John Moore, worked 1732–1736; died 1762




Newport, Rhode Island


John Moore worked as an upholsterer in Newport from at least 1731 until 1762, during which time he was involved in numerous lawsuits. The earliest record of his presence in Newport a lawsuit with vintner Robert Little over failure to pay his bill for “Sundry Liquors Sold and Delivered at sundry times . . . in the Years of Our Lord 1731, 1732, &1733.”(1) Moore was referred to as a shopkeeper in a posthumous court case, indicating that the upholstery trade was not his only source of income.(2)

Two surviving accounts are compelling evidence of Moore's fabrication of upholstered seating furniture in Newport in the 1730s. The first is from Nathan Townsend, a Newport currier, who sued Moore for over an unpaid bill.(3) In 1733 and 1734, Townsend supplied Moore with thirty-seven hides. The only leather identified by type on the invoice were three horse hides for 0.11.4 each and a calf skin for 0.10.6. Significantly less was the charge for dressing “2 larg Skins red,” which cost only 0.4.0 apiece. The remaining thirty-one hides were 0.12.0 each. Although the invoice does not indicate the source, they were probably cow hides and were perhaps not specifically identified since they were more the norm. All of the leather was dyed with the exception of the calf skin. The color was specified as red for all but the horse hides, which were described only as having been dressed and colored. Moore’s purchase of the hides suggests that he was partnering with early Newport chairmakers to make leather covered seating furniture.

In a second account related to his trade, Moore was sued over an unpaid bill by Newport brazier Stephen Ayrault.(4) In 1733, Ayrault charged Moore for five “pieces Girth Webb,” three orders of “glew,” and thousands of nails and tacks, including “middle tax,” “large tax,” “black do [tax],” and “brads,” and penny nails. Moore also purchased upholstery tools, including “1 hammer” and “3 awle hafts.” The account records a “Verbel Order” from Moore for 0.8.5 worth of “Sundrys” on behalf of John Ormsby, who worked as a chairmaker in Newport from at least 1733 to 1739. Moore’s order of supplies for Ormsby indicates that they had a business relationship and may represent the earliest known collaboration between a Newport upholsterer and chairmaker.

Several of Moore’s lawsuits involved joiners. In 1736, he sued Newport joiner William Robson for failure to pay rent. Moore’s attorney submitted a complaint stating that Moore had let Robson “a Certain Shop in said Newport bounded west upon Thames Street” from 1733 to 1736 at a cost of 3 per quarter. The court awarded Moore 33 in back rent for the eleven quarters that Robson had occupied the shop.(5) In 1741, Moore successfully sued Newport joiner Joseph Chaplin Jr. for failure to pay an account.(6)

Nothing is known of Moore’s birth, family, or early life. He married Lydia Yeats (or Yates) on in 1741 at the Second Congregational Church in Newport. Lydia was born in Stonington, Connecticut, and was the daughter of Richard Carder and Mary Richardson. She was the widow of Newport cordwainer Seth Yeats, who she had married in 1723 at Trinity Church. When Moore died his household inventory was valued at over 500. Possibly related to his upholstery trade were “1 case of instruments” valued at 10. In addition to his wife, Moore’s will named his son, John Moore, and his daughter, Elizabeth Hughes.(7)


1. Robert Little, Newport, vintner v. John Moore, Newport, upholsterer, case 67, Newport County Court of Common Pleas (NCCCP), vol. A, p. 192, Rhode Island Judicial Record Center, Pawtucket, Rhode Island; Complaint, May 17, 1733, in case file, Little v. Moore.

2. Samuel Yeats, Newport, painter and administrator of the goods, debts, etc., of John Moore, shopkeeper v. John Sovenall, Newport, mariner, November 1762 term, NCCCP, vol. f, p. 700, Rhode Island Judicial Record Center.

3. Nathan Townsend, Newport, currier v. John Moore, Newport, upholsterer, case 126, May 1735 term, NCCCP, vol. A, p. 308; Account, July 1733–August 1774, in case file, Townsend v. Moore.

4. Stephen Ayrault, Newport, brazier v. John Moore, Newport, upholsterer, case 113, May 1735 term, NCCCP, vol. A, p. 312; Account, June 26, 1733–December 20, 1733, in case file, Ayrault v. Moore.

5. John Moore, Newport, upholsterer v. William Robson, Newport, joiner, May 1736 term, case 185, NCCCP, vol. A, p. 396; Complaint, filed May 13, 1736, in case file, Moore v. Robson.

6. John Moore, Newport, upholsterer v. Joseph Chaplin, Jr, Newport, joiner, November 1741 term, NCCCP, vol. B, p. 250, Rhode Island Judicial Record Center.

7. Edward Wallace Phillips, The Descendants of Seth Yeats (or Yates) of Newport, Rhode Island, and the Descendants of John Yeats (or Yates) of Providence, Rhode Island (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2008), 1–8.