b. Newport, RI, March 26, 1699
d. Newport, RI, April 29, 1765
Wealthy and distinguished merchant, philanthropist, patron of the arts.
The half-brother of Governor Richard Ward. His father, Arnold Collins, a silversmith, designed and engraved the seal of the Colony of Rhode Island (anchor and the motto "Hope").
At an early age, Collins was sent to England for studies in mercantile career. Acquires cultivated taste for literature and the arts.
A founding member of the Philosophical Club. Donates a deeded lot of land to Abraham Redwood [q.v.]. This former bowling green becomes the site of Redwood Library.
An inscription carved by John H. Benson in the paved walkway at the Redwood reads: "through the munificence of Henry Collins, Esquire, this land, formerly a bowling green, was given for the erection of the Redwood Library."
Two portraits of Collins at Redwood: artists John Smibert, c. 1736, and Robert Feke, c. 1749.
Years later Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse dubbs him "the Lorenzo di Medici of Rhode Island." William Hunter [q.v.] will state "Henry Collins loved literature and the fine arts. He had taste, the sense of beautiful in nature, conjoined with the impulse to see it imitated and surpassed by art..."
His art patronage included supporting local artists such as Robert Feke. His outstanding collection of paintings included portraits by Smibert, Feke, and Stuart.
Interested in civic affairs - a proprietor of Long Wharf, responsible for its extension. One of two members responsible for the erection of 7th Day Baptist Meetinghouse (the oldest of its faith in U.S.).
Engaged in the manufacture of cordage with Ebenezer Flagg. Firm name: Collins & Flagg, subsequently, Collins, Flagg, Engs. Involved in privateering as well, the firm goes bankrupt in the 1760s, mainly due to the trade difficulties of the Seven Years' War and stricter enforcement of the British Navigation Acts.
The farm and the house on Washington Street were taken over by George Rome, the agent of Collins’s London creditors. When the British evacuated Newport in 1779, during the Revolutionary War, the property was confiscated from the loyalist Rome. In 1780, the house on Washington was torn down and the wood used for fuel by the townspeople.
After losing his property, Collins lived with the Flaggs in the house he had given them when they married. Ebenezer Flagg died in 1762. The exact date of Henry Collins’s death is not confirmed, and has been variously given as 1764, 1765, or 1770. It is now believed, based on information from Flagg family papers, and the April 29, 1765, edition of the Newport Mercury, that he died in 1765 and is buried in an unmarked grave within the Flagg family plot at the Common Burial Ground.
Mary Ward Flagg sold her house, sometime after the deaths of her husband and uncle, to Robert Lillibridge, who turned it into Pitt’s Head Tavern. It was a popular Washington Square tavern for many years. The building has been moved twice, and now stands at the northwest corner of Second and Bridge Streets.
Researcher/Writer: Brian Stinson
Project Editors: Lynda Bronaugh, Jennifer K. Caswell, Christian-Albrecht Gollub, Brian Stinson
Funded by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities
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Stinson, Brian. (2004). Newport Notables. Retrieved from http://www.redwoodlibrary.org/research-projects/newport-notables
Stinson, Brian. “Newport Notables.” Redwood Library & Athenaeum. Redwood Library & Athenaeum, 2004. [Date of access] dd/mon./yyyy. < http://www.redwoodlibrary.org/research-projects/newport-notables/>.
Stinson, Brian. “Newport Notables.” Redwood Library & Athenaeum. 2004. Accessed month day, year. http://www.redwoodlibrary.org/research-projects/newport-notables.