11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Paul Revere

Everyone knows about Paul Revere’s midnight ride, but this patriot did a lot more to help America gain its independence. Here are 11 little-known facts about the Founding Father.

1. His father was a Huguenot.

Revere’s father, Apollos Rivoire, was a French Huguenot refugee who fled his country as a result of religious persecution. He was born in Riocaud in 1702, but with time he lost most of his connection to France—he could not read or write the language. The Frenchman later changed his name to Paul Revere, "on account that the Bumpkins pronounce it easier." He married Deborah Hitchbourn, a member of a very old Boston family, and passed the anglicized name, Paul, to his eldest son.

2. As a teen, Revere worked as a church bell ringer.

When he was around fifteen, Revere would ring the bells at the Eight Bell Church near his home. The young patriot and his friends set up a bell ringers’ association. They drafted a document that detailed the rules and guidelines for membership. Members could only be allowed into the group through a unanimous vote, members could not beg for money, and a moderator was chosen every three months to delegate work and changes within the group. The simple document focused on the fundamentals of public duty, majority vote, and community.

3. Revere made some interesting items in silver.

Revere’s father came to Boston as an apprentice smith. He worked for a man named John Coney for several years and purchased his freedom for forty pounds. After Revere was born, he apprenticed under his father and learned how to craft things from gold and silver. Some items include a chain for a pet squirrel, an ostrich egg snuffbox, and sword hilts. You can tell an item is made by Revere by his maker’s mark—either his last name in a rectangle, or his initials in cursive.

4. The silversmith was also a dentist.

When dental surgeon John Baker moved to town, Revere happily studied under him. He learned how to create false teeth out of ivory and insert them using wire. Revere became so confident in his abilities that in 1768, he placed an ad declaring he “can fix [teeth] as well as any surgeon dentist who ever came from London, he fixes them in such a manner that they are not only an ornament but of real use in speaking and eating.”

5. He made a lot of money. Literally.

During wartime, Revere used his smithing skills to engrave printing plates to print money in Massachusetts. He was also commissioned to design the Continental currency, money used to pay the rebel army. The new bills strangely ranged from one-sixth of a dollar to 80 dollars.

6. During the war, Revere accidentally engaged in some super early forensics.

After Dr. Joseph Warren was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, he was buried like others in an unmarked grave. Ten months later, the bodies were exhumed and examined. Revere was Warren’s dentist, and recognized him by his teeth: Revere had given Warren a false tooth fastened with wire. This was the first body identification done by teeth in recorded history.

7. He had a large family.

Revere had two wives, Sarah Orne and Rachel Walker, and he had eight children with each of them. Revere was a doting father who referred to his kids as his “little lambs.” Ten of Revere’s children perished at a young age, but he still managed to acquire 52 grandchildren.

8. Revere was unfailingly polite and dapper.

The patriot even dressed well on his famous midnight ride. Impressed by his garb, his captors saluted him as one of equal rank (before threatening to shoot him in the head). Even with a gun in hand, the redcoat politely asked, “May I crave your name, sir?”

9. He was not drunk on his midnight ride.

This urban legend took hold when the media was eager to discredit the Founding Fathers during the tumultuous era surrounding the Vietnam War. One Boston newspaper ran a story in 1968 claiming that Revere drank some rum early into his midnight ride. Revere’s drunken yelling apparently roused the patriots accidentally. While Captain Hall, a patriot stationed in Medford, did own a distillery, there is no evidence suggesting that Revere’s booze-fueled yelling truly occurred. Regardless, the unfounded accusations caught on and are often still suggested as truth.

10. He wasn’t the only one to go on a midnight ride.

Paul Revere and William Dawes originally planned to carry news of the invasion to Concord, where military supplies were stored, and then warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams, who had been targeted for capture. On the trip there, the duo would ride through Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, warning patriots as they passed through. They ran into Samuel Prescott (who was just leaving a lady friend’s house at one in the morning) in Lexington, and asked him to come along.

