Scraponomics Episode 139: The Deeper Genius of Paul Revere
“Ingenuity, plus courage, plus work, equals miracles.” — Bob Richards, American Olympic pole vaulter
When we think of Paul Revere, we may first imagine his legendary ride from Boston to Concord on April 18, 1775, warning the colonists that the British were coming.
What may come as a surprise is just how influential he was in other areas, like copper refining and to what eventually became known as scrap-recycling.
Among his many talents, Paul Revere was a superb silversmith and craftsman. He supplied a vast amount of artillery like bullets and canons to be used in the Revolutionary War. Much of that material came from scrap metal, like old pots, pans, and chains.
After the war, Revere built a furnace. With his furnace he made copper bolts and spikes, which were used for American ships.
A few years later, he began to use the furnace to make cast copper alloy bells, a few of them reaching nearly 2,500 lbs. Around that time, though, the American Navy was also established, and they needed Revere’s skill set to create copper sheathing for American ships.
The irony of this is that at the time, domestic copper was pretty scarce, so much of the copper sheets used for sheathing were imported from England. But after figuring out the technology needed to make rolled copper sheets at the age of 65, in 1801, Paul Revere was able to roll the first domestic copper sheets. And the sheathing he created for American boats outperformed even the best British ships.
If you take stroll through Boston, you’ll notice that many of Paul Revere’s bells are still used today. In a nutshell, we have him to thank, not only for his crucial role in our achievement of independence, but as a pioneer of technological advancement, and of course, scrap-recycling.
Happy Independence Day from all of us at Friedland.
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