When was Paul Revere Born? Historical Mystery.
The exact date when Revere was born remains a small historical mystery. A search on the Internet will probably yield at least some of the following dates: December 21st 1734, December 22nd 1734, January 1st 1735 and even January 1st 1734. So which one is correct? You will be surprised.
Before we can start interpreting historical dates it will be useful to refresh how the calendar changed in the British colonies in North America in 1752. As a result of this change the New Style, Gregorian calendar was adopted instead of the Old Style, Julian calendar. The conversion between the two is not linear and depends on the years range. The years between 1700-1800 had a gap of 11 days. The other detail is that under the Old Style calendar the New Year stared on March 25th instead of January 1st.
Now let’s go back to Paul Revere’s birthday. One thing we know for sure is the documented date of young Paul’s baptism. The records of the "New Brick" Congregational Church in Boston show that Revere was baptized on December 22, 1734. This is of course the Old Style date because it was made prior to 1752.
When could have Paul Revere be actually born? One common opinion is that it was customary in those days to baptize children the day after the birth, if the child’s health permitted this. So Revere could have been born on December 21, 1752. This point of view is shared for example by Ryan P. Randolph in ‘Paul Revere and the Minutemen of the American Revolution’ and by David Fischer in ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’ both writing that Revere was born on December 21st and Baptized on December 22nd.
The other point of view is that most likely it had to be several days between Revere’s birth and the day when he was baptized. This assumption is supported by the history of Revere’s own family. For example one of Revere’s own sons, Joshua was born on December 7, 1774 and baptized at West Church on December 11, 1774, four days later. (The Revolutionary Paul Revere By Joel Miller).
In summary we can conclude that Revere was baptized on December 22nd (O.S.) and could have been born on December 21st (O.S.) or few days earlier. Is it possible to pinpoint the birth date more accurately? Let’s try to convert these dates into the New Style.
According to the translation table in 1734 the difference between Julian and Gregorian calendars was 11 days. Therefore Paul Revere’s baptism date is January 2, 1735 New Style, not January 1st as widely publicized. This can be easily confirmed by date conversion calculators found here and here. It is hard to tell why January 1st stuck as the incorrect baptism date. Perhaps there was a translation mistake in an earlier historic text that was carried on by other authors. But there can be another explanation. If we believe the assumption that Revere was born the day before he was baptized then his actual birthday was December 21, 1734 Old Style or January 1, 1735 New Style. Another possible proof that Revere’s actual birthday was January 1 (N.S.) is Revere’s tombstone at the Old Granary burial ground in Boston. It clearly states that he was born (not baptized) in January. The only possible date in January before the baptism is January 1st. Interestingly the year carved on the headstone is 1734 not 1735 because of the Julian’s tradition to start the year on March 25th instead of January 1st.
So next time if someone asks when Paul Revere was born, the informed reader could quote the following dates:
- Possibly born on December 21, 1734 (O.S) / January 1, 1735 (N.S.)
- Baptized on December 22, 1734 (O.S.) / January 2, 1735 (N.S.)
Read more about Paul Rvere's childhood in Biography - Early Life >>