Revere was captured about halfway through the ride, but the others managed to escape and keep going. Revere had his horse confiscated but still managed to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams. The true hero was Prescott, who actually went through with the plan and reached Concord.

So why were the more successful criers left out of the story? One very popular—but incorrect—poem is to blame. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s "Paul Revere's Ride" starts with this very familiar stanza:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

This poem is filled with intentional inaccuracies. Longfellow did his research, but took many liberties in order to properly convey his message. The poet wanted to create a folk hero by painting a lone man as the midnight rider. In order to do such, he removed the extra players.

11. We’ve all been misquoting him.

Paul Revere and his fellow patriots never shouted, “The British are coming!” That wouldn’t have made sense, since most colonists were British. The actual warning was "the Regulars are coming out.” This misconception is another result of Longfellow’s creative license—he found the real sentence to be too wordy for his poem.

7 Terrifying Historical Remedies for Migraine Headaches

George Marks/Getty Images
George Marks/Getty Images

Migraines are more than just splitting headaches. Migraine symptoms, which affect about one in seven people worldwide, can include throbbing pain on one side of the head, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances called auras. Today, several classes of drugs are prescribed to either prevent migraine headaches from happening or halt them once they’ve started. But in previous centuries, migraine treatments weren’t so convenient—or effective.

1. Bloodletting

Whether by scalpel or by leeches, bloodletting was the most common remedy for migraine headaches (and many other ailments) before the advent of modern medicine. Throughout most of history, Western physicians subscribed to the humoral theory, in which human health was governed by four fluids (humors) that must be kept in balance. Sickness was explained as an imbalance of humors, and bloodletting was thought to rebalance the system. The methods varied, though. In the case of migraine headaches, the Greek physician Aretaeus suggested sticking a barbed goose feather up the unfortunate patient’s nose and prodding around until blood flowed.

Even as late as the 18th century, bloodletting was still believed to help migraines. Swiss physician Samuel Auguste Tissot, who was the first to describe migraines as a discrete medical condition in the 1770s, recommended bleeding, better hygiene and diet, and drugs including infusions of orange leaves and valerian.

2. Garlic

The 11th-century physician Abu al-Qasim suggested sticking a clove of garlic into the migraine headache sufferer’s temple. He offered a handy recipe:

“Take a garlic; peel and cut at both extremities. Make an incision with a large scalpel in the temple and keep under the skin a cavity wide enough to introduce the garlic and to conceal it completely. Apply compresses and tighten, let it remain about 15 hours, then remove the device. Extract the garlic, leave the wound for two or three days, then apply cotton soaked in butter until it suppurates.”

Once the wound started oozing—which was considered a good sign—the physician would cauterize the incision with a hot iron. Cauterization was meant to prevent infection, although modern research has shown that it actually lowers the threshold for bacterial infections.

3. Cupping

Cupping—inverting hot glass vessels on the patients’ body—was thought to perform the same function as bloodletting. Prominent Dutch physician Nicolaes Tulp, depicted in Rembrandt’s 1632 painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, treated a migraine sufferer by cupping. She soon recovered.

A substance called cantharidin, a potent blistering agent secreted by the Meloidae family of beetles, was also applied as part of the cupping and blistering process to draw out bad humors. Unfortunately, if the cantharidin was left on too long, it could be absorbed into the body and cause painful urination, gastrointestinal and renal dysfunction, and organ failure. (Perhaps unrelatedly, cantharidin was also used as an aphrodisiac.)

4. Trepanation

One of the oldest types of surgery, trepanation is the practice of cutting away part of the cranium and exposing brain tissue to treat injuries or chronic conditions like migraine headaches. The 16th-century Dutch physician Petrus Forestus, who meticulously recorded the ailments and treatments of his patients, performed trepanation on a person with incurable migraines. In the brain tissue he found something he called a “black worm.” According to a 2010 study by neurologist Peter J. Koehler, the mass may have been a chronic subdural hematoma—a collection of blood between the surface of the brain and its outermost covering—and a possible cause of the patient’s agony.

