Joseph Proud, 1711 - 1769


Occupation

chairmaker

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Biography

Joseph Proud was born on April 2, 1711, near Gisburn in Yorkshire, England.(1) He was the son of John Proud (d. 1757) and Rebecca Fothergill (d. 1732).(2) By 1714, the family had immigrated to Newport, where John Proud worked as a watch- and clockmaker.(3) Joseph probably apprenticed in Newport, and would most likely have completed his training around 1732. He married Mary Wood (b. 1712–1771), the daughter of William Wood and Amy Clarke of Newport.(4)

Joseph Proud was an active member of the Society of Friends, and his name appears frequently in monthly meeting minutes, including in 1746, when he witnessed the marriage of cabinetmaker John Goddard (1723/4–1785) and Hannah Townsend (1728–1804).(5) Proud would no doubt have been well acquainted with other fellow Quakers in the woodworking trades, and the minutes also mention his name in conjunction with those of the cabinetmaker Christopher Townsend (1701–1787), the carpenter Isaac Lawton (worked 1728), and his brother-in-law, the chairmaker Timothy Waterhouse.(6) Proud also worked with Goddard and Waterhouse, as well as with the cabinetmaker Job Townsend, on estate appraisals, which he conducted regularly.(7)

Joseph Proud is first documented as a Newport chairmaker was in 1737, when his name appears in the ledger of Henry Ayrault, who supplied Proud with hardware in exchange for chairs.(8) He was then identified as a Newport chairmaker in 1742, when he sued the physician John Brett for money due by book, and in 1750, when he sued Newport merchant Gideon Cornell for money due by note.(9) Throughout the next two decades, Proud was involved in at least twelve court cases. The majority were related to attempts to collect money owed to two estates for which he was an executor. Several, however, involved debts owed to Proud himself, indicating that he was financially secure enough both to pay his own creditors and to lend substantial sums to others.

There are two surviving accounts documenting Proud’s work as a chairmaker. The first is a September 1743 account in which he bills the Colony for chair frames supplied in 1742 and 1743.(10) A second invoice, dated June 1765, records the sale of six chairs to Dr. Christopher Champlin for 42 apiece. Chaplin’s purchase of ten mahogany chair frames from John Goddard ten years later for 44 each suggests that Proud was making chairs of a similar quality.(11)

Joseph Proud died on August 28, 1769.(12) His will, which is almost entirely illegible, references "my shop standing in Friends Land adjoining to the shop of Samuel Easton."(13) Proud’s inventory, recorded by Philip Wanton and John Goddard, sheds further light on his trade. In addition to a variety of woodworking tools, his shop contained two lathes, a turning wheel, four benches, as well as an easy chair frame (valued at 30), 56 chair legs, 8 maple chairs "almost finished" (valued at 12 each), and 50 feet of black walnut. The inventory also listed the contents of Proud’s house, which included 50 maple chairs (valued at 12 each), a maple roundabout (valued at 12), and 20 black walnut roundabouts (valued at 20 each). While the total value of Proud’s estate is illegible, the aggregate amount of the legible valuations exceeds 2000.(14)

Joseph Proud was survived by at least two family members who continued to practice the chairmaking trade in Newport. His brother John Proud, Jr., (1714–1794) and his brother-in-law Timothy Waterhouse were both chairmakers. Waterhouse may have met his wife, Hannah Proud (1712–1802), through a business connection with one or both of her brothers. It is unclear whether a family of Providence chairmakers by the name of Proud – William Proud (c. 1723–1779) and his sons Samuel Proud (1762–1833) and Daniel Proud (1762–1833) – were related to the Newport Prouds. It is possible that Joseph and John Proud’s brother William, whose birth date is recorded as October 9, 1720, was the Providence chairmaker.(15)

JNJ and PEK


1. James N. Arnold, Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636–1850, 21 vols. (Providence, 1891–1912), vol. 7, p. 70.

2. Will of John Proud, dated [August?] 22, 1757, proved November 7, 1757, Newport Town Council and Probate, vol. 12, pp. 127–129, microfilm no. 0945000, Family History Library, Salt Lake City. For Rebecca Fothergill Proud’s death date, see Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission website, http://rihistoriccemeteries.org/webdatabase.aspx.

3. The Prouds probably moved to Newport in 1713 or 1714. John and Rebecca Proud’s daughter Hannah was born in England on November 30, 1712, and their son John was born in Newport on July 22, 1714; see Arnold, Vital Records of Rhode Island, vol. 7, p. 70. John Proud’s will mentions his watch- and clockmakers’ tools.

4. Arnold, Vital Records of Rhode Island, vol. 7, pp. 39, 83.

5. Society of Friends, Newport, R.I., Monthly Meetings 1739–1773, pp. 51–52, microfilm no. 0022417, Family History Library, Salt Lake City.

6. Society of Friends, Newport, R.I., Monthly Meetings 1739–1773, pp. 52–55, 149, 210, 275–276, microfilm no. 0022417, Family History Library, Salt Lake City.

7. An inventory of the estate of Mary Goodspeed taken by Joseph Proud and Job Townsend was proved on September 6, 1756; in 1762, Joseph Proud and John Goddard appraised the estate of Newport merchant David Lake; and on November 30, 1745, Joseph Proud and Timothy Waterhouse took the inventory of Newport cordwainer Joshua Easton (Newport Town Council and Probate, microfilm no. 0945000, vol. 12, p. 57 and vol. 13, p. 179, and microfilm no. 0944999, vol. 9, p. 144, Family History Library, Salt Lake City).

8. N. David Scotti and Joseph K. Ott, "Notes on Rhode Island Cabinetmakers," Antiques 87, no. 5 (May 1965): 572.

9. Brett was ordered to pay Proud 7.19.0 plus court costs; see Joseph Proud, Newport, chairmaker v. John Brett, Newport, physician, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. B, p. 319, May 1742 term, Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I. Cornell was ordered to pay Proud 453.0.6 plus court costs; see Joseph Proud, Newport, chairmaker v. Gideon Cornell, Newport, merchant, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. C, p. 519, May 1750 term.

10. Joseph Proud, invoice to the Colony of Rhode Island, General Treasurer's Accounts Allowed, September 1743 session, Rhode Island State Archives, Providence.

11. Scotti and Ott, "Notes on Rhode Island Cabinetmakers," 572.

12. See Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission, http://rihistoriccemeteries.org/webdatabase.aspx.

13. Will of Joseph Proud, proved October 2, 1769, Newport Town Council and Probate, microfilm no. 0945000, vol. 16, p. 89, Family History Library, Salt Lake City.

14. Inventory of Joseph Proud, September 7, 1769, Newport Town Council and Probate, microfilm no. 0945000, vol. 16, pp. 90–91.

15. Arnold, Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636–1850, vol. 7, p. 70.