John Cahoone, 1726–1792


cabinetmaker, joiner


Newport, Rhode Island


John Cahoone was born in Warwick, Rhode Island, October 19, 1726.(1) Though details of his parentage and early life are currently unknown, he was in Newport by June, 1746 when he witnessed a deed between Newport joiners Handley Chipman and James Pitman.(2) This possibly indicates that Cahoone, who would not complete his formal training until age twenty one, was an apprentice to one of the two joiners involved.

From a young age, Cahoone was involved in the extensive trade of furniture from Newport to colonies throughout British America and the Caribbean. Though generally working through established merchants, in 1749 he partnered with fellow Newport cabinetmakers Constant Bailey and Benjamin Peabody to charter a ship to North Carolina. This was a substantial financial undertaking, and seems to have been something of an anomaly in Cahoone's career. As detailed in his surviving account book, he created a variety of forms for export, notably desks and other case pieces, though most often the export was undertaken by an intermediary.(3)

Cahoone married Hannah Beere in Newport in 1751, possibly the widow of Charles Beer of Newport.(4)

He entered the cabinetmaking profession during a particularly litigious period in Newport, and his name dots the court records in the first two decades of his career. In 1755, he sued Newport painter William Pelsue accusing that, "with Force & arms [?] the said William an Assault did make upon the Body of Samuel Slocum of Newport aforesaid an Infant and apprentice to the said John Cahoon." Slocum was held until Cahoone made good on a one hundred pound debt. The jury found in Pelsue's favor, Samuel Slocum having been detained for failing to pay his wigmaker.(5) Such a pattern would repeat throughout Cahoone's career. As a middling craftsman, he lacked the resources to establish direct lines of trade with a wider market, as so took on extensive debt to merchants and middlemen as he attempted to expand his business.(6)

Cahoone died in Newport in August of 1792 at the age of 67.(7) His estate inventory was taken by Edmund Townsend. He was evidently still active as a cabinetmaker leading up to his death, leaving 4 unfinished mahogany desks and bookcases, a wide selection of lumber, his joiner's bench, and a lathe.(8)

Benjamin W. Colman and Patricia E. Kane

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

2. Handley Chipman to James Pitman, deed. June 18, 1746, Newport Deeds vol. 6, 643-644; Newport Land Evidence, Newport Historical Society, R.I..

3. Jeanne Vibert Sloane, "John Cahoone and the Newport Furniture Industry," Old Time New England 72 (1987): 95-97.

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

5. John Cahoone v. William Pelsue, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. E, p. 5, Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I.

6. Sloane, "John Cahoone," 96-98.

7. Columbian Sentinel, "Died," August 22, 1792.

8. John Cahoone probate inventory, August 31, 1792. Newport Probate, vol. 2, p. 252, Newport City Hall, R.I.