Benjamin Baker, 1734 or 1735–1822


Occupation

cabinetmaker

Place of work

Newport, Rhode Island

Place of death

Newport, Rhode Island

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Biography

Benjamin Baker was born in 1734 or 1735, though the identity of his parents and place of birth remain unknown.(1) He was in Newport by 1759 when he was married to Martha Simpson (1735-1815) by the Reverend Ezra Stiles.(2)

Though possibly active as a cabinetmaker earlier, Baker's account book detailing his professional life in Newport begins in 1760.(3) By May, 1764, Baker was involved in a contentious real estate dispute, sued by James Easton, Nicholas Easton, Peter Baker, Giles Slocum, and Jacob Mott, Jr. in an action of assize of novel disseisin. The case was unresolved until September, 1765, when Baker was cleared by the Newport County Supreme Court.(4)

Baker appears to have been an upstanding and financially prudent citizen, rarely appearing in court of matters of disputed debts. Throughout the productive period documented by his account book, Baker produced chairs much more often than he did tables or case furniture. This is in line with patterns of Newport furniture production for export to other colonies in the British Atlantic. He is also known to have produced work for better known Newport cabinetmakers such as John Townsend.(5)

After Baker's January, 1822 death, it was announced that there would be a, "Funeral from his late dwelling; at the house of the widow Helme, near the North Battery, this afternoon, at 2 o'clock. Relations and friends are invited to attend without further notice."(6)

DAC, BWC and PEK


1. Birth date calculated from Baker's reported age at his time of death. Rhode-Island Republican, "Died," January 9, 1822. http://infoweb.newsbank.com.

2. Vital Record of Rhode, Island, 1636-1850, http://www.NewEnglandAncestors.org.

3. Dennis A Carr, "The Account Book of Benjamin Baker," American Furniture (2004): 47. Account book in the collection of the Newport Historical Society.

4. Easton et al. v. Baker, Newport County Court of Common Pleas vol. G, 271. Case concludes with Easton et al. v. Baker, Newport County Supreme Court, vol. E. Both volumes available at the Rhode Island Judicial Record Center, Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

5. Carr, "The Account Book of Benjamin Baker," 52-56.

6. Rhode-Island Republican, "Died," January 9, 1822. http://infoweb.newsbank.com.