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of the

A merican furniture of the 18th century is prized for its

historical and artistic value by museums and collectors ,
and as a benchmark in design and craftsmanship by mod ern-
day furniture makers.
In the first part of the book, Jeffrey Greene chronicles the
evolution of the design and const ruct ion of 18th-eentury
furniture, drawing on historical influences and th e tastes of
the period. In the second part, he explains and illustrates th e
techniques of the period furniture maker, including joinery
and authentic construction; carving, turning and inlay; tim e-
honored finishing methods; and making working drawings.
The final part examines 24 important original examples in
detail for their design, construction and artistic merit.
Written by a professional period furniture maker, this
book is intended for anyone with an interest in 18th-eentury
furniture. For antiquarians, it will serve as a detailed guide to
the furniture maker's methods. For cabinetmakers of any
period, it will be an essential reference on connoisseurship
and historical methods.

ISBN 1-56158-104-6


far fellow enthusiasts Taunton Product # 070236

$45 .00 U.S.

About the author

Jeffrey P. Greene is a self-taught furniture
maker specializing in formal 18th-eentury
designs. He has a degree in mechanical
engineering from MIT and a life-long
familiarity with period furniture. With his
FURNITURE Prized for its historical and artistic value,
wife, Greene operates the Ball & Claw, a a/the American furniture of th e 18th century is
furniture showroom of his piecesin Wickford,
Rhode Island. 18th CENTURY considered a benchmark in design and crafts-
manship. This book takes a comprehensive
look at the period , brin ging togeth er historical
and woodworking information .

The book is divided into three distinct parts.

The first part provides th e histori cal perspec-

A m erican furniture of the 18th century is prized for its

historical and artistic value by museums and coll ectors,
and as a benchmark in design and craftsmanship by modern-
tive, focusing on th e evolution of furniture
styles during th e 18th cent ury. Th e second
part explains and illustrates th e techni ques
of th e l8th-eentury furniture maker. Th e
day furniture makers.
third part is a gallery of 24 original pieces,
In the first part of the book, Jeffrey Greene chronicles the with exploded drawin gs, color photos and
evolution of the design and construction of 18th-eentury historical and stru ctural analysis.
furniture, d rawing on historical influences and the tastes of
Thi s book is an essential reference for anyone
the period . In the second part, he explains and illustrates the with an interest in 18th-eentu ry furniture.
techniques of the period furniture maker, including joinery
and aut he ntic construction; carving, turning and inl ay; time-
honored fini hing methods; and making working drawings.
The final pa examines 24 important original examples in
On the front cover
detail for th ir design, construction and artistic merit.
Written by a professional period furniture maker, this S CALLOPED-TOP DRE SSIN G
book is interaded for anyone with an interest in 18th-eentury
furniture. F r antiquarians, it will serve as a detailed guide to (POSSIBLY NORTHAMPTON), 1760-1785

the furnitu re maker's methods. For cabinetmakers of any Cherry, mahogany (kneeblocks), white pine
period, it wi 11 be an essential reference on connoisseurship H30% in. w38 in. o23Y. in.
and historicul methods. case
w29%in.o 17. in.

Private collection

ISBN 1-56158-104-6



forfellow enthusiasts Taunton Product # 070236

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D IRE CTORY ( 1795- 1799)

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D IR ECTORY ( 1795- 179 9 )
NATIONAL CO N V EN TI O N (1792- 1795)
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of the

Jeffrey P Greene

TheThunton Press
Cover photo: ScottPhillips

Back-cover photo: Courtesy Yale UniversityArt Gallery,

The Mabel Brady Garuan Collection

Time-line art (end papers): Scott Bricher


Jorfellow enthusiasts

19 9 6 by Th e Taunton Press, In c.
All rights rese rved .

First print ing : 19 9 6

Prin ted in th e Un ite d Sta tes of Ameri ca


FINE WOODWORK ING is a trad emark of Th e Taunton Press, Inc.,

registered in th e U.S. Pat ent a nd Trad em ark Office.

T he Tau nt o n Press, 63 Sou t h Main St ree t, PO Box 5 506,

Newtown, C T 06470-5506

Library of Congress Ca ta loging-in-Pu b lica t ion Dat a

Greene, Jeffrey (Jeffrey P.l
American fu rn iture of the 18t h ce nt ury / Jcffrey G ree ne.
p. em.
Includ es index.
ISBN 1-56 15 8- 104-6
I. Fu rniture-Uni ted Stat es- H ist or y-1 8th ce nt ury. 2 . Furn iture-
Uni ted States-I-listory- 19t h cen tu ry. I. Title.
NK2406 .G74 19 9 6 96- 128 59
749'.213'09033-dc20 C IP
To C hrist ine and our wonderful dau ghter H ayley,
for sha ring an aspirat ion and helping to achieve it .

Special thanks to:

Alan Lotterman , a friend w hose passionate ent husiasm

for eightee nt h-eent ury Am eri can furniture is inspi rati onal ,


John W. McAlister, Jr., a gentle ma n and cabinet ma ker, w ho suggeste d

this undertaki ng and w hose enco u rageme nt helped bring it to fruition .

Sincere thanks toall those who

galle generously of theirtimeand knowledge
to help in this endeavor
They include:

Judy And erson and the Marblehead Historical Society

David Barquist, Yale Univer sity Art G allery

Lind a Epp ich, Rhode Island Historical Societ y

Oli ver and Elizabet h Green e

Daniel E. Kiern an 1II and th e Wethersfield Histori cal Society

Jean Landry
Arthur and Mr. and Mrs. Israel Liverant, Nath an Liverant and Son,

C olcheste r, C onnect icut

Th oma s S. Michie and Jayne Stokes, Mu seum of Art, Rhod e Island School of Design

Alb ert Sack and Deanne Levison , Israel Sack, Inc., New York

Dan iel Snydacker and th e ent ire staff of th e

Newport Histor ical Societ y

Bud Steere Antique Tools, North Kingstown , Rhod e Island

Steve Stenstrom, Mu seum of Fine Arts, Boston

Philip Zea, Hist oric Deerfi eld

Thanks also to the Inusellln staff members, archivists

and photograph and slide librarians
who researched and provided many of thephotographs
used throughout this book.

2 Int rodu ction


ONE 6 Prelude toChmzge: T he Jaco bean Period ( 1607- 1690 )

TW O 16 The Cent ury of Cabinetmalang Begins: Th e William and Mary Period ( 1690- 1725)
THREE 33 Elegmlcealld Rejinement : The Q uee n Anne Style (1725-1 760)
FO UR 58 Opulence and Stately Presence: Th e C hippenda le Style (1760-1 7 85 )
F I VE 80 Designs for the Ne ui Republic: Th e Federal Period (1785 -1 810)
S IX 102 ReuisitingA ncient Splendor: Am erican Empire (1810-1 830)


S E V EN 114 Period Surfaces and Th eir Making

EIGHT 124 Constr uctio n Joine ry
N INE 148 Ca briole Legs, Ball and Claw Feet
TEN 162 Surface O rna me ntat ion
ELEVEN 176 Turning
TWELVE 185 Finishing Materi als and Techniques
Til l RTEE N 197 Measurements and Drawings

Part Three E X A I\! PL E S OF S T YL E A" D S T RU CT U R E

211 William & Mary

227 Q uee n Ann e
25 4 C hippendale
282 Fede ral

293 Appendix I: Wood and Wood Movem ent

294 Appendix II: C hro nology of Illust rated Publi cat ion s
296 Appendix l//: Period Varnis h Resins
297 Appendix IV Peri od Co lorants
298 Appendix V' Period Finishing Formulae
300 Glossary
302 Bibliograph y
304 Index

A merican fu rn itu re of th e 18th

centu ry sta nds as one of th e pinnacles of
holdings in great detail , and includes as
much of th eir historical background as
Th e furn iture maker 's viewpoint would
help antiquarians better und erstand th e
hu ma n creat ivity. In a newly settl ed land, possible. For those of us who have a strong methods of work th at yielded th e form s of
often torn by politi cal and econo mic strife, int erest in period furnitu re, these books are period pieces. It would also explain th e
one wou ld not expect th e design and valuable resources. Without th em, few of us evolut ion of woodworkin g techniques that
cons truct ion of hou sehold furn ishi ngs to would have been exposed to th e full depth enabled new styles to develop, as well as
advance to suc h a h igh sta te of refin em ent and breadth of American furniture. In design tr ends that forced advances in
as to be conside red amo ng th e greatest of add it ion, a number of superb furniture- techniques. It illustr ates th e limits placed
art istic achieveme nts . What occu rre d in history books have been published that on designs by mat erials and meth ods, and
Ame rica in th e 18th cent ury was a rare pain stakin gly trace th e development of presents th e dyn am ic nature of wood and
com binat ion of resources, tradition , styles and place th em in contex t with its impli cat ion s on st ructu re and join ery.
insp irati on and determinati on. Th e forms trends in int erior design and social and For example, an ant iquarian cou ld bette r
and st ruct u res that resulted rema in as political movem ents. Th e two landmark underst and th e degree of development of a
sta ndards of design and construct ion for all books by Albert Sack, Fin e Points of cabriole leg if he or she were familiar with
fu rni t ure th at followed. Furniture (New York, 1950) and TheNew th e process of shaping one from rough
During th is amaz ing centu ry, furniture Fine Points of Furniture (New York , 1993) , stock, and could better determine th e
design seemed to awaken from a lon g post- are among th e few that add ress th e artistic level of sophisticat ion achieved by th e
med ieval slu m ber and literally burst onto merits of originals and defin e th eir valu e to original mak er.
th e world stage. Th e 18th cent ury was collecto rs. Within th e last 30 years, books Th e antiquarian's view would benefit
witness to four tot ally new design styles: dedicated to the craft of furniture makin g cabinetma kers by explaining th e import ant
William and Mary, Q uee n Anne, have proliferated . Th e methods and aesthetic points of Am erican furniture, and
C hippe ndale and Neoclassical. Th ese styles techniques th at were once th e secrets of th e wh at differentiates a great expression of
followed one anot her in rapid success ion, apprent ice syste m are now available in style from a mediocre one. Th e antiquarian's
each a react ion to, or an advance me nt on, print. Th ese books illustrate some of the perspective st resses th e import ance of form
th e prev ious style. The designs were a classic designs, provid e measured drawings in furniture, and how th at form applies to
reflect ion of th e cha nging world at th e and oft en give ste p-by-ste p description s of th e style determines its merit. Stud ent s
t ime. Co m me rce, po lit ics, social st ructu re th e building pro cess. of Am er ican furniture know th at
and economics all cont ributed to th e Wh at seemed to be mi ssin g from th e orname nta tion does not make a piece great
new designs. literature was a work that sou ght com mon and th at not everyt hing old is worth
An tiqua rians, fu rn iture historians and grou nd between art, artifact and craft : a venerating. Antiquarian s have a sense for th e
furn iture makers have ofte n approached book that presented th e viewpoints of th e histor ical evolut ion of design and how world
the sub ject from di fferent points of view. connoisseu r, historian and artisan to one events help ed shape it. Similarly, th ey
To th ese groups , 18th-eentury fu rn it ure anot he r. Antiquarian s and furniture understand th e effects of time and have a
is ar t, art ifact or craft, but rarely a com bina- mak ers look at the sam e subj ect matter, reverence for th e color, surface and radiance
tion of all th ree, and th at is reflect ed in but with different perspectives. This book that period pieces achieve over centur ies.
th e literature. Every museum an d major is intended to pre sent th e crafts ma n's art
collect ion has a cata log that documents its to th e connoisseur and co nno isseu rship to
th e crafts ma n. It is not primarily meant to
be a book on how to make furniture, but
rather on how period furniture was mad e-
and wh y.

All of th is cannot be achieved with out design th at were in keep ing wit h th e ideals and adds anot he r d im ension to even the
some risk. I know t hat exp lor ing th e area of th e day, and th ey are very useful for closest exam ination of a finished example.
where th e fields of th e conno isseu r, th at pu rpose. If I can impart some insight int o how th e
historian and crafts man converge is bound Wit h each ph ase of 18th-centu ry cabinet ma kers of th e 18th centu ry th ou ght,
to generate some discord . For one t hi ng, furn iture design, underlyin g ph ilosophical worked and approa ched th eir designs, I will
some long-cherished myt hs may be goals ma nifested th em selves in th e various co nside r thi s effort a success. Som e of th e
endangered . Folkloric explanations and styles. T hese styles were more likely to be fin est fu rn it u re ever mad e was crafted with
romant ic not ion s are fascinati ng, but par t of a desirable "look," wit h com mon relatively simple hand tools two or th ree
pract ical reasons ta ke precede nce. I have distin guishable att ributes, th an any centu ries ago, w hich underscores th e
also been so bold as to make aest hetic consciously stated objectives. In each th ere original makers' skill as designers as well as
judgment s. Wh ile every piece of period are com mo n proportions, elemen ts and builders. Th eir work verifies th e fact t hat
furniture is impo rta nt for its cont ribu t ion orna me ntat ion that are cha racte rist ic of aest het ic ach ievemen t and technical skill
to th e body of knowledge on th e su bject, th at t rend in design, and which different i- are equally imp ortant , and it is a reminder
some pieces u phold th e design idea ls of ate it from preceding and followin g styles. th at a solid foundati on in design and
th eir era better th an ot hers. Subject ive Despi te th e colloqu ial origins of t he style crafts manship is essent ial to th e successfu l
evaluat ions are by th eir very natu re not names, t hey can be usefu l and descr iptive in practi ce of any craft . It also spea ks to th e
quan tifiable and th erefore arguable, but identifying th ese trends, th eir evolut ion, capabilit ies and imp ort ance of fund am ental
such is t he natur e of th e discussion of and th e spread and du ration of th eir han d tools, a point t hat is beco min g lost
artistic achieveme nt. pop u larity. Taken for t he ir gene ral descrip- amid st th e pro liferation of modern
In addit ion, this book is full of references t ive value, style nam es are valuab le in equ ip ment. To build fu rni tu re by tr ad it ional
to the various per iods or styles of fu rn iture esta blishing a com mo n grou nd of u nd er- meth od s, fu rni tur e th at has a sou l, one has
design that eme rged over th e course of th e sta nd ing amo ng h istorian s and ent husiasts. to work with th e wood . Machi ning wood is
18th centu ry. I have noticed an increasing With suc h a broad su bject to cover, this just somet hi ng don e to it.
reluctance to use th e tr aditional period cannot be an acad em ically detail ed histor y H istor y can often be red u ced to a dr y
nam es of Jacobean, William and Mary, of fu rn itu re design . As a result th ere are series of events, and a similar view of th e
Queen An ne, C hippendale, Hep plewh ite some areas th at cannot be explored in th e histor y of fu rn iture can rob it of its
and Sherat on . Being nonjudgrnental can deta il t hey deserve. Amo ng th em are clocks, ingenuity and spo nta ne ity. I have come to
easily exte nd to being nondescriptive, and looking glasses and Windsor chairs. I have view this histor y as a vibr ant accou nt of
avoidan ce of "labels" can mean avoiding th e purposely cho sen to conce nt rate on th e human effort and t ry not to forget th at
fact t hat th ere have been and will continue main body of 18th-centu ry Amer ican th e peopl e of th is cou nt ry two or t hree
to be preferences in popul ar fashions. fu rni ture and wou ld refer t he reader to centu ries ago were not th at d ifferent from
Grant ed, th e names th at have come to be sources th at address th ese subjects in det ail we who have inh er ited it. From the
associated with some of th ese styles are not (see th e bibliograph y on pp . 302-303). su rviving fruits of th eir labor, I give the
wholly appro priate. Th e nam es of English As a professional fu rni ture maker who origina l ma kers great cred it and respect for
monarchs have on ly th e loosest associat ion specializes in t he 18th -cen tury Am erican th eir efforts and ingenuity, and for their
wit h th e designs, and th e fu rnitu re styles, I learn ed t he su bject by st udy ing th e skills as consu m mate artists and crafts me n.
designers probably wouldn't recognize originals in depth and by bu ilding hundreds
mu ch of wh at in America came to bea r of examples. I feel th at t his has given me a
their names. However, th ese nam es do pract ical perspecti ve on t he tech niqu es and
represent certain popul ar styles of fu rn itu re designs of th e era. Bu ildi ng th ese pieces on a
daily basis imparts an insight int o th e way
t he original makers th ought and worked

I N T RO D U C T I O N 3
Part One

The account of how and why A merica11 f urniture reached such a high Ievel of

development during the 18th century is a [ascinating historical narrative. This furniture,

and the extraord inary achieuement it represented, was anything but the chance product

ofa distant colony. It was rather the logical outcome of practical requirements molded

by aesthetic trends. 111 addition, the injluencesof global commerce, shifti ngpolitical

alignments, evolvingsocial customs, personal preferences, market forces and all occasional

spark ofgenius all contributed towardshaping the workofAmerican crajts men.

To understand l Sth-century American f urniture, we must look outside the

l Sth century a nd beyond the shores ofAmerica. The development ofAmerica11

f urnitureduring this era had its origil1 deep in the previous century, and it continued

well into the[allowing century, so the narratiue stretches Oller a spa11 of 200 years.

America was a part of the worldwide British Empire for three-quarters of the

l Sth century and remained closely linked with England ellel1 aft er the Reuolution.

Engusl: tastes were injlu enced greatly by those of continental Europe, especially the

French. If American styles followed British trends, then those influ ences were truly global

in scope. As a result} muchof the discussion ofAm erican f urniture of the 18thcentury

takes place in other lands and during other times} since it was there that A merican

f urniture had its roots.

The essence of l Sth-century A merican[urniture is not easily defin ed}but it is clearly

recognizable to those who have a passion for thesubject. A merican craftsmen, inspired

by English styles} infu sed a purity of line and a refin ed senseof proportion into their

designs. Without the undue ornamentation or uninspired appearance that plagued most

European work}A merican f urniture of the period had a spirit and clarity that was

missing jrom the English pieces 011 which it was based. To what degree this resulted f rom

the conseruatiue and practical dictates of the A merican market or the independent spirit

of the A merican craf tsman is arguable}but the results are apparent. The 19th-century

essayist John Ruskin summarized the effectin stating, 'No architecture isso haughty as

that which is simple."

The thread of refin ed simplicity nm s through l Sth-century Am erican f urniture

design}but simplicityofdesignshould not be conf used with simplisticdesign. Refin ed

simplicity denotes an optimized form} while simplisticdesigns are undeveloped. Without

an aristocracy}A merican cabinetmakershad to achieve more with less. Cost was an

object}and A merican tastes were more restrained than those of the wealthy English elite.

Early in the century}A merican cabinetmakersdeveloped a distinctivestyle based on

refined and well-proportioned forms. Their f urniture was neverjust a platform for

ornament}and they were wary of short-lived stylistictrends. Even the more highly

ornamented A merican pieces have at theircore carefully proportioned and optimized

designs. As the important styleperiods of the 18th century evolved and ebbed}A merica n

artisans kept pace with thechanges and breathed theirown refin ements into the designs.

Prelude to C ha nge
(1607 -1 6 9 0 )

h e 17th century was a peri od of

profound transition in Europe, and nowh ere
more so than in England . Colonizat ion,
expand ing com me rce and governmental
uph eaval brou ght a change in th e pattern s
of daily living and in England's role am on g
t he natio ns of th e world. With an
increasingly global netw ork of trade came
an infusion of new ideas and goods. Th e
rising affl ue nce of th e merchant middle
class fue led a demand for consu me r
products, whi ch was answered by a growin g
number of skilled artisans. Th ese artisans
fun ction ed as th e manufacturers of th eir
day, choos ing from th e increasin gly diverse
su pply of raw materials to produce fini shed
goods, includ ing fu rn iture , for both
dom estic consu mptio n and expo rt to th e
English colonies. This combinat ion of
com mercial prosper ity and new cultu ral
influences invited a dr amatic change in
taste and design, whi ch began in earne st
with th e Restor ation of C harles II.

This detail from A Lady at Her Toilet, c.1660, by the

Dutch painter Gerard Terborch (1617-1681), illustrates
some of the northern European tastes that were
among the many global influences converging in
England afterthe Restoration of CharlesII.

Thi s prospe rity exte nded beyond
England itself. By mid -eentury th e recently Frame-and-Panel Chest Const ru ct ion
settled colonies in Am er ica were well
esta blished and thriving. During th e ]630s,
60,000 Englishme n left for Am erica, and Rails
20,000 of th em settled in New England.
In 16 34, colonist William Wood wro te of
the need for "an ingeni ou s Ca rpente r, a
cunning Joyner, a handi e Cooper, suc h a
one as can make strong ware for th e use of
the cou ntr ie." A popul ar English song of th e
day was en titled Summ ons to Ne w Engla nd.
Skilled crafts people and peo ple from all
walks of life came to Am erica and brou ght
wit h t hem th eir t radit ions, tr ades and a
desire to carve out a new world .

The Restoration of
Charles II
In May 1660, C harles II retu rne d to tenon construction
England from th e mainland of Euro pe. He throu ghout
Floating panels
had left England after th e execu tio n of his
fit in grooves in
father, Charles I, in 164 9. Th e execut ion frame members.
had been preceded by six years of war, and
was followed by eight years of Puritan rul e
under O liver Cro mwe ll. Th e Puritan
regimen had bro ught what was left of th e able to em brace som e ext ravagance, and it
arts to a grinding halt and imp osed a st rict was su dde nly inundated with th e most
Jacobean Furniture
mora l orde r th at reduced daily living to an fashion able t astes of th e French cour t of Before th e Restorati on of C ha rles II, English
unending effor t to avoid damnati on . Th e Loui s X IV, th e Low Co u nt ries and th e fu rn itu re was built m uc h as it had been for
restoration of th e monarchy came as a great Portuguese and all th eir tradin g partners. centu ries. T he cons t ruct ion of t hese pieces
liberation from th e burden of Puritan rul e O f th ese variou s influen ces, th e Dutch was not unl ike th at of th e timber-fram e
and th e two years of virtual anarchy th at influence was most important. Not only hou ses of t he period, wit h a framework of
had followed. had Holland been th e refuge for many st raight members, square, or nea rly square,
With th e Restorati on came a resurgence loyalists du rin g th e years of C romwe ll's in cross sect ion . Th ese members were
of art and cu ltu re. Th e ten years th at Protectorate govern me nt, but prosperit y join ed at right angles by mortise-and -tenon
C harles II had spent in Eu rope influenced and power were shifti ng from Holland to joints. Whereas timber-frame hou ses were
the prevailing cou rt tastes of th e period . England afte r th e Restoration . Many Dutch covered by a shea t hi ng th at became t he
Two years after ta kin g th e throne, C harles crafts me n were followin g this cha nge by walls and roof, th e flat sides of fu rni ture
ma rried a Portuguese pr incess, Cathe rine moving to England, and many Dutch were pan els let int o th e sti les and rails of th e
of Braganza, whose dowr y included th e furniture makers wh o chose to rem ain were st ruc tu re (see th e dr awing above).
privilege of free t rade with Portuguese export ing th eir finish ed work to England . This frame-and-panel style as it was
possessions. Th e English furniture-making bu siness was manifested in th e 17th cent u ry has come to
England had been languishi ng in a su dde nly bu sy sup plying th e prosperou s be known as Jacobean, from t he Latin "of
cultura l depression and stylistic slu mp for and style-eonsciou s English, and it was even James." James I was king during th e first
nearly two decades. Its int ern al st rife had busi er aft er th e G reat Fire of London in qu art er of th e cent ury and th e predecessor
kept its attentio n focused inward, in stark 1666, which dest royed tw o-thi rds of th e of th e ill-fated C harles I. As wit h most
contrast wit h th e com mer cial exuberance city. London fu rn it ure makers were also furniture-design t rends named after royalty,
that characte rized th e first half of th e export ing fini shed fu rniture to No rway and th e style incl udes many aspects that were
century. With th e Restoration , England was Denmark in exchange for high-qualit y, int roduced ou tside of th e years of Jam es's
cabinet-grade wood . reign. In t his case, w hat has come to be

called Jacob ean includes th e first th ree
quarte rs of th e 17th century.
While th e fram e-and-p an el meth od
of const ruct ion proved to be durable
and practi cal, it was at th e sam e time
stylist ically confining. Th e st raight frame-
work and flat panel s lim ited th e overall
designs to severe rect ilinear forms. Within
thi s syste m of bu ildin g th ere was no
practi cal way to incorporate swee ping
cu rves or gentle contou rs, even though
th ey wou ld have made t he furniture more
comforta ble to t he user. Decoration was
limited to su rface carving of the panels ,
app lied geomet ric sha pes or ha lf-turnings.

Th e Late Jacob ean , or Ca rolean per iod ,
refers to th e period from th e Restoration
until th e ascendancy of William and Ma ry
in 1689. This period includes th e rul e of
C harles II, and th e bri ef reign of Jam es II,
This frame-and-panel chest with a lift top typifies the structure and form of chests of the 17th century.
whic h lasted from 1685 to 16 88.
Chests of the second half of the century frequently included one or twodrawe rs in the bottom of the case.
C hests of dr awers, cabinets on st ands, {COURTESY YALE UNIVERSITYART GALLERY!

tall case clocks and tall-front writing

cabinets were amo ng th e newer form s th at
flourished afte r th e Restoration . Walnut
began to replace oak as th e wood of choice th e Restoration came to Am erica as part influe nces that sta rted to find their way
for fine fu rn itu re, becau se of its warm of t he later Wi lliam and Mar y style, so int o th e forms after th e Restorat ion.
color, att ract ive grain and workability. un til th e last decade of th e 17th century,
Scrolled legs, ball feet, exte nsive carving and th e English Jacobean style dominat ed CASE PIECES
inlaid marqu et ry were am ong th e elem ents Am eri can furniture design. O ne of th e most famili ar forms of
th at were int roduced from th e Du tch . Am er ican Jacob ean furniture is the chest,
Brass mounts or pull s, in th e famil iar d rop whic h for most of th e period had a lift top
shape , and likely of Ori en tal design origin, American Jacobean and often one or two drawe rs at the bot tom .
replaced earlier iron hardware. Depending on th e place of or igin, th e
Forms exte rior, and in par t icular th e front, was
Many of th e changes th at were
int rodu ced in th e Ca rolean period have In Am er ica, th e first furniture had come either carved or decorated with app lied
come to be associated with th e William and from England with th e early settle rs. half-turni ngs or geome tric shapes (photo
Mar y style. Th e Ca rolean period is best Alm ost immediately, however, furniture above). Th e st iles at th e front and back
reme m bered as a tr ansitional period from that was needed tor th e use of th e settle rs corners cont inued beyond th e botto m of
th e pre-Restorati on Jacob ean styles to th e was also mad e dom estically. From th e th e case to for m th e feet as well. Th ese
fully developed William and Mary style. outset, tr adespeopl e wh o came to Am erica chests share a com mo n structure and trace
During th e Ca rolean era, exte rna l found th eir skills in dem and in a new th eir roots to medieval pieces.
influences were havin g a powerfu l effect on market . Th e Gr eat Migrati on that followed A distin cti on shou ld be mad e between
English fu rn iture design, and it was th e first settlers brought more specialized chests with d rawers and chests of drawe rs.
und ergoin g dra stic changes in both craftspeo ple, alon g with th eir methods and C hests comprised entirely of drawers,
st ru ctu re and appeara nce . In Am er ica, styles. The region al variati on s of England usually four, appea red lat er in t he period
th ese changes had not yet come to the fore. were transplanted to Am eric a. For mu ch of and were seen in Ame rica wit h increasing
Th rou ghout furniture history th ere was a th e 17th centu ry, Am erican furniture was a frequ ency afte r about 1670 . Document s
lag in th e time required for English styles to cont inuatio n of th e prevailin g English fro m th e time often refer to th em as cases
becom e established in Am erica. Many of tastes, whic h included th e infusion of of drawers, and early 17th-centu ry English
th e changes th at occu rred in England aft er Dutch tastes and Eu rop ean Renaissance references menti on cases of drawing boxes.

The Dutch influen ce aft er th e
MASSACHUSETTS . Restoration brought about one of th e more
16 7 5- 16 9 5 . spectac ular case pieces of the period: th e
Press cupboards are among cu pboard . Cupboards had an English origin
themost impressive of 17th-
in Elizabethan designs of th e previous
century pieces. This example
shows contrasting ebonized cent ury, but th e Dut ch infl uences gave
balusters and half-turn ings. t he m a new stature. T hey are visually
(COURTESY MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS. complicated, wit h strong horizontally
layered elem ents and except ionally bold
turnings. As is th e case with chests, th ese
turnings and half-turnings are usually
ebonized. Ebonizing involves painting
th ese parts a strongly pigmented black to
make t hem stand apart from th e light er
colored case (see pp. 194-195). The use
of cont rast ing light and dark colors, not
un like th e painting s of t he Dutch masters,
is a t heme th at runs through mu ch of
Jacobean-era design.
C u pboards were mad e to stand in th e
most important room of th e hou se, and
were a refl ection of wealth and social
stand ing. Needl ess to say,only th e ver y
wealthy owned th em, since th e complexity
of these pieces made th em prohibitively
expensive. Apa rt from its role as a symbol
of refinement, t he cu pboard 's primary
fun ction was to store linens. Textil es
were ver y valuab le in th e 17th and 18th
PLYM OUT H . MASSACHUSETTS . 16 6 0-16BO. centu ries, and man y imp ortant pieces were
Most tables of the period have stretchers and stout dedic ated to th eir storage and protecti on.
turnings and are related to similar English tables. Jacobean cu pboards are categorized tod ay as
This example features shallow lunette carvings on
eithe r press cupboard s, which have th eir
thedrawer front. Larger versions. without the drawer,
functioned asdining tables. lower portion enclosed , or cou rt cu pboards,
(COURTESY SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION) wh ich have th e bottom part open.

Stylish tables of t he period featured turned
legs and st retche rs, and were similar to
English examples. Th ey were mad e in a
range of sizes from about 3 ft . to over 6 ft.
in length and served a variet y of purposes.
Their primary requirem ent was th eir
fun ctionality, so th ey were usually built
witho ut as m uch decoration as oth er pieces.
In addi t ion, trestle-type tables were in lise,
some t imes of the variety that was easily
d isassembled for storage. An oth er variety
was the chair-table, th e hin ged top of whi ch
allowed it to be converted from table to
chair. With space at a premium in many
early hou ses, tab les that folded or
disassembled were not un common .

O ne very unusual form th at sur vives
fro m th e 17th century is th e chambe r table
(top photo at left) . A chamber table is best
described as a small lift-top chest with one
drawe r beneath, but bu ilt on tall tu rned
legs wit h decorative st retc hers. Th e
const ructio n is frame and panel wit h
mort ise-and-tenon joinery th roughout. Its
purpose was to hold personal effects in th e
bed room, and th e int eriors of th e dr awer
and case were divided by part ition s. In th is
way, chamber tables ful filled mu ch th e
same pu rpose as d ressing tables or lowboys
did during th e 18th century. Th e personal
nature and intricate design of th e originals
suggest th at t hey may have been built, and
perhaps given as gifts, to ma rk important
events like marriages or th e coming of age.

O ne of th e most commo nly used pieces of
seat ing furniture of th e Jacobean period
was th e joint stoo l (bottom pho to at left ).
Joint stoo ls are compr ised of four tu rned
and splayed legs joined by an apron and
st retc he rs, with a boar d top. Struc tu rally,
CHAMBER TABLE . SALEM . MASSACHUSETTS . 16 9 0 . t hey have more in common with tables
Chamber tables functioned as dressing tables. This th an wit h chairs, and whe n needed t hey
table is oneof the few 17th-eentu ry pieces to move
cou ld dou ble as sma ll tables. Joint stoo ls
away from the low horizontal Jacobean formal.
were t he most affordab le and common type
of seating fu rni t ure of th e period . In a
hou seh old th at may have had only one or
two regular chairs, th e remaining family
members would use joint stoo ls for dinin g
or sitt ing near th e fire. An elongated
version of th e joint stool, called a form,
was more like a bench and could seat two
or more people. Th ere was a certa in
practicalit y to th e use of joint stoo ls,
conside ring both th e bulkiness of win ter
clot hing and th e pract ice of rearranging
th e fu rn iture in a room accord ing to th e
act ivity going on th ere.
Among the mo re conventional chairs
J OI N T STOOL . were a nu mber of sta ndard designs.
16 9 0-1 715 .
Wainscot chairs were built with th e frame-
Jointstools with turned and -panel meth od of constr uct ion. T he
and splayed legs were orna men tation of th ese chairs was
made in great quantity prima rily surface carving of th e panels and
for use as seating frame members. Turned chairs were
furniture into the early
com prised of elements th at were all tu rned
18th century.
(COURTESY YAt E UNIVERSITY on th e lath e. Thi s meth od allowed for th e
ART GALLERY) com ponen t part s to be tu rned to decorative

10 C I I A I' T E R ON E
Frame-and-panel wainscot chairs are highly rectilinear EASTERN MASSACHUSETTS , 1640-1680 . MASSACHUSETTS . 1640 -1680 .

in form . As on chests, the flat panels and frame This strikingarmchair, made contemporaneously with Similar to the turned great chair, this turned armchair
members were decorated with shallow moldings wainscot chairs, is comprised entirely of turned (or Carver chair) from the same period has no vertical
and carving. This Con necticut example hasturned elements. Chairs of this type with vertical spindles spindle turnings below the seat.
front legs. belowthe seat are often referred to as Brewster chairs. (COURTESY COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG FOUNOATlON)


profi les, and resulted in visua lly interest ing

chairs. Because turned chairs are comprised
of spindles rath er th an pane ls, th ey can be
looked through as well as at. Th e beauty of
turned chairs is in th eir silhouette, while
th at of wainscot chairs is on th eir surface .
Turned chairs are sometimes categorized as
either Brewster or Carver chairs, after
William Brewster, an original chair owner,
or John Ca rver, th e first governo r of
Plymouth. Brewster chairs have vert ical
tu rned spindles und er t he seat , whereas
Carver chairs do not . It was custo ma ry to
use a separate upholstered cushion on th e
hard seat panels of Jacobean-era chairs.
Anoth er form of chair, somet imes called
a Cro mwellian chair, is a ver y rect ilinear
form of joined chair. Th ese chairs appeared
in th e last quart er of th e century, well after
th e ot hers. Rath er t han having inset panels,
MASSACHUSETTS . 1670-1700 . Similar in form to the Boston chairs, this Philadelphia
th e backs were either u pholstered in fabric Side chairs of this rectilinear design were made in version has twist-turned stretchers and spindles, an
or leath er, or colonnade d with vertica l quantity in Boston in the last quarter of the 17th English design element from after the Restoration.
spind les. In either case, th ey are usually century. This example retains its original 'Tu rkey (COURTESYWINTERTHUR MUSEUM)

without arms (to accommodate th e bulky work: a European imitation of Middle Eastern
dress of th e day) and have a large space upholstery fabric.
between the seat and t he back. T he st ark

plainn ess of some of th ese chairs belies Jacobean Structure an auger, saw and chisels to make a snug-
th eir age and associatio n with th e Jacobean fitti ng joint. H igher levels of sophist icat ion
period . Exist ing examples show th at th ose Becau se it was built from sto ut frame or decoration requ ired a more extensive
with a ew England herit age are uph olstered members, American Jacob ean furnitu re array of tools. Th ere was a certain
in leath er or fabric wit h marsh-grass was ru gged enough to wit hsta nd heavy modularity to this kind of const ruct ion.
stuffing and have ball-turned st retcher use. As in England, oak was a favorite Th e same kind of elements t hat made up a
and leg deta ils. An elongated version wit h wood. In New England, oak and ash were chest also mad e a wainscot chair or a cradle.
arms is th e basis for an early couc h. An in abundant su pply, and th ey were th e T he same tools and tech niques were used
u nu pholstered Philadelphia cha ir from woods wit h wh ich most immigrant join ers to make th e elements of each, but th e
during or after t he 16 80 s shows th e twist- were exper ienced . Furthermore, th ese d imension s were varied to fit th e piece.
turned spind les and str etc hers th at had wood s were st rong and durable, and Th e mo rt ise and tenon was a basic and
come into fashion in London aft er th e without th e brittle characterist ics of fruit u niversal joint during thi s tim e, and th e
Restoration (see th e bottom right photo on wood s. Frame members and pan els were joiner's skills were employed in more th an
p. II ). In a slightly different style, th e easily split from sho rt logs with a froe an d just fu rn iture makin g. Joiners often
Dut ch traditi on of using hori zontal slats dr essed to fin al dimen sion s with a hand do ubled as hou sewri ght s, wagon build ers
across th e backs of turned chairs cont inued plan e. Co mpared to sawi ng, thi s method and general repairmen as well. Since nearly
in th e regions th at th ey populated, namel y was qui ck and easy. The mortise-and-tenon everyt hing was mad e out of wood and th e
th e New York and New Jersey coastal areas. join ery and floating panel s were seem ingly joiner was th e primary tradesman of th e
imp ervi ou s to th e ravages of clim at ic medium , he often wore many hats.
BEDSTEADS ext remes and consta nt use. Parts of furniture th at could n't be joined
During th e 17th cent u ry, th e term "bed " Relatively few tools were requ ired to by mortise and tenon were usually nailed.
referred to th e mattress itself, and th e make th e st ructura l elements of Jacobean Unt il th e end of th e 18th centu ry, nails
bedstead was int ended as both a fra me for furniture. Join ers, as furniture makers of were hand-wrou ght . Th e mu ltifaceted head
th e rope suspension and th e bed hangings. th e 17th century were known, needed only gaveth em t he name "rosehead." C hest
With the inherent cold and dr aft of early
hou ses, it was essential th at th e bed be well
off th e floor and sur rou nded by cu rta ins.
Th ou gh none sur vive, it is know n th rou gh
documentar y evide nce th at th ere were
fram e-and-panel bedsteads with turned
posts. Anoth er type of bedstead, called a
French bed , was a light fram e of a simple
style th at held th e mattress and han gings.
T his form probably evolved int o th e
com mon pen cil-post bed of slende r
proporti on s in th e 18th centu ry. Examples
of a third type of bed, with low posts and
tu rn ed elements, are reminiscent of th e
Brewster and Carver chairs (see th e photo
at right) .

NEW ENGLAND . 1670 -1710 .
With the exception of the rails, this bed stead is made
up of turned elements. The use of turnings and the
profiles of the spindles are remini scent of the turned
chairs of the mid-17th century.

12 C II A I' T E R ONE
bottom s and backs were often nailed in
17th-Century Drawer Constru ction place, as were hin ges and any othe r
hard ware th at was attac hed. Until near t he
Back butted to end of th e century, dr awers were also na iled
side and nailed
together (see th e top dra win g at left) . Th e
sides were nailed to th e front and back, and
th e bottom was nailed on as well.
Drawer front The standa rd method of suspe nding a
rabbeted for sides drawer in a case was to have a groove cut
and bottom
along th e cente r of th e drawe r side from
fro nt to back, wh ich rode on two runners
nailed to th e inside of th e case. These are
Drawer side
nailed on known as side-hu ng drawers (see th e
Drawerparts bottom dr awin g at left). To accom moda te
needed to be th e grooves and th e nails, th e dr awer part s
substantial enough needed to be thick. Som e examples have
Groove for runner
to withstand
assembly with Applied molding draw er parts as thi ck as I in . Since th e wood
hand-wrought nails. of choice was usually oak, th e dr awers were
ver y heavy.
The mass of th ese thi ck dr awers, along
Drawer bottom with th at of fram e-and-pan el construction,
nailed on did not facilita te th e building of tall or
delicate furnitu re. By its very st ruc ture,
Jacob ean furniture was obliged to maintain
th e low, solid and hori zontal format that
was indicative of th e style.
Side-Hung Drawer
Seventeent h-Cent ury
Th e solid ity and practi cality of early
Jacobean pieces d id not preclud e th em
from bein g hand som e, decorat ive and well
prop ortioned . With a simple lath e, th e
join er could produce turnings for table legs
and st retc he rs as well as cha ir and bed
parts, and thereby add some decorat ive
embellishme nt to ot herwise utilitar ian
forms. The flat panels of Jaco bean pieces
were also well suited to sha llow carving,
a style of decoration used widely d uri ng
th e period .

Groove in
Seventeenth-eentury turnings are noted for
drawer side
being robust, ofte n bord erin g on sto ut,
th ou gh some turnings of great delicacy and
refin em ent appea red as orna me ntat ion on
cha irs and bedstead s. Half-turn ings were
applied to chest and cup board surfaces as
an alte rn ative or add it ion to carved panels.
Th e distincti ve shapes of turnings

T HE J A C 0 H E A N PER I 0 D 13
differentiate th e work of variou s crafts me n CH EST. CON NECTIC UT
and region s, and are important details in MASSA CHUSETTS .
determ in ing th e origin of pieces. 1685 -1700 .

