Johnny Tremain, a young apprentice silversmith, is caught up in the danger and excitement of Boston in the 1770s, just before the Revolutionary War. Johnny can't help being swept along by the powerful currents that will lead to the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Lexington. But even more gripping than living through the drama of Revolutionary Boston is the important discovery Johnny makes about his own life.
In colonial Boston, proud, orphaned, quick-tempered Johnny Tremain works as an apprentice to Mr. Lapham, a master silversmith who is now getting on in years. More clever and skilled than the other two apprentices living at the Laphams', Johnny has the run of the Lapham household. His future seems secure: when he is old enough, Johnny will marry Priscilla Lapham, one of old Mr. Lapham's granddaughters, and inherit the silversmith shop. There he will live out his years, fashioning silver cups and basins and other fine ware for the well-to-do of Boston society.
However, fate or providence has different plans for Johnny Tremain. A crippling accident at the shop leaves Johnny unable to work as a silversmith. He is forced to find other labor, or risk starvation or the gallows. Finally securing employment at The Boston Observer newspaper, Johnny soon finds himself caught up in the on-going struggle between Boston's anti-British Whigs and pro-British Tories. In addition to delivering The Observer throughout Boston and the outlying towns, Johnny begins delivering letters for Sam Adams and The Boston Committee of Correspondence, the secret communications network of the American rebels.