Paul Revere was a local hero who became a national patriotic symbol when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "Paul Revere's Ride," was published in 1861. The "Midnight Ride" refers to the night of April 18, 1775, when Revere rode from Boston to Lexington to warn fellow revolutionaries Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were on their way to arrest them. Children can learn more about Revere by making simple crafts that reference his world and his life.
Revere arranged for the members from the local Sons of Liberty committee to hang one lantern in the bell tower of the nearby Christ Church if the British troops were seen marching "by land" through Boston Neck. Two lanterns would be hung if they were seen rowing "by sea" over the Charles River to Cambridge. In colonial times, lanterns and fire-screens were often decorated with a technique called tin-punching. Make your own tin-punched lantern by drawing a dotted pattern on the outside of a clean tin can. Fill the can with water and freeze it for up to two days. The ice will make it easier to punch holes through it. Lay the can on its side on top of a towel and have an adult punch nail holes into the can according to the design. Two additional holes should be punched on opposite sides near the top so a handle can be inserted. An adult should also remove the rest of the ice from inside the can because the insides of the holes can be sharp. Thread a length of wire, such as an unwound coat hanger, through the two top holes. Wind the ends together at the top. Secure a votive candle to the bottom of the lantern with modeling clay. Have an adult light the end of a spaghetti noodle (which will burn steadily but lessens the chance of burnt fingers). Light the candle.
Revere wrote three accounts of his famous ride at the request of the Massachusetts Provisional Congress as part of a plan to prove that the British fired first in the Battle of Lexington. You can write your own story about Revere's ride with a quill pen similar to one he may have used. Use a large craft feather or a feather you've found outside. A turkey feather is an ideal size. Cut the tip off of the shaft at an angle. Make a very small cut lengthwise into the bottom of the shaft. Sharpen the longer end to a point with a nail file. Dip the quill into ink and write. The tip can get dull quickly, so resharpen it when necessary. This activity should only be done by older children with adult supervision, as it involves sharp objects.
Revere likely read and wrote by candlelight, and the lanterns that signaled the British troops' arrival were likely lit by candles. You can make your own candles in the same way colonial Americans did. Have an adult melt candle wax in a double boiler or in a small pan or coffee can sitting in three inches of water inside a larger pan. Place a wire rack under the coffee can or pan so that it doesn't touch the bottom of the larger pan. Use a candy thermometer to make sure that the water heats to about 180 degrees. It should not reach over 220 degrees or the wax may burn. Cut a piece of candle wick to a few inches longer than the length of the candle you want to make. Thread a steel washer or nut onto the wick and tie a knot at the end. Tie the other end of the wick to a stick so that you won't touch the hot wax. Dip the wick into the wax and pull it straight out. Let the wax cool, then repeat. To make the wax cool faster, dip the candle into a pot of cold water between wax dippings. Hang the candle to dry when it reaches the thickness you want. Have an adult cut the bottom of the candle when it's dry to make it flat on the end. Trim the wick to about 1/4 inch above the surface of the wax.
Tricorn hats were commonly worn by men like Paul Revere in the 18th century. You can make one by using the pattern provided in the Resources section. Trace the outline of the pattern onto black construction paper or thin cardboard. Cut it out. Do this two more times so you have three pieces. Stand the pieces and form a triangle with them. Staple the corners together. For a looser-fitting hat, staple further from the center. For a tighter fit, staple further from the edge.
Paul Revere would not have been able to make his famous ride without a horse. Make your own trusty steed with corks and toothpicks. Hold a large cork lengthwise and stick a toothpick at the top of one end. Angle it upward to form the horse's neck. Stick another toothpick into the opposite end and angle it downward to make the tail. Trim the tail toothpick so that it's about 1/2 the length of the neck. Stick four more toothpicks into the bottom of the cork to make legs. Place a smaller cork on top of the neck toothpick to form the head. Draw eyes and a mouth onto it with a marker. Next, make four small balls of modeling clay and stick one leg into each. These are the hooves. Flatten the balls slightly on the bottom so the horse can stand up. Glue short lengths of yarn to the tail toothpick to fill out the tail. Glue yarn along the neck toothpick and the head cork to make the mane and forelock. Attach two felt or paper ears to the head with glue as well.
- lantern image by protagainst from Fotolia.com