By th eir ver y nature, turnings are This oakchest is

clearly of frame-and-
in here ntly decorativ e. Woodturning
panel construction.
co mprised an imp ortant su bset of Like many chests of
wood working th at had develop ed as a field the 17th century, its
in itself. In areas th at had th e population only ornamentation is
density to su pport fu ll-t ime turners, the shallow shadow
joine rs ofte n purchased th eir turnings moldings on the stiles
and rails.
fro m th ese specia lists . While most join ers
ow ned lathes, eco no my ofte n dictat ed th at DEERFiElD)

repe t it ive or elab ora te turnings be bou ght

fro m specialists . Throughout mu ch of
Am erican furniture history, t u rn ers were a
grou p separate and apart fro m joiners and
later cabinet makers. Th e two grou ps
enjoyed a para llel development and th eir
paths crosse d cont inua lly. Not only d id
turners su pply join ers with turn ed carving in a similar way, but including more
eleme nts, but th ey also developed th eir free-Flowin g orname ntat ion, scrolls and
ow n kinds of furniture, most ofte n chairs. references to more med ieval designs. Som e
In th e Am erican Jacob ean peri od , join ers chests of coasta l New England origin have
built th eir wai nscot chai rs from square applied geomet ric designs on th e panels and
or rect angul ar members with pan els d rawer fro nts, wh ich was another infl uence
inco rpo rated int o th em . Th e joi ne ry was of Dutch taste on th e English styles.
th e pegged mortise-and-ten on joint used Som e of th e most int erestin g examp les
on a variety of pieces. Turners' chairs of carved orna me nta t ion come from fart her
were th e Brewster and Ca rver cha irs, made north in th e Co nnectic ut River Valley,
ent irely of turned pieces and put together nam ely th e Hadl ey, Massachusetts, area.
wit h rou nd turned ten on s and rou nd Alth ou gh th e st ruc ture of th e furnit ur e
drill ed mortises. from thi s area was nearly th e same as
elsewh ere, its proportions were somewhat
CA RV ING light er and its carving was remarkable. Th e
CONNECTICUT . 16 7 5-1 71 0.
Ca rving had been an imp ortant part of This chest is attributed to Peter Blin of Wethersfield. fronts of Had ley-area chests are covered
orname ntation for millenn ia, and, besides The design, includingthe shallow relief carving of the with all sorts of fanciful carvings in very
turnings, was th e predomina nt met hod of sunflower and the use of half-tu rnings, is nearly shallow relief (see th e photo on th e facing
em bellishing th e flat sur faces of fram es and identical to several other chests attributed to him. page). At first glance th e designs app ear to
panel s. Most of th e carving on 17t h-eentu ry be a whimsical kind of folk art, but th e style
Ame rica n furniture was bot ani cal in nature is consiste nt among a number of pieces and
and derived from Renaissance designs. As shows a high degree of sophist ication. Th e
wit h most orna me nta t ion, each region had of th e most prolific practition ers of designs include all kinds of bot anical
an ident ifiable set of designs. this style was Peter Blin of Wethersfield , su bjects, stylized anima ls and figures, and
Th e very first Am eri can chests were Co nnectic ut, wh o was working during geome t rical and compass designs. T he
stylized with scratc h or shadow moldings th e last qu arter of th e cent u ry. Blin carv ings know no bou nd s and exte nd all
(top photo at right ). Th ese shallow profiles carved th e panels with th e su nflower (or over th e fro nt of th ese chests. Despit e t heir
were literally scra ped len gthwise into th e perh aps marigold) and tulip design th at exuberance, th e carvings are arra nged in an
stiles and rails to give some visua l relief to becam e a signato ry det ail of th at region . orde rly manner and are consiste nt within
an othe rw ise plain fram e-and-pan el facad e. A consu m mate crafts ma n, Blin planned th eir respecti ve frame member or panel.
Th e most recognizab le kind of carving his carving carefu lly and stayed within th e O n close examination th ey are like no
was th e shallow relief carving of pan els, confines of th e pan els. O n th e North Shore ot he r kind of carving, and, despit e th eir
ofte n done in conju nction with th e use of of Massachusetts at about th e same time, magnifi cence, th e observer cannot help but
half-turnings (bottom ph oto at right) . One Thomas Dennis and William Searle were wonder how th eir creato rs were inspired .

14 C H A P T E R O NE
u nlik ely, since raw wood qu ickly becom es
dirty wh en handl ed, and it is even more
imp robable th at a piece wou ld be handl ed
all over to give it th e pat ina we see tod ay.
Th e or iginal makers were t rain ed and
skilled crafts peo ple, and ap plying an oil or
wax fin ish wou ld have prot ected and
enhanced th eir work. (For more on period
finishes, see C hapte r 12.)
Th e spirited decorati on of 17th-century
American furniture, whi le seemi ngly in
cont rast to th e strict mo ral valu es of a
Puritan society, was a hold over from th e
Ren aissan ce an d th e ju bilance of
Elizab ethan England. While th ere was sin
in public overin du lgence, th ere was no
limit in indulging in fanc ifu lly decorated
furnitu re. O wn ing a highly decorated piece
was a way of showing one's wealth or
imp ort an ce in society, since most hou se-
holds had few pieces of fu rn itu re and th e
forms of th e pieces were fairly uniform .
Th e Pu rit an s did not frown on success, and
th e deco rat ive arts we re a measure of it.
According to Puritan et hics, materi al
success cou ld be cons idered a reflecti on of
one's good ness in th e eyes of Go d . As a
This painted Hadley chesthas the characte risticshallowrelief carving of stylized bota nical elements.
Over 125origina l chests with this type of orname nt exist. and nearly half of them are of this form.
pract ical po int, at a t ime when most peop le
had relati vely few possession s and hou ses
were poorly lit, it seems nat u ral th at
brilli ant colors and extensive car vings
would be in fash ion. Ju st as sp inning and
PAI NTS A N D S TA I N S tinted wash to impart at least an even ton e weaving were winter work for wom en ,
Carved pieces were very often pain ted as if not darken th e wood . Any nu m be r of elabo rate carving and painting were likely
well. The entire spectrum was to be found plant materials, like bark , roots or nut ind oor pastimes for men, especially in
highlighting th e carvings or coloring th e shells, cou ld be boiled in wat er to ext ract isolated rural areas. Many of th e pieces of
ground betwe en raised portions. Deep reds, th eir dye. Throughout th e 18th century , th e pe riod show evidence th at th ey were
blu es, greens and ivory are frequently seen wate r-based dyes cont inue d to be amo ng car ved afte r th ey were built, suggest ing th at
colors on sur viving examples. While it th e formu lae for colora nts. th e decorati ve work was taken up wh en
was to be anot her two centur ies before Any colorants were likely sealed int o th e th ere was time for it.
com me rcially prod uced pain ts were wood with a top coat of boiled linseed oil or Hi stori an s all too ofte n atte mpt to find
available, a number of naturally occurring wax. Both linseed oil and beeswax were serio us reaso ns for every aspec t of early
pigments cou ld be grou nd with linseed oil readily availab le, and th ey cou ld be app lied Am eri can life, as if th ese were dour sou ls
from flax seed to make a very good paint. alon e or in success ion to give a protective who needed a solid reason for every act ion.
Some of thes e pigments were available finish with a nice luster. Both material s are Like all peo ple th ey cou ld app reciate a bold
locally, and others were imp orted. In urban rubbed in and buffed off, making th em des ign and some bri ght colors. Aft er all,
areas th ere was enough of a demand for very easy to apply. With eit he r fini sh, th e th ese designs were rooted in th eir recent
paint and decorati on to support a separate oxidation of th e sur face deepen ed th e color English history, and th e lon g New England
profession by the end of th e centur y. of the wood in time. Almond and waln ut winters called for some t hing to bri ght en
It is not known for certain wha t kind of oil were also used as furniture fini shes in th em up . To deny th ese peopl e th eir
stains (if any) were used in 17t h-cent u ry early Am erica. It has been suggested th at spo ntaneity robs th eir su rviving work of
Am erica. Based on the sophistication of the som e of t hese pieces were not originally some of th e creat ivity and indi vidu alism
furniture, it is probable th at t he bui lders of fin ished , and that th eir present surface is a th at is inh erent in any hand craft .
the period wou ld have used som e kind of resu lt of centu ries of use. This seems highly

TIl E .I A C 0 HE A N I' E RIO D 15

The Century of Cabinetmaking Begins

h e many influ ences th at converged in The Tea-Table is an

England after th e Restoration of C harles II engraving by an
unknown English artist
combined to form a new style th at began a
published in London
centu ry of rapidl y chang ing furniture about 1710. In addition
design. Th e new style was uniquely English, to showing cane-back
bu t American craftsmen add ed th eir own chairs and a gateleg
refinem ent s of design and prop ortion, based drop-leaftable in the
William and Mary style,
on th e tastes and needs of th e flourishin g
it documents the
colonies. Th e American int erpretation of relationship between
th e English designs imbued th em with a increasing prosperity
distin ctive spirit that was to cont inue as a and leisure time and
hallmark of Ameri can design. the growing importance
of furniture as the
centerpiece of social
Foreign Influen ces and (COURTESY BRITISH MUSEUM,
Baroque Ideals
Wit h th e ascend an cy of William and Mar y
in 1689, th e Dutch influen ces th at had
arr ived in England with th e return of
C ha rles II were further reinforced . Both th e
Dutch and Portuguese were tr ading was a cabinet ma ker to th e Cro wn from carving techn ique was Grinling Gibbons
exte nsively wit h th e Ori ent, and th eir tastes 1680to 1715. He was skilled in marqu etry ( 1648 - 1720). Gibbon s was born in
were colored by cu ltu res far different from and lacqu er work and worked under Rotterd am but had moved to England
th eir own. C ha rles II, Jam es II, William and Mary and shortly after th e Restoration. He is known
Ca binet makers to th e cou rt were Qu een Anne. His skill and versat ility were for h is deep, airy and fluid style of carving
instru menta l in incorporatin g th e new instrumental in keeping th e royal famili es of both architect ura l details and furniture.
foreign influ ences and helping to synt hesize su pplied with furniture of th e latest tastes. His style perm eated Late Jacobean
a new style. O ne of th e leading cabinet- An influenti al craftsma n best known for his ornament, and set a standa rd in carved
makers of th e day was Gerreit Jensen , a design that continued into th e William and
craftsman of Flemi sh and Dutch origin wh o Mar y style.

Th e revocation of th e Edict of Nantes in
1685 led many French Hu guenot crafts me n 1680-1690 .
to flee France for ot her Eu ropean cou nt ries The ancestry of the
and America. On e of th ese Fren ch English and American
Protestants was Daniel Marot (1662 -1 752). high chest is evident in
this piece of late-17th-
Marot was an arch itect and a designer of
century Flemish court
both furniture and orn ame nt . He fled to furnit ure,
Holland and th en came to England with (COURTESY TOLEDO MUSEUM
William III. Marot served as King William 's
architect before return ing to Holl and in
1698. He brou ght with him a decidedly
French taste in th e style of Loui s XIV,
and int rodu ced some det ails th at were to
become synonymo us with th e William and
Mary style. Amo ng th ese are cross
stre tc hers and th e turned leg in th e trumpet
and inverted cup shape.


Apart from th e stylistic influences
brou ght to England by tr ade, monarchs
or th eir spouses, and foreign crafts me n,
th e eme rging designs were also th e
manifestation of th e Baroqu e style. Th e
Baroque is a term th at is used to describ e
th e artistic style prevalent in Europe from
about 1600 th rou gh 1750. It spread
northward fro m Rom e and did not come
into vogue in England until afte r th e
Restoration . While Renaissance design was
refined but stat ic, th e Baroqu e was
intend ed to be dynami c. In add ition, work
was to be don e with a flourish and every-
thing was to app ear effortless. Th ere is an
increased sense of dr ama and flair in th e palaces th at were bein g built at Versailles At th e same time th at Baroqu e design
fu rniture designs of th e per iod , in keeping and elsewhe re. C hests becam e nearly was encou raging dr amatic results,
with th e Baroque idea that art ists and square and were full of drawers. Som e Enlighte n me nt ideals were demanding logic
scientists were, according to art historian chests were placed on top of stands (see and ord er. Th e two were not at odds in th e
Helen Gardner, "brilliant performers" and th e ph oto above). C hairs becam e tall er and William and Mary designs, and in fact th ey
"virtuosi proud of th eir technique and were crowned with orn at e carved designs. merged nicely. Th e new sty le was a very
capable of asto nishing qu antities of work." In addition , case pieces were given the orde rly display of dr am a. Pieces were
Th e difference is evide nt wh en comparing flourish of elabo rate moldings at top and designed to be impressive, and part of th is
th e solid, rectangular forms of th e best bottom. Legs becam e excuses for showing was in th e logical arrangem ent of th eir
Renaissance-inspir ed Jacobean style with off dramatic turnings. Apron s and compo ne nt parts and th e great attent ion
th e complexity and bold undertaking of st retc he rs becam e decorative as well as paid to sym me t ry and order. In subtle ways,
William and Mary designs. fun ctional , and wildly grained veneers were th e vertical mass of th ese pieces was mad e
Furn iture met th e Baroqu e ideals by everywhe re. Th ose of th e old school mu st apparent. Feet and bases were designed to
becoming more vertical and more orna te . have shaken th eir heads in disb elief. show that th ey carried weight. It was as if
By Baroqu e sta nda rds, one of th e best ways Enlight enment logic sought to make it
to create an impressive piece of furniture evident that designers went to great length s
was to make it tall. Cour t furniture makers to achi eve Baroqu e dr am a.
were bu ildin g taller and taller pieces to fill
th e increasingly caverno us int eriors of


The Convergence of th e 17th centu ry th at its use formed th e
basis for a whole system of st ructu re.
Design and Technique
THE USE OF Th e dovetail enabled drawers to be built
Som e detail s of the William and Mary style of ver y thin wood, because th ey no longer
can be tra ced to specific origins. Spanish needed to be nailed togeth er. Case pieces
feet, delicate turnings and th e colonnaded could be dovetailed togeth er as well,
bases of high chests were Moorish in nature, superseding the fram e-and-panel method
A s with most styles, it is
imp ossible to tra ce th e
lineage of th e eme rging design of
and ind icate the influence of England's
connect ions with Portugal. Scrolled legs,
that had been th e basis for Jacobean pieces.
Th e lighter const ruction facilitated by thi s
fu rn itu re, wh ich would come to trumpet and ball turnings, and inverted joint enabled chests to be taller and allowed
be known as th e William and cu p-shaped turnings used for legs can be for th e design trend s th at were syno nymous
Mar y style, to anyone place or tra ced directly to Dutch and earlier French with th e Baroqu e.
person. It is instead th e su m of designs. Distant tr ading partners like Dovetails had sta rted to show up in
man y global influen ces and th e Afri ca, India, Ceylon and C hina inspired Am erican fu rn iture long before th e
willin gness of th e enlighte ned th e use of exot ic burl ed and figur ed veneers William and Mary style arrived in America.
English aristocracy to embrace on th e faces of pieces. Decorative brass Toward th e end of th e 17th centu ry,
them. Th e William and Mary hardware suc h as drawer pull s and dovetail ed drawers were becoming more
nam e is a mod ern on e, and like escu tcheo ns, inspired by th e Orient, added frequ ent in fram e-and-panel cases. At first
th e nam es of ot he r period s, it is a new eleme nt of design to fun ction alit y. th e doveta ils were large and crude, perhaps
not ent irely accu rate. In England only one or two on a drawer corner, but as
th e style had started to develop TH E DOVE TA IL JO INT time progressed th ey becam e smaller and
under C ha rles II, in th e so-called Th e single most important cont ribut ion more closely spaced and th e d rawer part s
Carolean period , and th e that enabled th e development of th e becam e thinner. Whil e it is t ru e th at
prevailing tastes during his reign William and Mary style was th e increased William and Mary designs would not have
actually had mor e to do with th e use of th e dovetail joint. Dovetail joints been possible without th e advent of
fundamental development of made it possible to join two thin pieces of dovetail joinery, furniture makers did not
the style than th e influences wood at right angles by cutting interlockin g seem to be at an impasse for want of bett er
brou ght by William and Mary' s triangular eleme nts int o th eir ends. joinery. With th e except ion of a handful of
ascension nearly 30 years later. Dovetail join er y had been used by th e late-17th-eentury pieces made with long
As wit h all ot her furniture ancient Egypti ans, and occasionally by legs or sta nds (see th e photo below), th ere
period s nam ed aft er royalty, th e Renai ssance craftsme n, but it wasn't until
monarchs were usually gone by
th e time th e styles becam e
popular in Am erica. William
and Mar y's joint rule ended
with her death in 1694, and
William III rul ed alone until ABO UT 1700 .
1702, ju st as the style was Standing less than 3 ft.
eme rging as an important tr end tall, this chest-en-stand
in Am erican design. Like most is among the few pieces
of Am erican furniture
eme rging styles, what we now
built with frame-and-
call the William and Mar y panel construction that
period in retrospect was simply rose above the horizontal
called th e "new furniture" or Jacobean format.
th e "latest English style" in its RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF
day. In American furniture, the DESIGN)

William and Mary style first

appeared toward the end of the
17th cent u ry and dominated th e
first qu arter of th e 18th centu ry,
roughly from 1690 to 1725.

18 C II A P T E R TW O
are no existing pieces tha t indicate a
conscious effort to move to a more verti cal 17 00-1735 .
format while using frame-and-pan el This chestshows the
constructio n. Dovet ails were one of th e near-square proportions
many innovations in techn iqu e and design of William and Mary
chests with double-arch
th at converged at th e t ime and enabled th e
moldings and ball feet.
developm ent of th e William and Mary style This example is actually
as we know it today. a chest over twodrawers
built to looklike a more
up-to-date four-d rawer
The William and Mary chest.

Style in America ART GALLERY)

Since th e first settlers had arr ived in New

England in 1620, th ere had been a consta nt
influx of new crafts me n and new ideas in
design from overseas, primarily from
England. It stands to reason that th e major
seaports would have been th e first to receive
new tr end s, and that th e new fashions
would work th eir way inland over time. Th e
local tastes, skills and available materials
would alter th e puri ty of th e imported Th e acceptance of William and Mar y William and Mary Forms
design as t he style found accep tance fart her fu rn iture in Ame rica was based on an
inland from th e coast . As th e 17t h cen tur y Ame rican desire to rem ain stylist ically Becau se of th e changes in st ructur e bro ught
was draw ing to a close, the most impo rta nt compet it ive wit h England. By th e last two about by th e use of th e dovet ail joint,
poin ts of ent ry for new furnitu re designs decades of th e 17th cen tu ry, travelers William and Mary pieces were able to take
were Boston, New York and Philadelphi a. between lew England and England were on forms th at were not possible wit h earlier
Th rough th ose bustling ports were co mi ng primar ily engaged in govern ment or fram e-and-pan el const ruct ion. G enerally,
a new sense of design and a new approac h private bu siness. The colonies had becom e th e use of th e dovet ail joint allowed for
to furniture makin g. sta ble tradin g partners and were enjoying several levels of drawers to be stacke d in one
Ju st as England was read y to embrace a pros perity of their own making. case, and for cases to be tall or placed up on
new designs following th e Restorat ion of Government officials and merchants were stands. Seating furniture, whil e not affected
C harles II, so was New England read y to in frequ ent contact with London, and by th e new methods of const ruct ion,
accept th e William and Mar y style some 30 anyth ing unavailable in Am erica cou ld followed th e Baroqu e trend for greate r
years later. Th e tid e of th e Gr eat Migrati on easily be imp orted. To the most afflu ent height and ornamen tation.
had been ste m med in th e 1640s with th e colonists, th e latest and most stylish
outbreak of war betw een th e forces of th e designs in furnitu re and ot her goods were C HE S TS
Cro wn and th ose of th e Puritans and readily available. Th e design possibilities enabled by th e use
nonconformi sts. New Englande rs fou nd By 1700, th e William and Mar y styles of th e dovet ail joint gave a new imp etus to
th em selves somewhat isolated, wit ho ut had captured th e imaginati on of style- case pieces suc h as chests . Drawers had
frequent infusions of new ideas and conscious bu yers in th e major Am erican proven to be very practical, and with
stru ggling to hold onto Pur itan ideals while seaport cities . Am er ican furniture makers, dovet ail join ery drawers and th eir cases
becoming increasingly prosp ero us. Th ey quick to capita lize on th eir affl ue nt could be made light and strong. C hests
held onto fashions and mann ers that had customers' desire to keep pace with both evolved to include more drawers, and
long since passed ou t of style in England. London and th eir neighb ors, took up th e chests-on-frame and tall chests conti nued
As late as 1689 an English visito r wrote new style wh oleheart edly. Human natu re th e shift toward th e vertica l format .
that th ey were "very home-bred " and dictates th at wh en one successfu l fam ily
"exceedingly wedded in th eir own way." received new furniture, othe rs would soon Chests of drawers
As their prosper ity and com me rce follow. "Equal or Sup erior to th e Most During thi s period , chests took on nearly
increased, however, so did th eir appet ite Fashionable London Styles," or a variati on squ are proportion s (see th e ph oto above).
for new fashions. th ereof was a phrase that was found in the While th e earlier fashion of a lift-top chest
advertiseme nts and labels of Am erican with one or two drawers undern eath
furniture makers for anot her hu nd red years.

T ilE W J L L J A M & MAR Y I' E R J0 0 19

16 95-1 72 0 .
The earliest American
high chests used the
standard form of chests
of drawers on lowbases
with turned legs and
stretchers. MASSACHUSETTS , 1700-1 725 .
In its most developed form. the proportions of the
William and Mary high chestbecame more refined
and better expressed the Baroque ideals of height
and order.

continued in America t hrough the first mold ings graced th e top and bott om of chests, first seen abou t 1700, were init ially
quarter of th e 18th century, th e coastal the case, adding definiti on and flair. Half- littl e more th an chests sta nd ing on bases
style cente rs were bu ilding chests with four rou nd moldi ngs on th e case front, eit her wit h turned legs, st retchers and perhaps
drawers as early as 1670 . As with every alone or in pairs and called arch or dou ble- one wide drawer (p hoto at left above). Early
stylistic change, th e transition from one arch mold ings, sur rou nded the plain bases show legs t hat were twist-turned, sawn
period to another is best descr ibed as an drawer fro nt s. from flat stock in the shape of Flemish
evolut ion. Th e hori zontal forms evolved scrolls or turned in familiar inverted-cup or
int o th e familiar squa re form, and thi s style High ches ts trumpet-shaped profiles. As the style
spread out fro m th e urban cente rs of By placing a chest of drawers on a stand, a developed, th e design of th e chest and th e
design. Many of th e early lSt h-cent u ry new form of furnit ur e came to America in base became more integrated and th e
chests th at were built wit h dr awers and lift th e early 18th centu ry. Th e high chest (or proportion s of th e piece as a whole became
tops were made to look like th e more sty lish highboy as it came to be known in the late more refin ed (ph oto at right above). As with
examples with four dr awers. Rectangular 1800s) was a form t hat had been known in any ot her chest, th e high chest was int end ed
legs, wh ich had been th e exte nsion of th e late Renaissan ce Europe (see th e photo on for th e sto rage of clothing or linens.
vertical corne r st iles in fram e-and-pan el p. (7) and had come into fashion after the High chests were th e most impr essive
const ruction, were pha sed out in favor of Restoration in England. Am erican high pieces of furni ture in th eir day, as t he
plump turned ball feet . Simpl e, bold cu pboard had been in t he previous centur y.

As such, th e maker and his custo me r could
maximize th eir impact by building a piece The case and tall-trent
that embodied all th e maker's talent and writing surface of turn-of-
exhibited his custo me r's good taste. Thus the-centurybureau-
high chests tend to be some of th e best cabinets were forebears
of the familiar slant-front
examples of William and Mary design and
techn ique and show th e full breadth of (COURTESY COLONIAL

design elements and decorative meth od s in WilLIA MSBURG FOUNOATION)

use at th e tim e. High chests exemplify th e

period so well th at a separate discu ssion of
th eir design is taken up later in thi s chapte r
(see pp. 30-32).

Anoth er form that was new to America
during th e William and Mary period was
th e slant-front desk (photo below).
Previously, th e fun ction of desks to sto re
papers had been given to document boxes,
sometimes with sloping lids, th at were
portable and used on tabletops. The new
desk was an integration of a chest of
drawers with a slanted front th at folded
down to become a writing su rface. It is
likely th at th e slant-fron t desk evolved fro m
a small number of bureau-eabin ets th at
were made before th e turn of th e centu ry.
Th ese pieces were cabinets of many small

compart me nts and dr awers, fro nted by a

panel that folded down to doubl e as a
writing surfa ce (ph oto above). Th e base of
th e cabinet was a case of draw ers, with th e
usual William and Mar y detailing (flu sh-
fitting drawers, surrounding moldin gs and
ball feet) .
Freestanding cabinets that concealed
dr awers and compart me nts behind doors or
panels had been popular in England, but
were not practical eno ugh to warrant
widespread use in Am erica. In th e case of
th e Am erican bureau-cabin et , th e u pper
cabinet could be of a sha llow depth, but
th e base needed to be as deep as a chest of
drawers for sta bility. The slanted lid proved
DESK . BOSTON , 1700-1725.
William and Mary desks used most of the same to be an elegant way to make th e tr ansit ion
ornamental andconstruction details as chests of the betw een th e two halves. Th e subst itu tion of
period. a bookcase top yielded th e desk bookcase
form th at would continue to evolve th rou gh
th e centu ry (ph oto at right). Th e base alone, The inclusion of a bookcase top was the beginning of
with th e slanted lid on top and draw ers an important form that would continue to develop over
below, was able to st and on its own as a the rest of the century.
complete piece.

T H E WI L L I A M & M AR Y I' E R I O 0 21
With bold turned legs and stretchers, dress ingtables
shared a similar structure wit h the bases of high
chests, This piece, which is acknowledged to be the
finest example of the form , has all the best attributes
of Wi lliam and Mary dressingtables.

T AB L E S set. Str ucturally, dressing tables are ver y

Th e William and Mary period brought a sim ilar to t he bases of high chests, except
proliferation of tables for various purposes. for t he inclusion of t he tabletop.
Dressing tables, for use in th e bed cham be r, A typical William and Mary dr essing
evolved from th e cham ber table, Tea and table has four turned legs, w hereas high
tavern tabl es were made in great number as chests usua lly had six. While th eir apro n
tea d rinking, card playin g and other social des igns are sim ilar, dr essing tab les ofte n
pastimes becam e important. Large tabl es have two turned drop fini als below t he
with drop leaves came into use and apron wh ere a high chest would have had
com bined ample dining sur faces with an two front legs. It was also custo ma ry to
ease of sto rage. st rengt hen t he legs by connect ing th em
with cross st retc he rs ju st above th e foot .
Dressing tables Frequ en tly a t hird fin ial, pointing up , is
Dressing tables (or "lowboys," as th ey cam e locat ed at t he int ersect ion of th e stre tc hers .
to be called in th e late 1800s) served a
fu nct ion similar to that of th e cham ber Tea or tavern tables
1710-1 750 .
table of th e previou s century, in t hat t hey A number of ot her tab les from thi s period Small tables of va ried design proliferated in the early
were bedroom pieces th at held jewelry and surviv e, and t hey do cument a blossom ing of part of the century. This one,with Spanish feet and
personal effects. Since th ey were usually th e form in th e early 18th century. Small, well-turned and splayed legs, is one of the more stylish
used in th e same roo m as a high chest, it is mu ltip urpose tabl es with turned legs and examples.
not un common to find dr essing tabl es and st ret chers aboun ded . Th ese are called tea
high chests th at were mad e as a mat ching tables or tavern tabl es, but, in fact, th ey

22 C H A I' T E R TWO
were used any time a compact hori zontal
sur face was needed . Within thi s one group
th ere is a wide variati on of shape and deta il.
Rectan gular, oval and octago nal tops can be
found, and th e bases vary from rectilinear
form s with gentle turnings to splayed-leg
examples with deep and robust leg profiles.

Drop-leaf tables
Th e drop-leaf gateleg tab le reached its
zenith during th e William and Mary
period . Used primarily as a dining t able, its
gatelegs swung out fro m a cent ral frame to
support two leaves (to p ph oto at right).
Wh en not in use, th e table was easily folded
to about one-t hird of its fully opened width
and moved out of th e way.Th e vast
majority of gateleg tables are round or oval,
and about 4 ft . or 5 ft . lon g. Som e of th e
most spectacu lar examples of this form
DI NIN G TABLE. B OST ON AREA . 1715 -1735 .
appeared early in th e century. Th ey feature
The drop-leaf diningtable was a form that was to continuefor most of the centu ry.
robust turned legs and st retc hers th at make
Wi lliam and Mary drop-leaf tables have bold turnings and stretchers and often
th e base as visually int erestin g as any ot her include a drawer at oneend.
piece of William an d Mar y furniture. (COURTESYMUSEUM OF ART, RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN)

Anoth er type of drop-l eaf table used

foldin g wings to swing out in su pport of th e
leaves (bott om photo at right ). This variety
is generally known as a butterfl y tabl e.
Without th e fu lly sw inging leg, th ese tabl es
were not as sta ble as gatelegs, and thus were
usually somewhat smaller. Both butterfl y
and gateleg tables often have d rawers in
th e end of th eir bases. Drop-leaf tables, in
one form or anot her, remained in use
th roughout th e enti re 18th centu ry. Th eir
flexibility and fun ctionality were well
suited to th e dem and s of space and utility
to which life at th at time subjecte d th em .


In keeping with Baroqu e ideals an d th e
practica l conside rations of comfort, seating
furniture took on a distin ctive William and
Mary style. C hairs continued th e th em e of a
vertical format and were orna me nted in a
more fluid style th an th eir predecessors.
Fully upholstered easy chairs, most ofte n
used by th e aged or infirm, came into
TA B L E. C ON N EC T I C UT. AFTE R 171 0.
widespread use. Co uches, based up on th e
Butterfly tableswe re small drop-leaf tables, usually with splayed legs for increased
prevailing designs of chairs, served as
stability, which featured hinged wingsto support the leaves.
fu rn iture for both sitt ing and reclining. (COURTESYWADSWOR TH ATHENEUM. HARTFORD)

TH E w I L L I A 1'.1 & 1'.1 A R Y I' E R IO 0 23

C hai rs upward and emphasize th e height of th e caning, and allowed th e rear posts to be
Alt hough chairs were not su bject to mu ch chair. Most crest rails are about half as tall turned . Th e arr angem ent as a whole
st ructu ral change, th ey underw ent a as th ey are wid e, and rise to an apex in th e emphasizes th e vert ical bett er th an some of
t ransform ation to conform to th e Baroqu e cente r (see th e photo on p. 28 ). In th e th e English imp orts, and creates an effective
ideals of th e day and embody many of th e Philadelphia area, arched crest rails over con t rast of solids and voids th at lends t he
impo rta nt elements of William and Mary vert ical banisters were in favor. In New design a lively vigor. Th ese caned chairs date
design. Dramatically turned legs and England, th e designs were based on Flemi sh from th e first qu art er of th e centur y.
stre tchers were inco rpo rated along with scrolls, and th e rails were pierced and Anot her important su bset of William
gracefully curve d arms with scrolled ends deeply carved. As if to cou nte rbalance th e and Mary chairs is a leath er-upholstered
(p hoto at left below). In comparison to orna te crest rails, carved Spani sh feet were design th at is called a Boston chair (photo at
Jacobean forms, th ese chairs were mu ch usually used on th e front legs of th e best right below). Th ese chairs were in vogue
taller, someti mes more th an 4 ft. tall. New England chairs. sta rt ing about 1715 and were made for
T he backs of th e cha irs, whil e still stra ight, A subset of th e chairs of th e period are about anothe r 35 years. Boston chairs used
were slanted back from th e vertical at a those with caned back pan els and seats turned fro nt legs and stretchers, Spanish
not iceable angle (no doubt a small (cen ter photo below). Ca ning was quite feet and verti cal prop orti ons like other
concession to th ose who had to sit in th em). fashio nab le in London at th e start of th e chairs, bu t th e narrow back panel and seat
Th e backs consisted of two vertical st iles, 18t h century, and th e style found its way were uph olstered in leath er fastened with
cont inuat ions of th e back legs, with eithe r to Boston shortly t hereaft er with th e decorative round-headed brass tacks. At th e
vert ical bani sters or a nar row pan el of imp ortation of some English cha irs. Rath er tim e, leath er was less expensive th an either
can ing or leath er upholstery. Th e crowning th an caning th e ent ire back of th e cha ir, cane or fabric. In its most common form,
of any of th ese cha irs was a tall and Am erican crafts me n built a vert ical fram e th e crest rail is of a simple cyma-eurve
elabora tely carved crest rail. Th ese rails, insid e th e rear posts and caned th at. Thi s shape, rising to a flat platea u at th e center,
while taking many forms, carry th e eye left tall nar row spaces on eit her side of th e th ou gh variat ions exist. T he rear posts are

SIDE CHA IR . BOSTON . 1710- 1 725 .

Imported English chairs with caned seats and backs
were fashionable at the turn of the century,which
spurred Boston chair makers to adopt the style for their
own useover the next two decades.

MASSACHUSETTS). 1700-1720. 'Boston chairs,' upholstered in leather, were made in
The dynamic flourish of Baroque ornament is quantity for sale outside of New England. Their cyrna-
evident in the turnings, arms and crest rail of this shaped rea r stile and back shape were innovative and
Massachusetts-area banister-back chair. The canted foreshadowed the later evolution of chair design.
back provided a great improvement in comfort over (COURTESYCOLDNIAL WILLIAMSBURG FOUNDATION)

earlier chairs.

24 C H A I' T E R TWO
flat faced wit h beading at either side, a that furnit ure makin g was a relaxed
profile th at carries th rou gh th e crest . bu siness cate ring to a local clientele. In th e
Boston chairs are imp ortant for two urban areas it was as mu ch of a large-scale
reasons. First , when viewed from th e side, busi ness as any ot her, and its owne rs sought
th e back of th e chair has th e shape of a to capture as mu ch of th e market sha re as
gentle S or cyma curve, makin g th e cha ir possible. Business conce rns were very mu ch
actually comfo rta ble to sit in. In literature a part of th e trade.
of th e period, th ese chai rs are ofte n called
crooked-back chairs. Stylistically, th ey were Upholstered pieces
a great departu re fro m th e stra ight-backed Fully upholstered easy chairs, kn own tod ay
chairs th at had preceded th em . Rath er th an as win g chairs, also ma de th eir debut in th e
being turned on a lath e, th e cur ved William and Mary period. These were th e
elements could only be shaped and mold ed first pieces of seat ing fu rn itu re to be
by hand from solid mate rial. As a resu lt, enveloped in permanently attac he d
even leath er crooke d-back chairs were three u ph olstery. Like ot her pieces of th e per iod ,
or four ti mes more expe nsive tha n com mo n th ey employ bold turnings as st retc he rs and
ban ister backs. Second, thi s design was a fro nt legs, and th ey have Spani sh feet . The
foreru nn er of th e Qu een Anne style in th e kn own original examp les have hori zontal
second quart er of th e centu ry. ar m rolls at th e arms and vert ical rolls over
Boston chairs were made in great th e fro nt legs. Th e ends of th e tw o rolls are
num bers and exported to New York and connected by a sweeping curve (ph oto at EASY CHAIR. BOSTON. 1710 -172 5.

Philadelphi a, mu ch to th e chagrin of th e right) . The folklori c explanat ion for th e Fully upholstered easy chairs first appeared in the
Willi am and Mary period. The upholstery on this chair
indi genou s fu rn iture makers. In both th ose win gs is th at th ey were protecti on from
is an accurate reconstruction of the appearanceof the
cities, resident craftsme n were forced to draft s, whic h seems plausible enough. Th e original. The seat cushion is thick because springs
com pete with th e Boston im ports by origina l upholstery padding is known to were not used in 18th-century upholstered pieces.
offering lower prices or better style, but th e have been quite fu ll, and th e seat cushions (COURTESY MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS. BOSTON)

imports continued to do well. T his example were thi ck and fu ll of down , in keeping
demonstrates th e exte nt of int ercoloni al with a lon g histor y of th ick cushio ns for
comme rce in existe nce early in th e 18th unu ph olstered chairs. Springs were not
century, completely debunking th e idea used duri ng the 18th centu ry, and
u pho lstered pieces were depend en t on
stretc hed webb ing or fabri c and a variety of
stu ffi ngs for comfort and support. Pecu liar
to the period is th e shaped and upholstered
COUCH . BOSTON AREA . 1710-1730 . front rail. Text iles were exp ensive in the
Couchesare stylistically linked to the chairs of the 18th cen tury, and thus easy cha irs
peri od and share many similarities in their backs and
repr esented a consid erable investment .
turnings. The back of this example is hinged for
reclinin g. Th ey are known to have been bedroom
(COURTESYMUSEUM OF FINE ARTS. BOSTON) pieces at the t ime, and were not used in th e
main room of th e hou se.
Couches, tod ay known as daybeds,
are a variat ion on William and Mary chair
designs. They have most of th e same design
elem ents as un u ph olstered chairs of t he
period , but have dr amati cally differen t
proportion s. Their backs are shorter, and
th e seats can be more t han 5 ft . long (ph oto
at left) . The stuffed cush ions are separate .
Co uc hes were ma de for reclining, and the
backs are freq ue ntly hi nged and adjustable
to any angle. The extra length necessitated
as many as eight legs an d a host of turned
st retc he rs to conn ect th em.

THE w ILL I A Iv! & Iv! A R Y I' E R IO D 25

centu ry. In Jacobean form s, both moldin gs
Dovetailed Case Construction and feet tend ed to be built int o th e
st ructure of th e piece, which limit ed th eir
Through or half-
blind dovetails at use as visually important components of
Drawer top of case th e overall design.
dividers Th e cases of dr essing tables and high-
dovetailed chest bases were structurally similar but
into front
of case differed from th ose of chest and desk cases.
In th ese cases, th e grain ran hori zontally
on th e four pieces th at comprised th e sides,
Through or half- front and back (see th e top drawing on
blind sliding
dovetails p. 140). Th e pieces were dovetailed at all
four corne rs, with th e row of dovetails
running vertically. Th e bare case was
essentially a horizon ta l box with no top or
Throu gh bottom. Like chest cases, t he components
dovetai ls
expanded and contrac ted toget her,
allowing th e joinery to reta in its int egrity.
For aesth etic reasons, the dovetails were
usually half-blind, tha t is, th ey did not
exte nd through th e case sides. Runn ers and
guides for drawers were mortised int o th e
On low cases, top-case dovetails front and back. As with other case pieces,
can be covered by moldings.
hori zontal and vert ical dr awer divid ers
were dovetailed in place.
Thi s light case const ruct ion did not
provide a convenient place to attach th e
William and Mar y dovetail joints, as shown in th e dr awing turned legs used on dressing tables and
above. Since th e grain ran along th e length high chests. Therefore, large blocks were
Struct u re of each piece, th ey all expanded and glued inside th e corne rs of th e cases, which
Th e st ructure th at is th e basis for William cont racted in uni son with cha nges in were th en bored to receive th e tenons of
and Mary pieces revolutioni zed th e way humidity. T he resultin g case was very light , th e turnings. Since th e legs were not an
fu rn iture was to be built for th e rest of th e strong and easily built. int egral part of th e case, and since William
18th cent u ry and beyond. As discussed Drawer dividers were let into the front of and Mary turnings were very thin in some
earlier, th e dovetail joint had rend ered the the case wit h slidin g dovetail join ts th at places, flat stretchers connect ing th e legs,
frame-and-panel method of const ruct ion often extended t hrou gh th e sides to the just above t he feet, were structura lly
obsolete. T he light ness of d rawers and cases ou tside of th e case. Ru nners to support t he necessary.
afforded by dovetai l joinery allowed for th e drawers were nailed to th e inside of t he case
mor e vertical forms of th e William and behi nd th e divide rs, som etimes in shallow DRAWER CONSTRUCTION
Mary period. dado es to hold t hem in position. The back Drawer construct ion saw a great evolution
of th e case consisted of thin boards of during the William and Mary period. At
CA SE C ON ST RUC T I O N secondary wood nailed int o rabbets in the th e beginning of th e 18th centu ry, drawer
T he cases of chests, including th e upper back of th e case. Th e moldings at the top components were thi ck, heavy and joined
half of high chests and desks, shared sim ilar and bottom were nailed in place on th e sides by a few large dovetails. Th e drawer
str uctures. In each of th ese examples, th e and front. Ball feet, if th ey were included, bottom s were nailed in place. By 1725 , th e
cases consisted of two sides, a top and a were fastened with a round tenon, turned as components were light , thin and elegantly
botto m. Th e beginnings of th ese cases part of th e foot, glued and inserted int o a joined by a series of fin er dovetails. Drawer
resembled a vert ical box wit ho ut a front or hole drill ed int o th e case bottom . bottom s were glued and nailed int o a
back. Rath er th an being a panel set inside a The use of attac hed parts, like moldin gs rabb eted dr awer, or slid int o grooves from
frame , each of th e parts was one wid e board and feet , seems to reflect an increased th e back. Drawer development was a
or two glued side to side. They were join ed acceptanc e of glue and nails, which were no m icrocosm of const ruction techniques as
to each ot her at th e corne rs by a row of doubt more readi ly available and of better
qu ality than th ey had been in th e previou s

Turnings were impo rtant decorati ve focal
Drawer Constructio n points for many case pieces and offered a
simple and effect ive method of orna me nt
for a variety of ot her pieces. Moldi ngs,
previou sly int egral to fram e-and -panel
construct ion, were now add ed to dovet ailed
cases, offering a new flexibility in th eir
design and placem ent.

Figured veneers were th e primary surfa ce
Back view decoration of th e per iod . Th e use of veneers
superseded th e Jacob ean pen chant for
intricate but sha llow surface carving on th e
front face of case pieces. Th e ver y word
Drawer side "venee r" has becom e a pejorative term from
Groove in drawer front
hidden by dovetail Drawer back its use in t he late 19th and 20th centu ries.
It impli es a t hin layer of high-quality
Groove in sides material over a base of inferior qu alit y, and
and front to receive it earne d a po or connota tio n wh en it was
drawer bottom used for th at purpose.
Drawer bottom

a wh ole. It repr esent ed th e introduct ion of

a new method of joinery and th e evolu tion
th at ensued to optimize the detail s of th e
new furniture forms.

