Manuscript Group 84, John Hewitt (1777-1857), Cabinetmaker Records, 1800-1814



Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs

Manuscript Group 84, John Hewitt (1777-1857), Cabinetmaker Records, 1800-1814, 0.1 linear feet / 1 volume


Call Number: MG 84










Financial records and invoice receipts kept by
cabinetmaker in Belleville, New Jersey and New York City.  Includes some
sketches of his work.


Gift of Mrs. Alex M. Linnett, 1921.



Biographical Note:


John Hewitt was born on January 8, 1777 in Penkridge, Staffordshire, England.
he learned his father’s trade of cabinetmaking, he became a machinist at the nearby
Boulton & Watts engine works in Soho.


John Hewitt immigrated to the United States in January of 1796 and soon gained
employment at Nicholas J. Roosevelt’s foundry along the Passaic River in Belleville,
New Jersey.  In the early 1800s, he left the foundry and opened a cabinetmaking shop in the
same town.  By 1802, he had established a branch office with Benjamin Ansley in Savannah,
Georgia, and by 1805 had moved from his Belleville shop to one at 191 Water Street in New
York.  During the next seven years he expanded, employing journeymen and apprentices and
shipping his furniture to South Carolina; Savannah and Augusta, Georgia; New Haven and
Bridgeport, Connecticut; Boston, Massachusetts; Havana, Cuba; England; Curaçao; and
Madeira.  He frequently accepted promissory notes or exchanges for general merchandise, and
though successful, was often short on cash.


With the embargos and loss of foreign markets during the War of 1812, Hewitt lost not
only his foreign markets, but also his southern ones.  In addition, in late 1816, his shop
and warerooms with furniture, shop equipment, and lumber were lost to a fire.
recovered and rented a smaller space in New York, using his skills as a machinist to
manufacture wheels and cotton gin parts, and to deal in lumber. In 1819, however, after
backing a friend who was later convicted of defrauding the government, he was finally
financially broken.


At this time, the Hewitt Family left New York City for Haverstraw, New York where Ann
Hewitt, John’s wife, owned a small farm.  The family planted crops and lived in a
small log cabin for a number of years before being able to return to New York.
Once back
in the city, Hewitt worked variously as a baker and shipper of mahogany.  In 1827 he
patented a “folding bedstead with superior spring and such tight joints as to exclude
insects or bedbugs” and opened a manufactory to produce his product.  He finally
returned to furniture making, going into business with his eldest son, Francis Hewitt
(b. 1809).


Around 1802, John Hewitt married Phoebe Tiemann, the mother of his first two sons, John
and James, both of whom died in infancy.  Phoebe Hewitt died soon afterwards and John
married a second time on October 31, 1808 to Ann Gurnee.  John and Ann Hewitt had seven
children: Francis (b. 1809), Sarah (b. 1811), Thomas (b. 1813), John (b. 1817), Abram Stevens
(b. 1822), Charles (b. 1824), and Anna (b. 1828).  John Hewitt died in Trenton, New Jersey on
May 30, 1857.




Nevins, Allan. Abram S. Hewitt, With Some Accounts of Peter Cooper (Harper &
Brothers: New York, 1935), pgs. 3-16.




Provenance Note:


The record book was donated by Mrs. Alex M. Linnett through Dr. William S. Disbrow in
January of 1921.  At the time the book was accessioned, it was separated from four record
books used by Caleb W. Bruen, a Newark distiller and cabinetmaker.




Scope and Content Note:


The Records consist of one volume containing daily entries of furniture orders, credit
accounts for craftsmen, and invoices of shipments from John Hewitt’s cabinetmaking
business in Belleville, New Jersey and New York City.  Large portions of these transactions
are undated, however the volume dates from 1800-1814.


The largest section of the record book is the list of daily furniture orders.
entries specify customer, piece of furniture ordered, and occasionally, price, and name of
the craftsman.  A few entries also include a sketch and measurements for the piece.
Most of
the orders are crossed out as completed, and some mention shipping orders or locations
(such as Savannah, Richmond, etc.).  These entries are rarely dated.


The invoices, which start at the other side of the volume, date from the earliest time
period of Hewitt’s furniture making business, 1800-1803. The invoices are from such
men as Caleb Bruen, Matthias Bruen, and Caleb Parkhurst and deal with shipments of
furniture, shoes, cider, spirits, and other items to New York and Savannah.


The final section of the record book contains credit accounts for the craftsmen working
at Hewitt’s shop: Abraham Baker, Elijah Barnes, Nathan Beers, Thomas Constantine,
William Crement, James Devow, John Donnagha, Peter Doughty, Abraham Edgerton, Rodney
Heeley (or Hely), John Linera, and Henry Wallis.  The accounts are marked as “cr by
work” and specify the job completed and money earned. These records date from
ca. 1808-1814.




Manuscript Group 1508,
Stoudinger-Alofsen-Fulton Drawings


Processed by Kim Charlton, April 2000 as part of the “Farm
to City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications
and Records Commission.


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