Paul Revere (January 1735-May 10, 1818) was an American silversmith, engraver, early industrialist, and Patriot in the American Revolution. He is best known for his midnight ride to alert the colonial militia in April 1775 to the approach of British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride”.
During the 1760’s, an English dental surgeon named Dr. John Baker taught Revere how to make and fit patients with artificial teeth. Revere set up his own practice in Boston and advertised his services in the Boston Gazette in 1770. The National Museum of Health and Medicine notes that Revere fitted Dr. Joseph Warren (June 11, 1741 – June 17, 1775), a Harvard trained physician and fellow patriot, with a set of ivory dental prosthetics to replace his upper left canine and first premolar that he had attached to Warren’s jaw with gold wire.
Paul Revere inadvertently became America’s first forensic dentist when he was given the gruesome task of identifying the body of Dr. Joseph Warren, the man who sent him on his famous “midnight ride”. Warren was struck down by a British bullet during the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 and his corpse was buried in a mass grave. When Warren’s family unearthed the grave nine months later, visual identification of the bodies inside was near impossible because they had decomposed. So Revere, the man who crafted the slain officer’s false teeth, was asked to locate Warren’s remains by finding the ivory dentures he crafted and wired to Warren’s jaw.
Identification of a person based on their teeth was an unconventional technique in the 18th century. Paul Revere’s use of simple forensic dentistry is described by the National Museum of Health and Medicine as “one of the earliest cases of forensic evidence used to identify a fallen American soldier”.