Tables and chairs cont inued to be made
with mor tise-and-t enon const ruct ion, since
most were comprised of turned or narrow
elements. With t he notable except ion of
dressing tables, tab le aprons were tenoned
into th e legs. Like the t urnings on case
pieces, th e legs requ ired st retc hers to t ie
th em toget her. On chairs and tables, these
stretchers were usually turned to famili ar
William and Mary profil es and tenoned
int o leg mortises.
Decorative Elements MASSACHUSETTS,
1700 - 1725 .
The decorative details of William and Mary Th e highly figured veneer
designs fall into three main catego ries: the of this piece is its most
use of figur ed veneers, deep carving and important decorative
dramatic turnings. Figur ed veneers allowed element. To extend the
effect, the cabinetmaker
the cabinet makers of th e period to achieve
simulated the figured
striking surfaces but necessitated th e use of pattern with paint on the
varnishes to protect and enhance th e wood. turned legs of the base.
Carving, in the manner of Gibbons, becam e (COURTESY WIN TERTHUR
an important embellishme nt for chairs.


In th e case of William and Mary and drawer fronts are fram ed with a bord er cou ld be dissolved in alcohol (distilled from
originals, th e use of veneer has no negat ive of cont rast ing veneer-often a herringbon e wine) or some times oil, to make a hard ,
imp lications . Veneering a piece was a labor- bord er consist ing of two veneer st rips cut at glossy fin ish. It was long th ought th at
intensive process requiri ng hard-to-find 45 to th e orientat ion of th e grain. A cross shellac, refin ed from th e deposits of th e
materia ls, but it gave a high level of banding, a st rip cut at 90 to th e grain, was Asian lac insect and dissolved in alcohol,
sophist icated decorat ion to a piece. There somet imes used in conju nct ion with th e was th e primary 18th-eentury fini sh.
are some st rictly pract ical reasons for herringbon e inlay. Recent analysis has disproven th is, however,
applying figu red wood as a ven eer. Burled or Th e veneers of th e period were mu ch and shellac did not corne int o wid espread
figur ed wood is not easy to come by, and by thicker than mod ern veneers- as mu ch as use until th e next centur y. A number of
sawing it int o thin shee ts, th e yield of well- l/ S in. thick. Th ey were sawn from a solid othe r resins, prin cipally sandara c, were
figure d wood is increased . Becau se of its block of figur ed stoc k with a fram e saw, and soluble in alcohol and no doubt were
swirling grain, it lacks st rengt h for I/ S in. was probably about as thin a venee r as sim ilar in application and ap pearance.
st ructu ral pur poses and would be nearly that method would allow. Th e su bst rate to An oth er resin, copal, was soluble in hot oil.
impossible to work wit h in solid form. wh ich th e ven eer was to be applied was Althou gh it was more difficult to prepare, it
Sawing highly figur ed wood int o ven eer is prepared by rou ghening its su rface with a is kn own to have been used th roughout th e
th e only practical way to use it, and since it fin ely toothed plan e to imp rove th e centur y, but especially afte r 1776 when th e
is app lied to th e sur face, th e joinery and adhesion of th e glue . Th e veneers were formula and procedure for makin g it were
st ructur al work can be don e in more easily glued in place wit h a hid e glue, an d held in published. (For more on period varni sh
worked material, like pin e or mapl e. place until th e glue cure d . Documentary resins, see Appendix III on p. 296.)
Consecutive sheets of ven eer have nearly evide nce from th e period shows th at th e
iden tica l grain, and th ey can be opened and venee rs were held in place by weight s or CARVING
applied to a su rface to give a perfectly clam ped between board s. (For more on Ca rving took on a new sense of pur pose
sym met rical, or book mat ched , grain. This period veneering, see C hapter 10.) during th e William and Mary period . Th e
kind of sym met ry was imp ortant to These highly figur ed pieces required a primary focus of th e carver's atte ntion was
William and Mary design and exemplified fini sh that would enhance th e grain, protect chairs, whic h were well su ited to thi s kind
the logic and order that accompan ied th e wood and impart a nice luster to th e of decorati on . Wh ereas Jacobean carving
Enlighten ment ideals. It is not un common su rface better than th e oils and waxes of th e was a thin su rface tr eatment th at included
to see four or even eight bookm at ched previous century. William and Mary pieces Renaissance and medieval botanical,
ven eers across a drawer front, divid ing it required th e use of varn ishes, w hich at th e st rapwo rk and geomet ric motifs, th e
evenly int o identical, sym me t rically grained time enco mpassed all kinds of clear, hard carving of William and Mary chairs was
sect ions. T his pattern was repeat ed on every fini shes. Like many aspects of William and mostly of Baroqu e Flemish design, and was
dr awer an d on th e front of th e case itself. Mary furniture, th e raw materials for th ese more int egrat ed into th e form of th e piece.
Four sect ions of veneer, sym met rical about finishes carne from extensive foreign trade. Th ese carvings were deep, bold and
t he cente r po int, were used to decorate There were a number of different tree dr am atic. Th e carving of compone nts of
larger areas like desk lids and dr essing-table resin s from Africa and th e O rient that William and Mary chairs defined th ose
tops. In most exam ples, veneered panel s compone nts, not just decorated th em .

1700-1720 .
The bold carvingof
period cha irs followed
the standards set in
post-Restoration England
by such craftsmen as
Grinling Gibbons.

28 C II A I' T E R T WO
1710 -1725 .
Gateleg tables and
chairs of the period
show a variety of
elements included in
more complex and


This table has spindle turnings of simple vasiform
profile that aresymmetrical about their midpoint.

Th e crest rails of chairs were freque ntly and less a su perficia l decorati on. Turnings TURNED LEG .
comprised of two or more Flemi sh scrolls, a of th e period fall int o three categories
C-shaped scroll with volutes on eit her end depending on th eir use and design. 1700-1725 .

(see th e photo on th e facing page). Th ey Spindle turnings, which are found on Dressing table and high
were of conside rable depth, and th e wood table legs and st retc hers, are inh erently thin chest legs show a more
complex profile that
was cut and pierced to silho uette th em . and of shallow profil e (top photo at left) .
traces its origin to
Similar cut and pierced scrolled elem ents Their turned designs are frequ ently sym- France by way of
were used as front st retche rs on a number metrical about the midpoint and include England and Holland.
of Boston examples, a detail seen on English rings and greatly elongated vasiform shapes. ( PRIVATE COLLECTION)

chairs of th e period. Th e arm s of arm chairs, C hair and gateleg-table components

or elbow chairs as the y were th en called, show a greate r degree of sophist icat ion with
were th emselves long sweeping cur ves deeper turned profil es and mor e
terminating in tight carved volutes. complicated shapes (top photo at right).
Th e other carved element in chairs and These shapes could be a combinat ion of any
occasionally small tables was th e Spanish number of elements from a sta ndard grou p
foot . Spanish feet were of Portuguese origin th at includes beads and rings, vase shapes,
and were not as sculpt ura l as Flemi sh cylind rical cu ps and tulip forms. They are
carved details. Th ese feet are squa re in cross seen stac ked in a variety of combinat ions,
section and have a simple flared, bru shl ike often alterna t ing with a squa re sect ion of
profile. Th e only carving on th em is a few th e stoc k. As with many othe r details of
simple flutes shaped to follow th eir cu rve. design, th ese turned elem ents show
region al characte rist ics th at are helpful in
TURNINGS determining origins.
Turnings became an important part of th e By far th e most notable turnings of th e
decorative and st ruct ural aspects of William period are th ose used as legs on dr essing
and Mary fu rn itu re. As with carvings, th eir tables and high chests (bott om photo at
use was more an int egral part of th e design right) . Th ey too are assembl ed from a basic

T HE W I L L I A 11,1 & 11,1 A R Y I' E RI O 0 29

lexicon of sha pes, but th ey are ver y lastin g influence in England and Am erica progression from th e top. Th e verti cal
different eleme nts from th ose describ ed for nearly two centu ries aft er his death. Th e draw er divid ers align with th e centerline of
previous ly. These turnings were recent influence of architectura l details can be th e two inn er legs. Th e two outside d rawers
transplants from Flemi sh and Fren ch cour t att ributed in part to th e massive rebuilding echo th e same prop ortion as th e entire base.
fu rni tu re, and th ey were free fro m th e of Lond on necessitated by th e Great Fire of The center drawer is roughly half th e height
practica l conside ratio ns of fun cti onin g as 1666, just a few years afte r th e Restoration of th e outer ones and relates visually to th e
chair or table legs. Th ey were th e legs of and th e marri age of C ha rles II, and at a smaller d rawers in th e top row. Th e th ree
expensive and conspicuo us pieces, and th eir critica l time in th e development of th e large spaces across th e front , th ose th at are
styling was not intended to be restrain ed . new styles. bounded by th e legs and apron, are of the
Amo ng th e elem ents included in th ese same prop orti on . Alth ough th e space
turnings are inverted bowl and cu p forms, betw een th e two center legs is greate r th an
ball and vase shapes, flared trumpet profiles Logic, Order, Proportion th e spaces on either side, th e apro n height
and th e fam iliar flatten ed ball foot on a is taller to maintain th e prop orti onality.
tapered pad.
and the Baroque Th e shape of th e apron is echoed in th e
Th e dr ama in th ese turnings is in th eir Th e ince pt ion of William and Mary shape of th e stretchers (a fact th at is more
ext reme variation in diameter at variou s furniture designs came at a time when readily apparent wh en you see th e piece in
points. Th ey are turned from stoc k that is at Baroqu e tr end s were requ irin g stylistic person th an in a photograph). Finally, th e
least 3 in. square, and th e diameters range th eatrics, and th e Age of Reason was massive, large diameter on th e legs is
fro m 3 in. to less th en I in. at th e narrow est prompting a search for th e underlying orde r balanced and visually sta bilized by th e mass
points. Th e design of th e turnings makes of th e physical world . Th e William and of th e ball foot that is squarely connected to
th em look even more dramatic. Th e largest Mar y style found a way to int egrate th e th e grou nd.
diameter and mass is abo ut three-quarters two seem ingly opposed aims int o a well- Each of th e d rawers is divid ed into two
of th e way up th e leg, giving th e leg an st ruct ure d grande ur. Since th e high chest or four equal sections by th e bookm atched
inherently dynami c qu alit y. Thi s sha ping embodies more of th e design philosophy venee rs and th e placement of th e brass
imparts to th em an up ward , almost th an any ot he r piece of th e period, it is a pulls and escutcheo ns. Th eir positioni ng
foun ta inlike appeara nce. The mass is good piece to analyze (see th e ph oto on th e is deliberately math ematical. Each drawer
counterbalanced, seemi ngly anc ho red, by facing page). The insight revealed by th e is bord ered by veneer band s set in a herring-
the large diam eter of th e foot. Th e mass of careful conside rat ion of a such a piece is bon e patt ern, and each d rawer opening is
the case and th e u nifying effect of th e quite asto u nd ing, and it makes one framed by a double-arch moldin g. Th e
st retc he rs are needed to put th ese legs in appreciate th e sophistica tion of th e design veneer on th e apron is bookm atched to be
context and have th em make sense in and its creato rs all th e more. perfectly symmetrical about th e center, and
relati on to th e wh ole. Th e spectac ular effect Studying th e form of th e piece reveals a even th e left and right drawers, at both th e
of th e legs would be wasted if th ey were very logical and precise approach to its top and bottom, have mat ched veneers to
used in a context othe r th an to su ppo rt design. Th e upper case, for example, is maintain symmet ry.
case pieces. nearly squ are. Th e draw er heights are Lookin g at th e piece as a whole, th e high
graduated in an arithmetic progression, chest has three stron g and nearly equally
MOLDINGS meaning that each draw er is larger than th e spaced hori zontal s: th e corn ice mold ing,
Moldings sho uld also be mentioned as an one above it by an equal amount. Thi s th e midmoldin g and th e st retchers. Th ese
imp ortant part of orna me ntat ion beginning arrangeme nt gives th e visual suggest ion of three elem ents exte nd all th e way around
in th e William and Mar y period . Visually, height and, from a practical aspect, puts th e th e piece, making th em all th e more stro ng
moldin gs played an imp ortant role in sma ller and light er dr awers at th e top of th e wh en viewin g th e piece in person.
finishing off th e ext rem it ies of case pieces case. It was sta ndard form to have two or Alth ou gh th e high chest is quite tall, th ese
in th e absence of case fra me memb ers. The three sm all d rawers in th e top row, wh ich three horizontals are uni fying elements th at
cove, cyma and torus moldings th at becam e could be rem oved from th e case to view also emphasize th e top, th e bott om and th e
part of a stan da rd repertoire of profil es, all th e conte nts. meeting point of th e two cases. Th e
had th eir origins in classical architecture The base of th e high chest is somewhat horizontals are cou ntered by th e stro ng
and had been resurrected in th e late more complicated. Th e case itself is in vertica l lines of th e legs and feet.
Renaissance wit h th e designs of An d rea proportion to wh at wou ld have been th e The Baroqu e considerations are not as
Pallad io ( 1508- 1580), amo ng othe rs. next drawer down from th e upper case, and easily quanti fied as th e logical proportions,
Palladio was a Ven eti an architect whose th erefore cont inues th e arit hmetic but rath er rely on th e movement th at th e
designs dr ew on th ose of ancient Rom e, variou s elements imply. Th e most noticeable
and, th rou gh his published work , he had a effect of Baroqu e design is th e vertical

30 C II A I' T E R TWO
~--~- Strongcornice, midmoldingand
stretcherhorizontals are balanced
by bold vertical lines of base.

. , - - --.+- Uppercase is nearlysquare.

, . . - -- - - . ! . . - Each draweris bordered

with veneer banding.

-------;-- Each draweropening is framedby

double-arch molding.

Drawer heights are graduated in

arithmeticprogression. All drawers
are divided evenly by placement
of brasses and bookmatched veneer.

Centerdrawerrelates visually
to top-row drawers.

----~- Lowercase is in proportion

to upper-case dividers.

'-- .L-_ Outside drawers echosame

proportion as base.

~ .L-_ Vertical drawerdividers are

alignedwith turnedlegs.

,........-----=---- Case veneers maintainsymmetry.

--- --~- Apronshape is repeated in

- - - - - - - stretchershape.

Three front spaces, though

differentsizes, are in proportion
to one another.

High placementof mass

on legs is balanced by massive foot
with large contactarea to ground.


MAS SACHU SETT S, 1700-1725 .

T HE W I L L I A M & M AR Y I' E RI O D 31
format of th e piece. A typ ical William and espo uses lift whil e emp hasizing its own th an th e pro liferatio n of th eir trade. In a
Mary high chest is more th an half as tall as it mass, and does it all within measured time before th e Indu stri al Revolution,
is wide. T his is a d ramatic change from th e proportion s. That is a rem arkable design apprent ices were ofte n th e power
horizontal Jacobean forms. Second, th e achieveme nt. equipme nt of th eir day. Much of th e
piece is u p on legs. To have something as cabinet maker's work was labor-intensive,
massive as a chest of dr awers perched on legs and apprenti ces were expected to take care
is a spectac ular departure from th e earlier The Advent of the of most of th e drudgery. Some of this
norm . Th e lifted mass was intended to be would include sawing stock, planin g sawn
not iced. Th is piece is held u p by six legs,
Ca bine t ma ker board s flat and to an even thi ckness,
which emphasizes t he mass of th e upper Th e design and const ruct ion of William turning th e great wh eel of a lath e, stacking
case. The ornate profile of th e turned legs and Mary fu rn itu re marked a radical lumber, cleaning up and running errands.
draws attention to their number and departure from all th at had preceded it, and As th e apprentice grew older and learn ed
function . T he eye-catching stre tcher it requ ired very d ifferent techniques fro m more skills, his work would includ e th e
emphasizes th at th e legs are sup por t ing a th ose employed by th e tr aditi on al joiner. fin er aspects of th e trade, such as joinery
great mass, and th e flatt en ed ball feet testify Th e use of dovetail joiner y, decorative and Finishin g. As apprentices progressed,
to th e weight of th at mass. Everything vene ers and exte nsive turnings called for new ones would take up th e menial work .
about th e base of thi s piece is meant to more specialized skills t han fram e-and- Wh en th e terms of th e apprenti ceship
overemp hasize th e str uctu ral conside rat ions panel const ruction. Thi s development had been fulfill ed, th e apprentice became a
of ach ieving a vert ical format. It was to be marked th e eme rgence of a Field ded icated journeyman and was free to cont inue in th e
evident to all that the designer had put a to thi s new kind of furniture making, th at paid employment of th e sho p master or
great mass at a great height. of th e cabinet maker. seek emp loyme nt elsewh ere. Many
While making th is qu ite clea r, t he Joiners con t inued in th eir role as jou rney me n worked in a number of shops
designe r also sough t to give t he piece an tr adesm en in wood , but cabinet makers and eventua lly opened th eir own, and in
inherent lift of its own . T he re are a number were fin e-furniture specialists . Join ers who that way learn ed a number of different
of elemen ts th at d raw t he eye up and out, did not make th e transition to th e newer aspects of th e trade. History record s many
visua lly rein forcing th e height of th e piece. styles of furniture making st ill had their journeym en cabinet makers as being
Just having th e cases floating on fountain- work in utilitarian furniture, carpent ry and somewhat tr ansient, moving from shop to
like turn ings exhib its th e greates t display of repairs, all of which were important aspects shop and town to town in th e employment
designed lift . The legs th emselves exhibit of th eir work even before th e William and of esta blished cabinetmakers. However, th e
this upward and outwa rd fla ir, six times in Mar y style. term jou rney man derives fro m th e French
a row, to stress an internal feeling of lift . In ru ral areas, where th ere was not th e journee, meaning a day's work, rath er th an
The apron shapes arch up above t he space populat ion den sity to su ppo rt specialists, fro m any idea th at th ese men were willing
between legs. The drawers march u pward joine rs were th e cabinet ma kers, carpente rs or able to tr avel.
in orderly progression . The midm olding, and repairm en for th e local clientele until Apart from th e journeymen who did
and espec ially th e cornice molding, echo late in th e centu ry. Account books from th e travel, th e apprentices wh o continued in
thi s progress ion wit h a flourish . Often a peri od show that rural cabin etmakers built the employment of th eir shop masters or
simple but well-flared corn ice moldin g can coffins, renovated and bu ilt buildings, wh o set up shop in th e area prop agated th e
cap off t he squa re u pper case with ju st made wagon parts and somet imes did a styles and methods of th e master. Given
the right spir it. On some examples, th e littl e farmi ng in add ition to cabinet ma king. thi s linear syste m of passing on skills, it
cornice molding is so drama tic th at it Building fu rn iture was only part of th eir would be expec ted th at th e cabinetmake rs
becomes the dominant element in th e work, which is anot her reason why th e of one region would develop a set of
piece. In either case, the eye is drawn up newest designs of th e period took a while to characteris tics in th eir work th at would
the lengt h of th e legs, across t he expanse come int o vogue in outlying areas. differenti ate th eir work fro m th at of others.
of highly Figured, but well-orde red case As th e 18th centu ry progressed, th ese
fronts, and out t hrough th e top by way of T HE A P P REN T ICE SYS TEM region al variati ons became more numerous
t he crown ing moldings. Th e apprentice syste m in Am erica was a and pron ounced.
The seemi ngly cont rad ictory need s for cont inuat ion of the longst anding English
Baroque extravagance and Enlighte n me nt syste m . An apprentices hi p provided th e
logic coexist in a design t hat sim ulta neo usly pract ical traini ng th at a you ng man needed
to learn a profession. Both urban and rura l
cabinet makers took on app rentices for more

32 C II A I' T E R TWO
Elegance and Refinement

A s Am ericans prospered during th e

second qua rte r of th e 18th century, a
distin ct social hierarchy became more
pronou nced. Successful families and civic
leaders recognized th eir role in shaping
civilization in Am erica, and th eir
sur round ings and furnishings became
important reflection s of th eir refin em ent.
In England, th e taste in furniture had
shifted toward an elegant, refin ed style
th at exemplified grace and comfort.
What eventua lly came to be known as
th e Qu een Ann e style was well suited to
Am erican tastes.

The Growing Prosperity

of Ameri ca
American purs uance of a genteel society
and th e interest in a refined style in th e
decorative arts were made possible by th e
peace and prosperity of th e era. In both
England and th e colonies, a growing The refinement and grace that underscored the lifestyle
merchant middle class fueled an inte rest in protect English industr y, encour aged th e and furnishings of the second quarter of the 18th
century are portrayed in Tea Party at LordHarrington's
th e produ cts of tradesm en and art isans. colonies to build merchant fleets and
House, a 1739 oil on canvas by English painter
With th e end of th e Spanish War of esta blished shipbuilding and shipping as Charles Philips.
Succession in 171 3, England , und er stable bu sinesses th at accelerated Am er ican (COURTESY YALE CENTER FOR BRITISH ART)

leadership , emerged as th e dominant prosperity. As early as 1676, Boston was

European power. Th e Navigation Acts, a hom e port for 230 vessels, and by 1748 th at
series of laws passed beginning in 16 50 to number had reached 491, with anot her 131

ships sailing from neighboring Salem. th ey were part of a separate but equ al churc h activities, there were few cultu ral
Similarly, th ere was a growt h in commercial Am erican cu lture that was followin g a events and th e arts were slow to progress.
fishing, iron smelt ing and th e production parall el path of its ow n makin g. Throughout th e histor y of Am erican
of agricu lt u ral products suc h as flour, furniture th ere is a distin ction betw een
cotto n and tobacco for both domestic THE EMERGENCE OF A urban and rural styles of furniture design
market s and expo rt. SOC IAL H IERARCHY and const ruction. Th e urban areas, with th e
With prosperity came improvements The beginning of th e 18th century greate r conce nt rat ion of wealth, had both
in th e standa rd of living and th e standards marked the start of a more pronounced th e demands of a sophist icated clientele
of aesthetics, as personal possessions stratification of Am erican society. A and th e skilled craftsmen to carry th em out .
and hom es reflected that success. Th e wealthier upper class was rising from Here, new designs were introduced and
prosperity enabled th e decorative arts to among th e colonists, and th e wealthy evolved in th eir purely Am erican style.
cont inue to thrive and evolve. For any suc h formed th eir own social network. Once esta blished, th ey served as sta nda rds
evolu tion th ere needs to be a market both Within this grou p, civility and refinement for th e cabinetma kers and custo mers of
to dem and and afford it, and su ch was th e indi cative of status differentiated its smaller town s. Th e designs emanated, with
case in th e early part of th e 18th centur y. members from those of lesser me ans . Th e adaptatio ns and variations, inland from th e
Th ere was always a desire on th e part successful peopl e of th e 18th century were coasta l cit ies, somet imes takin g decades to
of t he Am ericans to rem ain stylisti cally exp ect ed to be part of a polite society that gain accepta nce.
compet it ive with England . Anything that exuded grace, charm, self-confidence and
was needed from England could easily have poise-sand all without app arent effort .
been imp orted , but Am erican preferen ces This exte nded to th eir furnishings as well, Origins of the Queen
in furniture were divergin g from those of which were chosen to reinforce and testify
th e English. to th e refin ement of their own ers . Fine
Anne Style
Early in th e 18th cent u ry, Am eri can s furnishings were less a display of wealth With its height , orna me nta tio n and vertical
were showing th eir int erest in light, than the accouterments of an elegant life. emphasis,William and Mary furniture had
exube rant designs that captu red what could It should be noted that Am erica in th e marked a dr am atic departure fro m earlier
only be called a unique Am erican spirit: a 18th centu ry was a very rural place. Less styles. Th e Queen Ann e style was a
spirit inh erent in th e colon ial designs , but than 5% of the population lived in citi es, continuat ion of th at same tr end to an even
not seen in English pieces. Th e desire to and by mid-c entury only five citi es- lofti er Baroqu e sta nda rd, but with some
rema in competit ive did not manifest itself Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Newp ort mid -course correct ions. As if in a final
in increasing English imports, nor were and Charles Town (South Carolinaj-shad departure from th e heavy and solid
English pieces copied wholesale to any great popu lations in excess of 7,000 (see th e fu rn itu re of th e past, Q uee n Ann e designs
exte nt. From th e Am erican pieces it is chart below). The othe r 9 5% were spread balanced mass with space, making th e size
evide nt th at th eir makers wanted to out in smaller towns , most of th em farming and shape of th e space betw een
ma inta in a separation in style but an equal and pursuing various small businesses. components as imp ortant to th e overall
level of sophistica t ion, as if to mak e clear Apart from neighb orly gat he rings and design as th e components th em selves.
Qu een Anne fu rn iture was made to be seen
and to be seen th rough. Equally import ant
to th e style was th e more complete
POPULATION OF AMERICAN CITIES integrati on of th e cyma curve int o
furniture. Th e shallow S shaped cu rve was
1690 1720 1743 1760 1775 in favor with late Baroqu e designers as an
BOS TO N 7,000 12,000 16,000 16,000 16,000 essential elem ent in all things beautiful ,
PH I LAD ELPH IA 4,000 10,000 13,000 23,7 50 40,000 and it was incorp orated in Queen Anne
furniture in cur ved pedim ents, apron
NEW Y O RK 3,900 7,000 11,000 18,000 25,000
shapes and, most imp ortant, cabr iole legs.
NEW P O RT 2,60 0 3,8 00 6,200 7,500 11,000
Th e Q uee n Ann e style as we know it
C H A RL ES T OWN 1,100 3, 500 6,800 8,000 12,000 originated in England, but it was inspired
by t rends in mainland Euro pe and even th e
NOTE: For comparison, the population of London grew from about 685,000 in 1690, to
Ori ent. Two decades before th e death of
725,000 in 1740, to an estimated 800,000 in 1775.
Loui s XIV in 1715, th ere began a relaxation
of th e tr em endou sly orna te Baroqu e
sta nda rds that had been set at Versailles.
Louis XV becam e king at age five, but

34 C HAl' T E R T H R E E
cu rved leg, wh ich was th e fore run ner of th e
cab riolc leg. His protege, C ha rles C rcssent
(168 5-1 76 8), continued his styles u nder
th e Regent , wh ere he had a lead ing role in
developin g the less orna te and more
gracefu l cou rt fu rn it ure and established
wh at was to become th e Loui s XV style.
References often cite Th om as Hogarth, th e
English designer and painter, as a leadi ng
propon ent of th e cyma cu rve since he
exto lled its virt ues in his boo k, A nalysi: of
Beauty. Hi s praise was in retrospect ,
however, since th e book was publish ed in
175 3, more th an half a century afte r Boull c
began to use th e cyma in France.
Th e Flemi sh Baroqu e had run its cour se
in England as well. Since th e restoration of
C harles II in 1660, th e style-starved
aristocracy had em braced th e Flem ish and
Moori sh styles and th e ext ravagances of th e
Baroque. Th e intricat e orna me nta tio n of
th e post-Restorati on tr ends, cu lm inating in
Cabinetmaker And re-C harles Boutte was instrumental in introdu cing gently curved elements into French court
th e William and Mary style, was aba ndoned
furniture in the 1690s, signaling a relaxation of Baroque standardsand inspiring English furniture designers. This
bureau plat. or writingdesk, is likely from the Boulle workshops and is veneered in ebony with inlaid boutlework of in favor of more reser ved designs, since, as
tortoiseshell and brass. one histori an noted, "alt hough th ey
(COURTESY THE WALLACE COLLECTiON. LONDON) period ically succu m b to 'foreign excesses:
th e English are inh erently adverse to
ext ravagant design: In 1712, Lord
Phillipe, Duke of O rleans, served as Regent Shaft sbury wrote of th e trend to subd ue
for eight years. Th e high Baroque had th e drama of th e Baroqu e: "In sho rt we are
reached a peak in furn iture design, and th e to carry thi s rem embrance st ill along wit h
coronatio n of a new, you ng mon arch us, that th e fewer th e objects are beside
offered th e cour t designers an opportu nity th ose whi ch are absolutely necessar y in a
to explore more practical, comfo rta ble and piece, th e easier it is for th e eye by one
gracefu l designs. simple act, and in one view to comprehend
th e su m or whole." It seems clear th at t he
T H E I N F L U E N C E OF BOULLE English were never quite co mfortable with
Andre-Charl es Boull e (1642-1 73 2) was a th e bu sy nature of th e Baroqu e,
French cabinetma ker to t he cour t wh o gave
his country's furni ture a style of its own T HE I N F L U E N C E O F C H INA
beginn ing in th e 1690s. Prior to t his time, Imported C hinese furn itu re also played a
French furni ture had been some key role in shaping th e eme rging Queen
combinatio n of Dutc h and Italian styles, Ann e style . C hi nese fu rni ture had been
but with a full complemen t of Baroqu e imported to Europe in th e late 17th and
orna me nta tion. Boulle is best know n for his early 18th cent ur ies, C hinese objects were
marquetry of tor toiseshell, brass, silver, of great inte rest to Europeans since t hey
horn , ivor y and mother of pea rl, which were both exoti c and aesthetica lly pleasing.
came to be called boulleworle (see th e ph oto Th e fu rn iture had a simp licity of form and
CHAIR , CH I N A , C.1700.
above). He also used or mo lu (gilded bronze)
Chinese objects we re of interest to Europeans
mounts both as decorati ve eleme nts and as
throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The simplicity
a means of fasten ing inlaid panels. More of design was inspirational after the excesses of the
importa nt, he int rodu ced curve d shapes to Baroque.
fu rn iture form s, including th e gentle cyma- (COURTESY DOVER PUBLICATiONS)

T II E (.) U E E 1'1 1\ NN E STY 1.E 35

elegance of line th at was ad m ired and
emulated by Euro pean designers at many C ENT U RY.
points in history. As th e Baroqu e ideals of London's Great Fire of
exu bera nce were being mod ified to lessen 1666 destroyed two
th e grand iose orna mentat ion of furniture, thirds of thecity, and a
massive rebuilding effort
C hinese pieces served as qu iet inspiration
ensued . The resulting
for more conservat ive designs. interest in arch itectural
trends was among the
T HE I N F L U E N C E OF many influences that
A RCH ITECTU RAL DESIGN converged upon English
furniture designers and
Th e architect ura l books of Palladio and th e
craftsmen late in the
designs of Inigo Jon es (1573-1 652), wh o 17th centu ry. The
followed in th e Palladian style as architect to cornice molding of this
James [ and C ha rles I, had been influential English high chest
in England (especially in th e rebuilding of re lates directly to the
Lon don afte r th e fire of 1666), and had details of theclassic
orders of architecture as
been inspira tio nal during th e William and
presented byPalladio.
Mary period. Th rou gh th e sta rt of th e next (COURTESY WINTERTHUR
centu ry th ere was a continuing int erest in MUSEUM)

architectu ral design as an app ropriate

past ime for th e English ar istoc racy, and it
cont ributed to t he develop me nt of a qui eter
Baroqu e style in fu rniture. Th e classic
mold ing profiles were revisited with an eye
toward th eir beauty and clean lines.
Palladio's dr awin gs of vasiform balu sters
presented anot her cyma-based form th at
was well-su ited for inclu sion in th e new
style. Th e parallels between th e Queen
Anne style at its incept ion and as it evolved
and th ose of Palladian and Georgian
architectu re are numerou s.

The graceful curves of th e new French
styles and th e simple elegance of C hinese
pieces combined with remnant s of th e
Flemish scrolled legs of th e Baroqu e to yield Early English legs terminated in cloven Queen A nne
th e familiar cabriole leg in abou t 1700. doe (pied de biche) and hor ses' hoofs, which
Th e cabriole shape is based on that of an evolved int o flatter pad feet, somet imes
Design G oals
an imal's leg, and t he name derives from th e called Dutch feet . Animal claw feet, Even th ou gh th e new trend in English
G reek leapros, meanin g wild boar, or th e especially ball and claw feet of C hinese design was very different from th e
Lati n capreolus, mean ing goat or roebuck (a origin, were of int erest in England , and th e precedin g William and Mary period, it still
small Euro pean deer). Th e use of a stylized French had a preference for whorl feet, represented a continuation of Baroqu e
an ima l leg was not a new conce pt; th e form whi ch were scrolled volut es. It was in ideals. Q uee n Ann e furniture retained th e
had been seen repeatedly since at least th e England and its colonies th at th e cabriole Baroqu e preference for visually impr essive
Egyptian T hird Dynasty (265 0 B.C.). The leg found an endur ing reign of popul arity pieces, usu ally th rough th e use of height,
style originated on th e Co nt inen t, was as a basic elem ent of th e Qu een Ann e but it did so with a reliance up on grace
fur t her developed in England an d saw style, a characte ristic ally English style that rath er th an orna mentation. Quee n Ann e
acceptance in other par ts of Euro pe as part th orou ghly suited th e English need for pieces conti nue d th e shift of format to
of th e spread of English tastes early in th e restr ain ed elegance. (Cabrio le legs are th e vertica l and increased it to even
second quarter of t he century. discussed in det ail in C ha pter 9.) lofti er heights .
One imp ortant aspect of th e style is its
int enti on to disguise th e mass of furniture.

36 C H A P T E R T II R E E
( ABOVE) MASSACHUSETTS . 1700- 17 10 .
(R I GHT) CONNECTICU T, 17 40 -1760 .
The many powerful legs of the William and Mary high
chest (above) ensure that the accomplishment of a
raised mass does notgo unnoticed . The graceful
cabriole legs of the Queen Anne design (right) loft the
mass without apparent effort.

Soaring vertical pieces look even more

so if t hey appear to be light. William and
Mary pieces had pioneered the vertical
format by raising th e mass, but it was not to
go unnoticed . A William and Mar y high
chest, for insta nce, was sup ported by six
powerfu l legs, th e design of which
emphasized th eir weight-bearing role
(see th e photo above). Q uee n Ann e designs
replaced th e busy colonnaded base wit h
four slende r and gracefully cu rved legs t hat
appeared to loft th e u pper case wit h style
and ease (see th e photo at right) . William
and Mary chests and desks were supported
by ball feet th at seemed to be bu lging
under th e st rain. Q ueen An ne counterparts
were su pported by shor t cabriole or bracket
feet th at perform ed th eir task without
apparent effort. Like th eir owners,
American Q ueen Ann e pieces were to
exude an effortless grace.


BOS T ON ,1 7 30 -1750.
An exaggeration of the
vertical emphasis of the
period is exemplified by
this desk and bookcase,
which is just under
30 in. wide but stands
88 in. tall. The soaring
pediment, arched
paneled doors and
straight legs further et hereal qu ality, seemi ngly un encumbered
enhance the effectof by its mass.
the tall proportions.
Th e role of mass and space in Qu een
ARTS. BOSTON) Ann e furniture is so imp ortant that it
warrants closer examinat ion. As th e Qu een
Anne pieces were mad e to belie th eir mass
and emphasize th eir shape, th e spaces
between shaped components becam e more
prominent and visua lly important in
th em selves. In a design trend that st ressed
cu rved shapes, the spaces left by th em
increasin gly becam e part of th e design,
Th ere cou ld be no better way to light en a
There were othe r design changes that surfa ces of plainer wood, with carving used piece th an to design it with space as well as
fur t he red th e aim of making Queen Anne quite sparingly. C ur ved pediment tops and wit h material. Thus th e balance of solid and
furniture seem light. Th e proportion s of finia l orname nts furth er exaggerated th e void was used to fur t he r th e aim of
case pieces were st retc hed taller than the height of ta ll case pieces, and visua lly dr ew reducin g th e apparent mass of a piece.
st ill somewhat squat shape of many William th e eye u pward so the height cou ldn't be In Queen Ann e examples, this balan ce is
and Mary pieces (see th e ph oto s above). overlooked. T he emphasis had changed exhibited in tw o ways. In chairs of th e
Features th at emphas ized th e su rface, suc h from a visua l int erest direct ed toward th e period , th ere is an int erpl ay of solid and
as expanses of highly figur ed ven eer and surface to a visual int erest in th e shape, and void th rou ghout th e composi tion, and its
extensi ve carving, were replaced by smooth th e resu lt was loft y furniture with an rendering requ ires more skill th an one may

at first imagine. Some very min or changes SQUARE TEA TABLE .
in th e th ickness of compo nents, as littl e as 1740-1760.
li s in., could make th e chair appea r eit her 'Lift' is the perching
too spindly or too sto ut . By adhe ring to th e quality of Queen Anne
proper balance of solid and void, th e chair furniture that gives it a
light appeara nce through
has th e appeara nce of st rengt h wit h grace
the use of a high apron
and neit her the eleme nts nor th e spaces and gracefully shaped
th ey leave dominate th e composition. Of legs.
part icular interest in Queen Anne chairs is (COURTESY THE
th e way th e central splat is designed in OF ART)

conju nctio n wit h th e void s on eit her side of

it. Makers purposefully shaped vasiform
splats to leave bird-shaped voids (see th e
photo below). Alt hough workin g in solid
wood, th e ma kers were working as mu ch
with th e space left by its absence.
Th e other use of th e balance of solid
and void is to give case pieces and tables
"lift." In Queen Ann e furn iture, lift is th e
attribute of achieving a light appearance in
the body of th e piece by giving it a sta nce
that contra dicts its mass. This gives Qu een
An ne pieces th eir "perc h ing" quality, a characterist ic exh ibited by better examples outside of th e style-eon sciou s cit ies, th e
of th e period th at is mu ch sought afte r by Q uee n Anne style was peaking in cer tai n
conno isseurs . G ood lift was achi eved by th e form s as late as th e 1780s. T he
use of lon g, slender and gracefu lly shaped cabinetma kers of th e Dee rfield,
legs, along wit h a high apron of a sweeping Massachusetts, area had th eir own distinct
cu rved profile (see th e ph oto above). Th e style and produced some of th e fin est
result lift ed th e mass of th e piece h igh off examples of Queen Anne pieces after th e
th e grou nd, reinforcin g th e height and Revolution wh en th e style had lon g since
weightl essness of th e piece. Th e large space passed out of favor elsewh ere. Throughout
left under th e piece allowed th e shape of Am erican furniture hist or y, styles are more
th e legs to be seen without distra ction, and important th en dates, and references to
th e shape of th e apro n spa nning th e void certain eras or peri od s pertain more to th e
becam e an imp ortant eleme nt in th e overall stylist ic trends th an to particul ar times.
design . With thi s kind of sta nce, Qu een C om me rcial su ccess, routes of travel and
Anne furniture does not seem int ended to trade, social custo ms and local preferences,
st and sta tically on th e floor. Outstanding skills and material s all con tributed to th e
examples seem poised to go en pointe. way styles changed or were ret ain ed .
While all Q uee n Anne designs
descended from an English or igin,
The Queen Anne American pieces varied in th eir degree of
direct influence. In some cases, pieces were
Style in America clearly copied from English examples. Many
Queen Anne, Mary's younger siste r, cabinet ma kers emigrated fro m England and
assu med th e th ron e afte r William Ill's brought th eir meth ods and designs wit h
death in 1702 . Althou gh she reigned until th em . On th e othe r hand, many Am erican
only 1714, th e style that was given her name pieces show just th e influence of new
had only its most fu nda me nta l beginnings English styles applied to existi ng Am erican
The careful balance of solid andvoid and the use of
during her reign. Th e style first eme rged in pieces. Of cou rse, th ose exist ing pieces were
open space asa design element yield forms that are to
be looked through as we ll as at. Am er ica about 1725 , and over th e next essentially English th em selves, but with a
(PR/VATE COLLECTION! decade came to dominate furniture design. histor y of Am erican interpret ati on. Th e
Th e style cont inued to evolve and remained fact that som e aspects of furnitur e design
popul ar until about 1760. In some areas rem ain ed in fashion for decades, ofte n


coex ist ing with ea rlier and lat e r styles, Ann e st yle. William Kent (16 84 -174 8)
ind icates that th e Americans held o n to the wa s an ar chitect in the Pallad ian sty le and a
fami liar d esign s th ey liked but w er e o pe n to d ecorator who introduced lat e Europea n
newer styles if the change wa s warranted. Baroque o rna menta t ion; he was influential
This ap p roac h speaks to a certa in quality of from 1725 unti l ab out 174 0. Hi s furniture
pract icality and fru gality inherent in d esign s for Palladian m an sions were
co lo n ia l Amer ican s a nd their d esire to have encr usted with she lls, fruit , foli age, eagles
fash ions th at we re influen ced rather than and d olphin ca rv ings. Althou gh furniture
di ctated by th e m other co u n t ry. in th e Kent m an ner was not for everyone in
En gland, hi s d esign s wer e influential in
EA R LY GE O RG IAN STYL E steering En glish tast es tow ard m or e op u lent
A meric an fu rn it u re sty les between 1725 ca rv ing (see the illustration below). Gi ven
and 1760 are o ften referred t o as Queen Kent's ar chitectural ba ckgrou nd and t he
Anne a nd Earl y G eorgian, and so me st ro ng inter est in ar chitectural d esign
ex pla nat io n of the latter is in o rder. Earl y among the ari st ocra cy, elements of
G eorgian refers to th e reign of G eorge I, a rch itect ure co n t in ued to be an im po rta nt
1714-1 727, and G eorge II, 1727 -1 76 0 . part of bo th t he form and it s d ecoration
Su bsequen t G eorges III and IV were o n the throu ghout the Earl y G eorgian peri od .
th rone u nt il 18 30. In America, the Earl y The in cr eased u se o f o rnam en t in the
G eo rgia n wa s not a se pa rate sty le, but Earl y G eorgian peri od co incid ed with a
rather the lat er evo lu t io n o f th e Queen change in material. Since shortly after the
A n ne . In En gland th e differ ence wa s m ore Rest orati on a nd th rough England's Queen
dis t inct . The fi rst Q ueen Ann e forms we re SID E CH AI R. BOS TON . C . 17 30- 17 4 0 . Anne period , walnut was th e wood of
see n in the fi rst d ecad e of the 18th ce n t ury, Inthe Early Georgian style. furniture proportions cho ice for cabine t ma kers. Most of the
became stouter and the use of carved ornament
and during th e reign of George 1the En glis h wa lnut u sed in En gland was imported from
increased, as evidenced bythis Boston example that
sty le ca m e to include more ca rve d closely followed English tastes. Chairs of this style France, but by 1720 it was in sho rt su p ply.
d ecora t io n , m ostl y restrai ne d she lls and were previously thought to be of New York origin To reduce its d epl etion an d to m aintain
foliage, and began to assume so mew ha t but have recently been shown to have been made in their d omestic su p ply, th e Fren ch banned
stou te r proportion s. This p has e is Boston for shipment to other colonial cities. it s export. T he following year England
so m et imes ca lled t he D ecorated Q ueen reduced its hi gh import duties o n wood

LONDON . 173 9 .
The Pall adian style
represented the
uppermost limit of
European Baroque
ornament that could be
applied to furn iture of
Queen Anne-era design.
The style wasadvanced
bythe architect William
Kent and was influential
in creatinga movement
toward more opulently
carved surfaces.



j I, . JIillI~~~IDm

40 C I I A I' T E R T I I REE
from th e Ameri can colonies and th e American Queen Anne CHESTS
West Indies, and imp orted mah ogany C hests wit h dr awers had proven th eir
began to replace walnut in English
Forms practi calit y with th e William and Mary
furniture. Th e change in materi al was for Th e shift to th e more reserved style of designs, and th eir evolutio n cont inued into
th e bett er. Den se West Indian and Ce nt ral Q uee n Anne, alon g with th e cont inued th e second quarter of th e centu ry. High
American mah ogany was better suited to influence of th e Baroque, yielded some new chests and chests-on-frame were well suited
th e increasing amount of carving, and it form s and brought th e evolut ion of some to th e Queen Anne style, and Am erican
could be finish ed with a deeper and richer old ones. Case pieces, whil e maintaining cabinet makers advan ced th e development
sur face. In 1733 England repealed th e most of their str uctu ral details, were of th ose pieces beyond th at of English
import duty on mah ogany, allowing for modifi ed to include cabriole legs or bracket examples.
its nearly exclusive use over th e next feet , improved d rawers and arched
three decades. pedim ent tops. Tables with bold turnings Chests of drawers
American trend s in design were running and st retc hers were simplified to four Th e chest of drawers changed only
a decade or two beh ind th e English, and cabriole legs. C hairs underwent a th orough cosmetically with th e Q uee n Ann e style,
Americans were select ive in what th ey redesign leaving th em quite unlike th eir since its st ructu re had been established
chose to include. Th e American Qu een predecessors. Across th e board, intricate during the William and Mary years. Th e
Ann e style was just sta rt ing as th e English turnings and elaborate carvings gave way to evolution from lift-top chests to th ose
were entering th e Early Georgian pha se of th e sweeping lines and smoot h su rfaces of comprised ent irely of drawers was mostly
orna ment. Pad feet were th e norm for th e relaxed Queen Ann e designs. As th e complete as th e new style came int o vogue.
American cabriole legs at th e outset, but sta ndard of living imp roved , social C hests th at combined lift top s over dr awers
ball and claw feet were later used on pieces int eract ion and pastim es increased, and cont inued to be mad e in more rural areas
of part icular importance begin ning in th e new forms of fu rn iture with specialized int o th e second half of th e cent u ry, but th ey
1740s, some 20 years afte r th ey becam e purposes proliferated th roughout England had lon g since passed out of favor in urban
popul ar in England. Th e ext ravagances of and its colonies. areas, wh ere chests of drawers were th e
William Kent were not ado pted in th e
American colonies. Th ey were not in
keeping with American tast es, and th ere
was no aristocracy with eithe r th e palatial
homes or th e unlimited wealth required for
such fu rn iture . Th e use of an occasional,
well-placed shell was in keepin g with th e
America n view of Q uee n Ann e, and gild ing
th ose shells was th e limit of accepta ble
flamb oyance. Th e archit ectural aspect of
th e Early Georgian period was influential in
America, since design books were plentiful
and inspirati onal for craftsme n. Before th e
Revoluti onary War, at least 8 5 different
architectura l guide books were known to
have been available, and most all of th em
followed th e Palladian precept s. As th e style
progressed, more fluted pilasters, plinths,
arched pedim ents and architecturally
rend ered moldin gs found th eir way int o
furniture designs.


