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Correspondence from the Williams Collection

Historical note

The Williams Collection tells the story of a common Quaker family, whose patriarch was Obadiah Williams. Williams was a saddle maker transplanted to Newport from New Bedford at the time of the Revolution. Because of the close familial ties characteristic of 18th century Quakers, the Williamses and the Robinsons shared many common relatives, including Rotches and Rodmans from New Bedford. Through his second marriage, Obadiah became linked with the Brown and Almy families of Providence. Obadiah's brothers included David, a respected Newport clock maker, and Nicholas, a would-be merchant who suffered greatly from Newport's post-Revolution economic depression and from the restrictions on trade in the years leading to the War of 1812. Late in 1812, with the threat of an attack looming over Newport, Obadiah transplanted his family to the farmlands of New York, where they fought to maintain their conception of the Quaker faith amidst the schisms that occurred in the Society of Friends during the 1830s and 1840s. The Williams Collection is comprised of 245 letters detailing the private and professional lives of members of this widely spread family, and illuminates their response to the stresses of life during America's early national period.