Owned by direct descendants of renowned Providence merchant John Brown (1736-1803), this Newport tray-top tea table is thought to have been made for their illustrious ancestor. Along with his three brothers, Nicholas (1729-1791), Joseph (1733-1785) and Moses (1738-1836), John Brown was one of the leading merchants of late eighteenth-century America. Through their family's vast shipping empire and investments in local enterprises, the Brown brothers obtained enormous wealth and in 1795, John was described by a visitor as “the richest merchant in Providence.” They were prominent figures in Rhode Island's civic and political life and John served as treasurer of the College of Rhode Island (later Brown University), was elected to Congress and funded key projects supporting the State's infrastructure. This tea table may have stood in Brown’s 1760 brick house on Water Street (now South Main Street) and later in his 1788 mansion on Power Street, now run by the Rhode Island Historical Society as The John Brown House (Wendy A. Cooper, “The Purchase of Furniture and Furnishings by John Brown, Providence Merchant,” The Magazine Antiques (February 1973), pp. 329, 331). For a Providence block-and-shell bureau table that descended along the same family lines, see David B. Warren et al., American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection (Princeton, 1998), pp. 86-87. F139 and The Rhode Island Furniture Archive at The Yale University Art Gallery, RIF234.