Theuse of bracket feet. delicate moldings and a more
refined graduation of lipped drawers broughtcase
pieces into theQueen Anne period.


Early American Queen Anne high chests continued CONNECTICUT . 1750 -1 780 . NEWPOR T. 1730-1760 .

many of the proportions of earlier high chests. Asthe style progressed, high chests assumed more Animportant form for the period, the chest-on-frame
(PRIVATE COLLECTION, COURTESYNATHAN lIVERANT ANO SON. vertical proportions and lost the vestigial remains of had many of the same endearing qualities as Queen
COLCHESTER. CONNECTICUT) earlier styles. Anne high chests.

standard. Mod erni zing t he chest of drawers th e absence of drawers in the base.) In both
entailed replacing its decorative eleme nts . examples, th e bases were changed
Ball feet were replaced by bracket feet, dr astically by replacing t heir numerous and
giving th e piece a mor e sta ble stance and a bold legs and st retchers with four graceful
foot th at was bett er integrated int o th e cabr iole legs. T he effect was imm ediate and
overall design. Th e arch moldi ngs th at had profou nd and represented a stylistic leap
sur rou nded t he drawers were eliminated as forwa rd. T he early chests-on-fram e and
d rawers came to have overlapping lips. T he high chests retained th e case prop orti ons of
d rawer lips featured delicate bead moldings t he William and Mary period , but th ey
cut int o th e drawer fron ts, which clean ed increased in height as t he style evolved.
u p th e ap pearance of th e piece by covering Simi larly, th e early bases reta ined apro n
the space between th e drawer an d its case. details from th e previou s era, and pairs of
Top and bottom case moldin gs were given a d rop finials somet imes appear as th e
new refinem ent in keeping wit h t he qui eter vest igial remai ns of wh at had been th e two
style, and more atte nt ion was paid to th e center legs (photo at left above). As th e style
grad uation of d rawer sizes to aid in creat ing progressed, th e apron designs came to
th e appearance of height . includ e more flowin g cu rves to span th e

High ches ts
High chests and chests-on-frame under-
CONNECTICUT . 1750 -1770 .
went a more obvious change in design th an At the apex of Baroque aesthetic, the arched pediment
d id chests of dr awers. (Ch ests-on-fram e are top contributes to the ethereal goals of the period .
generally distin guished from high chests by (COURTESY HENRY FORO MUSEUM AND GREENFIELD VILLAGE)

42 C II A I' T E R T II R E E
distance fro m side to side (to p photos at
center and right on th e facing page). 1740-1760 .
In keeping with th e cont inu ing vert ical Thisdesk and bookcase
thrust, th e familiar arched pedimen t top for is on a frame with bandy
high chests emerged later in th e Q uee n legs and slipper feel. The
bookcase features an
An ne style (see th e bottom ph oto on th e
arched pediment of
facing page). Th e ped ime nt profile unparalleled grace and
represented th e purest form of th e cyma carved shells behind the
curve, and it added height and visual arched doors.
int erest to th e case top . In combinat ion COURTESY ISR AEl SA CK , INC ,
with th e sweeping cur ves of th e cornic e N Y C.)

moldin gs, cent ral and side fin ials were

intended to draw th e eye upward t hrou gh
an impr essive design.

Desks followed a sim ilar developmen t
t hrou gh th is per iod, and shared most of th e
advanceme nts of other case pieces. As with
chests of drawers, bracket feet and
overlapping drawers becam e the norm, and
wh en th ey were equipped with upper
bookcases th ose cases were somet imes given
th e same arched pediment tops as high
chests (see th e photo at right). Short
cabriole legs, called bandy legs, were used
on chests but were most frequently seen on
desks of t he period .
Part of th e splendor of Q uee n Anne
desks was in th e complexity and
sophisticat ion of their interiors. Behind th e
slanted lid, th e int erior drawers and
compartments were as carefu lly designed as in available leisu re t ime gave rise to a
t he piece as a whole, and repr esented an number of tables in th e Queen Anne style
area of both ut ility and focus . A dazzling to serve a wide range of specific purposes.
array of drawers and doors, complete wit h
shaped and carved fron ts and secret Dressing tables
compart me nts, made for an impressive Dressing tables cont inued into th e Q ueen
desk. It was th e perfect place for a An ne era with most of th e same changes as
cabinet maker to exhibit consu m ma te skill th e bases of high chests. Th e tu rn ed legs
and a client to show exquisite taste. Th e and stretc hers gave way to cabriole legs, and
same idea was exte nded to th e u pper ap ron profiles took on more sweeping
bookcase, if th e piece was so equ ipped, by cu rves (see t he ph oto at right). With
revealing carved shells beh ind th e arched pros per ity mu st have come van ity, because
doors, and exte nsive and elabo rate dr essing tables had more d rawers duri ng
partition ing. th e Q ueen Anne period . While most
William and Mar y d ressing tabl es had th ree
TABL ES d rawers, Queen Anne designs freque ntly
Queen Anne dressing tables share structural and
As wit h case pieces, th e use of th e cabriole added a shallow dr awer of fu ll width over
design similarities with the bases of high chests, and
leg drastically altered th e appeara nce of th e ot hers. Som e Boston examples have six the two forms were often made en suite,
tables in th e Qu een Ann e era. Busy, tu rn ed- d rawers arranged in two rows of th ree. (PRIVATE COLLECTIO N, COUR TESY ISRAEl SACK , INC" NY,C.)

leg bases gave way to gracefu lly cu rved legs. Eith er way, a slight increase in th e height of
The continu ing prosperity and th e increase t he case was necessary.

TEA TABL E. BOSTON . 1755 -1765 . TEA TABLE . NEWPORT . 1750 -1780 . MI XING TABLE . BOSTON AR EA . 17 3 5 -1 74 5 .
A standard form for Boston rectangular tea tables, The Newport version of the rectangular tea table Mixing tables are stylistically similar to tea tables, but
this example has a molding on the top and a gently features slipper feet and a more austere apron. feature ceramic tile or marble tops to prevent damage
scrolled apron that flows into the legs. (COURTESY MUSEUM OF ART. RHODE ISLAND SCHDOl OF DESIGN) from alcohol.

Tea tabl es edge of th e apro n, connecting th e kne es of w hile othe rs used marbl e instead of wood
Tea tables deserve special recognition as a the legs, and thi s molding is shaped with a for t he tops. Tables with th ese tops are
new form th at developed in conju nct ion cu rving pro file. Many examples include gene rally referr ed to as mixing tables since
with a new social t rend . The drinking of tea exte nsion slides on eithe r end th at t heir surfaces are well su ited for the mixin g
was one of th e English customs th at becam e increased th e serving area. of alcoholic beverages (see th e photo at right
very fashionable in th e I720s, and all th e Since th e top has no overha ng, th e legs above). Th e period fin ishes of ot her tea
imp lements required to serve it-porcelain , are at th e outermost corne rs of th ese tables, tables were subject to the ravages of hot tea
silverware and th e furniture-were a focus and th ey show an exceptionally sta ble pots and water, bu t alcohol called for a more
of atte ntio n and had to be in th e best of stance. It is th e sho rt height of th e apro n, impe rvious su rface.
taste. William and Mar y tables, wit h turned t he scro lled apro n profi le and t he slende r
legs and st retc hers, had fun ctioned as nature of t he legs that main tain the delicacy Informal tea tabl es
occasional pieces and had been used and lightness that are so essential to th e Informal tea tables have turned tapered
wh erever and whenever needed. Q ueen period . Since tea tables were small and legs t hat end in pad feet and overhanging
Anne tea tab les served a more dedic ated relat ively simp le pieces, cabinet makers were tops of various shapes. Being somewhat less
purpose, and, bein g so cent ral (both literally able to modi fy th eir designs and adjust th e expensive, th ese tables were very com mo n
and figura t ively) to th e service of tea, th ey balan ce of the compo nents. Becau se tea in th eir day and a great many have su rvived
develope d as some of th e most refin ed tables cou ld be built qui ckly and were not to t he present. Most of these tables have
exa mples of th e style. technically difficult, more atte ntio n cou ld eit he r an oval or porri nger top measuring
O ne of th e most fam iliar forms of th e be paid to th e su btle point s of th eir design. about 2 ft . by 3 ft. Porr inger tops are
Q uee n Anne tea table is th e rect angu lar As a resu lt, th e maker 's skill as a designer rectangu lar with protruding rou nded
shape, wit h a shallow apron and slen der and th e aims of th e Q ueen Anne period in corne rs, and were a com mo n form in the
cabriole legs. This fam ily of tea tabl es has gene ral are exhibited in th ese pieces. Rhode Island area (see th e top photo on th e
th e top set int o or on top of th e frame, with facing page). Th e shape was probably
no overhang, but wit h an applied molding Mixing tables insp ired by Boston gami ng tables th at used
giving it a raised outer edge (see th e ph otos As with any uni versally popular for m, th ere th e shape as an exte nsion of a three-quart er-
at left and cente r above). Ver y ofte n an is a wid e ran ge of variat ion in small elegant rou nd co rne r tu rret on th e apro n fro m
applied molding ru ns along th e bottom tables. One su bset of cabriole-Ieg tea tables
used delft ceram ic tiles as th e top surfa ce,

44 C II 1\ I' T E R T H R E E
took hours to make, and th ey had to be th e fram e with hin ges so it swu ng to a
cut from more expensive 3-in . stoc k. vertical posit ion. Th e fold ed tabl e was only
Th e entire table cou ld be built in one- 5 in. or 6 in . thi ck and cou ld be tu cked
qu art er to one-th ird of th e time required away anyw he re.
for a cab riole-leg tab le. Althou gh th ese Th ese tabl es were mechan ically clever,
tables were less formal, th ey were not rural and th eir aest het ics ofte n exhi bited a high
int erpret ation s of city pieces. Som e of th e level of sophistica tion. Exampl es have
leading cabinet ma kers of th e day mad e slende r but well-formed cab riole legs, and
th em in qu antity, but th e simplicity of th ey frequ ently have dish ed tops w he re an
th eir design allowed less sophist icated outer mo lded edge is left by dishing out all
makers in outlying areas to bui ld th em with but t he edge of th e top . Both features are
good results. expensive to produce and requ ire
considerable skill. The fact that th ey are
Fold ing tea tables sophist icated but storable impli es that th ey
An oth er variation on th e tea table was one were not the primary tea table in th e hom e,
th at cou ld fold flat and be stored away when bu t rat her an ext ra tea table that was
TEA TABLE . NEWPORT . 1740-1770 .
not in use. Som etimes called "tuckaway" bro ught out on occasion w hen needed .
Less formal tea tables enjoyed widespread use, with
tabl es, th ese tabl es featured very slender Folding tea tables were once com mo n,
regional va riations in shape and detail. The porrin ger-
corner shape of this table is indicative of the Newport cabriole legs attached to an X-shaped fram e espec ially in t he nor th ern colon ies wh ere
area . th at was hin ged at th e cente r to fold flat int erior space was ofte n at a premium. Th ey
(COURTESY MUSEUM OF ART. RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN) (see th e ph oto below). Th e top, usually have becom e exceed ingly scarce, and th ose
about 28 in. in diamet er, was attached to of except ional form are greatly sought after.

which the leg extended (see the top photo

on p. 47). On porringer tables it was
primari ly a decorative treatment, th ou gh
t he corners do suggest a convenien t and out
of th e way place for cand lest icks or sauce rs.
Oval tops had uni versal ap peal and were
used th roughout th e colon ies. Variati on s in
top shapes, includ ing rect angular tops,
roun d tops and some with incised corne rs,
were seen regionally.
Th e base of th ese tabl es was ver y simple,
but noneth eless elegant. Th e legs were
turned off-cente r to a delicate ankl e, below
which exte nded a dainty pad or Dutch foot .
Th e apron, whi ch was tenoned int o th e leg
to form th e frame, had only its profile shape
for orna ment . Along wit h th e overhanging
top, th e design was quite pleasing and had
all the grace and style th at th e period
Th ese tables were less forma l and less 1 7 4 0- 1 7 6 0 .
expens ive th an th ose wit h cab riole legs. With a hinged X-shaped
Since the legs were turned, each leg could frame and a hinged top,
be made in minutes from 2-in. stock. this table folds to less
than 5 in. in thickness.
Ca briole legs were mu ch more involved and (COURTESYMUSEUM OF FINE

T ilE Q UE E NAN N E ST Y L E 45
Tri pod ta bles
Ca ndlesta nds in th e tripod form had MA SSA CH US ETT S.
been known since Jacobean England, but 1735-1770 .

th ey found a resurgen ce in beauty and Functioning as serving

pieces, side tables were
usefuln ess in th e Queen Anne period.
a new and specialized
Th ese sma ll tables, ori ginally mad e to ho ld form for the Queen Anne
a light ing device, had existed in a more period.
uti litarian form during th e William and (COURTESY COLONIAL
Mary era. The tripod design was well
suited for cyma-eu rved legs and an arch i-
tecturally inspired turned center, and thus
came to assu me a well-developed form.
Becau se of th eir simplicity and usefulness.
region al variat ions and degrees of
sophist icat ion abound.
Larger versions of th e tripod design were
used as tea tables and, in som e cases, were
designed to allow th e top to turn to aid in feet , and snap tables, since th e latches snap Card tabl es
serving. Th e tops were hin ged so th ey cou ld shu t in th e hor izontal positi on. Tip-top As increasing prosperity brought more
be ti pped vertica lly, allowing th e table to be tabl es were an eno rmo usly popul ar form of leisure time and social interac tio n, another
put aside wh en not in use. Th ese are tabl e th rou ghout th e colonies. pop u lar activity, besides tea dr ink ing, was
co mmonly know n as tip-top tables, wh ich is Philadel phi ans were especially fond of th e card playing. Th e gamb ling craze had
a modern appellat ion, but to early form and wou ld later take it to a high level sta rted in France, spread to England, and
Ame rican cabinet ma kers th ey were known of development. The tripod form, with eventua lly come to Am erica. Whil e th eir
as rou nd tea tabl es. Earlier English stylist ic changes, rem ain ed in com mo n use Puritan forebears wou ld have been
exa mples were descriptively called pillar well int o th e next centu ry. dismayed, whi st and oth er card games
and claw tables. denoting th e use of claw becam e pleasant social pastimes amon g th e
Sid e tabl es well-to-do. Th e elite could afford to have
Side tabl es were a new form for th e Queen tables built specially for th e purpose, based
Anne period . Usua lly about 4 ft . long and up on th e latest English designs. Like formal
witho ut dr awers, th ey were th e foreru nner tea tabl es, th ey were th e centerpieces of th e
of th e side board and were int ended to sta nd evening's activ ity and had to be of th e best
along a wall as a seconda ry piece for serving style. Many featured needlework playing
food or drink. Th e fact that many side su rfaces, dished pocket s for chips or
tables have marb le top s is indi cative of th eir cou nte rs and recesses for candlesticks or
fun ction, and exp lains why later version s beverages (see th e top photo on th e facing
came to be kn own as "slab tabl es." Side page). Wh ile th ey were mad e in several
tables have all th e att ributes of Queen Anne shapes, English examples with four corne r
tea tables, but th eir size and design speak to turrets, from wh ich th e legs exte nded, were
th eir specia lized role. Since th ey are large th e most practical becau se th e legs were
and were used in serving, th ey would have well out of th e way of th e sitte rs' knees.
belonged to th e wealt hier segme nt of Furthermore, th eir tops followed th e same
society, and original exa mples are few in shape, giving th em increased su rface area
number. Th e term "console table" is ofte n and room for th e wells. This is th e shape
used erroneo usly; console tables came at a tha t seems to have inspir ed th e familiar
lat er date and were mounted to the wall. por ringer top.
An imp ortant feature that was
est ablished by early card tables was a top
17 40- 1 7 80 .
Ta bles and candlestands in this form came to a new that fold ed in half on itself, or opened to be
level of development in the Queen Anne period. This su pported by swinging legs. Wh en not in
later example hasa 'bird-cage' mechanism that allows use, th e table could stand against a wall,
the top to turn and tip upright. taki ng up half th e space. By folding th e top
in half, th e playing surface was protected

46 C I I A I' T E R T HREE

W h ile th e Puritans frown ed

on t hem, amuse ments
and pastimes abounded in
18t h-eentu ry Am erica. Taverns
were popular esta blishme nts
wh ere cards, billiards,
backgammon , shuffleboa rd,
CA RD TA BLE . BOSTON . d ice games and even bowlin g
1 7 30 - 1 7 5 0 . augmented th e primary activity
This card table features
of drinking. Am on g th e favorite
turreted frontcorners
card games of th e day were whist,
and a needlework top
surface. The rear legs lanterloo, put, piquet, cribbage and
open outward to support all fours. Th e chips or counters
the foldingtop. for th ese games were called
"fish" and were made of bon e in
th e shape of d iscs, stars or fish.
The upper level of society also
enjoyed cards, but since th ey d id
and as a result many st ill have th eir original Q ueen An ne dining tabl es saw th e first not frequ ent taverns, th ey had
needlework in excellent condit ion. Aft er widespread use of th e rul e joint in joining private gat herings of friend s at
1730, some of the English examples t heir leaves. Thi s joint concealed th e stee l home. Th e dom est ic gamin g
featured rear legs t hat swu ng out on a leaf hin ges by placing th em within a tables of th e day were mad e with
hinged accordion-like frame, which gave th e qu art er-round mold ing th at ran th e length pockets for th e counte rs, and
tables fu ll apro ns and a nicer appeara nce of th e joint and fit int o a correspon d ing th eir needlework playing
when open. Th e folding card table was a cove molding on th e underside of th e leaf. surfaces ofte n dep icted cards,
new form for th e period, but it esta blished a Th e rule joint requ ired quite a bit of skill to cou nte rs and mon ey.
precedent th at card tables would follow make accura te ly, but th e result was a table
well int o th e next cent ury. with a mu ch neater app earance. Rule-join ed

Drop-leaf tables
Th e drop- leaf gateleg tab le of th e William
and Mary period had proven to be versat ile 17 4 0 - 1 7 BO.
and practical, and its design was carried int o The drop-leaf table was
th e Q ueen Ann e era with some an elegant and practical
modification . Th e elaborate assemblage of form of table, well suited
to the needs of
legs and stretchers was replaced by four
18th-century life. The
cabriole legs, two of which swu ng out on Queen Anne version had
hinged frame members to su pport th e cabriole legs, two of
leaves. Table tops were eit her oval or which swing to support
rectangular when opened. T he dr awer on the leaves. and a gently
shaped apron.
th e end of some William and Mar y
examples was not seen in Qu een Ann e WILLIAMSBURG FOUNDATION)

pieces. Some examples from th e middle

Atlan tic states have six legs, with th e swing
(or fly) legs positioned just behi nd
stat ionary ones so as to increase th e table's
stu rdiness and stability.


17 20 -1 740 . Th e classic New England Queen Anne chair developed A Philadelphia chair shows the greater propen sity for
The 'splat-back' chair retains stretchers and front legs in Boston about 1730 and evolved with regional sculptu ralelements and carved details outside of New
of an earlier style but has a back design similar to later variations over the next three decades. England .

leaves becam e th e standard met hod of SEATING F URNIT UR E th e mo lded shape of th e vert ical stiles.
atta ching leaves for all subseque nt drop-l eaf Th e Queen Ann e style brou ght a great Th e base of th e splat was secured by a
tables. Ca binet makers' accou nt books of advan ce in th e design of chairs. Most chairs distinctive hori zontal rail a few inches
th e peri od ofte n refer to th ese as rul e tabl es, before thi s tim e were composed of st raight above th e seat (ph oto at left above). Thi s
and th ey are priced by th e foot according to elem ents, wh ich limited both comfort and yoke-shap e crest includ ed a scooped saddle
th e lengt h of th e fram e or, as t hey called it, aest hetics. In t he early part of th e cent u ry, on t he crest above the splat, wh ich was to
th e bed . Bosto n chairs had been the first Am erican cont inue as a standard form in Qu een Ann e
A small version of th e drop-leaf d inin g chair design to use th e cyma cu rve in th e chairs. To differenti ate th ese chairs from
table was kn own as a breakfast tabl e and back profi le whil e ret aining William and ot her varieties, th ey are ofte n called splat-
was approx imately 36 in. in diameter. This Mary eleme nts elsewhere (see pp . 24-25 ). back chairs.
table fun ction ed mu ch like a foldin g tea Th is design was a preview of things to More th an a purel y transiti onal or rur al
table; it could be used wh en need ed and com e, as t he fully developed Queen Ann e version of a higher style, thi s design shows
stored away in little space whe n not in use. chair kept th e cur ved back and included all t he New England pen chant fo r combining
It was for occasional use, and its name is not th e new design elem en ts as well. th e new Q ueen Ann e elements with
ind icative of its only purpose. Th ese tab les exist ing designs. Some variations of th ese
have all th e same elem ents as full-size Splat-back chairs chairs used block-and -turned front legs
d ining tables and required nearly as mu ch An imp ortant and widely used New with eit he r ball or Spanish feet, whil e
labor to make. Th at mu ch effort for a table England chair that developed afte r th e othe rs employed th e cabriole shape.
of thi s size mad e th em qui te a bit more Boston chairs was an early Q ueen Ann e Existing examples includ e some with rush
expensive than a com mo n tea tab le and design first seen in t he 172 0s. This design seats and oth ers with loose seats and over-
limited th eir numbers. T heir diminutive incorpora ted a vasiform, or baluster- th e-rail upholsterin g.
size and scaled-down detailing make t hem inspired, cur ved splat . Th e top of th e splat Thi s style enjoyed a wid espread and
endearing littl e tables. When well executed, was met by a double-arched crest rail th at lon g-lived accepta nce, whi ch accounts for
they are gems of Q uee n Ann e design. carried th e shape of th e splat over to meet its many variations. Examples date from th e

early part of th e second qu art er of th e Th e divergence between Philadelphia Boston was flat . By th e time of th e
century and cont inue until th e time of t he and New England style becom es apparent Revoluti on , Philadelph ia had a popu lation
Revoluti on in some areas. While splat backs in th e Queen Anne designs and is typified two and a half times th at of Boston. Most of
were superseded by more stylish designs in in th e chairs. At first glance, th e th ose w ho swelled th e populati on of
th e major cities in th e 1730 s, th ey rem ain ed conservative restraint of New England Philadelphia, including ind entured servants
in favor elsewh ere as locally produced makers is obvious in comparison to th e and tradespeopl e, came dir ectly from
examples of th e Q uee n Anne aest het ic. relatively daring flamboyance of th eir England. With th em came both th e
Phi ladelphian cou nte rparts. A more subtle appetite for and th e designs of th e latest
Queen A n ne cha irs point is th e growing stylistic kin ship English furniture.
Th e Queen Anne side chair, in its best between Philad elphi a and London, whil e
known form, is comprised of cu rved back New England maintain ed a separate Uph olste red pieces
st iles, arching th rou gh a crest rail to meet a identity. Wh ereas th e Phi ladelphia makers Fab rics and shape were both imp ortant
splat of th e familiar vasiform shape (see th e and th eir clientele were readily willing to eleme nts in Qu een Anne design, so
center photo on th e facing page). Th e em brace th e latest English designs, th e New upholstered pieces in th e forms of easy
bottom of th e splat joins th e seat rail England market was more comfor ta ble in cha irs and sofas were well in keeping with
th rough a mold ed shoe. Ca briole legs, well applying th e influen ce of th ose designs to th e style. Textil es were expensive (a locally
roun ded in cross sect ion, su pport eit her a existing pieces. Part of t his had to do with woven coverlet was close to a simple tea
squa re seat or a roun ded compass th e growt h rate of both region s. Th e table in value), and th e finest and most
(sometimes called balloon) seat . Each of population s of New York and Philadelphia stylish fabri cs were imported . Th e prosperity
th ese shapes wou ld have held a slip seat, a were sta rt ing to skyrocket, whil e in New of th e times and th e acco mpanying pursuit
separate upholstered seat fram e th at drops England growt h was mu ch more mod est . of creatu re comforts made upholstered
into place. T he front and back legs are During th e third quarter of th e cent u ry, th e pieces more available and desirable.
joined by block and turned st retc hers, and po pulat ion of New York and Philadelphi a Easy chairs mad e a smoo t h t ransiti on
two swelled turni ngs form th e rear and roughly doubled whil e th e growt h rat e in from th e William and Mary style int o th e
medial stretc hers.
Thi s style of chai r, in its Am erican form,
is known to have developed in Boston no
earlier than 17 30 , and it soon becam e a IS L AND . 17 4 0 - 17 70 .
sta nda rd for New England Q uee n Ann e Easy chairs have a more
chairs. While all th e design elem ents are relaxed stance than
from th e English Q uee n Anne, th e design those of earli er erasand
share leg and stretcher
evolved by applying th ose eleme nts to
designs with other chairs
existing Am erican chai rs rath er th an of the period.
dir ectly copying English exa mples, since (COURTESY YALE UNIVERSITY
English chairs did not have th e same
vertical proporti on s.
Regional variat ions of th e form appeared
as its popularity spread . Newp ort version s
were nearly identi cal to th e sta nda rd form,
but with subt le differences in t he delicacy
of th e elements th at gave th e chair a light er
appea rance (see th e ph oto at bottom on
p. 39). Fart her south, in New York and
Philadelphia , Qu een Anne chairs had
shor te r and wid er proporti on s (m ore like
th e English style), and th ey were likely to
incorp orate more dynami c scu lptu ral
elemen ts in th e rear st iles and splat shap e,
along with a more exte nsive use of carving
(see th e ph oto at right on th e facing page).
O nce th e style had been established in each
city, th e variations grew as each developed
in accorda nce with local tastes.

17 40- 17 50.
Sofaswere still quite
rare before mid-century
because of the cost of
upholstering and their
space requirements. In
keeping with theQueen
An ne aesthetic, they
share stylistic similarities
witheasy cha irs.

Q ueen Anne. In keepin g with th e design B EDST E AD S

philosophy of th e time, th ey becam e Bedsteads conti nued to be frames for th e
broad er and more relaxed in shape, losing purpose of holding a mattress, and tall-post
some of th e vert ical thrust th at had beds were designed to su ppo rt bed hangings
characterized th e earlier styles. Easy chairs as well. In th at regard, th ey were valued
assu med most of th e att ributes of ot he r more for th eir fun ction th an for th eir
Queen Ann e cha irs, with cabriole legs and aest hetics. Nonetheless, th ey were made in
simplified turned st retc hers. keeping with th e Queen Ann e style, wit h
Sofas were a new form for th e period, cabriole front legs and a gently arched
having evolved from a combinat ion of headboard. Wh en fully equipped wit h bed
earlier settees and fu lly u pholstered easy han gings, only th e front posts and legs and
chairs. Since most hou ses of th e period had t he top of th e headboard remain ed visible,
limited space, and since t he amount of so most of th e bedstead s of th e period have
fabric required to up ho lster a sofa was a concentrated emphasis t here. Low-post
prohibitively expensive, they were only beds were th e norm for th ose of more
affordable to th e ver y wealthy. As a result, modest means, but th ey too show th e
American Q uee n Ann e sofas are att ributes of the styling of th e period.
exceptionally rare. Wh en th ey were mad e
th ey followed th e convent ions of th e style,
wit h cabriole legs, ar m rolls and serpent ine Queen Anne Structure
backs th at were harmon iou s with th e William and Mar y pieces owed mu ch of
designs of easy chai rs. th eir design to th eir st ructure since
TAll-POST B EDSTEAD . RHODE I S L A N D , 1 73 5-1 7 5 0 .
Co uc hes, or day beds, conti nued in th e wides pread use of th e dovetail joint had
The primary purpose of bedsteads was to hold the
Q ueen Anne style, but th eir popularity was fu ndamentally changed th e way fu rni ture
mattress and bed hangings. Little of the structure is
waning as sofas becam e more desirable. seen except for the front posts, which here feature was built. Th e Queen Ann e style brought
Th e need for a large uph olstered piece was cabriolelegs. an aest hetic evolut ion to th at st ructure, and
beco ming more imp ortant for social reason s (COURTESY WINTERTHUR MUSEUM) a refin em ent to its method of construct ion,
rath er th an for purposes of repose, and sofas In some cases, th e changes were imp rove-
were a more usefu l and elegant solu tion. ments in technique th at came with
Co uc hes increasingly becam e bedroom cont inued practice, and in other cases th e
pieces as th ey were displaced by sofas.

Th e red esign entailed d roppin g th e idea
Case Const ru ction with Cabriole Legs of dovet ailing th e case edges, and instead
Top rail joined ten oning th e case parts int o th e extende d
to legwith tenon leg block of th e cabriole (see t he drawing at
or dovetail
left). Thi s meth od made th e legs an int egral
part of th e case rat her th an a later
The use of cabriole legs without att achme nt, and gave th e piece solidity and
stretchers required that the legs be un surpassed durability. Th e one d rawback
betterintegrated into the structure was th e inabil ity of th e tenon ed
of the case.
tenoned compo ne nts to expand and cont ract freely
into leg across th e grain, and some cracking of case
sides resulted. Non etheless, th is method
was vastly su perior to th e former, and it
becam e th e univ ersally accepted meth od of
building t hese pieces. Th e one notable
except ion was in Newp ort, wh ere cases
Leg is cont inued to be doveta iled at th e edges,
and serves as with the cabriole-leg blocks attached to th e
corner block insid e corne rs. Thi s method of
into which const ruct ion proved to be very practical
sides, front with high-ehest cases. Th e legs could be
and back are
tenoned. position ed in th e case with attac hed blocks
that left th e legs free to slide out, and th ey
could th en be removed for shipping.

changes were necessitated by th e new place (see th e top drawin g on p. 140) . This The othe r notable change in th e str uct u re
componen ts th at made up th e Q uee n was not an ideal method of const ruct ion, of case pieces involved th e use of lipped
Anne style. but given th at th e turned legs were d rawers. Drawers with a lip at th e top and
Case pieces remained st ructura lly numerou s (six in th e case of a high chest) sides covered th e space bet ween th e drawer
unchanged fro m th e previou s era, but th e and tied together by st retc he rs, it proved and its case and gave th e piece a neater
construct ion techniques of cabinet makers adequat e for the William and Mar y period. app earan ce. Single- and double-arch
became more refined. Dovetails increased In th e Queen Anne style, where there were mo ldin g on th e case su rro und ing th e
in number and precision as met hod s were only four legs and no stre tchers, their d rawer opening fell out of favor in th e
perfected . Co mponents like dr awer par ts attach ment required some redesign if t hey Q ueen Anne aesth eti c, but delicate bead
and case panels became thinn er, as were exp ected to end u re. mo ldin gs, less t han 1/ 4 in. wide, took t heir
cabinetmakers learn ed tha t bu lk was not a
requir ement for st rengt h. Besides purel y
aest het ic and stylist ic improvem ents, such
1730 - 1 75 0 .
as more delicate case moldings, bracket Lipped or overlapping
feet and imp roved proportions, Qu een drawers covered the
Ann e case pieces cont inued th e const ruc- space between the
tion meth ods established with William drawer and case and
made for a better
and Mary pieces, but with two notable
appearance. A quarter-
exceptions: th e str ucture of d ressing
round bead on the edge
tables and high chest bases, and th e use was used universally.
of lipped drawers.

Th e cases of dressing tables and th e bases of
high chests had consisted of four sides,
dovetailed togeth er alon g t heir four vertica l
edges. Th e turned legs were tenon ed into
int erior corne r blocks, which were glued in

T ilE Q U E E N AN N ES T Y L E 51
place in outl ining th e d rawer. Drawers were
not lipp ed alon g th e bott om edge, since thi s Chair-Construction Details
lip would have quickly brok en off if th e
dr awer was rem oved from its case and
placed on a tab le or floor. (H ard-t o-reach PHILADELPHIA THROUGH TENON
top dr awers were likely rem oved from the
case and put on a tabletop as a matter
course. ) O the rwise, th e const ruct ion of
drawers cont inued with refin em ents in
compo ne nt thi ckn ess and th e delicacy of
dovetailin g. As part of th e evolut ion, Side seat rail
dr awer bottom s came to be install ed by
slid ing th em int o place from th e back, into
grooves cut in th e front and sides, and th ey
Tenon usually Side-rail tenon
were held in position by a sma ll nail or extends through
wedged as
two. Earlier methods of nailin g th em to well backof rear leg.
th e bottom of th e dr awer components
becam e obsolete .


With th e divergence of styles bet ween
New England and Philadelphi a came a
divergence in constr uctio n methods, which
is most evide nt in cha irs. Philadelphi a
makers learn ed th at th ey could do without
st retc he rs between t he legs, and did so,
whi le northern makers cont inued to use
th em . The Philadelphi a makers exte nded NEW ENGLAND BLIND TENON
th e ten on of th e side seat rail through th e
rear leg, wh ere it sto pped flu sh wit h th e
sur face (see th e dr awin g at right). Th e
st rengt h of thi s very su bstantia l joint
allowed th em to build cha irs without
st retche rs. New England makers used
shallower mortises th at did not exte nd
throu gh th e leg.
Th e seat const ruct ion of compass-seat
chairs also varied betw een th e tw o regions Side-rail tenon
(see th e drawing on th e facing page). does not extend
Philadelphia makers made th e seat rail as a through rear leg.
unit by ten oning th e cur ved sides direct ly
int o th e cur ved front rail wit h hori zontal
tenon s. Th e cabriole legs were th en
attac hed to th e underside of th e seat rail by
a single rou nd tenon on th e leg glued int o a
large hole in th e rail. Th e lip to hold th e slip
seat was attached separately afte r th e seat-
rail assembly was complete. New England
makers tenoned th e cu rved seat-rail
compo nents int o th e blocks of the front
legs, and th en shaped th e blocks to conform
to th e seat cur ve. T he material inside th e

52 C H A I' T E R T H R E E
seat rail was cut away to provide t he recess
Compass Seat s for th e slip seat. This method was iden t ical
to th at used for a square, straigh t-sided seat.
St ruct ur ally, th e New England meth od of
PHILADELPHIA COMPASS SEAT building compass seats was su perio r since
th e Philadelphia technique was depend ent
on th e int egrit y of th e glued joint.
Interestingly, th e Philadelphi a meth od
of chair constr uctio n foun d a niche in th e
Seat lip applied heart of New England. A style of simp le and
u nadorn ed compass-seat cha irs came to be a
common form in th e Connectic u t River
Valley. Th ey were made just before mid-
Tenoned corner
centu ry for th e Porter fam ily, and now are
referred to by th at nam e. Porter cha irs have
all th e const ruct ion cha racte ristics of th e
best Philadelphia Q uee n Ann e chairs but
Sides tenoned
non e of th e orn ame nt (photo below). Th ey
into front rail
have pad feet, a plain crest rail and no
Front rail st retc hers. Of fur t her interes t is th e fact

by large round


Seat lip carved

from seat rail

Sides and front

tenoned into
leg block and

SID E CH A IR . CONNECTICUT. 1740-1760 .

Leg block shaped Though made in Connecticut, 'Porter' chairs of this
to follow contour of type have structura l similarities with Philadelphia
compass seat Queen Anne chairs.

that many are made of walnut, th e wood of
choice for high-style cabinetmakers in th e
cit ies but not th e usual cho ice for
cabinet makers in the Co nnect icut River
Valley, wh ere cherry was th e predomin ant
medium. Th e possible scenario of a
Philadelphia-train ed cabinet make r brin ging
his style to th e area is tant alizing and not
without parallels in furniture history.
O t her pieces continued to be bu ilt with
mortise-and-tenon const ruct ion, since th ere
were no ot her accept able meth ods. As with
all pieces, th e precision of th e joinery
became increasingly important as th e
str uctural memb ers became more delicate
and th e use of reinforcing st retchers
di minished. T hro ughout the period, th e
designs and t heir structures cont inued in
t his process of optimization.

D ecorative Elements
Queen Ann e decorative elements are by
defin ition few, or at least th ey were in th e
earliest and purest versions of th e style. Th e
reaction to Baroqu e ext remes ensured th at
beauty was designed in and not added on.
As th e style progressed in England,
designers added increasing degrees of
orna me ntat ion until they arrived at Queen
Anne form s dr essed out in th e full regalia of
th e Italianate Baroq ue, but th e purity of th e
unadorned Queen Ann e style had an inn ate
app eal to t he Am ericans. Th ey used
orn amentat ion sparin gly, to augment th e
design of the piece bu t not overpower it.
American furniture was never a vehicle for
orn ame nt.
Apa rt from t he role th at the cyma cu rve
played in replacing intri cate turnings and
severe lines with cabriole legs, gentle
turnings and sweeping curved lines, other
decorative eleme nts were used with
restr aint. Veneer, usually walnut in th e
early decades of th e style, continued to be
used on th e fronts of bett er h igh-style case

The Baroque shells, here gilded on the Hartshorn high
chest. represented the acceptable limit of ornament for
American tastes before mid-eentury.

54 C II A I' T E R T H R E E
pieces, but it was intended to app ear rich,
CON CORD . MAS SA CHUS ETT S . 1755-1775 .
rathe r th an wild . Inlay, usually of cross- The use of architectural details is evident in the upper
banding or herringbon e design, was used to case of this highchest attributed to Joseph Hosmer,
border drawer front s and panels , but it was himself a housewrighl. More forma l pieces also
not as bold or cont rasting as it had been reflected the influence. Note the architectural styling of
previously. Th e surface was not int end ed to the entablature and the pulvinated base and capital of
the fluted pilasters.
be th e sole focus of att ention . Many pieces (COURTSY TH SOCIETY FOR TH PRSRVA TlON OF NW
were finished in a light color, increasing the NGLAND ANTIQUITIS!

visual appea rance of size. Th e Qu een Ann e

ideal was to have fu rni ture of lofty grace,
with expanses of smoot h warm wood,
interru pted only occasionally by restr ained
carved embellishme nt.

