History Bytes: Townsend & Goddard Coffins
When the Goddards and Townsends of Newport were not meticulously crafting nine shell, block front, slant front desks and bookcases with cabriole legs, open talon ball and claw feet, serpentine aprons and stop fluting cornices, they cranked out more ordinary items such as fireplace mantles, doors and stair banisters. For Job Townsend’s shop, the primary source of income came from the production of coffins, which are included in his account book, a part of our collections.
Coffin orders provide valuable historical and genealogical information in the absence of gravestones, church records and family bibles. Husbands, wives, children and servants are identified by name and age, and on a certain date. The cost of the coffin, often with special instructions, provides a window into the social and economic position of the household.