Thomas Spencer


According to traditional resources, Thomas Spencer was born in 1752. He was the son of Rhode Islanders Thomas and Margaret Goddard Spencer. His father was a shipwright/cordwainer and sheriff but died when Thomas was a year old. His mother then moved the family to Newport where her sons were trained by her brother as shop joiners.

In 1776, Thomas married his cousin, Mary Stafford, the daughter of future Albany resident Job Stafford. We have not yet established his connection to a particular Albany church.

After a decade of woodworking and landholding in Rhode Island, in 1783 Thomas rented lots in Lansingburgh, New York and moved there to pursue his craft. At that time, he identified himself as a "merchant of Providence."

By 1786, this transplanted Yankee had moved west again and was known in Rhode Island as "a trader of Albany."

He set up his store and home near the Albany waterfront and advertized in the newspapers. For a time, he kept a boarder and also acquired additional property along the waterfront and in the Pastures.

In 1790, the census configured his first ward home with ten family members. A decade later in 1800, only Thomas and five young people remained.

In 1794, he was among the subscribers in support of the establishment of Union College.

In June 1799, he advertized for sale "a valuable printing office with almost every necessary article belonging to a Printing office. Very low for cash or on short credit for approved security." At that time, he also was known as a printer and bookseller. In 1793, writer and publisher Silvester Tiffany had an office at Spencer's Albany bookstore. However, the name of Thomas Spencer is absent from the rolls of the contemporary Albany Mechanics Society.

Beginning in 1813, his name appeared in the city directory at the address of 320 Washington Avenue (formerly Lion Street). Beginning in 1813, a Thomas Spencer was involved in an enterprise known as "Union Air Furnace" at the Lion Street/Washington Avenue address. In 1820, Thomas Spencer (this individual would have been sixty-eight) lived at 33 Hudson Street. At some time after that, an elderly Thomas Spencer appears to have left Albany.

The presence of a number of same-named contemporaries in New York and in Albany County dictates caution in fleshing out the life of this Albany resident. Thus, we move on for now.

Thomas Spencer lost his wife in September or October 1797. Perhaps, he re-married. He is said to have died in Athens, New York in January 1840.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of Thomas Spencer has not been assigned a CAP biography number. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. The principal (and outstanding) external resource is online article from the Yale Art Gallery

first posted: 9/20/11