Shells and fans on American Qu een Anne
pieces were inspired by th e English
obsession with th em , and th e English in
turn had borrowed th e motif from Italian,
French and Dutch decorative styles.
American makers of th e period were careful
to use carvings in proper proportion and
nu mber to th e rest of th e piece, with an eye
toward only enhancing th e design (see th e
photo on th e facing page). Th eir carvings
were also well int egrated into th e overall
form of th e piece, and gave th e impr ession
of being designed in from t he outset, rath er
th an added on later.
Carvings were used more extensively
later in th e period to enliven fam iliar forms,
differentiate new pieces from earlier ones
and feed an increasing appetite for
opulence. Th e compl exit y and extent of
carving varied according to local tastes and
th e price a custo mer was willing to pay.
Philadelphi ans began to show a preference
for more elaborat e and detailed carving,
which was to cont inue int o th e next era of
furni ture design. Followin g London styles,
carved ball and claw feet appeared on
Boston pieces as early as th e I730s and grew
more widespread afte r mid-eentury.

As mentioned previou sly, archit ectural
elements found th eir way into furniture as a
result of th e endu ring popu lar int erest in
architecture and th e natural evolut ion of
the style. In th e absence of furniture-design
books, architectura l guides were ofte n th e
only sou rce of fashionable styles available to
designers and cabinet makers. Decorative

1710 -17 30 .
This William and Mary
high chest is oneof the
earliest known examples
of American japanned
furniture . Japanning. an
imitation of Oriental
lacquerware. was
practiced from about
1712 until mid-century,
coincidingwith both the
Wi lliam and Mary and
Queen Anne styles.
or ART)

56 C I I A I'T E R T II R E E
features including fluting (especially of fro m th e relati on th rou gh marri age th at Q uee n Anne eras of design, and examples
pilasters), moldin g profiles, plinths and C ha rles II had wit h Portugal, and from th e of both styles were japanned . O f th e known
finials, and arched pediments were used Dutch East Indi a Co mpany by way of jap ann ed Boston high chests, seven are
widely. Th e infusion of th ese elements was William of Orange. In 16 88, Joh n Stalker William and Mary, and seventee n are
strong in England, where Palladian and George Parker publ ished their Treatise Q uee n Anne.
influ ence continued to be felt, especially of Iapanning and Varnishing, in O xford , Like Orientallacqu erwork , japanning
afte r th e leadin g prop onent of Baroqu e England , and for a whil e japanned cons isted of gold figures and designs in
orna me nt, William Kent, published th e decorati on becam e a fashionable pursuit of raised relief on a black or mottl ed
work of th e leadin g proponent of Palladian you ng wome n, not unlike needlework. It backgrou nd. Pieces th at were to be
architecture in The Designs of InigoJones was all t he rage, mu ch to th e dismay of th e japann ed were built of a hard pin e or
in 1727. classicists w ho were touting th e purity of mapl e, since th e wood wouldn't show. T he
In Ame rica, architectural design books classical arch itect u ral design at abo ut th e japanner wou ld draw th e design on th e bare
proliferated, but Batt y Langley's 1740 same time. wood of th e piece and build up th e figur es
publi cation of The City and Country In Am erica, japanning first took hold in with gesso, a thick paintl ike mixtu re made
Builder'sand Workman's Treasury of Designs Boston . Boston experie nced th e most rapid fro m whiting and glue . Th e en ti re piece
was widely consu lted. Langley's book growt h in th e colonies just before th e sta rt would be given a base coat of reddish-brown
helped reinforce existing arch itect ura l of th e 18th century, and it was hom e to th e pigm ent in oil, and wh en th at had d ried it
det ails and infused new ones int o Am er ican most affl ue nt merchants w ho wanted th e was given a similar coat of black. Wh ile t he
furniture . It sta nds to reason th at a region newest Lond on styles. Soon Boston black paint was wet, it could be dau bed or
th at was growing and building at th e rate of cabinet ma kers and decorators were making bru sh ed to allow a hint of th e base color to
th e colonies would see an arch itectural th eir own version of O rienta l lacqu er, and show th rou gh, giving th e paint th e mottl ed
impact on its fu rn iture design. More of app lying it to th e sta ndard fu rn it u re for ms. effect of tortoiseshell. Th e figur es th at had
these elemen ts would be included in th e Th e first evide nce of japanni ng being don e been raised wit h gesso were th en gilded
later part of th e cent ury. in Boston was in 1712 and it cont inue d to eit he r with leaf or gold powd er paint, and
be fashio nable until th e middle of th e additional det ailin g was added over th at in
JAPANNING century. New York also took up th e black. The ent ire piece was given several
Th e ongoing merchant trade with th e Far decorative tr eatment, but its acce pta nce coats of a varnish and rubbed to a glossy
East kept alive a fascination with O rienta l and du rat ion trail ed th at of Boston by fini sh. (For more on th e technique of
design th at had been strong since th e late about a decade. Japanning was not an japanning, see C ha pte r 12.)
17th centu ry. So different were O rienta l inexpensive treatment; the time required to The many layers of dissimil ar mat erials,
designs and so distant was th eir origin th at japan a piece could easily exceed th e time th eir varyin g degrees of ad herence to one
they had a mysteriou s and exotic allure. Of required to build it. Since it was to be anothe r and th e some times brittle qua lity
part icular int erest was C hinese lacqu er- show n off, it was usually don e on of gesso made japanned decoration very
ware, usually chests of many compart me nts, impressive pieces, like high chests or tall delicate, and few original pieces have
covered with strange scenes and fini shed to case clocks, th ou gh some dr essing tables su rvived with th eir decorati on int act .
perfect ion . Many were imported to Eu rope and lookin g-glass fram es were also Jap anning is especially int olerant of
and England and put on twi st-turned bases japan ned. ext remes of temperatu re and hu m idit y, and
of local origin. Euro pean cabinet ma kers and During thi s period about a dozen th e expansion and co nt ract ion of th e
decorators were soon sim ulating th e fini sh japanners worked in Boston ; th e best underlyin g wood loosens or cracks th e
on pieces of th eir own ma king, a process known three (Robert Davis, Th om as gesso. Eight eenth-eentury hom es offe red
known as "japanning." England exper ienced Johnson and Will iam Randle) were born poor cond itio ns for th e well-being of
a great deal of exposure to th e O rienta l and t rain ed in England . Fewer th an three japanned pieces, but mod ern clim ate
work from Portuguese tr ade with th e east , dozen Boston japanned pieces rema in, two cont rols can at least prevent fu rt her
dozen of whic h are high chests . Th e period deteriorati on.
during which thi s decoration was applied
overlapped th e William and Mary and

O p u lence and Stately Presence

h e increased st rat ification of th e

American social structure after mid-
century led th e wealthy elite to continue
th eir qu est for elegant sur roundings. Wh at
had previou sly been expressed th rou gh
elegance increasingly became defin ed with
opulence. In an effort to infus e a richness
into th eir furnishin gs, Americans
embraced the English styles propa gated by
Th oma s C hippenda le: G race gave way to
st rength and und erstatement yielded to
bold presence.

The Rise of an
Ameri can Aristocracy
In th e absence of inh erited titl es and th e
European system of class structur e, social
status was det ermined prim arily by wealth.
The prosperity of th e colonies had enabled
th e merchant families to amass
Refined grace evolved into a stately elega nce with the Chippendale-era designs, considerable wealth, and most used it to
and the attention to opulent detail is evident in the side chair in The American expand th eir holdin gs. Th eir earn ings
School, a 1765 oil by Matthew Pratt (1734- 1805). enabled th em to bu y propert y and invest in
bu siness ventures th at people of lesser
means were un able to do. In th e 100 years
before th e Revolution , th e most wealthy
15% of Bostonians went from owning one-
half of th e city's assessable assets to owning
two-thirds. Th e concent ration of wealth

(and poverty) was prop ort iona l to the size t he furnitu re of Pallad ian mansions and
of t he city. Throughout colonial Am erica, est ate hou ses. His Palladian style had an
th e larger cities had a greater percentage of infl ue nce on th e furnitu re of less grand
their assets u nder th e control of th e hou ses as well, and lingered th rough the
wealthiest few, and they had a larger 1740s. By m id-eent ur y th e Palladian style
percenta ge of poo r. was yield ing to som et hi ng quite different:
With in th e cities, occup ation s were th e Rococo.
numerous and diverse. Th e Boston tax and
probate records for 1780 show t hat, among THE ROCOCO
those who were taxed, 36%were artisans The Rococo is more a style of ornam ent
and 29%were engaged in shipping and than a style of fu rn itur e design. It is based
t rade. Professional men accounted for 4%, on natural forms-foliage, flowers, frui t,
and the rest were laborers, servants, clerks shells, st reams of water an d waves-arranged
and mar iners. Philadelph ia tax lists for 1769 to appear loose, casual and relaxed in form .
show that at least 25%were art isans, Baroqu e orn am ent used ma ny of the same
though many more were employed as mot ifs arra nged wit h orde r and symmet ry,
artisans bu t d id not have taxable assets . but th e most nota ble featu re of t he Rococo
Given th at art isans like tailors, silversmiths orna ment was its asymmetry. Scrolling leaf
and cabinetmakers were th e manu facturers frond s and natura l cur ves were arranged
of t heir day, th ese high numbers are not an d joined to yield unusual new shapes that
sur prising. A N E W BOOK OF ORNA ME N TS (LO N DON . 17 4 6) . were asymmet rical and lopsided, and lacked
Social status and class distinct ions The designers of Rococo orname nt abandoned th e sta bility of shape of convent ional
became more pronounced as th e centu ry Baroque standards of symmetry and order to create designs. T he inverted pear shape was one of
unusual asymmetrical designs using free-flowing scrolls
progressed, and so d id th e accompanying th ese sha pes, and it defied th e usual norms
and foliage.
privileges and t rappings of wealt h. T he (COURTESY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART)
of design by being larger on th e top th an t he
image of opulence that su rrou nded th e bottom. Th e looseness of th e ornament and
emerging American aristocracy is port rayed th e peculiar shapes it inspi red were in
in th is descrip tion of Bostonian Peter marked cont rast to th e orde rly nature of
Faneuil ( 1700- 1743), a very successful In England , where a t ru e aristo cracy Baroque design.
merchant trader and accomplished existed, th e need for elegant fu rn ishings G rottoes were a pop ular feat ur e of
smu ggler: was stro nger th an ever. Govern menta l forma l gardens at th e ti me, and many of th e
power had increasingly come into the hand s natu ral elements in Rococo design were
We see him on Sundays, splend id in his of the third est ate (th e merchant or inspired by th eir ornamen t. T he word
snuff-brown velvet suit and full bu siness class) and a powerful and rococo derives fro m the Fren ch rocaille,
bott om ed wig, crossing t he st reet from competent (t hough th oroughly cor rupt) meaning rock work, possibly wit h a
his residence to King's C hapel and prime minister who kept England peaceful cont ract ion of coquillage, or shell work. It
entering to take his accustomed seat. and prosperou s until th e middle of th e was first used as a pejorat ive term in the late
His mansion he inherited from his u ncle century. Free fro m most of th e unpleasant 1790s, when designers looked back on th e
Andrew Faneui l, and he lived details of ruling, th e nobility concern ed style and coined th e term to portray it as an
su mptuously with his Negro slaves, his itself wit h architectu ral pu rsuits and antiqua ted and overly orna te tr end th at
silver plate, his coach and chariot, and intellectua l discourse, and availed itself exemplified bad taste. But th e term was
his fine English horses. (Just in Weaver, of luxuries and furnishings of th e very descriptive, and it eventually lost its bad
ed., Memorial History of Boston, best style. con nota tio n as th e orn ame nt came to be
1880-1 88 ]) better understood and app reciated.
Like most English styles, th e Rococo was
On e can be certain th at Peter Faneu il Origins of the tr ansplanted from France, wh ere it had
had the latest and most fashionable been develop ing as a form of orna ment
furniture that could be imported from
Chippendale Style since th e death of Loui s XIV in 17 IS. Two
London or made in the colonies. His English Q ueen Anne fu rn itu re had becom e decades previously, th e high sta ndards of
belongings, like those of ot her very wealt hy increasingly orn ate as a result of th e desire th e Baroqu e were relaxed wit h t he designs
members of society, were rich and opu lent for increased opulence. Th e trend had of Boull e. This tr end was cont inued by
reflections of his wealth and status. reached its zenit h wit h th e designs of Cr essent during th e French Regence, (The
William Kent, whose Italian Baroqu e per iod' s name comes from th e years
orna mentat ion was used to great excess on betwe en l7 IS and 172 3, when Phillipe,


includ ed in some exist ing forms of English
PARI S . 1 7 0 0 - 1 7 2 5 .
The curved lines of the fu rni ture , but it was not unt il several design
Louis XV style, which books were published th at th e style came to
had been developing th e fore.
sincethe turn of the
century, became the Design books
perfect platform for
The ornate and fanciful nature of Rococo
Rococo ornament.
(COURTESY THE design made design books necessary for th e
prop agation of th e style, and th ey were
popular and int eresting as well. Illustrated
books proliferated during thi s tim e and
came to be an imp ortant part of th e design
bus iness fro m th en on. One of th ese works
was by Matthias Lock, a carver and
propon ent of th e Rococo in England. His
work, A New Book of Ornaments withTwelve
Leaves, was published with Henry
Co peland in 1752 and present ed Rococo
designs of girandoles (elaborately
orna mented wall-hu ng mi rror frames, often
with candleholde rs), some of which
included Chinese motifs.


A travel book had been publi shed in 173 5
th at had rekindled Euro pean interest in
C hina. Europe's fascination wit h
chino iserie had endu red since th e end of
th e previou s cent ury, and upon th e
Duk e of O rleans, served as Regent until had waned t hat th e English too k up th e rejection of yet another overly orna te style,
Louis XV reached age 13 and was new tr end . its simple grace once again beckoned. Th e
considered old enough to tak e the th ron e.) O nce again, English fu rn iture design 175 7 pu blication of Sir William Chambers'
Even before t he t u rn of t he century the had gone comp lete ly to an ext reme and Designsfor Chinese Buildings and Furnitu re
French designers had introduced t he cyrna- needed to be reigned in to somet hing th at kept th e int erest alive. T he mysterious
shaped leg, but not u ntil the reign of Lou is was more comfortable and practical. Kent's allu re and exotic nature of th e Orient were
XV d id t he flowi ng cur ves that designs had becom e mo nu menta l and in keeping wit h th e Rococo in an unusual
characte rized t he Fren ch Regen ce reach mass ive, and were made more for show th an way. C hinese design element s were admired
th eir fu ll developm ent. The remaining for use. T he relaxed, delicate and graceful in part because th ey were fanciful and
classical elem ents of design were designs of French fu rni tu re th at had been wholly foreign to th e English. Th ey evoked
su pplanted by u nd ulati ng cu rves, swelled develop ing in France since 1715 offered a images of stra nge places where th e people,
shapes and swirling ornament. refreshin g change. Th e English began to architectur e and land scape seemed
Rococo ornament became synonymous take up aspects of th e French style in th e unworldly.
with the Louis XV style, th ough th e 1740s, and it remained in vogue th rou gh The proponents of chinoiserie, most of
exte nt of its use varied t h rou gh th e years. th e 1760s. Wh ereas th e French had spent wh om had never left Euro pe, took th eir
It reached its peak duri ng t he 173 0s over th ree decades in developing th e style, own libert ies wit h O rienta l decora t ion and
and declin ed until th e mid -I ? 50s, when th e English merely took up th e aspects of it offered fanciful int erpretations of Chine se
th e Loui s XV style faded from fashion. th at th ey liked, especia lly t he dyna mic an d design. Rococo orname nt had no
Youn g English noblem en who made th e unrest rained nat ure of Rococo ornament. connect ion with C hinese moti fs, but it
Grand Tour of European cities as par t of French Hu guenot goldsmit hs who were appealed to th e same kind of fascination
th eir cultu ral educat ion were no doubt working in England had sta rted to use some with fant astic designs. Th ere were no rules
exposed to th e height of th e Rococo style, Rococo orna ment during th e 1730s, as did as to symmetry, balance or stability, and th e
but it was not unt il Kent's Palladian style engravers, illustr ators an d ceram ists. Aft er most int eresting Rococo designs were th e
1740 , some French orna me nt, like carved most fanciful. Both styles broke all t he
ribbo ns and cabochons, began to be exist ing rul es, and neither was confined to a

60 C II A I' T E R F 0 U R
"Gothick" room, but th e tr end never grew inclu ding William Hogarth tau ght.
mu ch beyond its cult status. As with th e C hippe nda le was well posit ioned for th e
ADVERSE other tren ds of th e period , it was a fanc ifu l pu blication of the Director in early 17 54.
int erpr etati on based on exot ic imagery. Like Since having been est ablished in Lond on,
th e Rococo and C hinese designs, it evoked th e firm had grown cont inually and is
THE CHINESE an intrigu ing mood th at was far removed known to have employed at least 22
TASTE from th e designs of classical ant iqu ity. Th e workmen by 17 55.
movement did lead to th e literary for m of T homas C hippendale's met eori c rise to
th e Go thic novel, rep lete wit h all th e promi nence and his many moves to mor e

A ccording to th e present
prevailing whim,
everything is C hinese, or in th e
pointed arches and du ngeons Got hic
enth usiasts had failed to introdu ce int o
prestigio us locat ions demonstra te his
int ention to evaluate t he needs of th e
English man or hou ses. market and posit ion his firm to provid e for
Chinese tast e; or, as it is them . His location in St. Mar tin 's Lane, at
sometimes mor e modestly t he hear t of th e developing styles, was
expressed, partly after the Thomas Ch ippendale valued at ten ti mes th at of his first Lond on
Chinese manner. C hairs, tabl es, T hom as C hippen dale ( 1718- 1779) is address on ly six years earlier. The move to
chimney-pieces, frames for credited with having combin ed French St. Mar t in's Lane and th e publicati on of th e
looking-glasses, and even our style, Rococo ornament, C hinese design and Director were each large undertakings, yet
most vulgar ut ensils are all th e passing interes t in th e Go thic int o a th ey were done sim ultan eous ly. Alth ou gh
reduced to this new-fangled fu rn iture design book that captu red th e virtually nothing is known of his schooling
sta ndard; and without doors it imaginat ion of anyone interested in th e or early years in th e t rade, his rapid rise to
has spread, th at every gate to a latest fashionable styles. T hat book was The success, his demonst rated business acumen
cow-yard is in Ts and Zs, and Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, and his ab ility to work for and wit h
every hovel for th e cows has bells pu blished in Apri l 17 54. Th e Director demand ing aristo cratic patrons all indi cate
hanging at th e corne rs." (From ushered in a new era in furniture design that he was a man with unusually adroit
The World, Lond on, 175 3) and forever changed th e way furnit ure entrepreneurial skills and an ext raord inary
designs evolved and were disseminated . person ality.

new set of rules. Th e imaginat ive nature of Littl e is known of Thom as C hippenda le
Rococo and chinoiserie could be combined before th e publicat ion of th e Director, but
to represent scenery th at came fro m pure what is know n is quite telling. He was born
fantasy, and th e stra nger it was, th e better. into a fam ily of join ers in th e York shir e
town of O tley in 1718. Th e next record of
GOT HIC R E VI VA L C hippenda le does not appea r until 1747; it
Anoth er style th at emerged at mid-century is an ent ry in an accoun t book noti ng th at
was a Goth ic "revival." It was championed Chippe nda le had been paid by th e Earl of
by t he aut hor Horace Walpole (1717- 1797), Burlington , presumably for sup plying
who fu rnished his entire hom e in th e fu rni tur e for one th e Earl's mansions.
Gothic style. Walpole had a sma ll following Traditi on has C hippenda le wor king at ot he r
t hat was committed to int rodu cing Gothi c manor hou ses (Nostell Priory and
elements in architecture and fu rn ishings. Har ewood House), and by 1748 he was in
Th eir interest in th e Gothic was spurred by bu siness in Lond on . Over th e next six years
Batty and Thomas Langley's A ncient he moved his bu siness four t imes, on each
A rchitecture of 174 2. As was th e case with occasion to a more fashiona ble locati on ,
Rococo and Chinese designs, th e adhere nce eventua lly occu pying three hou ses in St.
to act ual Got hic designs was loose at best. Martin's Lan e. Th ere he was in part ne rship
Designers in th e Gothi c style borrowed wit h Jam es Rannie, an esta blished
pointed arches, t refoils, cinquefo ils, tra cery cabinetmake r and upholsterer.
and cluster colu mns and worked th em int o C hippenda le's sho p was d irectly across The publication of The Director helped make Thomas
exist ing forms whe rever th ey would have fro m O ld Slau ght er's Co ffee Hou se, a Chippendalethe best-known cabinetmaker of the era,
and he has acquired a legend ary (and usually over-
the most dramatic effect. Some of th e most favorite gat he ring spot for enthusiasts of th e
rom anticized) status as a result.
fashionable houses would later have a new Rococo style, and very near St. Marti n's (FROM THE BOOK Of KNOWLEDGE, 1933)

Lane Academy, wh ere prominent art ists

C h ippendale's skills are legendar y, but
THE alt ho ugh th ere are man y pieces th at have
been traced to the firm , th ere are non e th at
GENTLE MAN and CAB 1N ET-MAKER's are aut he nt icate d to him person ally. He

D I R E c T o was, however, unusu ally ade pt at gat hering

ta lent aro u nd him, and effect ively
market ing th e except iona l skills of his firm
Being a large COL L E C T ION of the in furnishing th e interiors of th e grand
hou ses of the day, wh ole roo ms at a time.
o F
Th e publi cati on of The Gentlema n and
HOUSEHOLD FU RNITURE, Cabinet-Maleer'sDirector of 1754 was
C hippe nda le's most imp or tant
In the Moll F AS H I O N AB LET AS T E. co nt ribution to furn iture design, but it was
import ant for more th an th e designs it
Including a g reat V A Rl E T y of contained. Previous to th e Director,
CHAIRS, SOFAS, BEDS. and COUCHES; CIUNA- : CASES, CHINA-SHELVES, and BOOK-SHELVES; architectural gu ide books pro liferated, and
T ABLES, DRE SSI NG-TABLES, SHAVING- ' CANDLE-STANDS, T ERMS for BUSTS, STANDS t hey some t imes touched on th e design of
ST ANDS ; FRAMES for MARBLE-SLABS. Bu- for W AT ER, LA NTHOR NS.and CHANDELIERS; furniture, especially whe n it was designed
REAU-DRE SSING- TABLES, and COMMODES; FI RE-SCREENS, BRACKETS, and CLOCK-C A- to co mpleme nt th e bui ldings. The Director
was the fir st guide of its kind to
private Rooms, or Churche s. D ESKS, and I F RAMES; STo v,, -GRATF.s.B,OARDJ<RS, FR ETS, acknowledge th e importan ce of furni t ure
design as a field in itse lf.
BINETS, and C LOATHS-PRESSES; C HINA- Th e Director, as th e first in a lon g series
of furniture-design books (see Append ix II
o n pp . 294-295), also served to popul ar ize
o R N A M E N T S. fu rn it ure design . A ce nt ury earlier,
fu rn it u re styles had th eir development and
evolut ion wit h in th e cou rt and amo ng its
A Short EXPLANATION of the Five ORDERS of ARCHITECTURE; selected artisan s. Then as th e nob ility took
W IT H a greate r interest in th eir hou ses and
Proper D IRE CT ION S for executing the m olt d ifficul t Pi eces, the M ouldings being exhibited furn ishings, t hey increasingly turned to
at large, and the Dimenfion s of each D E S I G N fpe cified.
outside craftsme n. Commercial cabinet-
The Whole comprehended in Two HUN DR E D Co r r E R-PLAT ES, neatly engraved, ma kin g pro liferated , but its directi on had
Calculated to improve and refine the prefent T A S T E, and fuited to the Fancy and Circumftances of
to filt er down fro m cou rt designs. T he
Perfons in all Degree. of Life. revolution ar y idea of pu blishing designs put
By THOMAS CHIPPENDALE, th e latest and most desirable styles into the
han ds of anyone who wan ted to bu y th em .
CABINET-MAKER and UPHOLSTER ER, in sr, Martin's Lane, London.
The local art isans in outlying areas were
now as aware of th e latest t rends as th ose in
St. Martin's Lan e. The styles no lon ger
spread by wo rd of mouth, sketch or mem or y,
so th ey were not su bject to cha nges an d
Printed for the A UT H 0 R, and fold a t h is H oufe, in St. Martin's Lane;
Alfo by T. B E CK ET and P. A, D E HO NDT, in the Strand. influen ces in their disseminati on. From
th en on, pieces were built more as th eir
o rigina l designers envisio ned th em .
C hippenda le's book also served to move
th e aut ho rity in furniture design fro m th e
(LONDON, 17 62) .
The first edition of Chippendale's Director contained 160 plates illustrating a wide Crown to the cabinet makers. Styles were
variety of furniture . A second edition was published the following yea r. A third edition now presented by th e lead ing designers and
consisting of 200 plates, the title page of which is shown here, was issued between mak ers of th e day, and t he success of each
1759 and 1762 in weekly installments and finally as a complete volume. was determined by the market rat he r th an

62 C II A I' T E R F 0 U R
C h ippendale's designs
Chi ppen da le's Rococo des igns, which he
called Frenc h or Modern , have th eir basis in
form in French and English furnitu re (see
th e illustr ation s at left) . Those wit h smoo t h
flowin g lines are based on Frenc h Loui s XV
designs. Others with more rectilinear
shapes are based on esta blished English
designs of th e Early Georgian era. During
th e later part of th e Early Georgian period ,
man y of th e English designs had started to
show an increased delicacy and light ness.
C h ippendale cont inue d th e Early Geo rgian
forms, ado pted th e French forms, and
integrat ed int o both a su ita ble amo u nt of
Rococo orna me nt to make th em stylish.
The result was a d istin ctly anglicized
Rococo with varying degrees of ad here nce
DESIGNS FOR TWO CHAIRS . DETAILS OF PLATES XX I AND to th e original Fren ch movem ent.
C hippe ndale's C hinese fu rn itu re
Chippendale's Rococo designs were based on French (left) and prevailing Georgian
(right) form s with the addition of Rococo ornament. The Georgian forms , with their
imp osed geomet ric C hi nese fretwo rk and
distinctly anglicized version of the Rococo, found wide American acceptance . moti fs on rectil inear European pieces (see
(COURTESY OOVER PUBLICA nO NS) th e illu str ati on below). Th e designs
included a number of obvious C hinese
elem ents, such as pagod a-shaped roofs and
depictions of fanciful O rienta l scenes, but
by th e whims of t he court. Being in more of
a free market, furniture designs became
subject to refinement through comparison
and competition. Th e Director was also
important for th e way it presented a
thorough overview of th e styles. Previous
furniture publication s had been little more
than pamphlets and were limited in th eir
scope. Th e new designs were shown appli ed
to a wide variety of furnit ur e form s, and t he
Directorgave th e entire line a better sense of
unity t han some earlier styles.
Often an effort to please everyone
satisfies no one, but suc h was not th e case
wit h th e Director. C hippendale included
something for everyone, and in a market
looking for direction, his work was well
received and history has proven him P LATE CXXXIl .
successful. Th e Directorwas the only CHIPPENDAL E'S
authoritative work on th e three new styles 17 5 4 ) ,
(Rococo, C hinese and Gothic), and it Chippendale's design
allowed cabinet makers who were out of th e for a china case in the
mainstream of design to be immediately in Chinesestyle imposed
th e vanguard . For want of a definitive Oriental ornament on
rectilinear forms.
explanation of the new styles, C hippendale's (COURTESY OOVER
rend erin gs became th e standard. PUBLICATIONS)

tab les and sets of chairs for th e grandest
hou ses very ofte n received th e same
tr eatment. Th e Rococo color scheme called
for pastel colors with gilt ornament, so it
was not un common to find pieces in pale
blue or yellow. C hinese designs were oft en
paint ed in bolder colors; deeper blues and
brig ht reds were in keepi ng wit h Chinese
C hippendale's firm was one of many
that was cater ing to th e new tastes, and
many of his competito rs were also in St.
Martin's Lane. William Vile and his partner
John Co bb operated from 7Z St. Martin's
Lane. Vile was a cabinet maker to th e king,
an d his pieces are generally regarded as
DETAI L OF PLATE C , being of superior design and more skillful
CHIPP ENDALE 'S execut ion t han most. William Hallet
(L ON DON , 17 62) .
was situated next door to Vile, and his
The design for a Gothic pieces were conside red to be th e most
bookcase includes the fashion able at th e tim e. In addit ion, th ere
full complement of were th e well-estab lished cabinet makers,
available Gothic suc h as Benjamin Goodison , William
Bradshaw and Giles Gr end ey, among
PUBliCA TlONS) ot hers, wh o had been masters of the Early
Georgian period, and who also worked in
the new styles. C hippenda le was one of
many, bu t th e success of t he Director
bore no resemblance to actual C hinese adopted . For example, a C hippenda le ensu red t hat his nam e wou ld forever be
fu rn itu re. It was, however, new, different Chinese chair would have a st raight square associated with t he style.
and mildl y exotic, and fulfilled th e English leg with a fretwork pattern cut into its
appe tite for C hinese designs. lengt h, and th e same strai ght leg could have
Th e Goth ic designs are mu ch th e same, a Gothic fretwork moti f or be carved to a The Chippendale Style
but wit h th e Gothi c lexicon of pointed straight bundled column shape. In eit he r
arches, tr efoils and cinquefoils stand ing in case, a strong geometric style of furniture
in America
for all th e C hinese design elem ents (see th e form had arisen as a response to the need Ameri can design tren ds had always run a
illustr ation above). T hey too were fancifu l, for using this type of ornament. Its decade or more behind those of London ,
complete ly nona cademic, and bore little rectilin ear forms are in sharp cont rast to th e but th e Director and t he sim ilar books that
likeness to actua l medieval furniture, but cu rvaceous lines of the Fren ch designs. it inspired enabled th e latest English
like th e C hinese fu rn itu re th ey evoked th e Rococo orna me nt was perfectly suited for designs to reach Am erica with out th e usual
feeling of a d istant time and place. t he French designs, and it was easily delay. While th e Am erican s were st ill
Int erest ingly, few of th e C hinese or Gothic adapted to th e English Georgian designs exploring th e possibiliti es of th e Queen
designs escaped having at least some French that had carried over. Thus th e C hippendale Anne style, most notably th ose that
Rococo orna me ntat ion added. style included two completely differen t includ ed Georgian architectural elements,
Th e nature of th e ornament had a kinds of forms, but t hat is just on e of t he th e English had moved into t he mid-
strong bearin g on the form of C hippendale pecu liar cont rasts t hat chara cteri ze t he era. Georg ian phase of anglicized French forms
pieces. C hippendale's C hinese ornament Maho gany was th e wood of choice at th is with increasing amounts of Rococo
was mostly geomet ric fretwork, and t he t ime . It was a good medium for carving, and orn ame nt. T his movement had started in
Gothic eleme nts were all derived from could be finished to th e desired level of England in th e I740s, a decade before th e
architect ure. Both typ es of orna me nt richness. Th e lead ing makers of th e day, Direetorwas published, but it did not have
required st raight, rectilinear forms . Neither C hippenda le's firm and ot he rs, went well time to establish itself in Am erica before
type could be worked int o th e English beyond lust rou sly fini shed mahogany. Many C hippendale's book arrived. In England ,
cabrio le leg, so simpl e st raight legs were of th e C hippenda le designs, suc h as th e Director was a su m mat ion of th e tr end s
girando les, were int end ed gilded. Side

64 C II A PT E R F 0 U R
of the day, prese nted in a clear and concise design and execu tio n. Philadelphia
manner, bu t in Ame rica, th e designs were cabinetma king shops, like t hose of T homas
CHIPPENDALE quite new. Like previous tr en ds, it was Tufft (c.1738- 1788), Thom as Affleck
AND THE LAW accepted in varying degrees th rou ghout th e (1740-1 79 5), William Savery ( 1720- 1787)
colonies. and Benjamin Rand olph (1721 -1 791),
Th e C hippendale style offered th e su pplied a wealt hy clientele with furniture

F rench furni tu re was

considered prestigious, and
English cabinetmakers
opulence th at th e upper echelon of th e
Ame rican market wanted. Their hom es
were becoming inc reasingly palatial, and
in th e full spirit of th e C hippendale
designs. New York furniture followed th e
same tr end , th ou gh not to th e same level of
frequently imported it. To avoid they were accusto med to having th e most orna me nt as Philadel phi a.
import duties, they would often fashionable cloth ing, rich Europea n and Th e leading Boston cabinet makers,
disassemble it in France and ship Orienta l text iles, delicate C hinese porcelain Benjamin Frothingham Sr. ( 1708- 1765),
it in as "lumber." T he alternat ive and spa rkling silver and glassware. Th e Benjamin Frothi ngham Jr. (1734-1 80 9)
was to undervalue th e items majest ic appearance of th e new furniture, and George Bright (172 6-1 80 5), wor ked in
being imported. In 1768, intricately carved in rich mahogany and a more restrained style. Th eir work put an
Chippendale shipped a crate of finished to a glossy luster, fit perfectly in emphasis on st rong stature with less
five dozen chairs across th e th eir world . reliance on Rococo carved orna me nt.
Channel, and listed th eir value Th e Director sold well in Philadel phi a, Philadelphi a-train ed Eliphalet C hapin
at 18. T he customs office rs where th e growt h rate was so fantastica lly (1741-1 807), working in East Wind sor,
were suspicious and impounded high and th e inhabitants were eager to Connectic ut, combined Philadelp hia
the chairs . In cases like these, adopt some defin itive English styles. New proport ion and techniqu e with th e New
the customs service purchased York was also a good market for th e book. England t aste for restr ained ornament in
the impou nded items for Boston sales were d isapp ointing, however. th e tr ad ition of ind epend ent Con nectic ut
10%over t heir declared value, Th e city's growt h rate was flat, and cabinetma kers. Newp ort cabinetmakers
paid th e duties, and later cabinetmakers th ere had traditionally opted John Godd ard (1723-1 78 5) and Joh n
resold th e undervalued goods to include new features into exist ing Towns end ( 17 33-1 809) cont inued a style
at a handsome profit , which designs rat her th an takin g up who le new unique to Newp ort that paralleled th e
they kept . ones. Further more, th e orna me ntation period 's precepts of sta tely fu rn iture .
Other cabine tmakers, shown in th e Director was not in keep ing Th e C hinese aspects of th e C hi ppe nda le
including John Cobb of 72 St. with th e restrai ned tastes of most New style were of great inte rest to th e
Martin 's Lane, had brus hes wit h Englanders. Sales in New por t were low, Ame ricans . Not on ly was th ere an ongoing
the law for moving things in and since t he lead ing cab inet makers were merchant tr ade wit h th e Ori ent, but the
out of th e country in di plom atic purs uing th eir own evolution of design, but simple geomet ry of th e designs also
bags. Cus to ms officials made th ey d id incorporate mu ch of th e appealed to th em for th e same reason s th at
occasional raids on cabinet- C hippendale style in th eir work over th e th e French designs did not. Th e designs
makers' shops to find illegally next three decades. were pure and elegant in th eir simplicity
impo rted goods, and in th e As reflected in th e sales of th e Director, and conveyed ju st eno ugh of an exotic
1770s Chippendale was found th e C hippendale period marked th e nature to make th em int erestin g, but not
to have a large qua ntity of Indian greatest point of divergen ce in style foreign. The Gothic style, which had a sma ll
chin tz. Its importation had been betwee n New England and Philadelph ia. In following in England , was of littl e int erest
made illegal to protect English general, Ame rican tastes rejected most of to th e Americans.
man ufacturers. T he chintz th e French designs, th ose of curv ilinear As inte rpreted by th e Americans, t he
actua lly belonged to a client, for shape inspired by th e Loui s XV style. C hip penda le designs retained most of th e
who m C hippe ndale was makin g Americans were already famili ar with th e forms of th e previou s era, but wit h a more
an "Orienta l" bedroom , but she forms and const ruct ion of th e Georgian sto ut and solid set of prop ortion s. Th e light
blamed him for its seizure and designs, and th ese becam e th e basis for and et hereal qualities of Am er ican Q uee n
took th e oppor tu nity to crit icize Am erican C h ippendale furniture. Anne evolved to have a more robust and
everything th e firm had don e for Philadelphia, with its growing wealth and massive app earance, more like th e English
her over t he previous six years. influx of English immigrants, eagerly Georgian style. Rococo orna me nt was
accepted th e ornamenta l aspects of th e applied, but rarely to th e exte nt t hat it was
Rococo. Philadelphi a pieces embodied th e in London . G raceful cu rves wit h smooth
stre ngt h and presence of th e period and are su rfaces and only occasional carving became
noted for exceptio nally well-rende red rich sur faces resplendent wit h orna te
carvings, equa ling th ose of Lond on in th eir


carving. Beauty of line was supplanted by BALL AN D C LAW FEE T
th e intricacy of orna me nt. The ethereal In England, ball and claw feet were used in
became sta tely,and restraint was abandoned th e Qu een Anne and Early Georgian styles,
for presence. spanning th e period from about 1710 to th e
Th e mid -Georgian style of Am erican 1740s, peakin g in popularity in th e 172 0s.
case pieces meant that th eir cases were T hey faded from fashion in th e 1740s as
taller and th eir legs were cor respo nding ly interest grew in the French Rococo style
shorter and stoute r. Chair designs were with its scroll or whorl feet. Ball and claw
pattern ed afte r th e Georgian Ch ippendal e feet were gaining acceptance in Am erica as
forms but wit h a more restrained use of th ey were falling out of favor in England
orname nt. Th e simplicity of th e Chinese and were first seen in Boston furniture in
C hippendale chair form was appreciated by th e 1730s. Th eir use peaked simultaneously
th e Americans who adopt ed th e form with th e Chippendale style and becam e an
wit hout th e Chinese decorati on in many integral part of th e American int erpretation .
cases. Very often, only proportion and a few Ball and claw feet were not illustrated in th e
decorative detail s separate one era from Director, yet they were perfectly in keepin g
another in Am erican furniture. A slant-top with Chippenda le-era ideals of grand eur,
desk, for instan ce, built in 1770 may differ powerful presence and rich ly carved detail.
only in its more stately prop ortions from Th e ball and claw motif was of Chinese
one built 20 years previou sly. Similarly, a origin, exemplifying th e balance between
d rop-leaf table built during th e Am erican th e opposing forces of good and evil as Ball and claw feet were first seen on American pieces
Chippenda le era may differ from an earlier represented by a dra gon's claw clutchin g a duringthe 1730s and rema ined in style through the
1770s, their peak of usecoincidingwith the American
one on ly by th e su bstitut ion of ball and pearl. Th e pearl, a perfect sphere
Chippendale period. This example of an open-talon ball
claw feet and a simplified apron for pad feet representing purity, wisdom and truth, is and claw foot is by John Goddard of Newport.
and a scrolled apron . guarded by th e dragon from th e forces of (COURTESY RHODEISLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY)

evil. Th e symbolism appealed to Western

int erest in orde r, balance and symmetry
growing from Enlighten ment ideals and
exemplified by th e William and Mary
designs. Th e ball and claw had been seen in
Chinese porcelain imported to Euro pe in
th e 16th and 17th centu ries and is known
to have been adopted for use by Lond on
silversmith s as early as 1581.Th e claws th at
appear on furniture in both England and
Am erica closely resembl e th e raptorial feet
of bird s of prey, such as eagles, hawks and
falcons. (Th e term "eagles foot" is
commo nly used to describe th ese feet in
mid-eentury Boston invent ories.) Given th e
scarcity of dr agons, th ere is no doubt th at
th e claws were modeled after th ese familiar
birds. A related foot, th e hairy paw, derives
from similar myth ology. Th ese feet are
inspired by lions' paws and are sometimes
DI RE C TOR ( L ON DON 1754). depicted in statuary with th e sphere as a
powerful protector of integrity.
The simplicity and rectilinear lines of Chippendale's Chinese designs were
inspirational to thosewho rejected the French forms and the ornate character of
Rococo decoration.

66 C H A P T E R FOU R
Chippendale Forms
Many of th e Am erican forms of th e
Chippe ndale era were revision s of earlier
Geo rgian pieces, updated to th e latest
sta nda rds. Ot hers were quite new in form
and marked a departure rather th an an
evolutio n from earlier styles. As th e society
changed, some pieces found increased
popularity, while ot hers fell out of favor.

