Englishman Richard Cartwright was early Albany's most notable innkeeper.
Born in London, England about 1720, as a young man he emigrated to America. He first appeared as a frontier trader with Albany as a base of operations. By 1743, he had married Albany native Hannah Beasley - the daughter of an English soldier turned schoolteacher. Most of their eight children were baptized in St. Peters Anglican Church where both parents were prominent members. At the same time, the couple were frequent sponsors at the Albany Dutch Church.
More and more from his Albany home, Cartwright peddled sundries to settlers and shipped out their farm and forest products. He also made wines and benefitted from dealings with the Albany corporation and Sir William Johnson - a long-term patron. Within two decades, the one-time drifter had become a successful and well-connected Albany businessman.
But by the 1760s, Cartwright had opened a tavern on Albany's Southside. It soon became a focal point for English speaking people in the region. The tavern quickly became an inn - widely known as "The King's Arms." It offered boarding and stabling for those in Albany on business or passing through to the post-war frontier. Postal service, land and lottery sales, and a range of other business were conducted across Cartwright's tables. Albany's first Masonic Lodge also met there where Richard Cartwright was the lodge master.
Prominence apparently bred misplaced trust as, by 1770, Cartwright's unfulfilled investments left him "ruined" and facing the prospect of debtors prison. He wrote to Sir William Johnson that "neither extravagance or neglect have brot. this load of misfortune on me." He offered his comfortable new home for sale to satisfy his most "merciless" Manhattan-based creditor. Coupled with personal illness, by the eve of the Revolution Richard Cartwright had suffered a serious reversal of fortune. As storm clouds gathered, he contemplated leaving Albany althogether.
Although the first public meeting of the Albany Committee of Correspondence was held at "The King's Arms," everyone knew that Richard Cartwright considered himself an Englishman and a supporter of the crown. As his tavern became more and more the resort of pro-British personages, he came under scrutiny particularly following an incident in June 1776. By the following May, he had been identified as "suspicious," brought before the committee, and upon refusing to sign a loyalty oath, was threatened with removal to the "Fleet Prison." Although he later relented, his personal sympathies and the emergence of Richard Cartwright, Jr. as an overt Tory, caused him to be banished from Albany after refusing another oath in July 1778.
After having been been beaten and bruised and seeing his tavern and home vandalized by the revolutionaries, Cartwright packed four wagons of belongings and, with his family, made his way to Canada. Granted a military pension until the end of the war, Richard Cartwright became a magistrate in Ontario. He later testified that he stayed in Albany until 1778 "for the sole purpose of assisting friends of government and furnishing information to the king's officers."
Despite petitioning for compensation as an American Loyalist, Cartwright never recovered financially and later stated that he and his wife were destitute and living on Governor Haldimand's charity. Richard Cartwright died at Kingston, Ontario in October 1794 in his seventy-third year.
The life of Richard Cartwright is CAP biography number 6508. This profile is derived chiefly from community-based resources and from petitions he presented as a suffering Loyalist. Copies on file at the Colonial Albany Project offices. His origins remain unknown. He later stated that he was born in London.
In 1756, Cartwright was identified as a merchant. A decade later, his holdings were taxed on a par with those of Albany's prosperous (but not exceptional) businessmen. He later characterized himself as "affluent" at the close of the colonial era.
Letter from Cartwright to Johnson, March 17, 1770, as printed in the Johnson Papers 7:488-89.
Fleet prison probably referred to the prison ships anchored near Kingston. See the Committee Minutes, 760.