Abraham Redwood (1709-1788), founder of the Redwood Library, made his fortune on a sugar plantation in Antigua. By his mid-thirties, he was able to retire as the second wealthiest man in the colonies, and chose Newport as his home. He became close friends with Bishop George Berkeley, who regularly participated in philosophical discussion with other prominent men of the town. Due to the cost of books, and the lack of printing going on in the American colonies, Abraham Redwood pitched the idea for a library on the island, “with nothing in view but the good of mankind.” Forty five other men joined his mission, and the Redwood Library was created with a donation of £500 silver for the purchase of books. He was a very curious man, and appreciated practical knowledge, so the Redwood Library was unique as a gentleman’s library, since it also included volumes that we would consider “Do It Yourself” – like how to build a latrine, cidermaking, bee keeping and other such tasks.
Abraham Redwood by Charles Bird King, 1817. Gift of the artist.