A Dependent People: Newport, Rhode Island in the Revolutionary Era

By Elaine Forman Crane | Go to book overview
Save to active project

3
A Mercantile Metropolis

IF THE AERIAL BALLOON had been invented a generation earlier than it was, and if someone had been wafting in one over Newport harbor on a fine spring day--say in the early 1760s--he (or she) might have noticed that Newport's spatial patterns reflected a thriving commercial center. This did not necessarily mean that the town was crowded--even by eighteenth- century standards. Tiny in comparison to the great cities of London and Paris (each of which had over half-a-million people), Newport at the height of its pre-Revolutionary population could not claim even 10,000 people. 2 It was urban, nonetheless. Newport was large and bustling by American criteria, even though the congested alleyways that were beginning to dot Philadelphia were still alien to it. The word "compact" describes Newport best; the town did not sprawl very far from the waterfront, which was the hub of activity. Wharves stretched for about a mile along the marvelously protected harbor. Sometimes, if the warehouses or wharves were filled to capacity, the tall ships, their billowy sails now semi-furled, would wend their way in and out of the old wooden piers searching for a likely spot to unload merchandise. The sea gulls, attracted by the smell of fish and spilled rum, screeched their delight, adding to the cacophony of the waterfront. Most of the ongoing conversations concerned trade, because in Newport everyone (or nearly everyone) had something to sell. Almost every Newporter was a merchant to some extent. The great merchants had their docks and warehouses and stores on Thames Street next to the water; the petty tradesmen cornered an extra counter in someone's shop. Shalloon and ozenbrig were sold at homes and in stores added on to homes. Gimblets and rattinet were bartered off a ship before it fully tied up. Kitterns changed hands on the dock after a round of serious bargaining, and hawkers and hucksters went from street to street haggling with their customers over a few pence worth of calamanco. 3

If further evidence of commercial activity (and prosperity) should be needed, it would be found in the impressive homes built on Water and

-49-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
A Dependent People: Newport, Rhode Island in the Revolutionary Era
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 196

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?