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Paul Revere Tea Service

Tools such as these were used by silversmiths to craft delicate tableware.
Silversmith’s tools, courtesy the Paul Revere Memorial Association, Boston, Massachusetts

The tea caddy’s straight edges were simpler to make with rolled sheet silver. The finial was cast in a mold and later attached to the lid.

On this silver tray Paul Revere engraved the monogram of John and Mehitable Templeman, JMT.

key idea
Silver, a precious metal indeed

Silver is a very valuable metal, second only to gold. Throughout history silver has been linked with wealth and social status. It has been used as coin currency for trade, made into jewelry, and formed into special possessions for peoples’ homes, like this tea service. Paul Revere made this tea service for the wealthy Boston merchant John Templeman and his wife, Mehitable.

The Templemans were loyal customers and ordered many household items from Revere’s shop. For such items, Revere often used coin silver. Making silver objects from melted coins was a common practice at that time. If later on the owner needed money, he could sell an object for the value of the silver it was made from or else have the silver melted down and sell the metal.

To create this tea service, Paul Revere used two different processes: forging and casting. In forging, the metal is hammered into the desired shape. To prevent cracks or breakage, the hammered silver must be annealed—heated red hot and then slowly cooled. Revere used rolled sheet silver for the teapot, tea caddy, creamer, and sugar urn and their stands, which made it easier to form their straight edges. The casting process was used for the small feet on the teapot stand and caddy stand and the finials (tips) on the lids of the teapot, tea caddy, and sugar urn. Molten silver was poured into a mold made in the right shape. After the silver cooled and hardened, it was removed from the mold.

Silver objects could be decorated in various ways. The intricate designs on this tea set are engraved, or carved, into the metal. They include draped fabric and tassels and also the Templemans’ initials, JMT, in fancy script on the spoon handles and on the stands and sugar urn. Including the buyer’s initials added beauty, made the owner proud, and also served as insurance. If the item was stolen, finding the owner would be easier. Revere signed his work by stamping (pressing) REVERE, his “maker’s mark,” into the metal.

February 2007