Paul Revere Heritage Project


Paul Revere - Boston's Fire Warden

According to the Boston Fire Historical Society, Paul Revere was not only the famous Patriot messenger who during his Midnight Ride warned John Hancock and Sam Adams that the British were coming, but was also the Boston’s Fire Warden in 1775.

Among American colonial cities Boston was the first one to get a paid fire department in 1678. Before that the city had a fully volunteer fire department which was created in 1671, shortly after Boston was founded in 1630. Not surprisingly the first fire engine was brought from England. Tomas Atkins was appointed the first foreman of the Boston Fire Company. In 1711 the fire organization was expanded to ten fire wards given the authority to organize fire fighters and arrest looters. Despite of these precautions the first of Boston’s “great fires” occurred on March 20, 1760. It destroyed 349 buildings. In the same year the 9 fire companies were established and the city was divided into fire districts.

For the citizens of Boston being a volunteer member of the fire department was a great honor. Several other prominent members of the Sons of Liberty also served as fire wardens, including Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Hancock who was a wealthy merchant actually gave a hand-pumped fire engine to his city. The fire engine was named Hancock Number 10.

Paul Revere’s legacy at the Boston Fire Department was the result of his profession as a craftsman and a coppersmith. Throughout his life he earned a reputation of an inventor and a pioneer in many areas of technology. One of Revere’s apprentices was a gentleman named William Cooper Hunneman. He started a company that among other things manufactured the finest hand-pumped fire engines of the time and also made other equipment such as hose reels and ladder trucks. Even though the company stopped manufacturing these items in 1883 when the steam fire engines were adopted, these products are still prized collector’s items. Another apprentice of Paul Revere, Ephraim Thayer also became a prominent fire-engine builder whose first fire engine is on display in Boston Fire Museum.