John Townsend, 1733-1809, of Newport, a leading representative member of America’s most prominent family group of craftsmen -the Townsend Goddard group of Newport whose products make the period 1740-1850, today command the highest auction prices for American furniture. He was only one of at least 18 family members in an extended three-generation family of Townsends and Goddards who crafted the famed Newport style of American furniture from 1740 to 1840. Other famous members of their Quaker clan, who lived and worked in the Point section of Newport, were John Goddard, Joseph, Jr., and Christopher Townsend.
Newport was the destination of many cargoes of fine mahogany woods from Honduras and Santo Domingo. Wealth created by Caribbean shipping made it possible for Jewish and Quaker merchants to own fine homes and furnish them with desks, tables, chairs, and clock cases all crafted and carved in a distinctive Newport style, emblazoned with shell carvings reflective of the city’s maritime and oceanic heritage.
John Townsend, who now joins John Goddard in the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, makes an attractive representative of this family group because of his high skills and his many documented works that have found their way into the greatest private collections and major public museums of this country. Many Townsend-Goddard pieces have graced the halls and reception rooms of the U.S. State Department in Washington where the best of America is on view to impress the diplomats of the world.