| Stephen Badlam was born on May 7, 1751, in Stoughton to Deacon Stephen Badlam and his wife Hannah whose children included Hannah, Eliza, Stephen and William. Deacon Stephen's wife Hannah died on March 16, 1756. He married again but died in only a few years, leaving his children to an uneasy childhood.
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During the Revolutionary War Stephen Jr. Joined the American Army in 1775. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and was promoted quickly to 1st Lieutenant and then Captain. He met Washington, whom he admired greatly. He met Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette, who presented him with a sword. The regiment was ordered to Canada, and Badlam sailed up Hudson's River in command of artillery at which time he was made a Major. On July 4, 1776, he took possession of a rise of ground opposite Fort Ticonderoga, and on July 18th, he named it Mount Independence, a name subsequently confirmed by General Gates.
Stephen contracted a serious fever and was forced to resign from the army. In 1777 he and his wife Mary settled with a newborn daughter, Polly, in Dorchester near the paper mill of James Boies who, from 1760, owned the mill that had been started in 1728 on the old Plymouth Road, now River Street, near Washington Street. They had six other children: Stephen, Abigail, Nancy, Lucretia, John and Clarissa, all of whom grew to maturity except Abigail who died at 11. Mary died on July 26, 1794.
After his return from the War, Stephen went into cabinet making. On March 3, 1785, he advertised "Mahogany Desks, Tables, Bureaus, Chairs, Bedsteads, and Cabinet Work of various Kinds, made and sold on reasonable Terms, By Stephen Badlam, of Dorchester near Milton Bridge, when any person may be supplied with good Work for shipping or other use, and have it delivered at any Place required." Yale University has a chest on chest by Badlam: the lower chest has chamfered corners on the front side that are carved; the upper chest has Doric columns on the front corners. Three female figures, two reclining, and the central figure standing, surmount the chest on chest. It is said that these figures were carved by the Skillins of Boston.
Stephen Badlam, Esq., was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1791, a commission that was renewed five times. He was much involved in the gathering of the Second Church in Dorchester. He was vigorously opposed to Unitarianism and Universalism, both of which he felt were quite ungodly. In 1798 he was married a second time to Elizabeth Turner. He was active in the affairs of Dorchester, opposing the annexation by Boston of Dorchester Neck, and in 1804 was chosen to a Committee to the General Court to remonstrate against this idea. School had been kept in his own house from 1793 to 1799, and he served on a committee to erect schoolhouses.
Badlam's furniture is recognized by collectors for its fine quality. His chairs were similar in type to those of George Hepplewhite. His known chairs, which were signed S. Badlam, had graceful shields on the backs. The seats were of the saddle-seat variety and curved outward slightly in the front. Foliated carving above fluting ornamented the tapered front legs.
Source: Nash, Susan Higginson. "Badlam Famed Dorchester Cabinet Maker." In The Boston Sunday Herald, Jan. 26, 1958, Section III.
Also: The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, Oxford Press, US, 2006.
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Created: August 15, 2003 Modified: April 11, 2009