Constant Bailey, 1717–1801


joiner; cabinetmaker

Alternate name(s)

Constant Baley


Newport, Rhode Island

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Newport joiner and cabinetmaker Constant Bailey was born in 1717 in Little Compton, Rhode Island, a town that was part of Massachusetts until 1747. His parents were Thomas Bailey (died 1741) and Mary (Wood) Bailey (died 1745) of Little Compton. His maternal grandfather was John Wood. When Thomas Bailey died in 1741, he bequeathed 1,000, "one good cow," and "a horse to Ride on of good credible sort" to his son Constant.(1) When Mary Bailey died in 1745, she gave to Constant "30 shillings and one half of my 16 acre lot of land that was given me by my honored father John Wood [deceased] and my negro boy named Jeffrey." She wills the other half of the 16 acre lot to her son Joseph.(2) In her will, Mary Bailey provides a list of her children who survived to adulthood; sons John, Thomas, Constant, Joseph, Oliver, Barzillai, James, William (died 1751), and daughter Mary.

By 1735, Constant Bailey was residing in Newport. In February of 1735, his name is among those belonging to "The Third Company or Trained Band" of Newport.(3) In November, 1745, he published his intent to marry Susannah Mendall (c. 1724-1809) of Dartmouth, Massachusetts.(4) They had seven children; Lemuel (born 1747), Anna (born 1748), Anna (born 1750), Mary (born 1754), Deborah (born 1756, married 1784), Constant (born 1758), Benjamin (born 1761).(5)

By 1746, Constant Bailey is identified as a Newport joiner when he and his brother Joseph, a Newport cordwainer, sold lot #25 in Little Compton to their brother Thomas, a husbandman in Little Compton.(6) Surviving records suggest that soon thereafter Constant Bailey began to take part in large-scale trading ventures. In 1749, Constant Bailey became a partner alongside Newport joiners John Cahoone and Benjamin Peabody with Massachusetts mariner John Lyon to export furniture to North Carolina on the sloop Mary.(7) Part of the larger community of cabinetmakers in Newport, in 1754 and 1755, Constant Bailey exchanged mahogany and cedar boards with Job Townsend, Jr. for boards of mahogany and chestnut. In one instance, he provided Job Townsend, Jr. with "a sett of Maple Legs."(8)

In 1753, Bailey brought suit in the Newport County Inferior Court of Common Pleas against Newport mariner William Sargent and was awarded the sum of 57.0.0, the sum Sargent failed to pay for one desk, two bedsteads, one table, one cradle, and mending another cradle in 1752.(9) He brought a similar suit against Newport mariner David Harrison in the November court 1762 for failure to pay 65.0.0 for one maple table, one mahogany table, and mending a high chest.(10) In the May court of 1770, Bailey brought suit against Daniel Fones, North Kingstown mariner, for failure to pay 155.0.0 for one maple desk, one oval table, and one small table.(11) Bailey was successful in each case.

In March, 1770 Lemuel Bailey, the eldest son of Constant and Susannah Bailey, married Miss Sally Sowle of Newport. It was noted in the newspapers as far away as New London that, Mr. Constant Bailey, Father of the Bridegroom, cut a Cheese Twenty nine Years old, which perhaps was equal or Superior to any Cheshire Cheese ever imported into America.(12)

Lemuel Bailey was identified as a shop joiner by 1770, and on August 31, 1773 Constant and Susannah Bailey gave to him a small parcel of land adjacent to their own in Newport "containing Fifty three feet fronting the Street leading to the Alms House and extending back from the said Street Twenty Nine feet."(13) This deed was witnessed by Thomas Tew, father-in-law to Holmes Weaver.

Though Constant Bailey is primarily identified as a cabinetmaker or joiner in official documents, like most Rhode Island cabinetmakers he earned an income from sources beyond furniture making. In September and October of 1776, he billed Rhode Island twice for, "making a coffin for a Soldier."(14)

Bailey's "Joyner's shop" was described in a 1782 claim as "16 foot by 22 a storey and half with three Joyner's Benches."(15) In 1791 and 1792, he was described as "shop joiner" or "joiner" when he sold land in Newport.(16)

Constant Bailey died in October, 1801 at the age of 84.(17)

Benjamin W. Colman and Patricia E. Kane

1. Barzillai Baley, Constant Baley, Joseph Baley, Oliver Baley, Stephen Payne, and Mary Payne v. John Baley and Thomas Baley. A copy of Thomas Bailey's will was presented as evidence in case 205 in November, 1754. Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. D, p, 720. Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, RI.

2. Little Compton, Rhode Island, Wills,

3. "List of inhabitants of Newport belonging to the Third Company or Trained Band," February 1735. Rhode Island Petitions, vol. 3, p. 60. Rhode Island State Archives, Providence, Rhode Island.

4. Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850,

5. Vital Record of Rhode, Island, 1636-1850,

6. Constant Bailey and Joseph Bailey to Thomas Bailey, deed, July, 1746. Little Compton Deeds vol. 4., pp. 59–60, Little Compton Town Hall, R.I.

7. John Bivins, "Rhode Island Influence on the Work of Two North Carolina Cabinetmakers," American Furniture (1999): 80.

8. From the account book of Job Townsend, Jr. as transcribed in Martha H. Willoughby, "The Accounts of Job Townsend, Jr.," American Furniture (1999): 125.

9. Constant Bailey v. William Sargent, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. D, p, 303. Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, RI. Additional records in court files case 383 of the May, 1753 court.

10. Constant Bailey v. David Harrison, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. F, p, 710. Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, RI. Additional records in court files case 243 in the November 1762 court.

11. Constant Bailey v. Daniel Fones, Newport County Court of Common Pleas vol. H, 520. Additional records in court files case 149 in the May 1770 court.

12. The New-London Gazette, "Matrimony Announcement," March 30, 1770.

13. Constant Bailey to Lemuel Bailey Deed, August 31, 1773, Newport Deeds vol. 2, pp. 217–219. Newport City Hall, R.I.

14. Bill between Constant Baley and The State of Rhode Island, October, 1776. General Treasury-Accounts Allowed. Rhode Island State Archives, Providence, Rhode Island.

15. As transcribed in Margaretta M. Lovell, ""Such Furniture as Will Be Most Profitable": The Business of Cabinetmaking in Eighteenth-Century Newport" Winterthur Portfolio 26, no. 1 (1991): 51.

16. Constant Bailey to William Langley, deed, July 3, 1791, Newport Deeds, vol. 4, pp. 408–409 and Constant Bailey to Benjamin Bailey, deed, May 19, 1792, Newport Deeds, vol. 5, pp. 59–60. Newport City Hall, R.I.

17. The Newport Mercury, "Mortuary Notice," October 27, 1801.