5. Dead Moles

Ali ibn Isa al-Kahhal, the leading ophthalmologist of the medieval Muslim world, described more than 130 eye diseases and treatments in his groundbreaking monograph Tadhkirat al-kaḥḥālīn (The Notebook of the Oculists). While his descriptions of ocular anatomy were sound, he also touched on remedies for headaches, and here his prescriptions seem more suspect. To treat migraines, he suggested tying a dead mole to one’s head.

6. Electric Fish

Long before scientists fully understood the principles of electricity, ancient doctors recommended it as a remedy for migraines. Scribonius Largus, the court physician for the Roman emperor Claudius, saw that the torpedo fish—also known as the electric ray, native to the Mediterranean Sea among other areas—had the power to shock anyone who touched it. Largus and other doctors prescribed the shocks as cures for headache, gout, and prolapsed anus.

In the mid-18th century, a Dutch journal reported that the electric eel, found in South America, emitted even stronger shocks than the Mediterranean fish and were used for head pain. One observer wrote that headache sufferers “put one of their hands on their head and the other on the fish, and thereby will be helped immediately, without exception.”

7. Mud Foot-Baths

Compared to expired rodents, warm foot-baths must have sounded positively decadent to those afflicted with extreme pain. Nineteenth-century physicians suggested that migraine sufferers take the waters at Marienbad (now Mariánské Lázně) and Karlsbad (now Karlovy Vary), two spa towns in what is now the Czech Republic. While the mineral waters were useful for alleviating congestive headaches, mud foot-baths were believed to draw blood toward the feet and away from the head, calming the nervous system. “The foot-bath ought not to be taken too hot, and the feet should be rubbed one over the other while washing the mud off, and afterwards with a coarse towel. A brisk walk may be used to keep up the circulation,” suggested Prussian Army physician Apollinaris Victor Jagielski, M.D. in 1873.

Who Stole My Cheese? Archivists Are Cataloging 200 Years of Criminal Records From the Isle of Ely

Internet Archive Book Images via Flickr, Wikimedia Commons
Internet Archive Book Images via Flickr, Wikimedia Commons

And you thought your parents were strict. In 16th century England, the same courts that tried murderers were also tasked with getting to the bottom of cheese thefts.

As The Guardian reports, archivists from the University of Cambridge have begun cataloging close to 270 court documents from the Isle of Ely, a historic region of England known for its magnificent, gothic-style cathedral as well as being the home of Oliver Cromwell for more than a decade (Cromwell was appointed governor of the isle in 1643).

Some of the documents, which are dated from 1557 to 1775, relate to matters that may seem macabre—or even ridiculous—in the modern world. But they offer a keen insight into the area's past. "This project enables us to hear the voices of people from all backgrounds ... long dead and forgotten, and for whom there is no other surviving record," archivist Sian Collins told The Guardian.

One such person was yeoman John Webbe, who was charged with defamation by one William Tyler after Tyler's wife, Joan, overheard Webbe tell someone that: "Tyler thy husband is a knave, a rascall & a thief for he stole my goodes thefyshely [thievishly] in the night."

Then there was poor William Sturns, whose only crime was a hunger that led him to steal three cheeses; ultimately, he was deemed not guilty. "Unfortunately we don’t know what type of cheese it was," Collins told Atlas Obscura. "But cheesemaking was fairly common in the area at the time."

Not all of Ely's court cases were about backtalk and dairy products, though. The university’s website details how in 1577, Margaret Cotte was accused of using witchcraft to kill Martha Johnson, the daughter of a local blacksmith. Margaret was eventually found not guilty, which is part of what makes this project so important.

"Martha and Margaret may not appear in any other records," Collins said. "This is all we know about them."

[h/t The Guardian]

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