With sta teliness bein g of prime importance
to th e idea ls of th e era, case pieces and
chests were good forms to em body th e new
style. Th e decorati ve elem ents th at marked
American Chippendale case pieces tend ed
to be designed int o, rath er th an added on to
existing form s. Qu een Anne case pieces
were generally of plain case construction,
wit h th e ethereal qualities of th e period
concen trated in long legs, delic ate feet and
soaring pedim ents. Th e swelled fronts of
Chippendale's French designs inspir ed
American makers to move away from
CHEST OF DRAWERS , BOSTON . 1750 -1780 .
straight fronts and experime nt with
Case pieces, like this block-front chest of drawe rs, took on an air of stately presence
serpentine, block-front and bombe cases,
in the Chippendale era. A rich and visually interestingsurface, a solid stance and
which will be examined in greate r det ail bold brasses all contribute to the effect.
later (see pp . 77-79 ). (COURTESY DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART)

Th e cur ved fronts of these pieces

preclud ed th e use of overlapping dr awers
and necessitated th e use of flu sh-fitting
drawers wit h surroundi ng cockbeadi ng Whencurved case fronts
made lipped drawers
(see th e bottom ph oto at right) . Th e
impractical, small
cockbeading, a half-round astragal bead
astraga l moldings called
about I/ S in. wid e and protruding about cockbead s were used to
1/ 16 in., was eit her attached to th e edges of surround the drawer. The
th e inset drawer or cut from th e solid of the bead is either cut from
case and drawer divid ers. Different region s the caseor attached to
the drawer.
and makers had th eir own preferences.
Eit her way, th e sur rou nding cockbead
outlined th e dr awer and disguised th e space
between th e drawer and th e case.
Case pieces in genera l assu me d a more
solid appearance and were usu ally larger
th an th eir earlier cou nte rparts. Stro ng ball
and claw feet or solid ogee feet testified to
th e substant ial nature of th e pieces. To
achieve this look of substa nce, th e makers
made th e pieces look powerful rath er th an
heavy. Less formal pieces saw th e change as

T II E C II I l' l' EN D" L E S T Y L E 67

PHILADELPHIA ,17 5 5 - 17 90 . New England cabi netmakers adhered to the CONNECTICUT ,1760- 1790 .
Philadelphia cabinetmakers and their clients readily fundamental importance of form and proportion to Connecticut's Eliphalet Chapin combined the bold
embraced Rococo orna ment and followed closely the achievea statelyappearance, with well-integrated proportions of Philadelphia pieces with the restrained
prescripts of Chippendale. carved detail remaining secondary in importance. use of ornament favored in New England.

well, as even simple bracke t feet changed More th an any other region, Philadelphi a Connecticut's Philadelphi a-trained
from trying to belie mass to sup po rt ing it furniture embod ied th e decorative aspect Eliphalet C hapin combined th e propor-
with a mor e fort hrig ht stance. of th e Rococo. T hough st ill restrained by t ion s and const ruct ion tech niqu es of
Eu ropean stan dards, th e flow ing carved Philadelph ia with th e New England
High chests details on th e ped iment , carto uche and base preference for restrained orna ment (ph oto
High chests continued mu ch in t he earlier are th e primary decorati ve elements of th e at right above). Th e result was his own
tradition but were updated to th e new massively proport ioned chest shown in t he distinctive and original style of American
style. Th ey evolved to be wider and mo re photo at left above. C hippenda le design.
massive in appearance, wit h less space New por t cabin etmakers maintained a
below th e bottom of th e case. Their legs reliance upon the funda men ta l importance Chests-on- chests
becam e shorter and more powerful. of form and t he secondary importan ce of C hests-on-ehests were the most massive of
Pediment tops cont inued in eithe r arched orna ment. T heir designs showed little case pieces, having t he bases of chests and
or st raight shapes, but more for grande u r infl uen ce of th e Rococo, but th rough bold th e upper cases of high chests (see th e
th an loftiness. High chests did not lend design and well-integrated carved detail s photo at left on th e facing page), Th ey could
th em selves to shaped fronts, so t hey th ey satis fied bot h t he ideals of stately be bui lt with som e of th e cur ved-front
rem ained flat-fronted, with overlapping presence and th eir own market 's tastes att ributes t hat could not be app lied to high
dr awers, and relied on Rococo orna ment (cente r ph oto above), chests wit h long legs. T hey were thorou ghly
more th an ot her pieces. useful, being entirely dr awers, bu t w~re not

68 C I I A I' T E R FO U R
CHEST -ON -CHEST . NEWPORT . 1 7 60 - 1 785 . OESK AND BOOKCASE . NEWPORT . 1755- 1790 . DESK AND BOOKCASE . NEWPORT. 1760 -1 785 .
Chests-on-chests, such as this one by John Townsend, Goddard or Townsend desk and bookcases went As evident in another Newport example, the interior of
were amongthe most massive pieces of the era. beyond theirfun ctional role to stand as milestones of the desk and bookcase is equally impressive. This piece
(COURTESY THE NEWPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY) achievement in design and cabinetmaking. features a blocked set of small drawers in the desk and
(COURTESY YALE UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY) movable, shaped vertical partitions in the bookcase.

limi ted to use in bedrooms. Pieces w it h t he Desks interiors in both. It is lit tl e won der th at
stature of chests-on-chests cou ld ju st as D esk s and desk-boo kcases followed all the d esk boo kcases of th e hi gh C h ip pe nd ale
easily have stood in a parlo r or draw in g cha nges that ches ts unde rwe nt in e nte ri ng d esign ar e co ns ide red th e a pex of 18th-
room as a test am ent to the ow ne r's the C h ip pe ndale peri od . They too were ce nt u ry A m e rican furn iture m aki ng.
refinem ent. Int e rest ingly, chests-on-chests so met imes rendered in se rpe nt ine, block-
had become a po pu lar form in En gland in front and bornbe forms and went t h rough a TABLES
the Early G eor gian per iod , but non e a re sim ilar in crease in st at ure. As th e literal and The t re nd towa rd m ore varied for ms in
sho w n in C h ippenda le's Director. figurative ce nte rs of family busin esses and t ables, which had sta rte d at the turn of th e
The A merican ches t-o n-fra me fortunes, t hey we re su bjec t to t he greatest ce nt ury, co nt in ue d unaba ted in to the
di sap pear ed fro m gene ral u se. Its fu nc t ion amou nt of aggra nd ize ment . They also C h ippe nda le e ra. Eve n w it hi n groups of
was given to eit he r hi gh ches ts o r ot he r case p resented m an y o p port u n it ies for u si ng t ables in tended for specific purposes, suc h
pieces. Althou gh it had been both u sefu l co m plex d et ail s since th ey were so mu ch as tea t ab les, pop u lar region al sty les added
and popular in the fi rst half of the ce nt ury, m o re in tricate than ot he r pieces. The m ake r to t he diversity of design s bein g built.
it was not an id eal fo rm fo r C h ip pe ndale of a d esk bo ok case had the cha nce to Tabl es related to d in ing, suc h as side ta b les
grande ur, and it fel l fro m favor a mong the in corporate t he features of bot h ches t s and
style co nscious . h igh ches t s in to th e base and top, a nd t he
o p po rt u n ity to d evel op intricat ely d eta iled


and dr op-leaf tables of all sizes, proliferated
CONNECTICUT . in th e Chippendale style as dini ng became
C.17 60-1790 . an increasingly social act ivity.
Dressing tables. like the
bases of high chests,
Dressing ta bles
developed taller cases
and correspondingly Dr essing tables and high chests were very
shorter legs in the era of ofte n built as mat ched sets, and th e form er
Chippendale design. followed th e evolut ion of th e high chest
This Connecticut toward a tall er case with shorter legs.
example is by Eliphalet
Dr essing tables continue d to be flat
fronted, with overlapping dr awers, and
HISTORICAL SOCIETY, were orname nted just like th e base of high
chests. Th e height of th e case had made th e
dr essing tabl e more of a case piece by th is
point, having evolved away fro m th e
original form of a table with dr awers since
th e sta rt of th e century.

Tea ta bles
Tea drinking cont inued to be th e import ant
social activity th at it had been earlier, and
th e evolution of th e tea table progressed .
Th e rect angular tea table adopt ed more
Rococo features in Philadelphia but
This tea table by John Goddard exem plifies Newport cabinetmakers' interest in using cont inued with Baroqu e t rend s in
shape as ornament in itself. northern cit ies. Som etimes th e change
was so slight th at it involved su bst ituting
ball and claw feet for slipper or pad feet
(see th e ph oto at left) . Two imp ortant
su bsets of th e recta ngular tea table are th e
C hina tabl e and th e turret-top table. Th eir
importance lies in th eir designs more th an
th eir popularity , since neith er was made
in great number.
Ch ina tabl es are tea tables in th e
C hinese manner and were inspired by a
plate from th e Director (see th e illustration
and ph oto on th e facing page). Th ey have
st raight mold ed legs, a shallow apro n and an
inset top. Th eir most notabl e features are a
pierced gallery arou nd th e top, corne r
fretwork bracket s and decidedly Rococo
cross st retchers th at sweep upward to
su pport a cente r finial. China tables are
associated with Portsm outh, New
Hampshire, and seven examples surv ive
from th ere. Th eir regional pop ularit y is
att ributed to Robert Har rold , an immigrant
English cabinetma ker working in
Portsmouth fro m 176 5 to 1792 , wh o
pattern ed th ese afte r English examples.

70 C H A I' T E R F 0 U R
DIRE CTOR , 3RD ED. (LONDON 176 2) .
Chinatables, with fretwork galleriesand reverse curve stretchers meeting in a central
finial, are a subset of teatables that relate directly to a similar design in
Chippendale's Director.

Th e turret-top tables, of which only six

are known to exist, trace th eir origin to th e
Boston area. Whil e they have t he spark of
th e Am erican Chippendale style, t heir
predomi nant orna ment, th e repeated use of
turrets, is essentially Baroqu e in nature.
Th is treatm ent is associated with the corne r
turrets of th e early Boston card tables,
which were from English examples. Some
of th e turret tops have 14 turrets, whi le
ot hers have only 12. O nly two are similar
enough to have clearly been mad e by the
same hand, and all have varying amo unts of
molding detail and carving. Being so un like
ot her designs yet so spirited and stately in
th eir form , th ey are notable examples of
American design capabilities.

TEA TABLE , BOSTON . 175 0- 177 5 .

This example is the most refined of theturret-top tea
tables, with a small amount of Rococo carving over the
knees and a top dished from a single piece of

Carved ornament is
masterfully incorporated
in this round tea table in
the pillar and claw form.
but the crowning glory is
the bold patter of the
'piecrust' top. The top
is a single piece of
mahogany, 32 in. in
diameter. from which the
molded edge has been
carved from the solid.

greatest change was in adopt ing some of the

cu rved-front characteristics th at were seen
in ot her pieces, and th ey were often made
-wit h cu rved or serpent ine fron ts and tops.
Pedestal tables Side tables Pier tables are similar, but are intend ed
Tip-t op tables, with tripod pedest al bases, Side and pier tabl es progressed in to be more orn amental. Of all the form s of
had been a universally popular form, but development as hom es becam e larger and furniture, pier tables bear th e closest
came to th eir highest level of development more stylish. Side tables cont inued in th eir relationship to th e development of
in Philadelphia during th e Chippendale use as secondary serving pieces for dinin g architectur e, as th ey were often situated in
years. Their legs and pedestals were rooms , wit h marble tops, or as hall pieces. fron t of th e piers between large windows
carefully carved, and th e legs terminated in Chippenda le presented several plates of (hen ce th e name) or as side pieces in grand
ample ball and claw feet . One of th eir most designs for slab tables in th e Director. rooms. Wh en architects ventured into
sought-after attr ibutes is a molded Am erican side tables followed all th e fu rn itur e design, as William Kent had done,
scalloped edge to th e table top , ofte n called prevailin g convent ions, with an increase in th ey considered the design of pier tables
a "piecrust " edge. Like all dished tops of th e carving and ball and claw feet . Th eir well within th eir purview.
period, th e center su rface of th e tabl e was
cut away to leave th e edge molding. Better
examples are equipped with a "bird-cage" SLAB TABLE .
mechanism, which allows th e top to rota te 1750-1780.
on th e center ped estal and tip up for Side tables functioned
sto rage. Since th ey were th e focal point of as serving pieces or
Philadelphia tea service, pedestal tabl es ornamental pier tables.
were built and ornamented to th e highest This slab table (with
marble top) is one of a
standa rds of th e day. Smaller pedestal tabl es
pair that we re made to
for occasional use and for candlestands stand in either a formal
continued in th eir roles. dining room or parlor.

Ca rd tables
Like tea tabl es, card tables were imp ortant 1 760- 177 0 .
social centerpieces, and th eir development Philadelphia makers
followed similar lines. Many Philadelphi a were fond of turreted
pieces cont inued th e English form of using front corners on their
card tables, an English
corner turrets int egrated int o cabriole legs
design that had inspired
(top photo at right) , but northern makers earlier Boston card
were d ropp ing th e turrets and includi ng tables.
more complex shapes in th eir apro ns. (COURTESY YALE UNIVERSITY
Boston and Newport makers employed
recessed shapes, reminiscent of blockin g,
and New York makers produ ced numerou s
tab les with serpent ine forms (bottom photo
at right) . On e or both legs were hinged at
th e tab le fram e and swung ou t to su pport
th e foldin g top . This design became th e
norm after some earlier experime ntat ion
with accord ion-like leg-exten sion
mechanisms. New York tab les frequ entl y
had a fifth leg to swing out and su pport th e
top, which folded next to one of th e rear
legs when th e table was closed .

Drop-leaftabl es
American d rop-leaf tables cont inued mu ch
as th ey had previously, but wit h th e 1770 -1780 .
inclusion of ball and claw feet and stylistic New York card tables often
imp rovements to th e aprons. Whil e th ey featureserpentine fronts
were made wit h both oval and squar e tops, and a fifth fly leg to
support the open top.
some of th e most stately examples of th e
style have squa re leaves, almost as wide as MUSEUM)

th e table is high and nearly reaching th e

floor when th ey are down . Squar e tab les
could seat more people, and two could be
put togeth er to seat larger part ies.


Drop-leaf dining tableswere updated to the
Chippendale era with the addition of ball and claw feet
and stylistic improvements to the apron.

T il E C 111 1' 1' EN D AL E STY L E 73

Chippenda le seat ing furniture fell into two
types: th at which was based on th e Early
Georgian use of cabriole legs, and th at of
Euro-Chin ese inspirati on wh ich used
straight legs. Th ere were also differences in
chair form and a fur ther refinement of
upholstered pieces during thi s period.

C ha irs
Chippenda le chairs are fund ament ally
NEWPORT . 1760-1780 .
Pembroke or breakfast different in form from th e previous Qu een
tables are small drop- Ann e style (see th e drawin g below). Wh en
leaf tables. This example viewed from th e side, th eir back legs and
by John Townsend is in stiles were no longer of a reverse curved
the Chinese style and
cyma shape, but were now one continuous
measures 331j2in. long.
cur ve, arcing from the crest rail, into the
MUSEUM) seat, and outward to form th e rear leg. Th e
splat, which had also been cyma-shaped,
was now flat or gently arched with intricate
Pem brok e tables and hin ged su pports on th e table fram e to pierced designs. The crest rail, previously
The term "Pembroke" refers to a sma ll table hold th e exte nded leaves. C hippendale yoke-shaped to flow smoot hly int o th e
wit h dro p leaves about 3 ft. across when illustrated similar tables in both Chinese vert ical st iles, now merged with th e st iles in
open; it is part icularly descriptive of a and French styles, which undoubtedly up ward and outward facing "ears."Th ese
family of small d rop-leaf tables of th e influe nced th e Am ericans. Th e earlier style changes were all part of th e mid-Georgian
Chippenda le per iod th at developed at mid - of breakfast table, d ifferent iated by design changes that preceded
centu ry. Th ey were th e cont inuatio n of swinging legs to su pport th e leaves, Chippenda le's influ ence but arrived in
wha t had been called th e breakfast tables of continued wit h th e inclusion of ball and Am erica with th e Director and other books.
the Q ueen Anne period, but th ey generally claw feet and updated details. As evidenced in th e Director, mid-Georgian
had a square top, ofte n wit h a dr awer at one chairs wit h cabriole legs were built wit hout
end, cross st retchers between st raight legs, st retchers, but st raight and simple

Queen Anne and Chippendale Chairs Compared


Arched crest rail Side stiles and crest rail

merge into 'ears.'
Cyma-curve back
Single curve back

Solid splat Pierced splat

Stretcher usuallyomitted
with ball and claw feet

74 C H A P T E R FOU R
SI DE CHAIR . NEWPORT . 1765-1790. SID E CH AIR . PHILA D EL PHI A . 1760 -178 0 . SIDE CHAIR . PHILADELPHIA . 1755 -1780 .
Rectili near chairs. showing the influence of The Gothic element of Chippend ale's designsmade Philadelphia chairs exhibit the closest adherenceto
Chippendale's Chinese design s and usually made with little impact in America, but its influence can be seen London designs in both form and ornament. The
simple stretchers, are an importantsubset of Ameri can in some chair backs that feature interlaced pointed proportions of this chair are close to those of English
Chippendale design. The formwas extended to include arches, as in this example byThomas Tufft. examples of the period.
ea sy chairs and sofaswith straight legs and stretchers. (COURTESY WINTERTHUR MUSEUM) (COURTESY MUSEUM OF ART. RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN)



st retchers were specified on th ose of Easy cha irs

C hinese inspirat ion. Th at convent ion was Alth ou gh th ere are examples of easy chairs
cont inued in American pieces (see th e in th e cu rvaceous French style, most
photo at left above). Am erican makers appli ed th e new design
Th e promin ent design elem ent in eleme nts to exist ing forms. Thi s usually
Chippendale chairs is th e cha ir back. The meant giving t he piece a more majest ic look
crest rail and splat design flow togeth er as by including ball and claw feet and
an int egral unit, and th eir designs can ofte n updat ing th e shape to include a serpent ine
be traced dir ectly to th e designs of back. Stylistically, easy chairs remained ver y
Chippendale or Robert Manwaring, wh o sim ilar to th e earlier style. Th e ample and
published The Cabinet and Chair-Maker's relaxed posture of t he Queen Ann e cha irs
Real Friend and Companion in 1765. Th e needed on ly cosmet ic cha nges to fit th e
scrolled splat shapes are usually of a Rococo C h ippe ndale ideals. Furthermore, th e
design, but int erlaced pointed arches are nature of the piece was influenced by th e
Gothi c in nature , and are perhaps the only up holst ery materia l as mu ch as by its
significant influe nce th e Gothic style had design, and upholstering an easy chair in a
on American pieces (center photo above) rich damask accomplished as mu ch for its
Th e elaborate nature of th e carved detail on cha racte r as any redesign.
Chippen dale chairs varies regionally, with
EASY CH A IR . BOS TO N , 17 60 -1 79 0 .
Philadelphi a pieces showing th e most
Chippendale easy chairschanged little from their
carving and th e closest adherence to th e
earlier Queen Anne counterparts. with the exception of
Lond on designs (ph oto at right above). decorative details like ball and claw feet and carved
knees. New York and Phi ladelphia easy chairs were
often built without stretchers.

T HE C H I P P EN 0 A LE S T Y L E 75
SOFA , PHILA DELPHIA . 1765-1780 .
The shapes of the period 's sofas show less restraint than earlier versions. This example has thestraight molded legs
and stretchers deriving from the Chinese aspect of the Chippendale designs.

Upholstere d sofas reached a stylistic peak Bedsteads becam e th e subject of renewed
during th e Chippendale era, and th e most int erest dur ing th e Chippendale era. As
spectacular came from Philadelphia. Th ey hom es became larger and th eir furnishings
went quite beyond C hippendale's more exte nsive, bedro oms became more
inspiratio n to becom e scu lptural works in th an just places to sleep. In th e more elegant
th eir own right. American designers used homes of t he period, one would read, writ e
serpent ine fronts and backs and sweeping or take tea or breakfast in one's room, and
ar m rolls to bui ld an elegant form on whi ch th e bedstead accord ingly became more
to display vast st retc hes of th e finest stylish and less utilitarian .
imported fabrics. Som e have ball and claw Chippenda le illustrated a number of
feet on cabriole legs, and ot hers have bedp osts in th e Director th at were
st raight molded legs wit h or with out square inspirational to American makers in th eir
block feet called Marlborough legs. Sofas quest for suita ble designs. Tall-post beds
were sti ll very expensive, but th ose who wit h luxuri ous hangings were th e style
cou ld afford th em wanted to be sure th ey of th e day. Most of Chi ppen dale's designs
wou ld be th e focal point of any room. By had Marlborough legs, whic h saw wide
the Chippenda le era, couches, or day beds, accepta nce through th e second half of the
had fallen out of fashion in favor of more TALL POST BEDSTEAD . PROBAB LY
century. Ball and claw feet on stout cabrio le
luxurious upholste red pieces. MASSACHUSE TTS . 176 0-1790 . legs were also made in America, but th ey
Most of the designs for beds in the Director have d id not enjoy th e lasting popularity of
Marlborough legs, but Americans, still fond of ball and Marlborough legs.
claw feet half a century after they had peaked in
England, used them into the fourth quarterof the

carr ied from on e style into th e next. Th ere th e form of th ese pieces, Of particular note
were th e inevitable improvements in are th e cur ved-front treatments arising
join er y, such as fin er and more deli cat e from th e French influence, some of wh ich
dovet ails, and greate r precision in joints to were illustrated in th e Director. Th ese
ensure st rengt h in deli cate members. Th ere treatments include th e serpent ine fro nt,
had also evolved improved method s of t he block front and th e bombe shape, all
attaching feet and tops, which, whil e not of w hich emp hasize th e su bsta nce of
major st ructura l changes, better allowed for th e piece.
th e expansion and cont ract ion of wood
without sacrificing strengt h. Th ese S ERP ENTIN E F RON TS
improvem ents were simpl y t he natural Serpentine chests have a doub le-reverse
progress of refin em ent in t he newly cu rve-fro nt profil e, convex in th e cente r
developed meth od s of dovetail -based and concave at eit he r side (see th e ph ot o
const ruct ion method s. below), The style is th orou ghly French,
having come from co m mo de-bu reaus as
illustrated in th e Director. Th ere were lim its
Decorative Elements to what could be don e to stylize a chest of
Aside from th e decorative elem ents of dr awers, and making a ser pent ine fro nt was
carving, which accou nted for th e majority a relatively simple way to give th e piece th e
of t he orn ame nt on C h ippendale-era pieces, impa ct that was associated wit h th e era .
more su blime eleme nts were designed int o H igher-style exa mples included a carved


Chippendale 's designs for beds were far too elaborate
for America n tastes, but they show the importance of
the bed and its hangings during the period .

C hippendale illustrated 15 elaborately

canopied beds, ind icating th e imp ortance
that th e bed and its han gings had at th e
tim e. His mor e flamboyant designs have
carved and gilded corn ices supported by th e
pillars, or post s, and for one plat e he not es
that th e legs are not int ended to be covered.
He also notes that th e hangings may be tied
up like a drapery or drawn across on a rod,
and one design mention s pu lleys to hoist up
th e hangings. It was clear that according to
th e tastes of Lond on, th e bed was to be
throne-like in its majesty and to be th e
cabinetmaker and upholsterer' s joint tour

Chippendale Structure
Am erican C hippendale structure was a
continuatio n of that of th e Qu een Anne
designs. Apart from th eir proportions and
Serpentine case fronts added visual impact to pieces that were boxlike and otherwise difficult to ornament.
orna mentat ion, th e forms were nearly
ide ntical and th e meth ods of const ruct ion

T HE C H I P P E N D A L E S T Y L E 77
vert ical panel or pilaste r at the outer edges
of th e case, set at a 45 angle to the front
and sides . Thi s design, too, was from French
examples, and it exte nded orn ame nt to t he
sides of th e chest. The angled-eorne r shape
was carried through to th e top and down
th rough th e base and feet as well. Other
Ame rican pieces have a reverse serpent ine
shape, where th e center is concave and
eithe r side is convex. In both cases,
Ame rican makers cut th e serpent ine drawer
fronts fro m solid wood , and they cut a
correspo nding shape on th e inside to give
drawer fronts a u niform th ickness.

Block-front designs d iffer fro m serpent ine
fronts in t hat t heir shaping is not a
cont inuo us flowin g cu rve. O n a typical
block-front piece, t he fron t is d ivided int o
three vertical panels, with th e cente r area
depressed and th e oute r two panel s raised

BUREAU TABLE , NEWPORT , 1 7 B 5- 1 7 9 0 .

This piece by jo hn Townsend exemplifies the Newport cabinetmakers' integration of the
block frontwith both form and ornament.

about 1/ 2 in. or % in. The earliest dated claw feet, coincidental but imp ortant
example of Am erican block-front furniture aspects of th e Am erican style. In th e Co it
is th e Job Co it desk and bookcase, mad e in piece, th e blocking ends in half-rou nd
Boston and dated 173 8 (see th e photo at shapes on t he upper drawer, but extends
left ). It is t hou ght to have derived from down onto geomet ric bracket feet.
English and perhaps earlier Dutch or Block fronts were used on desks and
Ger man designs, since t here are no clear chests all along th e coast fro m Portsmouth
para llels in French pieces. Th e design has no to New York, but no one developed the style
basis in th e Rococo and in fact has a as highly as did th e cabinetmakers of
distinctly Baroqu e flavor. Th is first New port . Th e Goddar ds and Townsends
Am erican example predates th e Director by worked sophisticated curved-ray shells (see
]6 years, making block fron ts, like ball and pp. 164-16 6) into t he u pper terminus of
th e blocking and carried it downward
th rou gh ogee feet to end in t iny scrolled
volutes. Th eir refinement of th e style gave it
a permanent place of promi nence in
The j ob Coit desk and bookcase is the earliest dated furn iture history, and th eir style was
piece of block-front furniture. emulated in ot her cities. Newport cabinet-
(COURTESY WIN TERTHUR MUSEUM) makers, however, had an un surpassed

78 C II APT E R F 0 U R
mastery of th e style, wh ich th ey applied to
desks, desk bookcases, chests and bureau- 1760-1785 .
tables or kneehole desks. Like serpentine- The bambe form was in
front drawers, block-front dr awers are cut vogue in Boston from
from th e solid. Th e except ion is th e convex 1753 into the 1780s.
The curved sides are
shells, whi ch were usually carved separate ly
shaped from the solid. In
and appli ed. Skilled makers would carve combination with a
th em from th e next board in seque nce so serpentine front, the
th e grain and pattern ing would match th e visual effect is arresting.
drawer front exactly. RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF

Th e third decorative shape is th e bombe
family of furniture. Bambi is Fren ch for
"bulged" or "swelled" and refers to th e
chests, desks and desk bookcases th at have
th e pear-shaped bul ging lower sides and
fronts. Th e most arrest ing examples
combine th e bombe shape with a
serpentine front to yield fronts th at curve
in all directions.
Th e earliest dated Am erican bornb e
piece was bu ilt in 175 3 by Benjamin
Frothingham Sr. of Boston, predating th e
Director by one year. Th e style had come to
Lond on fro m France, and at least one piece piece, as are th e Newp ort cur ved-ray she lls,
from Lond on was known to have been rath er th an added as an aftert ho ught . Th e
imported to Boston . Th e style remained Am ericans were aware th at excessive
uniqu e to th e Boston and North Shore area orna men t on such powerful forms ran th e
and was st ill fashionable well int o th e risk of appearing su perficial and could
1780s, some two decades after passing out diminish th e desired stateliness of th e
of style in Lond on. Th e French shape as C hippenda le style.
recorded by Chippendale was more of an
inverted pear shape, wit h th e greatest bul ge HARDWARE
at th e top of th e case, just th e inverse of th e An imp ort ant decorative eleme nt for case
shape that was pop ular in Boston . Th e pieces was th e use of large polished-b rass
lower bul ge was an English ada pta tion, pull plates and escutc heo ns. Th ey were
since no trace of it is to be found on th e genera lly mu ch larger th an th eir Q uee n
Euro pean mainland . Am erican makers Anne cou nterparts and becam e an
shaped th e cur ved sides and drawer fronts important part of th e opulent look that was
from th e solid. In Europe, wh ere th ick in demand . Som etimes th e brasses were
cabinet-grade wood was scarce, the curves pierced for added effect, and very special CHESTON FRAME .
were built up fro m pieces of secondary pieces had imp orted or mo lu brasses of high
Historic Deerfield's well-known Mary Hoyte chest-on-
wood, shaped and veneered over. Rococo design. O n pieces of more ru ral
frame, with its distinctive scalloped top, has many of
All three of th ese front profil es seem to origin, wh ere earlier styles lingered for the attributesof a Qu een Ann e piece. The bold
have been ornate enough for th e American decades, or iginal br asses of a C h ippen dale brasses, which are the full height of the top drawer,
taste wit hout undue carving or ext ra cha racter are sometimes th e key in indicate a laterdate.
ornamentation. As a result, Am erican determining wh en th e piece was built.
examples with th ese shapes are remarkably Given th e Am erican propen sity for letting
restrained in th eir orna ment. Where it does one style evolve into th e next , it is often
occur, it is worked int o th e design of th e th e brasses that defin e a piece, ide nt ifying
it as having been made in one era while
its overall design is a con ti nuat ion of
earlier ones.

D esigns for the New Republic

h e last third of th e 18th cent u ry

wit nessed yet anot he r rem arkable change in
Euro pean and Am erican furniture design.
As had happ en ed so ofte n before, a new
style was eme rging th at was th e ant it hesis
of its predecessor. Th rou ghout th e centu ry,
the prevailing tastes had swung fro m
classicism to th e exotic, and orna me nt had
changed from th e restr ained to t he
out rageous and back again several times.
T he latest trend was a rejecti on of th e
Rococo and a retu rn to designs inspir ed by
th e classic art and architecture of ancient
Greece and Rom e. In what was later to
be know n as th e Federal period , th e
Neoclassical influence of G reek and
Roman design came to bear on fu rni ture
design as it had in t he govern men t of t he
new republic.

The Neoclassical Style The spa rse orderliness of Neoclassical design pervaded
furniture of the Federal era and alsoextended to the
Most of th e renewed int erest in th e classical saw it as an ant idote to th e excesses of th e
arrangement of pieces within a room . This plate from
style was in respon se to th e excavat ions of Rococo. Th ere was also a certain Hepplewhite's Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide
Herculaneum and Pompeii, which had roma nt icism att ached to th e classic designs. of 1788 shows a suggested arrangement and
started in 173 8. Du rin g th e 175 0s and Th ey we re a reflecti on of what was illustratesthe integration of furniturewith the room
1760s, many illust rated books appeared on imagined to be a per fect and well-orde red architecture.
ancient art and artifacts. Rom e becam e a world, where th e works of ar tisans and
mecca for archeologists and scho lars as well architects were exalted and exuded th e
as for designers and arch itects wh o refin ed simp licity of a harm oniou s society.
appreciated th e purity of classic design and At th e same t ime, classic designs appealed

to the Eu ropean fascinatio n wit h th e
exotic, just as did th e Chinese, Goth ic and
Rococo styles.
T he renewed interest in th e classics first
manifested itself in th e collect ing of art and
antiq ues. Th e English and European
aristocracy collected and disp layed ancient
artifacts along with paintings and artwo rk
in th eir grand hou ses. T he Grand Tour of
th e cit ies of Europe, including Rom e, was
still part of t he cultural developmen t of th e
young elite.

The one person who was most respon sible
for int rodu cing th e Neoclassical taste to
England was th e architect Robert Adam
( 1728- 1792). Like most inspired young
designers, he went to Italy in his mid-
twenties. Th ere he visited th e ruin s of th e
SI DE TAB LE . LONDON . 177 8 .
Palace of Diocletian, and prod uced
Thistablehas the delicate proportion s, tapered legs and ornament in low relief of the
drawings of the palace in its or iginal
Adam style. It was made by the Chippendale firm a year before Chippendale's death.
cond ition. He took exception to th e (COURTESY CHRISTOPHER GILBERT ANO ARTLINES [UK) LTO.I
Palladian trend s in interior design for
having been adapted from exterior
architectu ral details of Roman temp les.
Murals th at had been u neart hed in th e orna ment. Adam was insistent on using as part of side-ta ble sets (as knife cases or
excavations revealed to Adam what he orna ment to enhance designs, not to water containe rs), as fin ials and as applied
considered to be the true forms of classical overpower th em . He realized th at th e composit ion orn ame nt. Ovals were also a
domestic interior decoration, wh ich he beaut y of design was in its lines, and th at favorite shape in th e Adam style. T hey were
described as "all delicacy, gaiety, grace th e lines were not to be obscu red by used for mi rror fram es and cha ir backs and
and beauty." decorat ive add ition s. as inlaid or app lied panel s. Small oval or
Wh en Adam retu rned to Lond on in roun d rosettes, called paterae, were a
1758, his firsthand knowledge of th e classic The Ada m sty le com mo n applied decorati ve element. Th e
forms made him a rising sta r amo ng Th e elements of th e Adam designs for classic lyre sha pe also fou nd its way into
architects. At thi s tim e, inte rest in th e furniture were clean and simple. Ca briole designs, usually in chair backs. Anoth er
Rococo was beginning to wane, and legs were generally replaced by slender, eleme nt seen often is th e antliemi on , a st ring
Neoclassical tr ends were eme rging as th e st raight tapered legs or st raight legs th at of hon eysuckle buds arranged in a garland.
newest fashion. In 177 3, Adam and his ended in plinth feet , such as Marlb orou gh From ancien t architect u re came flu ted legs
brother and partner James began to issue a legs. Th e swelled shapes of case pieces were and friezes, and in keepi ng with th e spirit
series of engravings depictin g some of t heir simplified to be semi -eircular or sem i- of t he style swags and festoons were added.
many designs for bui ldin gs and furnitu re. elliptical, and sweeping Rococo apro ns were W h ile carving was an import ant part of
Thi s folio was ent itled Works ill Architecture, strai ghtened to more linear shapes. th e Rococo style, the clean geometric lines
and it firmly established th e Adam broth ers Elaborate moldings were simplified and of th e Neoclassical style did not lend
as the aut hor itative voice on Neoclassical redu ced in size to give th em a more delicate th em selves to its use. Carving was not
design and orna ment. As C hippenda le's appea rance. Th e lift and delicacy th at had aband on ed altoget he r, but its decorat ive use
book had do ne, Works ill A rchitecture helped once been associated with th e Q ueen Ann e was greatly diminished . When it was
spread th e popularity of th e new style. style had returned in a very different form . employed, it was used sparingly as
T he Adam style brought new for ms of Th e Ada m broth ers also int rodu ced su ppleme nta l or app lied orna me nt.
fu rn iture and new styles of ornament. some new elements int o the lexicon of Marq uetry becam e th e predominant
Rococo, as practiced by the English, used furnitu re orn ament t hat had been inspired form of su rface decoration . Unlike carving,
Early Georgian and French-inspired by an cien t ar tifacts. The most notable of it allowed th e su rface to be orna me nted
furni tu re designs as a platform for carved th ese was th e urn shape. Urns appeared on wit hou t interrup ti ng th e lines of th e piece.
pedestals as freesta nd ing decorative pieces,

T HE F E D ERA L P E R I 0 [) 81
In orde r to be effective, marquetry required
th e use of cont rast ing woods, so light woods PAR IS . C.17 ao .
like sati nwood, holly and harewood were The Louis XVI style
favori tes. Inlaid decorati on included st ring embodiedthe French
inlays and cross-banded bord ers, and oval or Neoclassical movement
and shared many
rou nd cent ral panels wit h favorite
similarities of form
eoclassical moti fs of urns and flowers. andornament with the
Adam 's own designs for clients sometimes Adam style.
called for decorative porcelain pan els as a (COURTESY THE
centra l orna me nt, su pplied by suc h MUSEUM OF ART)

craftsmen as Josiah Wedgwood . He also

used painted panels dep ictin g Neoclassical
scenes, eit he r in soft colors or ell grisaille,
shades of gray. Th ese painted panel s were
used in both his fu rn itu re and archi tectural
details. For th ese, Adam lu red decorative
artists from Swit zerland and Italy to work
in Lond on .
Painted orna me nt proved to be ver y
effective, and its use was expanded to
include ent irely painted pieces. Muted
secondary colors were in favor, and pieces
were painted to harm oni ze wit h Adam's
interior t reatments. He ofte n called for
painted su rfaces to simu late marbl e and
mad e use of scagliola, plaster work made to
simulate stone, in both fu rn iture and
T he shift from carving to two-
di mensional decoration did not occu r window hard ware, silver tea services and th e style was known as th e G reek or antique
overn ight; neither did th e cha nge fro m cand lestic ks. Th e actua l bui ldin g of th eir style, but later came to be known as th e
Rococo to Neoclassical design. In his first furniture designs was cont racted out to th e Loui s XVI style, th ou gh Loui s did not take
few years in Lond on , Adam 's designs for leadi ng cabinet makers of th e day,Th om as th e thron e until 1774.
fu rni tu re were ver y mu ch like th e exist ing Chippend ale's firm amo ng th em. By th e Th e Adam style set th e stage for th e
mid -Georgian designs of the 1760 s, but end of th e 1760s, th e firm wh ose nam e has balance of th e 18th century in English
with his own app lication of classic come to be synonymous wit h th e English furniture design. Adam had introdu ced th e
orna me nt. As his own style develop ed and Rococo, was doin g some of its fin est work, Neoclassical taste that brou ght about th e
matured and popular sent iment turned bu t in th e Adam style. end of th e Rococo era. Th e famous designers
away fro m th e Rococo, th e Neoclassical Th e tr ansformation from Rococo to wh o followed based mu ch of th eir work on
elements becam e more pron ounced . By th e Neoclassical design was nearly th e foundation established by Adam, but, as
end of th e decade th e tran sformation was simulta neo us in France. Th ere, th e Rococo history would have it, th eir names would be
complete, and by 177 5, bu oyed by th e had its detractors all alon g, but it wasn't more closely associated with th e style.
acclaim th at Works ill A rchitecture had until th e 1760s th at th e style was
received, Ada m had perfected his style and su pplanted by th e Neoclassical. In nearly
achieved his desired delicacy of form and every previou s style, English fashio n had G eorge Hepplewhite
restraint of orna ment. followed th e French , but th e shift to Geo rge Hep plewhite was one of th e many
Th e Adam brot he rs' designs were Neoclassical in both cou nt ries was th e London cabinet makers who followed th e
rema rkab le in th eir detail, for th ey believed result of inspir ati on from Rom e. Th at is Neoclassical style as prescribed by Adam.
t here was no part of th e int eri or th at was not to say th at th e development of th e His cabinet making shop was one of th ose
beyond th eir scope. Thi s credo exte nded to style in England and France was totally commissio ned by Adam to execute his
designing such furni shings as lighting ind epend ent. England and France sha red designs, which is a testament to
devices, fireplace equipme nt , door and man y ideas, but neith er cou ntry copied Heppl ewhite's talent. Heppl ewhite's name
wh olesale from th e ot he r's lead . In France m ight not have achieved a lastin g place in

82 C II A I' T E R F I V E
OF PLATE 31, Hepplewhite's designs are not able for th eir
A . HEPPLEWHITE & elegant simplicity and clean geometric
forms (see th e illustration at left) . Addi ng
UPHOLSTERER 'S a restrained pract icalit y to Ad am 's
GUIDE . 3RD ED , inspiration al designs, th ey conti nued t he
(LONDON . 17 9 4) .
Adam preferen ce for st raight tapered legs,
Hepplewhite's designs
used the same usually squa re in cross sect ion, but
geometric lines as somet imes rou nd . Ofte n th e legs end in
Adam's, but with a spad e feet . Adam 's aim s of lightness and lift
greater practicality and were co nt inued by keeping case height s
restraint of ornament.
short and legs long and slende r. Reflecting
PUBLICAnONS) th e mature Adam style, carved applied
ornament was used sparingly and in low
relief. Th e cur ved fronts of sofas, chairs and
fu rnitu re history had his widow not designs. Each was a compend iu m of the som e case pieces were gen tl e serpent ines,
published TheCabinet-Makerand most fashionable prevailin g London and ot he r case pieces continued Adam's
Upholsterer's G uide two years after his death designs, and so both were published with preferen ce for simpl e plan shapes like sem i-
in 1788. th e hope of findin g fashion-starved circles and semi-ellipses.
cabinet makers outside th e main stream . The G uide is surprisingly complete in
THE G U ID E Each publication esta blished th e aut ho r's conveying design and det ailin g in its plates.
The Guide is a volume of over 200 des igns name as syno nymo us with th e style, th ou gh Its illu stration s are far more lifelike th an
for household furn iture . T he des igns are in each case th e style predates th e book. th ose of th e Director, and they have th e
thought to be taken from drawings of pieces Neit he r aut hor was th e leading cabinet- appea rance of havin g been d rawn from
tha t Hepplewhite's firm made over th e ma ker of th e day. As with C h ippendale, actual exa mples rat her th an fro m th e
years, and therefore did not present any new th ere are no pieces know n to be th e im agination . The det ails of orna ment are
designs. What th e drawings do represent is perso nal work of G eorge Hepplewh ite, precise and realistic. The chairs and sofas
an assemb lage of popular Neoclassica l and, st ranger st ill, th ere are no vest iges of show a variety of fabric patterns and give a
forms as they were made in Lon don in t he Hep plewhitc' s bu siness othe r th an th e sense of th e appropriate plumpness of th e
1780s. name on th e G uide and six plates included period upholstery. The designs th at call for
As a cab inet ma ker and not solely a in The Cabinet-Maker'sLondon Boole of decorative veneer clearly illust rate th e
designer, Hepplewh ite and his firm Prices, published in 1788. marqu etry design, so th e grain d irection ,
presented a practical version of th e Neo-
classical in th e G uide. Adam 's fu rn itu re
designs were for th e great hous es of th e
nobility, and th eir app earan ce was primar y HEPPLEWHITE 'S
and th e cost and di fficulty of th eir GUIDE .

execution secon dary . While th e Hepple- The Guide was

remarkably complete in
white firm built to Adam 's specificatio ns,
showing details of
th ey and ot he r cabinet make rs built for ornament, including
customers of lesser means to who m style figured veneer patterns.
was important , but cost was a facto r. Th e (COURTESY DOVER
Guide, by illust rat ing practical designs th at
could be built by almost any skilled
cabinetmaker, became th e aut ho rita tive
Neoclassical furni tu re-design boo k.
As had C hippendale's Director, th e
Guide served to popularize and disse minate
the new style, but th e two books had many
oth er poin ts in com mo n as well. Neither
book was a vehicle for int roducing new

molding between. The shape of th e apro n
and th e outward bend of th e feet were one
of the last holdovers from th e Loui s XV
style, but th e French feet finished off th e
bases of case pieces in keeping with th e
Heppl ewhite look. Th e Guide includes one
of th e first illustration s of a bow-front chest
of dr awers with a simple convex front,
showing th e Neoclassical preference for
simple plan shapes applied to a form th at
had previou sly been serpen ti ne or bornbe,
Also shown are some of th e first sideboa rds
wit h d rawers (see the illustr ati on below).
Previou sly, th ey had simp ly been side board
tabl es, but with th e add ition of dr awers
th ey were becoming more like case pieces,
and are shown with shap ed fronts.

