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History Bytes: Newport Cabinetmakers

The Yale University Art Gallery recently unveiled the exhibit Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650-1830 which features several pieces from the Newport Historical Society’s collections, including a side chair made by Job Townsend. The Townsends and their contemporaries the Goddards are renowned Newport cabinetmaking families linked in history through their craft and through marriage.

The first Townsends were early settlers of Providence, as well as the towns of Flushing and Oyster Bay, Long Island. These were New York Quaker communities with many Rhode Island connections. The Goddards descended from Henry Goddard, a weaver from Quedgeley, Gloucestershire (b. 1665), Dartmouth, Massachusetts and Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Later generations of Townsends and Goddards settled in the predominately Quaker section of Newport, “The Point,” and there established friendships through trade, community and the Quaker Meeting. Intermarriages between the families were inevitable, as in the case of two Goddard brothers marrying two Townsend sisters, helping to ensure dynastic survival.

Image: Witnesses at the marriage of John Goddard to Hannah Townsend, held at the Great Friends Meeting House on 6 August 1746, a virtual festival of cabinetmakers, joiners and artisans. Included is the family of Samuel Casey, silversmith of South Kingstown, and kinsman Governor Gideon Wanton.