Transmigration of Dexter to Dragonfly
Dexter's Contexture ~ The Array of Threads that Weave
the Fabric of this Vision ~ Homespun by the Darning Need

Home ~ Biographical Sketch


Timothy Dexter was born on January 22, 1747 in the town of Malden, a community north of Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. From a family of modest means, young Dexter was sent to live on a local farm where he toiled the fields until
1762, at which point he was apprenticed to a Charlestown tanner. Residing in Boston until "made free" in 1769, Dexter promptly removed himself to the Waterside community of Newburyport ---"A plase all Noue" where he would later find fame and fortune.

Dexter soon married a widow named Elizabeth Lord Frothingham, who was left in comfortable circumstances ~ and set up a tanner's shop known as "The Sign of the 'Glov' "~ a few steps from the Merrimack River. Though a most accomplished artificer for fine leather goods ~ it was Dexter's wise investments and real estate speculation that propelled his "Ship" to the Waterside's patrician quarters.

[During the Revolutionary War, Timothy Dexter steadily invested in depreciated government bonds. Meanwhile, the wealthy of Newburyport took stock in lucrative privateering ventures --- merchant ships commissioned and outfitted to plunder enemy vessels for a percentage of the spoils. Many a grand Newburyport home had been built and decorated with the booty raided from British cargoes. Eventually, these privateering ventures failed under British retaliation, and immense fortunes were lost. In time, when the new federal treasury assumed state debts and government issued war bonds in 1790, Dexter's gains purchased one of the most exquisite of these estates, the Tracy House, where he resided from 1791 to 1796.]

As a merchant trader, legend describes Dexter as an enterprising opportunist renowned for his curious business transactions, the most famous of which was sending bed warmers to the West Indies which were adapted for use as long-handled molasses strainers. Cargoes to these tropical ports were said to have included woolen mittens and bibles. Apparently, the former payload was traded with ships bound for colder climes --- and Dexter claims to have purveyed the latter to the natives by means of persuasive proselytism.

During a brief respite in his country seat in Chester, New Hampshire in 1796, Dexter was assigned the sobriquet "Lord" --- a "title" that was retained upon his return to Newburyport in 1797. While whimsically applied, take note that the establishment of The Second Estate was an aspiration for many of the "landed gentry" in the newborn nation. (However, hopes were dashed once the Constitution was drafted prohibited same.) As for his own titular title, Dexter scribed that he considered the responsibility of "Lord" harder work than toiling the fields of his youth.

And Lord Timothy Dexter often scribbled and scribed, prescribing and ascribing in missives to the editors of the local press. In 1802, Dexter self-published his anthology, a strange "littel book" called "Pickle for the Knowing Ones" which is still in print today. The reader will find it to be an oddly profound opus, written in Dexter's original orthography. It is quite extraordinary. (A full transcription of "Pickle" (as it is commonly called) is presented on this the website ~ as well as a translation from Dexter's lexis to properly spelled prose ~ although the Knowing Ones concede that translating Pickle leaves it rather seedless.)

Though he would oft put his seat up for sale in the most revealing advertisements, Lord Timothy Dexter lived out his years in the Dexter House, where his decorations and declarations hardly met the standard decorum of the established aristocracy in the Federalist town. And while "The Tempel of Reason" no longer stands and only one of the wooden figures from Dexter's "mouseum of grate caricters" survives intact at a local museum, this legendary chapter of his life paints a vivid impression of the man's originality and creativity.

A genius was to later state that imagination is more important than knowledge. Dexter was an adventurer on a lifelong quest for both. As a Man of Letters and self-published "felosofer" --- purportedly, Lord Tim's "old head wore out three boddeys" by the time he transpired this life on October 23, 1806 --- leaving behind the "sole as the thinking part" he imparts in "Pickle" for generations of the Knowing Ones ... into a new Millennium.


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