brothers plaster bas-relief sculpture, Skinner Auctions, Tile by Paul Revere Pottery of the Saturday Evening Girls Club, 1917 (decorated by Sara Galner), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; 1889 & 1903 calendars by the John Hancock Life Insurance Company, Historic New England.


The Bodleys visit Salem

I picked up a nineteenth-century children’s book at a flea market a couple of weeks ago entitled The Bodleys on Wheels by Horace E. Scudder.  It had a neat cover, and as some of my previous posts have indicated, I like Victorian illustrations.  Actually, the cover of this book looks much more modern, but it was in fact published in 1879.  Between the covers the pictures were pretty standard, but the story was charming, and as there was a chapter on Salem I snatched it up.

Apparently there is a whole series of Bodley books, published in the 1870s and 188os, narrating the travels of the Bodley family of Boston:  Mr. and Mrs. Bodley and their three children, Nathan, Philippa and Lucy. Sometimes college-age Cousin Ned comes along.  The Bodleys on Wheels traces the family’s travels through the old towns of Essex County, north of Boston, including Salem.

The book opens with the family’s traditional New Year’s Eve custom, a collective recitation of Paul Revere’s Ride, and this sets the tone for the rest of the story. The Bodley children know the real and poetical stories of Paul Revere well.  As spring approaches, Mr. and Mrs. Bodley inform the children that the destination for this year’s road trip will be the North Shore, and much excitement and preparation ensues:  studying, drawing and coloring maps, preparing itineraries.  Phillipa occasionally rides around the Boston brownstone  on a broom in imitation of a Salem witch, but by the time they get to the old port the children are really only interested in seeing the birthplaces of Nathaniel Hawthorne and the famous historian William H. Prescott!  No tacky witch museums for them ( fortunately there weren’t any tacky witch museums yet, but one get the impression that even if there were, the Bodley family would have abstained).  Of course, being children, they are interested in obtaining some of Salem’s famous candy, Gibralters and black-jacks.

While in Salem, the Bodleys stay with the family of Mr. Bodley’s college classmate, Mr. Bruce, whose house is full of “antiquities”.  He also provides many telling quotes about Salem and its perceived history and culture at the time.  He observes that “here in Salem we’re all as old as we can be when we were born” (???), that Hawthorne “connects the old and new for us”, and that while the port is “sleepy” now, Salem’s trade to the East was so active back in the day that the eastern “heathen” thought SALEM was a country rather than a city.  You can read the entire quotation above; it’s a sentiment that I’ve heard time and time again (minus the heathen characterization), even in the Salem of today.


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