Pr act ical co nsi de ra t ions

The practical Heppl ewhite approach to
fu rn iture design sheds light on th e everyday
uses of late 18th-eentu ry pieces and shows
how th e designs of architects were adap ted
to th e needs of everyday life. According to
The Adam preference for ova l-back chairs had given Adam, no grand hou se of th e day would
way to shield-back chairs bythe time the Guide was have been complete with out a pair of
first publi shed in 1788. pedestals and urns on eit he r side of a Hepplewhite's cabinetmaking experience added a
sideboard table. The G uide illustr ates and practical dimension to Adam's designs. The Guide
explains th at one pedestal is designed as a illustrated how an orname ntal Adarnesque urn and
plate-warming cabinet , lined wit h tin and pedestal could double as an ice-water dispenser and
equ ipped wit h racks and a heater (see th e plate-warmingcabinet.
string inlays and figure of crotch and swirl
veneers are evident. The Guide shows a illust rat ion at right). Th e ot her pedesta l
detailed variety of corn ice and base serves as a pot cup boa rd, bu t one hopes it is
moldings, and even includes a room plan not th e same chee rful term used in
with wall elevat ions to illust rate th e proper referen ce to chamber-pot cu pboards. The
placemen t of furniture (see th e illustr at ion urns are describ ed as bein g knife cases or
on p. 80). ice-water dispen sers.
Hep plewh ite's G uide illust rated in part
the evolution of th e Neoclassica l style since
Adam's introduct ion of it in th e 1760s.
Some 20 years had passed between t he HEPPLEWH ITE ' S
disp lacement of t he Rococo and th e GUIDE.

publ ication of th e Guide. Ada m's The Guide was one of

the first publications to
preference for oval chair backs had evolved
illustrate the sideboard,
into shield backs, a form ind icati ve of th e a newform for the
Hepp lewhite style. Th e G uide also period. The illustration,
illust rated many squa re-back chairs, with a including details of bottle
predomi nance of hori zont al and vertical compartments, set the
elemen ts, which were descend ed fro m pattern of design for
American sideboards.
some of Adam's "Etr uscan" chai rs. One (COURTESY OOVER
favorite base for chests and desks used a PUBLICATlONS)

gently scrolled apron and ou tward-eurved,

tapered French feet. The apron an d feet are
con tinuous with t he case, often witho ut a

Sideboards are shown with built-in as a means of adverti sing and promoting his preface is a harangue against th e books th at
features such as drawer dividers to hold cabinetma king bu siness, but Heppl ewhite preceded it. Sherat on derid es th e quality of
bottl es, lined drawers for silverware and a d id not. A firsth and account of Sherat on's drawings and design in C hippendale and
drawer lined with lead and equipped wit h a situat ion is included in th e 1885 Memoirsof Heppl ewhite's books, amo ng others'. H is
drain valveto hold water for washin g Adam Black, who in 1804 came to London critical com ments cast a pall over th e
glasses. It is noted th at th ey are ofte n made from Scotland lookin g for work. Sheraton Drawing Book and suggest th at his own
to fit in a recess. Th e Guide also pictures a paid him half a guinea to spend a week caust ic and eccent ric personality may have
large num ber of pract ical pieces: dr essing cleaning and organizing his disast rously been responsible for his failings.
tables, shaving sta nds, night tables and pot untidy shop. Black describ es him as being: Although Ada m is not mentioned, his
cabinets, basin sta nds, bidets and Neoclassical designs are th e basis for
wardro bes, indicatin g th at th e stylish an obscu re st reet , his house, half Sheraton's Drawing Book pieces. If
cabinetmaker's work was not rest ricted to shop half dwellin g hou se, and looked Heppl ewhite represented th e first practical
flamb oyant show pieces. They were, after him self like a worn -out Meth odi st ph ase of th e early Neoclassical, Sherat on
all, th e manu facturers of th eir day. minis ter, with th readbare black coat . repr esents th e next phase. Buildin g up on
I took tea with th em one afte rnoon. t he Adam esqu e foundation, Sheraton took
There was a cu p and sau cer for the t he new ta ste to t he next level of
Thomas Sheraton host, another for his wife, and a little refinement. T he similarities between his
Th omas Sheraton (1751-1 80 6) is one of porringer for th eir dau ghter. Th e designs and Hepp lewhite's are many, but
th e more curious characte rs in furniture wife's cup and sauce r were given to Sherat on's drawings show more del icacy
history. He had many interests and ta lents me, and she had to put up with a and a more refin ed use of orna me nt.
but was so un focused th at he was never very littl e porringer. Miserable as th e pay Sheraton showed more int erest in tapered
successful at any of th em. At various tim es was, I was half asham ed to take it turned legs of slende r proportions, whereas
in his life he was a cabinet maker, art ist, from th e poor man . Heppl ewhite ofte n used square tapered
inventor, author, publisher, teacher, mystic legs. Sheraton d ropp ed most of th e curved
and Baptist preacher, or more ofte n a Adam Black went on to becom e th e case fro nts and replaced th em with
simulta neous combina t ion of th em all. publi sher of th e Encyclopedia Britannica. st raighter facades. Wh en he did use curved
Trained as a cabinetmaker, Sheraton likely Th e Drawing Book sought to enhance th e surfaces, th ey were very simple in for m, like
worked in th e employ of others at first but role of dr awin g and th e rules of perspective cylind rical desk lids or library tables with
looked to cont inue on his own path. It is in guide books, and th e first half does so cylind rical ends. Against a backd rop of
not known to what exte nt he pursued splendid ly. Th e second half illustr ates more geomet ric form s, he int ermingled
cabinetmaki ng, but if it was anything like fu rnitu re designs, showing Sheraton's skill simple but elegantly curved elem ents in
his other interests, it was sporad ic at best. as both a designer and draftsman . Th e chair backs and bookcase door mulli ons.
Th roughout his life he tri ed to make his
mark in th e world, but his story is one of
unfulfill ed dreams and una chieved success.
Between 1791 and 1794 Sheraton THOMA S S H E RAT ON ,
published The Cabinet-Maker and AND UPHOLSTER ER 'S
Upholsterer's Drawing Book in four parts DRAWIN G BOOK

containing a total of 113 plates. An ( L ON D ON . 1 7 91-1794) .

This pier table with
expanded ed ition of 122 plates was
turned legs shows
pub lished in 180 2, followed by The Cabinet Sheraton 's refined useof
Dictionary in 1803. In 1805 he started to ornament, including
publish The Cabinet-Maker, Upholsterer and turnings, and an
General Artist's Encyclopedia, which was to appreciation for very
be issued in 125 part s. Sheraton died in delicate proportion.
1806 having completed only 30 . PUBLICATlONS)

Sheraton is best remembered for th e

Drawing Book, but alt hough it was
reprinted in three edit ions, it did not brin g
him financial success. He him self said th at
th e expense of publi shin g it left him very
little profit. Chippenda le had used his book

T II E FE D E RA L I' E R I O D 85
D ESIGN FOR A FRONT replaced it with inlay, and Sheraton for th e rich C hippe ndale designs cont inued
successfu lly integrated both carved, inlaid un abated . Whi le English cabinet makers
D ETAIL OF P LATE 10 , and tu rn ed decorat ion into th e form. were taking up t he style of Adam in the
Turnings had not been an imp ortant 1760s, th e Am ericans had just sta rted to
B OO K . decora tive element since th e William and explore th e possibilit ies of th e C hippendale
Sheraton's carving Mary period. designs and were adap ting th em to th eir
design s were delicate Sheraton's inventiven ess is evide nt in a own markets' preferences. Increasingly bad
enough to embellish a number of his designs. One of his ideas for relati ons with England and th e popu lar
piece without interfering
seat ing furniture held heating rods. A dislike for Crown officials and th eir loyalist
with the shape of its
form. Sheraton lib rary table converts into library su pporters cont rib uted to a general
(COURrESY OOVER steps . H is Harlequ in Pembroke Table American dis regard for th e new style.
featured a case of drawers and pigeonholes With th e outbreak of host ilities in ]77 5,
t hat arose from t he table top to convert it and th e full-fledged war of th e following
into a desk. One design for a circular dining years, advanceme nt of furniture styles
table had a t hree-leveled turntable built sto pped. Th e end of t he war came in ]78],
into t he center. A chair unfolded to becom e but it was not until 17 84 t hat th e Definitive
a bed, a precursor of mod ern convertible Treaty was signed, recognizing th e
furniture. His Lady's Wri tin g Table held ind epend ence of th e United States. Aft er
candle holders and doubled as a vanity. th e war th e country and its economy were
With th e release of a catc h, a mirror rose in a precariou s state, and in 1784 th e
from th e back of t he case, lifted by country began a slide int o depression.
counterweights . Needless to say,during t he war and th e
Sheraton's designs are classified as either de pression that followed, the decorative arts
early or late. The early designs, as exemplified and fu rn iture making were in a do rman t
in the first editions of the Drawing Book, period. Wh at cabinet making existed
were Neoclassical in the tradition of Robert followed th e prewar styles, and it likely
Adam . Aft er the turn of t he century and involved a lot of repair and replaceme nt .
wit h the publ ication of The Cabinet Practical consideratio ns had taken priority
D ictionary, Sheraton was increasingly over fashion, and most t radesman did
influenced by th e French Directoire and whatever th ey could to su rvive th e hard
emerging French Emp ire styles, and his work tim es. Som e of th e new Neoclassical
took on a decidedly different, somet imes fu rni tu re had been bu ilt in America before
bizarre flavor. Th e French styles were an th e war, but it was not enough to be
overblown version of t he Neoclassical th at considered a mainstream style. With new
spoke mo re of imperial grandeur th an th e tastes well established in Europe, a new
har monio us ancient societ ies t hat had and prom ising govern men t in place in
inspired Adam . T hey includ ed th e use of the Un ited States and an improving
carved lions, sphinxes and griffins, and econo my, th e] 79 0s were to be a decade
adop ted Gr eek and Roman furn iture form s of profound change.
such as Grecian couches, klismos or saber-leg
The fine det ail of orn ament was integral chairs and curule or cross-base chairs (see
to th e design of Sheraton pieces. Turnings Chapter 6). The style foreshadowed t he The Fed eral Era
inh erentl y have more visua l interest than English Regency period th at followed. Thi s As th e United States recovered fro m the
flat squa re legs, and th ey were fu rther last phase is sometimes referred to as war and ente red an era of increased
enhanced with straight or spiral reeding or Sheraton 's decadent period and bears little pro sperity in th e late ]780 s, it was ready to
carved foliage (see th e engraving above). Th e resem blance to his early designs. ado pt th e newest fashion s in th e decorative
She rato n designs show a renewed int erest in arts. Am erican fu rn itu re design had
intricate carved and turned detail, mo st of changed little since th e late ]7 50s and saw
which had been st ripped away during
Upheaval in America virtually no advances th rough th e war years.
Hepplewhi te's reign. Sher aton illust rated Th e American int erpret ation of t he Neo- Th e American gratit ude to th e French did
th e orna me nt in min ut e detail, with th e classical style followed t he lead of England not exte nd to a widesp read appreciation for
idea th at it was to enhance th e form but not with some modificat ion s and delays. T he th eir fu rn iture . Alth ou gh th e United States
overpower it. Adam had applied orn ame nt last two decades before the war were had fought and won its polit ical indepen-
to Neoclassical form s, Hepp lewhite had prospero us for Americans, and th eir desire dence fro m England, it was st ill stylist ically

86 C I-I APT E R F I V E
linked. Wh at was fashionable in Lond on
was th e Neoclassical, and so it was to be
in America.
Because of th e war and th e absence of an
autho ritat ive guide book, th e Adam style
was not taken up in Am erica. There had
been some int erest in th e Neoclassical tr end
before th e war, du e to th e influence of
English immi grant craftsmen and th e
alliance with France, but it had not gained a
significant footh old. Th e publicat ion of
Hepp lewhite's Guide and th e London Book
of Prices in 1788 served as effect ive veh icles
for th e fur t her dissemination of th e
Neoclassical style in Am erica. It was just at
th at tim e th at th e econo my was takin g a
turn for th e better and style-starved
customers were willing and able to consider
new fu rn iture .
Th e Neoclassical designs fit well with
th e new United States. Th ey were a rejection
of th e pond erou s English govern ment as
mu ch as th ey were a rejection of th e
pondero us Chippendale style. Th e new
govern men t, a democratically elected
representative republic, owed mu ch of its
inspiration to ancient Gr eek and Rom an
examples. Studies of ancient history and
classic literature were an imp ortant part of C H ES T OF DRA W ERS . MASSA CHUS ETTS OR NE W HAM PSHIRE . 1 7 9 0-1810 .
a complete education, and furnishin gs th at Following the Hepplewhite style of design, this chest hasa bowed front, bold marquetry ornament and delicate
reflected classic ant iquity were a sign of French feet. The smooth surface, light stance and unfettered lines are in marked contra st to the aesthetics of
refined taste. As wh en Robert Adam Chippendale-era case pieces, yetthe visual interest of the surface makes it no less impressive.
int rodu ced th em to Lond on , Neoclassical
designs evoked th e sense of a well-
structure d society. Th e parallels between
th e new republic and th e early Neoclassical
designs are respon sible for th e name of thi s th e art of marquetry and produced As th ey had don e with ot he r styles,
era in Am erican furnitu re: th e Federal style. stunning examples of Heppl ewhite designs. th e Americans infu sed a vita lity into th e
The imp ortant centers of furniture designs and executed th em with a
THE FEDE RAL S TY LE producti on changed in th e afte rmat h of th e distinctive delicacy and grace. The pared-
Th e Federal style initially followed th e Revolution . Prosperity followed maritime down Heppl ewhite style qui ckly becam e
designs of Hepplewhi te's Guide of 1788. act ivity after th e war, and wh at had th e look of th e new cou ntry. Th e pieces
Earlier examples, built from th e experience previou sly been secondary cit ies now rose to were light , clean and sparingly orn ame nted.
of immi grant cabinetmakers, were in a prominen ce. In most cases th e war had Their inlaid designs often featured patri ot ic
similar vein. Heppl ewhite's designs were tak en a heavy toll on th e established urban symbolism or militar y heraldr y in addit ion
build able, and th eir clean lines and cente rs. Providence surpassed Newp ort in to th e classical motifs. Th eir Heppl ewh ite
simplified orna mentat ion appealed to bu siness act ivity, Salem grew as a second ar y legs were squa re in sect ion and t apered over
Am erican tastes. American cabinet makers port to Boston , and Baltimore flourished in th eir length with a thin, delicate
and th eir clients took up th e style wh ole- th e shad ow of Philad elphia. All three of app earance. C ur ved apro ns and fronts
heartedl y, rend ering Chippendale designs th ese cities becam e imp ortant centers of featured cent ral inlaid orn ame nt or a pan el
obsolete. Th e use of decorative veneers was Federal fu rn it u re making. Baltimore was of figured veneer. Str ing inlays varied in
a new fashion for Am erican makers wh o particularly notable for achieving a high pattern, but each was a fin e detail used to
had been carving orna ment for th e previou s level of development in th e Heppl ewhite out line important elemen ts of th e form.
half century. Non eth eless, th ey mastered designs. Th e Am erican Heppl ewhite style had a


Federal-era chests of dr awers, or bureaus as
1810 -1820 . th ey were now known , cont inued many of
Made in accordance th e earlier tr ends for front treatments, but
with Sheraton precepts,
were updated to Neoclassical sta ndards.
this chest has turned
legs that continue to the C hests with serpe ntine or bowed front s
top as reeded corner were in keeping with th e Heppl ewhite style.
columns and a semi- They were fitted with simp lified bracket
elliptical shape to the or French feet (see th e ph oto on p. 87).
front. Examples in th e Shera to n style feature
MUSEUM) turned reeded legs, which often exte nd th e
full height of th e case as corner colu mns .
Th e Sheraton designs included semi-
elliptical swelled fronts (see th e ph oto at
left). In eit her case, th e dr awers cont inued
to be flu sh fitting with a surroun ding
cockbead. Better chests were em bellished
with a full compleme nt of decorative
veneer. Figur ed-birch or ma ple panels in
mitered frames of mahogany venee r, and
mahogany crotch veneer were favorite
choices, and crossbandi ngs and stri ng inlays
were used on most designs.
Th e fu nctio n of dressing tables, which
refin ed simplicity th at relied on basic had becom e case pieces, was largely
shapes of sophist icated prop ortion. The
Federal Furniture Forms transferr ed to bureau s or chests of drawers.
designs were a pure assem blage of cu rves, Am er ican Federal furn iture closely Som e chests featured top drawers th at were
rect angles and st raight tapers, orna me nted followed th e designs of Hepplewhite and partitioned int o compar t me nts, and ot hers
in a way t hat enhanced th e design wit ho ut Sheraton. Unlike previous eras, wh en new held mi rrors. A derivati ve form was th e
inte rfering with th e lines. designs evolved fro m old, th e Federal cham ber table, a piece wit h dim ensions
Th e des igns of Th om as She raton designs were taken up wit hout delay. Some similar to a bureau, but consisting of two
insp ired th e secon d half of th e Fede ral not able features of th e new forms are full-width dr awers in a case sup ported by
period in Ame rican fu rni ture. His early d iscu ssed below. long thin legs (ph oto below). Th e cha mber
designs, as illustra ted in th e DrawingBook,
began to su persede Heppl ewhite's as early
as 179 5. The early Shera to n designs were
simi lar in pro port ion to Heppl ewhite's but 1805-1815 .
th ey differed in det ail. Th ere was a logical Federal chamber tables
evolut ion fro m one style to th e next . The featured two full-width
most nota ble feature of Am er ican Sherato n drawers in a case with
long legs. This piece has
pieces is th e inclusion of turned and
the height and width of a
tapered legs, ofte n reeded, instead of th e small chest, and was the
tapered squa re legs. Th e Sherat on designs Neoclassical equivalent
show a shift away fro m sweeping cu rved of earlier dressingtables.
fro nts toward more rect ilin ear forms. Pieces
continued to be orna me nted wit h figu red
ven eers and inlays but included fin ely
deta iled carvings in low relief in th e manner
of Ada m . Th e Sherato n designs rema ined
in vogue in Am eri ca unt il about 1810 ,
and some vesti ges of th e style lingered int o
th e 18 20s.

88 C H A P T E R FrV E
SECRETARY AND BOOKCASE , SALE M . 1795 -1 804 . TAMBOUR DESK . BOSTON . 1795 -1810 .
This piece has a secretary drawer, the front of which folds down and pullsout to This desk with tambour doors and fold-out writing surface is attributed to John
become a writingsurface with a desk interior. When closed, it looks like any other Seymour (c.l 738-1818), an English cabinetmaker working in Boston after 1794.


table had a useful top sur face and two In rooms whe re a large piece was needed bookcase with glass doors, th emselves a
shallow drawers, but om itted larger for visua l effect, des k bookcases were th e Federal innovation . A gentleman's secretar y
clot hing storage d rawers. Th e form was not largest and most highly orna mented pieces was wide r, with cabinet doors flanking th e
un like th e much earlier Jacobean form (see in general use, but visua lly imposing pieces cen t ral drawers an d a correspond ingly
p. 10). Pieces wit h specific pur poses, like were not an aim of t he period. wide r bookcase top.
basin stands and shaving sta nds, had A tambour desk, somet imes called a
become practical necessities decades before, DESKS lady's writing desk, sta nds on long legs and
and tables for occasional use abou nded. As The Fede ral era saw imp ortant design usually has two fu ll-widt h draw ers (p hoto
a result , d ressing tables, or lowboys, were changes in desks. Previou sly, th e sta ndar d at right above). T he top folds open onto
not continued into th e Fede ral era. form for a desk, wit h or wit ho ut a bookcase, slid ing supports (or "le pers") to becom e th e
High chests suffered th e same fate. was th e slant fron t. O ne Federal-era revision writ ing su rface. In th e usua l form of th e
T heir fun ction was also transferred to was th e introduction of a secretary dr awer, desk, a low case along th e back conta ins the
chests of drawers or bureaus or, to a lesser a false drawer fro nt th at folded down to sma ll d rawers and pigeonh oles behind
extent, chests-on-chests. The form, which becom e a horizont al writ ing su rface and flexib le tambour doors th at slide ope n
had been born of Baroque ideals and exposed an int erior ban k of sma ll d rawers horizontally. A lady's wri tin g table and
updated with Rococo ornament, had been and pigeonho les (see th e photo at left bookcase subst it utes a taller glass-doored
in use for nearly a century and was not above). T he secreta ry d rawer was th e top bookcase for th e tambou r-front ed case.
readily adap table to th e Neoclassical style. dr awer in a case th at was often topped by a

Th e last of th e desk inn ovation s was th e
cylinde r desk, a desk of eit her conventional
case form or on tall legs, with a cylind rical
lid t hat rolled u p, over and beh ind t he desk
interior to expose th e writin g surface and
compartm ents (see the photo at left) . It
sho uld be noted th at t hese cylindrical lids
were not flexible tambours, bu t solid
cur ved panel s. T hey were equipped with
pivot mechanisms so th ey rotated smoothly
about t heir cent ral axes.
All three of these desk designs were
illustr ated in eit her Hepplewhite's Guide or
Sheraton's Drawing Book. Som e of th eir
designs are qui te fancifu l, with spectacu lar
comb inations of cabinets, cylinders and
cases. Nonetheless, th ey represe nted som e
of th e innovative changes th at furni ture had
undergon e in England since before th e
Revolut ion.

Th e Neoclassical t rend toward light and
elegant designs was exemplified well by th e
table designs of th e period. Tea tables lost
their prominence as a veh icle for th e
exp ression of good taste, bu t side tables,
sideboa rds and new form s of card tables
rose in importance in displaying th e design
phil osoph y of th e day.

NEW YORK CIT Y. 17 85 -1 80 0 .
The desk with a rotating cylindrical lid was one of the novel designs to come from This Pembroke table in the Hepplewhite style has an
English designers in the late 18th century. Sheraton was fond of such intriguing oval top, curved aprons and drawer front, tapered legs
mechanisms and presented several in his Drawing Book. and the full complement of regional decorative inlay.

90 C II A I' T E R F I V E
Tea tables cand lesta nds are noted for th eir delicate
Tea tab les perse were conspicuo usly absent center turning, which usually includes t he
from th e Federal fu rni ture forms. T he classical urn sha pe. Early pieces conti nued
social custo m of takin g tea did not hold th e to use the cyma-shaped leg with snake feet ,
same social importance or require but more stylish examples reversed th e
specialized furniture as it had before th e cur ve and gave it a thin tap ered shape th at
war. [f tea was served in ot her than th e met th e grou nd at a right angle with spade
dining room, it would have most likely been feet (photo at left ). Tops were frequ ently
on a Pemb roke table. oval with a cent ral inlay, but ot he r shapes
Pembroke tables of Heppl ewh ite design were also com mo n.
are oval d rop-leaf tables, measu ring about The form of th e pedestal table lent itself
30 in. by 40 in. when open. Th eir sta nda rd to stylizat ion in th e Federal mod e, and a
form includ es bowed aprons, to follow th e wid e variety of int erpretati on s exist. Larger
shape of th e top , a dr awer on one end and pedestal tabl es, whi ch had been used as tea
st raight tapered legs. The leaves are held up tables or as occasional pieces, were not in
by supports th at are hinged to swing out th e vanguard of th e new style, and th eir
from th e fram e. Pembroke tables are usually fun ction was given to Pembroke tabl es
treated to th e full compleme nt of inlay, amon g th e most style conscious. But th e
including inlaid flutes or rosett es on th e top form had enjoyed wid esp read use
of th e leg and pend ant flowers and st ring previous ly,and large ped estal tables,
inlay down its lengt h. Simpler versions had upd ated with urn turnings, were made int o
square tops and frames with tapered legs. th e Federal era.
Later Sherat on examples were typically
st raight front ed with turned and reeded Side tabl es
legs and had leaves of semi-elliptical shape Pier tables, side tabl es and side boards are
or ovolo corners. closely relat ed and all saw developm ent in
The central turning of this candlestand features the
th e Federal era. All developed fro m earlier
Neoclassical urn motif and all the delicacy of the
Pedestal tables Federal era. The oval top has rays of satinwood and side or slab tables, but each becam e distin ct
Tripod pedestal tables continued mostly in mahogany veneer. in its form and purpose.
th e form of small candlesta nds. Federal (COURTESYMUSEUM OF FINE ARTS. BOSTON!

1790 -18 10 .
Sideboards were a new
and important form for
the Federal period. Since
they were focal points in
formal dining rooms,
they were elegantly
decorated with figured
veneers and inlay.


Pier tables were made to sta nd against
Federal Card-Table Shapes th e narrow pier walls bet ween tall
windows. Th ey were designed to fill th e
space, and as such were more orna mental
th an fu nct ional. Pier tables were made in
t he Federal period, but th eir role was
greatly diminished as side boards becam e
increasingly important as din ing-room
pieces; and card tables, ofte n made in pairs,
could serve as orn ame ntal side tab les wh en
not in use.
Side tables are differentiated by being
more func tional and usually inclu d ing
Semi-circular Semi-elliptical dr awers. As side pieces, th ey often stood as
hall tabl es or secondary dining-room pieces.
By thi s time, th e primary side piece in th e
dining room had becom e th e sideboard.
Sideboard s were one of th e most
importa nt development s of th e Fede ral era.
As d in ing-room pieces, th ey were second
only to th e table and chairs. Th ey were used
for serving and sto rage of silver, linens and
liquor, and t rad it ionally have partitions for
bottl es in th e lower right dr awer following
Square with ovalo corners Half-serpentine ends with th e practi ce esta blished by Heppl ewh ite's
semi-elliptical front design in th e G uide (see th e bottom
illust ration on p. 84) .
Am erican makers fully embraced th e
form and produced masterful examples.
As important pieces that were th e focus of
attention , th ey were built with all th e
orna me nta l inlay of th e day, and with
swelled or serpe nt ine fro nts. Most side-
board s averaged about 5 ft . in length , but
some larger examples are known to have
approached 8 ft .
Square with semi-elliptical front Half-serpentine ends with serpentine
front and ovalo corners Ca rd tabl es
Ca rd tables reached a peak of refin em ent
du ring th e Federal period , testifying to the
conti nued popularity of card playing as th e
19th centu ry approached . Federal card
tables are noted for t heir delicate
proportion s and th eir high level of
orna me nta tion. Th ey were designed also
to ser ve as att ractive side pieces wh en
not in use.
Both Heppl ewhite and Sherato n designs
Squa re with canted corners Treble elliptical feature short apro ns on long slende r legs,
giving th e tables a distin ctive lift and
exceptionally light footprint. Th e apro ns
have th e most sop hist icated of decorat ive

veneer and inlay, includ ing oval and
recta ngular panels of figure d wood. Popul ar
top shapes included semi-circular, semi-
elliptical, square with ovolo corne rs, and
half-serp entine ends with a semi-elliptical
front (see th e dr awing on the facing page).
As in earlier tab les, th e tops folded in half
onto th emselves or opened to be su ppo rted
by one or two hin ged fly legs.
Sheraton examples differ littl e from th e
Hepplewhite designs, with th e exception of
th e use of tu rned and reeded legs. Som e of
th e better examples of th e Sheraton style
extended th e leg turning all th e way to th e
und erside of th e top by using th e legs as
half colu mns over th e apron. Th e legs were
int egrated int o the aprons th at were half-
serpent ine on th e ends, and serpent ine on
th e front. Th e top followed th e same shape
and echoed th e profile of th e leg turning
with sma ll ovolo corne rs.

Dining tables
A new form of din ing table developed with
This round card table, in the Hepplewhite style with
th e Federal period th at solved th e age-old
inlaid ova ls and bellflowers, features square tapered
problem of providing a solid tab le th at legs exten ding from a half-round apron . The fifth fly
could be lengthen ed or shortened as legis typical of New York card tables.

18 0 0 - 18 10 .
One of a pair. this card
tablein the Sheraton
style bears the label of
Joseph Rawson and
Sons. The turned legs
are reeded and continue
over the apron as half-
columns. The front is
serpentine and the sides
are half-serpentine. One
back legswings out to
support the folding top.


NEWPORT. 17 90 -18 10 .
This Hepplewhite-style
diningtable is in three
sections: two half-round
end s. and a center table
in the familiar drop-leaf
configuration. The
design was flexible in
size but solid in use. The
inlaid urns. stringi ng and
pend ent bellflowers are
related to pieces by
Thomas and Samuel
Goddard. sons of John
Goddard .

needed . Th e new design act ually consisted

of three separate tables: a tr aditional square
drop- leaf table, and two half-round tab les,
each with a single drop-leaf along its
st raight side. On each piece, fly legs swing
out to su ppo rt t he leaves. Th e table could
be assembl ed with any combinat ion of
components and extended leaves. A tabl e of
average leaf width could reach 14 ft. in
lengt h. By rem oving th e center table and
using t he two half-round ends with th eir
leaves exte nded, t he length could be
shorten ed to 8 ft. Similarly, th e square
BOSTON . 1800-1810.
This work table with
drop-leaf sect ion could be used alone and
serpentine sides and th e ends could be used as side tables.
ovolo corners is thought Th e best feature of th ese tables is th eir
to have been made in solid ity. Th e legs are placed along the
the Seymour shop. A outside edge of th e tab le wh ere th e suppor t
reading and writing
is needed most. Even a slight amou nt
board ratchets up at an
angle from the opened of "sponginess" can be annoying in a
top drawer. and the dini ng table, whi ch is a prob lem inherent
frame holding the in later pedestal-base dining tables, but t his
suspended work bag Fede ral design offered an elegant and
slides from the right
flexible solution .
MUSEUM) Work tables
The term "work table" is applied to a
number of small four-legged tables, usually
with at least one drawer, used for a variety
of purposes during the Federal period.
These tables have a fabri c bag suspended

94 C H A I' T E R F I V E
The shield-back chair was illustrated in both
Hepplewhite's and Sheraton's books and became
a favorite chair form in the Federal era.

I I I I 1 I ! 1 I I I
Jn cJu.J'



below the apron in whi ch needlework and easy chairs, sofas and a new form called a
sewing projects could be sto red (see th e "lolling" chair, were made to uphold sim ilar
bott om photo on th e facing page). Th e bag Federal-era ideals.
was attached to t he inside of a th in fram e
that slid out of t he table like a shallow Chairs
drawer.Tables either with or with out this American cha irs of th e Federal perio d
feature served as occasional pieces near closely followed those prescrib ed by
sofas, chairs or beds. Th e form is most Hepplewh ite and Sheraton. T he fami liar
highly developed in th e Sheraton style, with shield back, illustrated in bot h t heir books ,
turned, reeded legs and highly figured becam e a popu lar American for m closely
Whil e both Hepplewhite and Sheraton showed design s
drawer fronts and apron s. associated with th e Hepplewhit e era.
for square-back chairs, most American makers followed
Square-back chairs, more profusely the more up-ta-date Sheraton designs when the style
SEATIN G F URNIT UR E illustrated in Sheraton's Drawing Bool; came into vogue. The design of this chair back, like a
Chairs of t he Federal period required a high saw increased use aro un d th e tu rn of t he varietyof American examples, is taken from a plate in
level of skill on th e part of the cabinet- centu ry. Sherato n's Drawing Book (at top).
maker, since delicacy and st rengt h, usually Both types of chairs est ablished a new L. BYBEE COLLECTION, GIFT OF CECIL ANO lOA GREEN)
exclusive of one another, had to coexist in level of delicacy and refinement in
each design. Upholste red pieces, suc h as orn ame nt. Th e backs of both styles were

TH E F E D ERA L I' E R i oo 95
chairs with upholstered seats and backs, Heppl ewhite, and later Sherat on versions
whi ch were somet imes mad e as bedroom or used turned and reeded front legs with out
dining cha irs, and th e few C h ippendale st retc hers.
open armcha irs were th e forebears of th e Th e first Federal sofas were much like
Federal lollin g cha irs. Th eir freestanding th e earlier versions, but with th e inclu sion
wood en arms connect wit h th e front legs by of tapered legs. In general, th e more
way of a sweeping upright su pport . Th ey flamboyant sofa shapes of th e Rococo were
are notable for th eir vertical proportion s ton ed down for th e Federal period .
and clean lines. Early versions used Heppl ewhite's designs predominated in
st retche rs, wh ich were largely dropped afte r sofas of thi s period. Besides inspirin g th e
th e turn of th e cent ury. Because th ey were upd ated version of earlier designs,
open and less enveloping th an easy chairs, Heppl ewhite presented what was called in
lolling chairs were favor ite parlor pieces. th e trade a cabriole sofa, wh erein th e seat
Their light app earan ce was very mu ch in was semi-ellipt ical in plan and th e back was
keeping with Federa l design ideals. a gentle arch instead of t he familiar
Easy chairs underwent some minor serpentine "camel" back. In thi s design th e
revisions to bring t hem u p to t he same back cu rves around to becom e th e side, and
standards of th e day. In gene ral, th ey th e arm s are light and int egral (see the top
becam e light er in app earan ce and more photo on th e facin g page). Th e hu ge arm
refin ed as Federal elegance replaced rolls of previou s styles were at rophi ed or
MASSACHUSETTS , 1795-18 10 ,
The upholstered open armchair, called a 'lolling' or C hippenda le opulence (see the photo elimina ted. The name of th ese sofas has
'Martha Washington' chair, hasdesign roots in Queen below). In keep ing with th e changing styles, nothing to do with th e cabriole leg, but it is
Anne and Chippendale examples, but found new tapered square legs with st raight st retc hers a reference to th e French styles fro m wh ich
importance in the light and delicate aesthetic of the replaced cabr iole legs, as prescrib ed by th ey derived. In th is general sense, th e term
Federal period , cabriole simply means "cur ved ."

composed of exceptiona lly slende r

membe rs, and th eir shallow carved detail
was integral to th eir shapes. O ne has only to
look at an example of a back orn ame nted
wit h swags or plumes to see th at th e
element and its carving are th e same .
Tapered squa re-front legs with inlay or
moldin g were th e norm, and chairs were
built with and without st retc he rs.
Slip seats had passed out of favor, and
th e new chairs were designed to be
u pho lste red over th e rail. Round-head brass
tacks were freque ntly arranged along th e 1790-1 810 .
seat rails as part of th e design, eit he r in a Easy chairs progressed
st raight line or in a wave pattern followin g into the Federal era with
th e prevailing swag moti f. cosmetic changes to
keep them current. Legs
became straight or were
Up ho lste red pieces turned in Sheraton
"Lolling" chairs are d ist inctly Ameri can examples. This chair has
pieces with no clear precedent in eit he r of curved wings or 'cheeks'
t he domi na nt design books. They have been as shown in the Guide.
given th e name Martha Washin gton chairs OF ART, THE FAiTH P. AND
in th e vernacular, but th e origin of th e term CHARLES L. BYBEE
is unclear. Th ey are high-back chai rs, with JANE SANFORD BEASLEY)

up ho lste red seats and back, but wit ho ut th e

wings of easy chairs (photo above). Earlier

96 C I I A I'T E R F I V E
1790 - 1800 .
The cabriole sofa
differed from previous
styles inits semi-
ellipticalseat plan and
continuous flow of the
backinto thearms.
This Baltimore example
in the Hepplewhite style
derives from a design in
the Guide.

Hcpplcwhite also presented designs for An other piece of seating furniture an other exam ple of th e Adamesqu e
squa re sofas, wit h bot h open and closed popularized by the Guide was th e window penchant for designing furniture to
arms (photo below) . Squa re sofas are highly stoo l, of wh ich Heppl ewhite offered six coo rdina te with architec t u re.
rect ilinear in form, with eit he r st raight or designs. Each features a wid e horizontal
slightly cur ved backs and fro nt rails, vert ical seat on four slende r legs with scrolled arms B EDSTEADS
arms and a rectan gular seat form . Square on eit he r end , as shown in the ph oto at H eppl ewhite and Sheraton illustrated many
sofas becam e associated with later Sheraton - right below. The seat and arms are beds, and in the European tradition th ey
inspired Federal designs, becau se th ey upholstered . The design was directly are largely show pieces for upholsterers.
usually have turned and reed ed legs th at inspired by classical forms and fit perfectly They do show in detail th e designs for bed
exte nd upward to becom e arm su ppor ts. into window recesses. The window seat is posts, which were som e of the few visible


SQUAR E SOFA . MA SSACH USETT S. 1800 - 18 10 . WINDOW SEAT . SALEM . 1795 -1800 .
Square sofas, which are associated with the Sheraton style, frequently featu rea The window seat was a new form of Neoclassical design and was illustrated in
decorativelyveneered orcarved panel in the centerof the back rail. The carvi ng on Hepplewhite's Guide.
this exampleis attributed to Samuel Mcintire. (COURTESY WINTERTHUR MUSEUM)

T H E F ED ER A L I' E R IO 0 97
part s of th e bed st ructure . Both designers
P HIL A DEL PH I A , 17 9 0 -1 BOO.
Tall-post beds of this caliber, featured turned and reeded posts, but
with high posts and delicate Heppl ewhite tend ed toward square tapered
carving, were the more formal legs or Marlb orough legs below th e rail,
beds of the Federal period . whi le Sheraton offered tu rned profiles.
They usually have straight Am erican tall-post beds followed th e
testers and sometimes have
lead of both designers, and th e sectio nal
molded or carved cornices.
(COURTESY WIN TERTHUR MUSEUM) shape of the foot is often th e only clue as to
wh ich style was ado pted. Federal tall-post
beds fall int o one of two categories: beds
with tall posts (in excess of 6 [t.) with
stra ight testers (cano py fra mes), and field
beds wit h shor ter posts th at necessitated
arched or serpent ine testers. Th e taller
beds were th e more form al of th e two, and
would have been used in th e main
bed room s and equip ped with th e best of
bed han gings (top ph oto at left ). Field beds,
inspired by th ose used by milit ary officers
in th e field, are shown by both Hepplewh ite
and Sheraton (botto m photo at left) ,
Sheraton sta tes th at th ey "may be
considere d for dom est ic use, and suit for
low rooms, either for servants or children to
sleep up on; and th ey receive th is name an
accou nt of t heir being similar in size and
sha pe to th ose really used in camps ....n Low-
post beds of a less stylish natur e continued
to be made as well for the pu rely functional
N EW ENGLAND . 1 7 9 0-180 0 .
Field beds are based on purpose of holdi ng a mattress.
small, portable military field
beds and were well liked by
Sheraton. Their shorter Federal Decorat ion
post height is compensated
for by either an arched or
and Ornament
serpentine tester.
(COURTESY WINTERTHUR MUSEUM) Th e primary decorat ive elemen t of Federa l
furniture is marqu etr y in th e form of
panels of fancy veneer or inlaid shells,
rosettes, banding or strings, Making
int ricate inlay fro m scratc h was not th e
kind of work a bu sy com mercia l shop
would have don e in th e course of making
furniture, and most urban cabinet makers
purchased t heir inlay already made. From
newspaper adverti sements of th e t ime,
some inlay is known to have been imported
from England, but most cit ies had a
resident inlay maker, or "ebeniste," who
su pplied th e local cabinet shops. Balti more
had becom e one of th e leadin g centers of
Federal fu rni ture making, and Th omas
Barrett was an inlay su pplier th ere. His shop
inventory of 1800 lists 1,316 "shells for
inlaying in fu rniture," priced from 7 to 25

98 C HAP T E R F I V E
cents each, and 76 yd. of banding, valu ed at
5 to 12 1/ 2 cents. Th e value of each is evide nt
wh en compared to th e prevailing wage of
$1 a day for jou rney me n cabinet makers.
Barrett's account books list at least 145
cabinetmakers as his custo mers, which
along with his invent ory, establishes him as
a major sou rce for inlay in Baltimore.
Other cit ies had th eir own inlay makers
who su pplied th e cabinetma king shops. As
a result, each city came to have pattern s and
designs th at were distin ct. In th e absence of
a signature or label, th e patt ern of banding
or inlaid orname nt is ofte n th e only feature
that can identify th e origin of a piece. By
th e Federal era, int erst ate com me rce and
th e increased use of guide books had mad e
furniture designs more uniform from city
to city. In add it ion, most journeymen
cabinetmakers were in th e employ of
larger shops, rath er th an working in
traditional family bu sinesses. Th ey were
mobile and spread styles and meth od s from
place to place. With im ported materials,
uniform designs and a mobile workforce,
locally procu red inlay was ofte n th e on ly
indigenou s aspect of a piece. A compre-
hensive view of regional variat ions in inlay
is presented by C harles F. Montgom er y in

17 9 0 -1 810 .
Thi s Hepplewhite-style
card able shows both
the Neoclassical and
patriotic aspects of
Federal inlaid ornarn nt.
The detail at far left is
from the apron ; he
detail at left from the
( OUR ~ l'ALE t, rv dR n
4PT u4 L[HYI

T i l" F F. i) E R ,\ I. I' E R I o Il 99
with a spiraling ribb on . Th e fasces was a The exte nsive use of veneer prod uced a
ceremonial object carried before Rom an cha nge in how many ind ividua l elements
officia ls as a symbol of th eir power and were made. Rath er th an being made of one
aut hority. By cont rast, fluting derived from piece of shape d wood, furni ture of th e
th e fluted colu m ns of classical arch itect ure, Federal era was more likely to include
and had been used in furniture in th e panels bu ilt up of pieces and veneered over.
Queen Anne and C h ippe nda le periods. Thi s meth od of work had been com mon in
Fluting was largely conside red dat ed by th e Euro pe for years, where cabine t-grade
Federal era. lumber was more scarce and veneering was
exte nsively pract iced. In th e Federa l era, it
was not un common for th e shaped front of
Federal Structure a card table to be glued up from thi n layers
T he essent ial st ructu re of 18th-eentury of a secondary wood , such as pine, which
furniture had changed little since th e was th en cut to shape and veneered . By
William and Mary period , and it cont inued thi s tim e, native wood was no longer in
with refinements th rough t he Federal era. limitl ess abu nda nce, and more import ant ,
Over t he course of th e centur y, the t rend comme rcial shop s would have found a way
had been toward increased de licacy and th e to use what was already in th eir invent ories.
advance me nt of form over the limitations Laminating eliminated th e need to stock
of st ruct u re. Cabinet makers continued to large-climension seconda ry wood.
pu sh th e mat erial to its limit and to Veneer ing panels, suc h as door panels on
minimize th e number of st ructu ral side boards, resolved st ructura l concerns as
elem ents necessary for a piece. Co mpare, well. Doors cut from th e solid are free to
for example, th e many legs and st retc he rs of expand, con t ract and warp, so it is com mon
a William and Mar y gate leg table with th e to find flat and curved doors bu ilt up from
spa rta n delicacy of a Sheraton card table. secondary wood as a framed pane l or a
The Federal period was th e peak of thi s panel wit h "breadboard" ends, which was
tr end, and th e appearance of pieces seems th en veneered over. The veneerin g of
unfettered by st ructura l concerns . Thi s surfaces allowed for an inventive variety of
The use of reeding is associated with the Sheraton effect made th e int egrit y and precision of subs urfaces, some of which offered
style in America . The Neoclassical motif derives from th e rem aining st ructu re and join ery th at st ructura l improvem ents while ot hers were
the Roman fasces, a bundle of rods or arrow shafts
mu ch more imp ortant. merely for cost-eutti ng reasons.
symbolizing power and authority. This detail of a
Sheraton card table also includes a fluted section at With th e increased use of decorative
the top of the leg. ven eer and th e importance of th e surface in
(PRIVATE COLLECTIONI Federal designs, some minor changes The C ha nging Natu re
occu rred in join ery. Exposed joinery or
visible pegs were not to be seen on bett er
of the Busin ess
A lllerim ll Furniture: The Federal Period pieces, so t hey were eit her covered or O ver th e course of th e 18th centu ry,
(Viking, 1966). omitted. Case pieces frequ ently had cabinet making progressed from a trade to a
T he secon d impor tant deco rat ive ven eered fronts, including th e case fronts bu siness venture, and th e trend accelerated
eleme nt in th e f ederal per iod is th e use of and drawer divid ers, so th e slid ing dovetail after th e Revolution . Wh ile many sho ps
reeding, a detai l closely associated with join er y was covered. Th is tr end had sta rted cont inued to be family owned and may have
Shera to n designs. Reeding is a shallow in Am erican C hippendale pieces (followin g emp loyed a few jou rney men, th e trade took
surfa ce carving th at gives th e appearance of th e English), whe re th e front edges of th e on a decidedly business-oriented approach
bund led rods , each convex, as opposed to case sides were covered with a thin applied in t he 1790s. T he war and depression tha t
flu tin g, which is carved concave chan nels. st rip fro m whi ch th e vertica l cockbead was followed caused a pen t-up demand for
Reedin g is most often seen on tu rned cut. In mortise-and-tenon joints, whe re pegs furniture, and t he eme rgence of new styles
Sheraton legs. and it was also used on could not be used or hidden , large glued-in increased t hat de mand.
cu rved saber legs in later styles. Reedi ng is corne r blocks were used to help hold th e Th e cabine t maker's shop was not the
purely Neoclassical in style, and is taken joint together. Th e delicate nature of on ly place to purc hase furniture . Merchan ts
from t he Roman fasces, a bundle of rods (or Federal chairs and card tables mad e glue had been selling th e ready-made work of
arrow shafts) conta ining an ax and bound blocks an imp ortant part of th eir original cabi net makers for most of th e 18t h cent ury.
st ructu re th at sho uld not be overlooked.

