One, if by land, and two, if by sea…

With the arrival of our July 4th holiday weekend, it’s time to celebrate our early American patriots. As the title of today’s Design Vocabulary post suggests, we are taking a look at the famous American patriot who also happened to be a very talented craftsman.

Portrait of Paul Revere, by John Singleton Copley (circa 1769), painted when Revere was around 34 years old. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

History

Paul Revere was born in 1735 in Boston to a French-born silversmith and his wife. He was the third of 12 children, and would eventually be the eldest surviving son. As was the custom of the day, Paul left school and became apprenticed to his craftsman father at the age of 13. His father died when Paul was only 19, which did not allow him to legally own and continue the family silversmith business.

Instead, Paul spent a couple of years serving in the provincial army during the French and Indian War. When he returned to Boston, he was old enough to take over his father’s shop in his own name. He married his first wife, Sarah, in 1757, after which they had eight children before Sarah’s death in 1773. Only five of their children survived childhood.

Paul was a popular and talented silversmith, as represented in his portrait above and evident in his creations shown below. He marketed his business through membership in the Boston Masonic Lodge, of which he was a founding member. Unlike most silversmiths, Paul was also a gifted engraver, which allowed him to decorate his own pieces in his own shop. Documents actually survive detailing that his shop made over 5,000 pieces of silver, including items as small as decorative buttons.

A sugar bowl and creamer from Paul Revere's post-revolution work, circa 1790-1800 Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Paul was a good provider for his family, which included his second wife, Rachel, and their eight children (of which only six survived). He also took care of his mother and older, unmarried sister. However, following harsh new British laws, like the infamous Stamp Act, the American economy took a nosedive and fine craftsmen like Revere were the first lambs to the slaughter.

We all know what happened next. Thanks to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his heroic poem, Paul Revere is eternally remembered for his “midnight ride” to warn American patriots of the arrival of British troops for what would become the battle of Lexington and Concord. (The British troops arrived by land, in case you forgot your Old North Church lantern trivia.)

While scholars (and, apparently,  Sarah Palin) will debate the details of that midnight ride for the rest of time, I’d like to focus on a lovely piece from Paul’s designs that is still popular today. The Revere Bowl:

"Sons of Liberty Bowl", silver hollowware, 1768, by Paul Revere Jr. Image courtesy of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Click on the picture for more interesting details!)

All of the bowl photos shown in this post are linked directly to their sources for easy browsing.

Design

As you can see from the above photo, the design of a the Revere bowl is very simple. It is a wide, deep bowl on a foot of several tapering rims. While some of the most famous of these original bowls were silver, they were also very popular and practical in the more affordable pewter variety.

While these pewter bowls are not as shiny as the silver versions, they also requires less maintenance. I like the lovely antique-looking patina that the pewter bowls show.

Now that you can spot the Revere bowl profile you can find all sorts of variations available today. For example, many fine china companies use the Revere style footed bowl as a model for some of their patterns’ vegetable serving bowls.

Image courtesy of lenox.com

You can even find a few crystal bowls sporting the Revere bowl profile. Shown here as an etched commemorative bowl…

Image courtesy of jbaawards.com

…and here in a cut crystal style.

Image courtesy of amazon.com

Uses

There are as many uses for Revere bowls as your imagination can dream. I think this is one of the reasons Revere bowls are still so popular today. Linked below are a few of the most popular uses today.

Trophy Bowl with wood block base

Like the original “Sons of Liberty Bowl”, Revere bowls are great commemorative gifts. Dates and names for anniversaries, christenings, retirements and awards look gorgeous engraved on the curved bowl edge. Here’s another example that raises the foot of the bowl to give more of a classic trophy look:

Empire Pewter Trophy Bowls

Smaller Revere bowls work great as candy dishes, nut bowls and great accessory bowls for other uses in the house, like catching jewelry or holding potpourri.

This lovely Revere punch bowl would be a real show-stopper at any party. Can’t you just imagine it shining in candle light at a great Christmas party?

Revere bowls make great fruit bowls in a simple style that matches any room’s decor. You can now find Revere bowls with removable clear plastic liners to make any day-to-day cleaning a little easier.

They also make wonderful floral centerpiece holders. They can show a beautiful arrangement of flowers without a dominating height that blocks the view of those who are sharing your table. This makes these centerpieces very popular at weddings, like the example shown here:

Image courtesy of beautifulweddingflowers.blogspot.com

I have several Revere bowls. I love using them as beautiful catch-all bowls for smaller items on our bookcases. They look stylish and organize some of our smaller items that would otherwise look clutter-y. We toss in photos we need to put in albums, souvenir tickets or programs, small books that fall over on the shelves by themselves, etc. Here’s a Revere bowl at work in my home:

Do you like the classic style of the Revere Bowl? Do you have a Revere Bowl in your home? How do you use it?  I hope you all enjoy, or are already enjoying, a beautiful July 4th holiday weekend, from sea to shining sea.

Happy Independence Day! See you on Tuesday!

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Posted on July 1, 2011, in Decor, Design Vocabulary, Organization. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. We have a revere bowl that I inherited from my aunt. It’s silver, but I don’t mind polishing it. I sometimes serve muffins out of it, but most of the time it keeps the playing cards and other card games.

    I didn’t know about the history. It’s very interesting.

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