Thomas Howard, Jr., 1774–1833


Occupation

cabinetmaker, windsor chairmaker, lumber merchant; furniture retailer

Alternate spelling(s)

Thomas Howard

Place of work

Providence, Rhode Island, Pawtuxet, Rhode Island

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Biography

Thomas Howard, Jr., was born in 1774 in Pawtuxet, Rhode Island. He would live and work in the Pawtuxet region of Warwick until 1812 when he moved to Providence, where he would remain except for a brief sojourn to Philadelphia in 1819–1820.

Trained in the traditional cabinetmaker's craft, Howard deftly navigated a changing economy at the turn of the nineteenth century. Around the time of his move to Providence, his business expanded to include the wholesale buying and selling of furniture, textiles, tools, and ivory. Acting in partnership with the firm of Brown and Ives, the importation and selling of ivory for ornamental uses was particularly lucrative for Howard.(1)

Among the many furniture forms sold in his warehouse, Howard specified that he sold "Clock-cases with Cumming's warranted clocks," referring to William Cummens, a Roxbury, Massachusetts clockmaker, and "Willard's Patent Time Pieces."(2)

He left a fortune of 90,000 dollars when he died in 1833.(3)

Many pieces of furniture have been attributed to the shop of Thomas Howard, Jr., by history or circumstance. A pair of card tables associated with a surviving bill of sale from Howard (RIF2754 and RIF699) have been linked to him. Based on these, similarly constructed card tables with a distinctive crossed-flower inlay have been attributed to his shop (including RIF4315 ). Based on that inlay, a large group of diminutive sideboards (including RIF38 ), have also been associated with him. A substantial desk and bookcase (RIF1907 ) was purportedly inscribed in graphite by Howard, though this inscription could not be identified when examined.

Further complicating matters, Howard retailed and possibly labeled furniture made by other cabinetmakers in his Providence furniture warehouse.


1. Eleanore Bradford Monahan, "Thomas Howard Jr., Providence cabinetmaker," Antiques 87 no. 6 (June 1965): 702-704. Eleanore Bradford Monahan, "Providence Cabinetmakers," Rhode Island History 23, no. 1 (January 1964): 6–22.

2. As advertised in the May 25, 1810 Rhode Island American, transcribed in Paul J. Foley, Willard's Patent Time Pieces (Norwell, MA: Roxbury Village Publishing, 2002), 268.

3. Monahan, "Thomas Howard Jr., Providence cabinetmaker," 702–704.