Edward Carrington was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 2, 1775, the son of physician Edward Carrington and the former Susan Whittlesey. His family moved to Providence after the Revolution, and here Edward embarked upon a career in maritime commerce.
Carrington zealously embraced the commercial opportunity to engage in the exotic China and East India trade, an enterprise begun in 1787 by Providence's Brown family. In 1802, after serving as a clerk for three local merchants, he went to Canton, China and soon was appointed United States consul, a position he held until 1811. In that capacity he represented the interests of other American merchants.
At the conclusion of the War of 1812, a conflict that stifled American shipping, Carrington established the commercial firm of Edward Carrington & Company in partnership with Samuel Wetmore of Middletown, Connecticut. This firm enjoyed a phenomenal growth. It built numerous ships and at one time owned twenty-six merchantmen engaged in global commerce--Providence's largest fleet.
Using profits derived from trade with the Orient, Europe, South America, and Africa, Carrington became a principal promoter, with Nicholas Brown and Thomas P. Ives, of the Blackstone Canal between Providence and Worcester, a public works project designed to bring the produce of the Blackstone Valley southward to the port of Providence while sending raw cotton in bales north to new mills. Begun in 1824, with a large contingent of Irish immigrant laborers, it opened on October 7, 1828, when the Lady Carrington, named for Edward's wife, Loriana, arrived in Worcester, making this barge the first boat to traverse the full length of the canal. In that same year Carrington built the Hamlet Mill in present-day Woonsocket. He followed this venture into the cotton textile industry by building the Carrington Mill (also called Clinton Mill) nearby in this strategic area along the Blackstone River.
Carrington was very active in political and civic affairs. From 1815 to 1818 he served a stint as brigadier general of the Providence County Brigade of state militia, earning him his favored title of “General.” For several years he was a state legislator, and he served on the war council of Law and Order governor Samuel Ward King in 1842 during the Dorr Rebellion. Ironically his only son, Edward Jr., had married Candace Dorr, sister of the controversial reformer, on February 22, 1841.
Carrington lived on Williams Street on Providence's East Side. He furnished his mansion with oriental rugs, porcelains, furniture, sculpture, paintings, vases, and other objects of art, most acquired from the Orient. Many of these items are now owned by the Rhode Island Historical Society and the Rhode Island School of Design.
On January 30, 1841, the ship Lion became the last East Indiaman (as their vessels were called) to enter the port of Providence, and on December 23 of that year the Panther, destined for Batavia in the Dutch East Indies, became the last to depart from Providence. Both ships were owned by Edward Carrington. Exactly two years to the day after Providence's China trade ended, Carrington's own life ended when he died at his Providence home.
- (Dr.) Patrick T. Conley
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