Daniel Dolorson, active 1758–59




Newport, Rhode Island


Although very little is known about the life of Newport chairmaker Daniel Dolorson, he was probably the Daniel Dolorson who married Temperance Norton in Boston on May 8, 1755, at the Church in Brattle Square.(1) If the Newport chairmaker was indeed the same Daniel Dolorson who married in Boston, he may also have completed his apprenticeship there.

The only evidence regarding Dolorson’s work as a chairmaker comes from court records detailing two lawsuits with Newport joiner

Alanson Gibbs.(2) Dolorson was identified as a chairmaker in November 1758, when he was sued by Gibbs for 1200 due by book.(3) The case file includes a writ served to Dolorson and signed by another chairmaker, Joseph Vickary, who "became his bail."(4) The presence of Vickary’s signature suggests a potential business relationship between the two. The suit was subsequently dropped by Gibbs, who was required to pay court cost amounting to 6.18.0. The dispute was not over, however, and in May 1759 Dolorson brought suit against Gibbs for 500 due by book. The court ruled against Dolorson, this time identified as a joiner rather than a chairmaker, and ordered him to pay 8.14.8 in court costs.

Reciprocal accounts between Dolorson and Gibbs were submitted as evidence in the aforementioned trials.(5) Dolorson’s work as a chairmaker is documented in a 1759 account, in which he charges Gibbs for both mending and making chairs, the latter of which included eight roundabout chairs (two in black walnut for 24, four in mahogany for 56, and two of unspecified material for 23.4.0), one roundabout chair fitted with a chamber pot for 14, four compass-seat chairs for 28, four compass-seat chairs for 24, and eight mahogany chairs for 96. In addition to supplying and mending chairs for Gibbs, Dolorson also supplied him with materials related to his trade, including glue and brads.(6)

The account from Gibbs, who apparently was a shopkeeper as well as a joiner, charges Dolorson 897.7.0 for a wide variety of goods and services provided from 1757 to 1759.(7) In addition to supplying Dolorson with food, board, and personal necessities, Gibbs was providing the chairmaker with the raw materials of his trade, including 4’s worth of "Black Wornut for a Cheare By Agreement" and 4’s worth of mahogany for a second chair. Other charges prove that Dolorson was outsourcing at least some of his carving and turning, including 38 for the carver’s bill, 6.8.0 for the turner’s bill, and 7.10.0 for "My Acco[unt] for Turning," indicating that Gibbs himself was a turner. Gibbs also billed Dolorson for several pieces of furniture, including a bedstead for himself 22, a bedstead "without Scrues for Capt[ain] Howe" for 23, a table for 12, a roundabout chair of unspecified wood for 20, and a mahogany roundabout chair for 40.

Jennifer N. Johnson and Patricia E. Kane

1. The Manifesto Church: Records of the Church in Brattle Square, Boston, with Lists of Communicants, Baptisms, Marriages, and Funerals, 1699–1872 (Boston: Benevolent Fraternity of Churches, 1902), 248. The spelling of Dolorson’s name differs in the documents cited in the following footnotes. Variations include Dollorson, Dollinson, Dollison, Dollenson, and Dolenson.

2. Although identified as a joiner in his suits with Dolorson, Gibbs is referred to in other Newport court cases as a trader, shopkeeper, or merchant.

3. Alanson Gibbs, Newport, joiner v. Daniel Dolorson, Newport, chairmaker, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. F, p. 54, November 1758 term, case 113, Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I.

4. Writ, July 10, 1758, in Gibbs v. Dolorson.

5. Daniel Dolorson, Newport, joiner v. Alanson Gibbs, Newport, joiner, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. F, p. 108, May 1759 term, case 17, Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I.

6. Statement of account, March 23, 1759, in Dolorson v. Gibbs. In addition to roundabout and compass seat chairs, an earlier bill from Dolorson to Gibbs includes "flag bottom chairs," mahogany tea tables, and turned work for roundabout chairs, see statement of account, July 19, 1758, in Gibbs v. Dolorson.

7. Statement of account, December 1757–April 1759, in Gibbs v. Dolorson.