100 C H A PT E R F I V E
Boston chairs had been sold by merchants Th is shop st ru ctur e led to a new kind of cabinetma king sho ps to set pr ices amo ng
in New York and Philadelph ia in th e first relationship between th e em ployer and th e t hem selves to preven t one fro m under-
quarter of th e cent u ry, and Newport employees. Th e shop owne r no lon ger cutt ing th e ot he rs. As early as 17 56 , six
makers made pieces for shi pm en t to fu nct ioned as th e sho p master, and he d id Providence cabinet ma kers had encroac hed
southern coasta l cities at mid -century, not even need to be a skilled cabinet maker. on t he workings of the free market by
Many cabinet makers sold th e work of Th e journeymen no longer had to be fixing t heir pri ces.
others in add it ion to pieces of th eir own familiar with every aspect of th e trade, since Journeymen someti mes foun d
making. An example wou ld be a maker of th ey were part of a larger grou p of more th emselves in adve rsar ial positions with
case furniture wh o su pplemented his specialized craftspeople. T he need for th eir em ployers, and as a result t hey band ed
offerings with looking-glasses or chairs from increased qua nt ity and specialized together in "societies" that were in essence
other artisans. O fte n th is led th e shop cabinetmakers led to sho rter labor u nions. In Philadelphia, in 179 5, th e
owner to give the cabinetmaking work over apprenticesh ips, and it was th erefore easier Federal Societ y of Journeymen Ca binet and
to hired journ eymen, while he pur sued t he to becom e a journeym an . Th e new C hair Makers refu sed to work for certai n
business of buying and selling fu rni tur e. relat ion ship put an emphasis on wages, em ployers who d id not recognize th e
C ity di rectories show many examples of hours, productivity and division ofla bo r. Societ y and its rules. T hey also refu sed to
cabinetmakers wh o were later listed as Th e cabinet making sho ps in most citi es work with other journeymen w ho di d not
merchan ts. Sho ps that employed came to mutual agreem ents concern ing ad her e to th e Society's rules. In Balt imore,
journ eymen cabinet makers makin g reta il pr ices for goods and set th e th e Society requ ired all cabinetmakers to
furniture in greate r quan t ity and on journeyman's wages for th ese pieces. Th e become mem bers wit hin six weeks of
speculation came to be known as first such Am er ican pr ice book, as th ey work ing in t hat city or pay a fin e of twice
manu factories. T he term is now obsolete, were known , was published in Hart ford in th e mem bershi p du es. In 1796, th e
bu t its roots, meaning "to make by hand," 1792 , and othe r cit ies soon followed . Philadelph ia Society published a set of new
are insightfu l. Wh ere major pieces were Journeymen were paid by th e piece at a h igher rat es th at was rejected by employers.
once mostly buil t to orde r, th ey were now rate based on t he length of time a given They opened th eir own "ware-room " to
com mo nly available for purchase right off piece should requ ire to build (see th e d isplay and sell th eir work. Th ey also made
th e floor. side bar below) . It was not u nusua l for an effort to band together wit h other
societies of crafts peo ple suc h as paint ers,
pr inters, coo pers, carpe nters, tailors, hatters
and shoe make rs to present a larger un ited
front. Even tu ally t he employers agreed to a
THE TIME REQUIRED cost of living allowance tied to living
TO BUILD PERIOD PIECES expenses in addition to a 50% raise for all
jou rn eymen whose work th ey fou nd
accepta ble. T he strike had been effect ive for
y knowin g the prevailing Chest,[our drawers, th e jou rn eym en, who were now guaranteed
B wages and th e piecework , or
labor price, for furniture, the
veneered drawer[routs, cockbead
surrounds: 8 days
one dollar a day for working eleven hou rs a
day, six days a week, wit h th e addi tion al
Desk, four drawers, veneered
length of time required to bu ild [ronts, cockbeaded, ] 112 f t. long, st ipu lat ion th at th e employers were to
a piece can be determined. fancy interiur: 16days supply th e candles. Sim ilar st rikes occur red
Around th e turn of th e centu ry, Dining table, mallOgany: in New Yor k in 180 2 and 1803 . T he fam ily
th e wage of a jou rney ma n 8 days cabinet making bu siness was not what it had
cabinetmaker was about one Pembroke table: ]1/2 days once been .
dollar for an eleven-hour day.
Square card table: ] 112 days
Nearly every city had a Book of
Circular bureau: 91f2days
Prices to establish agreeable pay
rates and ret ail pr ices. Th e Cluck case:8 days
ent ries in th e nex t colu m n are
The retail pri ces were set at
from th e Philadelphi a and New
rou ghly three and a half times
York pri ce books of 1796.
th e labor pri ce, and included
material, overh ead and profit.



Revisiting Ancient Spl endor

h e second phase of the Neoc lassical historians have described thi s revival as development in England and France, wit h
movement shifted away from th e classically having been executed with an archeo logical France provid ing most of the in itiat ive.
inspired designs, like t hose of Ada m and zeal, wh ich is a very fitt ing descriptio n of
the Louis XVI style, toward a more realist ic t he passion with whi ch th e designers
classical revival. This phase was a literal app roached th eir wor k an d th e respect th ey
The Greco-Roman Revival
adopti on of Greek and Roman design , !dt for th e designs of th e ancient W hile Neoclassicism is some ti mes
wh ere lorm and ornament were copied civilizat ions. Thi s style of design followed d iscussed in its entire ty, th e d ifferences
with precision from an tiqu ity. Som e separa te but closely related path s of betwee n its early and late phases are
significant enough to be add ressed
separately. Th e early America n Neoclassical,
or Federal period designs, descend ed from
th e work of Robert Adam and th e
success ive English designers who built on
his work (see C hapte r 5). Th e later
Neoclassical, th e G reco-Rom an or Empire
period in Am erican furn iture, takes its
inspirati on from th e Directoire and Emp ire
des igns of th e French. Both periods have
roots in antiquity, but each followed a
different path to beco me established in
Amer ica, and each had dist inct phases of
evolution during its per iod of pop u larity.

The more literal adoption of Greek and Roman designs

and their use in the American interior is documented in
The Tea Party, c.l82 1-1825, by Boston painter Henry
Sarge nt (1770-1845).

depictions of furniture in th eir mu rals,
PARIS . 1803 . ceramics and bas-relief sculptu re. Th e
The French Directoire ancient scenes showed a limited number
style was the transition of furniture forms, but Percier and
from early to late Fontain e used th e style to create all th e
Neoclassical. This chaise
forms necessary for modern sta nda rds of
has early Neoclassical
tapered andflutedlegs living. Percier and Fontain e's designs were
and the Empire motifof published in serial form beginning in
carved swans. 180! under th e titl e Recueil de Decorations
lnterieures, which was issued as a book
OF ART) in 1812.
Th ere was nothing comfortable or
invit ing about th e French Emp ire style. Its
geomet ry was sharp and severe, and its
decoration was st iff and imp erial. Th e
Emp ire designs were nearly complete ly
recti linear; its form was composed of flat
slabs of wood and t hick squar e columns.
T he pieces could just as well have been cut
from marble. Th ere was no significant use
of marquetry, very few moldin gs, and
carving was seen only on some seat ing
furniture. C hairs, whi ch offered some relief
from th e severity of ot her pieces, were in
th e Gr eek klismos or saber-leg design, or th e
cu rule or cross-base form . Th e style is noted
for its very st rict sym met ry in both form
and orna me nt. Th e preferred material was a
D IRECTO IRE F RENC H EM P I RE dark wood like mahogany or knot elm,
In France, th e t ransition period from th e Th e French Emp ire style was largely created sta ined to a deep color and finished to a
Lou is XVI designs to th e second phase of for th e aggrand izeme nt of Napoleon by his high luster.
th e Neoclassical was called th e Directoire two official architectural designers, Pierre Th e classically inspired ornamental
style. After th e French Revolution, th e Francois Leonard Fontaine (1762-1 853) details of Loui s XV I furnitu re were
count ry's governing body until 1795 was and Charles Percier 0 764 -1 838). Both had dropped for anoth er set of classical
th e National Convention, followed by th e studied antiquity in Rom e and , after orna ments. Wh ere t he earlier phase of th e
Directorate from 1795 to 1799. It is from returning to Paris, were com missioned to Neoclassical used architectura l details and
th e latt er th at th e name "Directoire" is redecorate one of Napo leon's palaces. They well-integrated applied ornament, t he
taken. Th e style was marked by an increase ad hered closely to th e original Gr eek and Emp ire style called for cont rasting appli ed
in th e archeological aut hent icity of Rom an forms, and created th e look of orname nt. Th e primary form of Empire
Neoclassical pieces. Th e Loui s XVI style imperial grandeur th at was th e hallmark of decoration was th e appli cation of gilded
became more severe and angular and th e Napoleon ic years. bron ze (ormolu) mounts. The mounts were
increasingly similar to actual Greek designs. Th e French Empire style was taken from shallow reliefs of classical motifs and
This more sparta n and rectilin ear form was what was th en known of Gr eek and Rom an stylized emblems, including myth ological
mixed with orna ment th at had significance furn itu re. Ancient furn iture often had cast- figur es, medallions, foliage and , a favorit e of
to t he French Revolution , such as th e cap of bronze or iron compo nents, such as table th e period, wreath s. Th ese mounts were
Liberty, the Rom an fasces and th e t ricolor legs, pedestal bases, and chai r and stoo l fin ely det ailed and quite stu nning in th eir
of the Repu blic. T he Directoire was in style frames. Th ese parts surv ived, as did gilded finish, to cont rast with th e dark
in a contin uously evolving form fro m 1793 anything made of marble, such as th rones smoo t h sur face to which they were applied.
until about 1804 . At th at tim e, Napoleon or templ e pieces. For th e most part , wooden Th e Fren ch Empire was also noted for
dro pped all pretenses of running a republi c furn it ure and component part s had long the fanciful creatures that were worked int o
and had himself made th e emperor, makin g since been lost to th e moist Medit erranean furn itu re designs. Gild ed sphinxes, griffins,
th e Empire style more or less official. climate. Th e missing link s th at provided eagles, swans, dolphins and human busts
great inspiration to th e Empire designers
came from th e Gr eek and Rom an

A ME R I C A N E M P I R E 103
were integrated into forms as colu m ns, thoroughly uninspi red and unori ginal. For bei ng mad e. For th e sake of his own
bases and supports. Heads, wings, paws, all intents and purposes, the end of th e reputati on he wanted these cop ies to be
claws and feet were used in strange Nap oleon ic era marked the end of Frenc h t ru e to his origina l int ent , so in 1807 he
com binations with each ot he r and as innovati on in furniture design for th e pu blishe d m easured d rawings of th e pieces
fu rn it u re compo ne nts. One example of this remainder of the 19th cent u ry. in Household Furniture and Interior
interplay of furniture and body parts is a Decoration. H is book became the standa rd
colu m n motif used in m any Empire for the new style t hat wou ld later be called
designs: A square, tapered wood en colu m n English Regency the English Regen cy.
is capped with the gilt bu st of a woman, and The seco nd phase of the Neoclassical
the colu m n base is a pair of gilde d human m ovem ent in En gland is kn own as the HousehoLd Furniture
feet (see the ph oto on p. 107). This them e English Regen cy peri od . The style came to The designs presente d in Household
of fu rn it ure transforming in and out of the fore in the lat e 1790s and rem ain ed in Furn iture are not u nli ke t hose of th e French
human and anim al sha pes throughout its vogue until the 1820s. The nam e refers to Empi re sty le. They are of classical Greek
st ruct u re is essential to the Empire style. the sho rt peri od from 1811 to 18 20 wh en and Rom an form, and are severe and
Althou gh it is quite st range, it is also very G eorge, the Prince of Wales, served as rectilinear. This effec t is increased by t he
imag inat ive and alm ost whimsical at times. Regent for his fat he r G eorge III. George 1II way they are depicted in the plates of t he
The Empire designs were execute d in a way had reigned since 1760, but was declared book . Each piece is show n in line d rawings
that was very refined . They had the insan e in 1811. Upo n hi s death in 1820, th e in fro nt and side elevations, wit ho ut
potential to be grotesque and co u ld have Prince assu me d the th ron e as George IV. perspecti ve. Hope used many of the same
easily crossed the lin e of good taste, but C red it for the early introducti on of the design elements as th e Frenc h designers:
their mak ers were so skilled they m ad e the sty le is given to English arc hitec t H enry Sph inxes , griffi ns and wi nged lions appear
designs work well. H olland (1746 -1 806), w ho brou ght det ails ofte n, and ind eed it wou ld be ha rd to
Empire, like most of the Fren ch styl es of the Fren ch Directoir e to th e interi or differentiate th e two styles at first glance .
th at had preceded it, was a co u rt st yle that design of hom es of the aristoc racy. Thom as T he English designs also show a more
saw little acceptan ce outside the upper Sheraton 's publicati on s afte r th e turn of th e regu lar use of Egyptian elemen ts, which
levels of society. Its imperi al nature cent u ry showed th e sam e cree ping were added to t he Greek-inspired repertoire
prevented it from bein g taken up by the influen ce of the French Directoir e and af ter t he 180 2 pu blication of Voyage dans
gene ral public, th ou gh som e aspe ct s of its Em pire designs on English tastes. la Basse et la Haute Egypte (Voyage ill Lower
ap pea rance did ente r the vernacul ar of and UpperEgypt). T hat book illust rated
fu rn it u re design . The sty le outla ste d THOMAS HOPE numerou s exa mples of ancient Egyptian art
Napoleon and co nt in ue d under Louis The Regen cy sty le was fu rther advance d in th e af te rma t h of Napoleon's 1798
XVIII , who rul ed from 1814 to 1824 , and an d ultimately defined by Thom as H op e campa ign th ere.
under C ha rles X, wh ose reign co nt in ue d (176 9 -1 8 3]). H op e was from a wea lt hy H ope's designs are more of an honest
until 183 0 . This later pa rt of the Empire Dutch fam ily an d had traveled ex te nsively t rib ut e to ancient cu ltures th an a statemen t
sty le, ofte n call the Restauration, for the in Europe and the Middle East, collect ing of imperial grandeur. Hope enjoyed
restorati on of th e mon archy, was a more art and anti qui t ies an d developing a su rro undi ng him self wit h anc ient artifacts
mature version than the earlier style. The passionate interest in the styles an d cus to ms so m uc h th at he devoted t hree rooms in his
later pieces had lost their initial spirit, and, of the places he visited . Amon g h is fri ends hou se to the display of classical vases. H is
as is th e case in the late st ages of many was C ha rles Percier, designer of th e Empire furnitu re designs were intended to give the
sty les, settled into a com forta ble repet it ion . sty le. H op e settle d in London in 1799, aura of antiquity to all t he furnishings in t he
The designs becam e heavy and more bu yin g a hou se built by Ad am in the 1760s, hou se. Household Furniturewas intended to
orname nta l as successive designers adde d and set abo ut rem od eling the place to hou se extend it to th e houses of ot hers .
th eir own tou ches and m oved the st yle away hi s collectio n and to serve as a showplace for
from its o rigina l pr ecepts. the new furniture he had been inspired to REGENCY STYLE
Afte r 1830, Fran ce was witness to design an d have built. H is designs we re an Like th e French Empire style, t he Regency
revivals of Gothic, Ren aissan ce and Loui s eclectic blend of the m any sty les he had called for dark woods, in t his case mahogany
XIV styles, but they were poor imitat ion s at seen during his extende d Grand Tour. They an d rosewoo d . T he use of satinwood was
best . Sequels are rarely as good as the em bo die d Greek, Rom an , Turkish and held over from th e earlier phase of the
origina ls, and th ese revivals were Egyptian forms and o rna me nt co m bined Neoclassical, but it soon passed out of favor.
into one synt hes ized style. Regency designers used bronze mo unts, but
H op e's design s proved to be influential, wit h more rest rain t t han th e French. Their
and soo npoo r co pies of his pieces were m et alwor k was not as carefully detailed as

104 C H A P T E R SIX
Hope's English Regency designs included the curule or cross-base chair, an armchair with rear saber legs and
griffin arm supports, and a tripod table like some unearthed at Pompeii.

th e Fren ch , and th ey em ployed a different pra cti cal interpret ati ons of the id eals of buildings came to st and amon g th e earlier
lexicon of orna me nt . Am on g th e favorite t he peri od . G eorgian bui ldings of every Ameri can town
English mount d esigns were wat erleafs, En glish Regen cy fu rn it ure never and cit y. Paintings of th e per iod d ep ict
rosettes, wreaths, fem ale faces and lion possessed the same sen se of unity or level idylli c N eocla ssical past oral scenes and
masks. Ca ryat id figu res (female figures used of artistic ach ievemen t as Fren ch Empire women in Greek-in spired clothing rep osin g
as colu m ns) were also used widel y. Lion d esigns. Mu ch of the Regen cy styl e was on Grecian furniture forms . In the
masks with rin g handles became a sta ndard borrowed from the Directoire and Empire American expansio n, many new towns took
eleme nt of th e Regen cy, as did brass animal d esigns but with t he addition of m or e t he names of an cient citi es. There was a
feet or paws with caste rs for use on sabe r di ver se ancie nt eleme nts . Regen cy designs civility and sophisticati on in th e lat e
legs. Brass also came into use as an inlay did not come from a cent ral sou rce as did Neoclassical ideals that t o Americans was
int o th e dark wood , both in fretwork the d esign s of Per cier and Fontaine. Neither the proper image to sym bolize the
designs and as a st ri ng in lay. This was a did they serve a unifying purpose as did t he co nt in ue d succ ess of their new nation.
feature th at Sheraton spoke fondly of in his Empire de signs in providin g a stage set for The Ameri can Greco-Roman revival
later publicati ons. Brass was also used for Napoleon. The Regency was create d in t he drew upon both the Fren ch and English
attached moldings and pierced galleries. trad e rather than in t he co u rt, and des igns. T he pu blicati on s of Sher at on,
An other feature of the era was th e use of d esigner s and builder s were free to add Fon taine and Percier, H op e, Smith and
fab ric as a decorative panel eleme nt . Door s their own influen ces, for bet ter or wors e. Ackerman wer e all circu late d in America,
and panel s were often fitted with silk Finally, the En glish crafts me n did not have and cabine t make rs to ok up the asp ect s of
cur t ains stret ch ed within their frames, the expe rience or skill in th is kind of d esign t he st yle that suited t heir t ast es and
often behind pierced met al fr etwork (see to m ake the desi gn er s' id eas work as we ll as appealed to t heir clients. Their chosen
the photo at top on p. 108). their Fren ch cou nte rpa rts . pieces wer e bo ld but cert ain ly mor e
Other works that advan ced the restrained t han the imperi al Fren ch d esigns.
Regen cy designs included G eorge Smith's T he Ameri can crafts me n capt u red th e
A Collection of Designs for Household American Greco- essence of the style without bein g carried
Furnitureand Interior Decoration of 1808 away by its excesses .
and Rud olph Ackerman 's all-enco m passing
Roman Revival
peri odi cal, Repositoryof Arts, Literature, The Am erican em b race of th e seco nd phase EA R LY E M P I RE
Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and of the Neoclas sical era permeat ed Ameri can T he Empire st yle in America tends t o be
Politics, which sta rted in 180 9 and societ y and exte nde d well beyon d the rea lm d ivid ed into t hr ee parts, which ver y loosely
continued for ano t he r 20 years. Thomas of furniture and interior d esign. T he d escribe its evolu t ion d urin g this peri od .
C h ippenda le Jr. also worked in the Regen cy interest in the new European styles began to T he early Empire is so me t imes called the
style, and he is not ed for his restrain ed use surge after t he War of 1812 and was see n in late Neocla ssical or Ameri can Direct oi re,
of orna me nt and elegan t handling of the all manner of popu lar tastes. Arc hitecture
style, whi ch some conside r to be t he best underwent a strong Greco-Roman revival,
and white-eolumned houses and public

A M ER I C A N E M P I R E 105
and, as in France, it was th e transition
period from th e first to th e second phase of
th e Neoclassical, or the transiti on from
Sheraton to Empire as th e dominant style.
Thes e designs predate th e War of 1812 and
first gained popularity in about 1805.
Furniture of this era continued in th e
delicate spirit of the Federal period but
included more of th e Gr eek and Roman
forms, most notably th e klismos chair and
othe r pieces, like pedestal tabl es, that
shared th e use of th e saber leg. This era
saw a gradual increase in carving as a
decorative elem ent. On Am erican pieces,
wat erleaf carving was a favorite treatment
for th e tops of sweeping saber legs. Th e
English Regency designs had limit ed impact
on Am erican styles.

Duncan Phyfe
Som e of th e fin est examples of th e early
Empire style were executed by Duncan
Phyfe (I 768-1 854 ). Phyfe was a Scotti sh
immigrant with Am erican training who
One of a set of ten from the shop of Duncan Phyfe, this The influence of the Greco-Roman revival is evident in
opened a shop in New York City in 1792 .
scroll-back chair shows the light and delicate nature of this chair in the klismos or saber-legform with a lyre
Phyfe's designs. banister. He was a talented designer and craftsman,
(COURTESY WINTERTHUR MUSEUM) (COURTESY WIN TERTHUR MUSEUM) and his acumen extend ed to th e business
side of th e tr ade as well. At its peak, his
manu factory was considered one of th e
prem ier cabinetmaking and upholstery
sho ps in th e country, employing over 100
NEW YORK . 1810-1820.

This card table has

craftspeople working in every facet of th e
waterleaf carving on the tr ade. Phyfe was at th e forefront of th e
legin the style of developing styles, and was always able to
Duncan Phyfe, which offer th e most refin ed int erpretation of th e
was adopted by many latest Neoclassical tr end .
New York makers. In this
Phyfe is best rem embered for his work in
family of tables, a
mechanism turns the th e first tw o decades of th e 19t h century.
side legs backwa rd as During thi s time, before th e full weight of
the supports under the th e Empire style had come to bear on th e
top are extended to hold market , he produ ced elegant and delicate
the top when it is
furniture th at made use of th e new Gr eco-
Roman forms. His designs had th e
ART GALLERY) inspiration of th e Sherato n style, but unlik e
Sheraton's th ey remained graceful after th e
later inclusion of French tastes. Phyte's
designs had a decidedly anglicized flavor
th at ofte n find s parallels in th e more
restrained examples of th e English Regency.
To say that he worked in one style or
anothe r would be incorr ect, since he drew
on many influences to create his own
Neoclassical style. Th e use of th e saber leg

106 C H AP T E R S I X
using both in th e proper way, th e qual it ies
NEW YORK. C .1815.
This card table is of each were enha nced.
ascribedto Lannuier, Am erican Empire designs fro m t he peak
whointroduced theearly years of th e period are bold and excit ing.
French Empire style to Th e formality of th e style, with its cold
New York in 1803. rectilinear features, prevented it from
METROPOLITAN MUSEUM enjoying a popu lar usage across all levels of
Am erican societ y. Th e pieces executed by
th e leading cabinet makers of th e day were
for th e upper stra ta, and th e vast majority of
Am eri can s fu rn ished th eir hom es wit h
fu rn itu re th at was a con ti nuat ion of an
earlier style with Empire-like details, or a
simplified version of the Empire designs.
Painted or "fancy" furniture was an
Am erican interpretati on of th e design
ideals of t he per iod , and grew to be a subset
of vernacu lar furniture that enjoyed
wid espread popularity. Th ese pieces were
usually painted black or with a very
dark brown graining and decorated wit h
gold paint, emulat ing th e decorati ve
in chairs and pedesta l tables, wit h its leading center for its dissemi nation in sche me of ormo lu mou nt s on dark wood.
orna ment of either waterleaf carving or Ame rica. Co mi ng from France, Lannuier Late Sheraton and early Empire forms
reeding, is so closely associated with him had a style th at was ver y different from t hat were cont inued, wit h painted decorati on
th at fu rn iture of th at design is popul arly of Phyfe. Th e true French Empire style bein g su bstituted for the earlier use of inlay
said to be in th e Duncan Phyfe style. Th e depend ed heavily on carved and gilded and ven eer.
firm continued in bu siness until his acant hus leaves, wreath s and win ged figur es
reti reme nt in 1847. in sup po rting roles. H is designs were rich, L AT E EM P IRE
op ulent, crisply detailed, deeply carved and Late Empire describes th e period of 18 30 to
AME RICAN EM PIRE bold. O ne of th e nota ble feat ures of his 184 0, a decade th at saw a degradat ion of
American Emp ire refers to th e furnitu re work is th e calculated balance betw een th e Empire style into a coarser, mass-
that has a more dir ect French Emp ire brig ht gild ing and ormo lu, and th e deep produced version . The Late Empire pieces
influe nce. Th ese designs were made afte r richn ess of th e mah ogany or rosewood. By bear littl e resemblance to th e original
th e War of 1812 until about 1830. During
thi s phase, American pieces assu med th e
solid auste rity th at marked th e French
18 10- 1 8 2 5 .
designs. American makers took up th e use The influence of the
of bro nze mounts and included gilded French Empire appeared
carvings to contrast with glossy expanses of with increasing
dark wood. Th e ancien t forms of G recian frequency in fashionable
sofas and klismos and cu rule chairs were at furniture after theWar of
1812. As was typica l of
th eir peak of American develop men t. T he
the period, this piece
height of th e Empire period in fu rn it u re has darkexpanses of
coincided wit h th e peak of th e Am erican mahogany veneer with
obsession wit h th e aesth etic styles of th e contrasting bright
ancient civilizat ions. ormolu mounts.
A leadin g figure of th e period was MUSEUM AND GREENFIELD
Charles-Hono re Lannui er, a French VILLAGE)

immigrant cabinet maker and ebeniste who

brough t th e best of th e French Empire style
to his pract ice in New York . His prese nce
established a high sta ndard for th e Empire
style and helped make New York th e

A M E R I C AN E M P I R E 107
French designs. Many concessions were
NEW YORK . C.18 25.
This imposing Empire mad e to manufacturing at thi s time, and
piece stands nearly th e style assu med a heavy, ponderou s and
8Yz ft. high. The uninspired appearance. Produ ction
ornament on this methods made furniture in thi s style
example includes gilded available to a large number of people, and it
and painted carvi ng and
became th e main stream Empire furniture
stenciled gold designs,
all of which came to th at most Am erican s could own. In its final
supersede ormolu form, Empire fu rn itu re was characterize d
mounts. by large expanses of mahogany or rosewood
veneered su rfaces, th e use of th ick side
OF ART) colu m ns, th ick lyre or scrolled eleme nts,
and frequ ent use of wide ogee or gently
rounded, pu lvinated molding profiles.
Ormolu mounts were phased out and
inexpensive glass kn obs were int rodu ced.
Th e verna cular style of th e Empir e had few
endearing qu alities and gave th e style a bad
connotat ion in later years.
The 183 0s marked th e end of
cabinet making as it had been known since
th e end of th e 17th century. Th e Indust rial
Revolution that had brought labor-saving
machinery to th e craft required a large
capita l investment. To cover th e cost of th at
investme nt, furniture had to be made in
qu antity, and quantity required simplicity
1820-1830 .
The Empire style brought and homogeneity. As a result, furn iture
sofas with wonderfully designs were largely st ripped of th eir labor-
scrolled arms and int ensive decoration and detail , and
powerful carved feet. redu ced to a manu facturable form. In order
This style and Grecian
to mass-market th ese mass-produced pieces,
couches with one
manufacturers had to design th em to have a
scrolled arm we re in
vogue for most of the univ ersal appeal, necessitating th e lowest
second quarter of the com mo n denominator of styling.
century. Indiv idually made pieces of custo m
furniture were st ill available to th e more
wealthy or discriminating bu yer, but th e
vast majority of Am ericans purchased
factory-made furniture. Workshops had
becom e manufactori es, and with th e
exclusion of hand work th ose became
factori es. While fu rn itu re of good quality
became mor e affordable to th e average
person, it had lost its individuality and
spirit in th e pro cess. Other int erestin g styles
came and went, but th e remarkabl e chain of
events and web of circu mstances th at
sparked th e Am erican masterpieces of th e
18th century were not to be repeated.

108 C H A P T E R S IX

O ne hundred years is a relatively sho rt also led to a more rapid succession of styles From thi s series of opposites, similarit ies
period of tim e in th e hist ory of human as designers com peted with one anot her appear in every othe r iterat ion of style.
events, but changes of great significance and and imp roved up on earlier designs. Twice as William and Mary, C hippenda le and
monumental prop ortion occu rred during many styles appeared in th e second half of Empire designs share sim ilarit ies in th eir
th e 18th centu ry. Th e world was a very th e centu ry as in th e first . Th e design bold presen ce and imp ortan ce of surface
different place at th e end of th e century publicati on s also led to a more uniform detail. Queen Anne and Federa l pieces
than it had been at th e beginning, and int erpretati on of th e styles. William and share an emphasis on a graceful form and
furni tu re design, cabinet making and th e Mar y pieces were diverse, imaginative and th e rest raint of orna me nt. Th e writer Lewis
wide spect ru m of th e decorative arts region ally distinct, but Sheraton pieces are Mumford was cor rect in assert ing, "Every
reflected th ese changes. so similar th at th eir place of origin is often genera t ion revolts against its fathe rs and
At th e time of th e Restorati on of diffi cult to pinpoint. makes friends wit h its grandfat hers."
Charles II, designs developed amo ng For each style, th e form and decorati ve The styles are nearly perfect analogies for
cour t iers and royalty. As th e nobility turned elements were a reaction to th e style that th e lifestyles and outloo ks of th e t imes in
its atte nt ion to cultu ral pursuits and a had preceded it. In cont rast to th e Jacobean wh ich th ey existed . Th ey reflect th e
prosperou s middl e class grew, cour t designs designs, William and Mary pieces featured a increasing prosperity over th e cent ury and
filtered down, eventua lly exte nding to th e deliberate vert ical thrust and an emphasis th e value given to th e decorati ve arts. Th e
far reaches of th e Empire as th e 18th on a rich and detailed su rface. Th e Queen William and Mary period reflected th e
century dawned. Furniture design, now Anne designs inc reased th e vertical global influen ces and cultu ral int erests of
having been decentralized, became emphasis but made it appear effortless, and th e Enlight enment th at were unl eashed in
increasingly driven by the market and shifted visua l interest from th e su rface to post-Resto rat ion England. Th e Q uee n Anne
was shaped by th e needs and tastes of th e sha pe. Th e C hippenda le era style typifi ed th e standa rds of gent ility and
customers. Thi s trend culmi nated with tran sformed thi s loftiness into a stately refin ed elegance pursued by th e eme rging
th e explosion of illustrated design books presence, and refocu sed interest toward a upper class. Th e C hippen dale-era designs
th at appeared after th e mid-century, rich and opulently deta iled sur face. Th e reflecte d th e need for richn ess and
makin g furn iture designs marketable Federal period called for an elegance of opulence born of increasing power and
commodit ies in th emselves. form with a simplicity of su rface orna me nt . wealt h. The Federal style embod ied th e
Th e design books led to a mu ch faster Even within th e Neoclassical, th e st ructure , orde r, harm ony and opt imism of
dissemination of styles. Onl y the time pendulum of style swu ng. Adam used a Republic inspired by ancient civilizat ions.
requir ed for engraving, printing and applied su rface orna me nt, Heppl ewhite Th rou ghout th e centu ry, some aspects
shipping separated outlying colonists from called for smoot h su rfaces wit h inlaid held consta nt. Am erican designs came fro m
th e newest tr end s in Lond on . Th ese books orna me nt, Sheraton augme nted inlay with English styles, and English styles came fro m
simple shallow carved detail, while th e
Empire designs called for all new forms.

French and Europea n trend s. Th e mann er
in which th e successive styles came to be
IMPORTANT D E SIGN PO INTS ado pted in a given cou ntry is remarkably
O F FU R N I TU RE S TYLES similar over th e century. Th e English
undertook an Anglicized version of each
style that differed in int erpretati on from
th e Co nt inenta l version . O n each occasion
JA COB E AN CHIPPENDALE th ere is mention in th e literature of th e
Horizontal format Co ntinuat ion of English taking u p a style with out a full
Low center of mass Queen Anne format appreciat ion of its developm ent , mixing in
Rectilinear forms Mass is made more evident other influences and arr iving at th eir own
Ornament app lied Continuation of cu rved version . Th is new style usually su perseded a
to st ruct u re shap es with increase in previous style th at had evolved to a point of
Contrasti ng su rface rectilinear form ornamenta l excess, and had been totally
ornament and/or Extensively carved exhausted of new design possibiliti es. Th e
shallow carving surfaces and add ed Am ericans were consiste ntly select ive in
ornamental elem ents what th ey chose to take up from England,
Deep, rich and th eir tastes filterin g out th e occasional
WILLI AM & M AR Y opulent surfaces excesses of English design. Th e Americans
Vertical format infu sed th e designs with th eir own sense of
Evidenc e of raised ma ss proporti on and detail, which yielded a
Symmetry and ord erly FE DE RA L spir ited and distin ctly Am erican version.
division of space Delicate appearance with By exami ning th e events and
Deep profiles to turnings light, high, stable stance circu msta nces th at surrou nded furn it ure
and carvings Amount of mass is making in th e 18th century, it becomes
Rich and Visually minimized clear why America n furniture has a
interesting su rfaces Rectilinear in elevation, disti nctly different character from English
gently cu rved fronts in plan fu rn it u re. Th e att ributes of Am erican
Classical or geom etrical pieces were shape d by th e prevailing tastes
Q U E EN A N NE elem ents used for of th e colonies, th e small size of colonial
Extended vertica l format ornament
cit ies and th e nature of th e cabinet making
Weightless appearance Lightly carved or bu siness at th e tim e.
to d isgu ise mass decoratively veneered
Extensive use of graceful, smooth surfa ces
cyma-eurved shapes
Balance of solid and void
Smooth glossy surface with
occasiona l ornamentation

Conse rvative values of thrift and lead ing members of th e same commu n ity. cont inue d development and refinem ent
diligence were deeply rooted in th e cultu re Each was known to one anot her and known of a design over time. As ind epend ent
of American cities. Th e early Q uaker abou t th e city. Th ey had a personal and craftsme n, Am erican furnitu re makers
Philadelphians and Puritan New often lon g-running relati on ship th at did were proud of th eir work and th eir
England ers were opposed to frivolou s not end with th e delivery of th e fini shed individual style. T heir good reputati on an d
orna ment and oste ntatious display. Unlike piece. In Lond on, a jou rney man cabinet- future comm issions rested on th e qu ality of
in England , t here was no aristocracy to maker could have worked in th e employ of every piece th ey made.
sup port flamb oyant furniture of un limited a sho p master makin g furniture in a back Alth ou gh wealthy Am ericans could and
cost. Th e tastes of th e colonies had an st reet for th e distant man or hou se of an did imp ort English pieces, Am erican pieces
un derpinn ing of practicalit y and functio nal aristoc rat he would never meet . cont inued to be a favorite . To a successful
design, but th e beauty of a piece was equally Th e size of Ame rican cit ies was reflected Am eri can , furnishings ofloca l origin, if
important. Good aest het ic qu alities were a in th eir cabinet ma king sho ps. At mid- th ey were equa l in design and wor kmans hip
reflection of th e owner's status and cent u ry, even th e leading Ame rican sho ps to th ose available from London, were a
refinement and th e cabinet maker's skill as emp loyed only a handful of workme n, and testam ent to th e refin em ent and civility of
a designer and craftsman. most of th em were likely to be family th eir own city. Promi nent cit izens would
Th e American cities were very d ifferent mem bers or live-in apprentices. naturally want to exto l th e virtues of a place
both from one anot her and fro m Lond on. C hristo pher Townsend 's Newport sho p th ey had helped develop . Th eir patronage of
T hey were scattered along th e coast, each measu red only 12 ft. by 24 ft . At th e same local crafts me n rein forced th e regional
under a different region al govern ment time, Th om as C hippe nda le's busin ess style, furthered its developm ent and set a
and each wit h its own relation ship with occu pied three hou ses, several out build ings, sta ndar d of good ta ste for ot her mem bers of
England. Th ese were very small cit ies: At and employed at least 22 specialized th e com mu nity to follow.
mid-century, when Boston and Philad elphi a workme n. (Both bu sinesses were dwarfed Th e period was rem arkable for its
were of nearlyequa l population , each was by th e London firm of George Seddo n, evolut ion of design and noteworthy for its
less th an 2.5%th e size of London. Th e whi ch employed 400 journeyman in th e embod ime nt of lifestyles and prevailing
relative isolation of Am erican cities 1780s.) With suc h a small operation, th e ta stes in its decorative arts. Am erican
allowed regiona l preferences and variation s American cabinet maker was persona lly furniture, sparked by a rare combination of
to flouri sh. respon sible for every aspect of th e work . He opport u nit ies and motives, and guided by
Because of th e small size of th e cit ies, had non e of th e ano nymi ty of being a small an inh erent sense of design and person al
American cabinet makers and th eir part of a large firm. In add it ion, small respon sibility for th e fina l produ ct,
custo mers were on a more equal and family-owned sho ps had a consiste nt and tr an scend s being mere art ifact . Eighteen th-
personal basis th an in England. Th e repet itive method of work th at led to th e century Ame rican pieces stand witho ut
successful Amer ican cabinet maker was a equa l as m ileston es of achieveme nt in
respected member of th e commu nity, and applied art and design.
his clients were likely to be amo ng th e

Part Two

The stylesand designs of l Sth-century A merica II [u m i ture were influenced grea tly by

the methods and techniquesof its makers and the materials that were available to them.

A familiarity with the construction of period piecesis essential toa thoroughappreciation

and understanding of l Sth-centu ry designs.

Throughout the l Sth century, refinements ill techniquesallowed advancements in

design, while trends in style and taste required updated methods of cabinetmaking. This

pattern ofalternating j urth erance of style and technique isevident in every major phase
of l Sth-century design. During the William and Mary period, the technique of

dovetailing allowed[urn iture to he built in a vertical format. The Queen Anne- era

ideal of lofty grace required structuralchanges toaccomplish that end. During the

Chippendale period, opulently carved ornament was added to the established structure.

By the Federalperiod, the technique of inlay and veneeringand thejoinery required for

thin structureshad advanced tosatisfy theprevailing taste in Neoclassicaldesigns.

Technique and design progressed together, each spurringad vancements ill the other.

Looking at how[urniture was made in the 18th century offers a revealing glimpse

intoA merica n lives during theperiod. The cabinetmakers, many of whom worked ill

small, family-run shops, weredesignersand businessmen as well as extraordinary

craftsmen. Theirproductivity, industriousness, inventiveness and quality of

ioorlemanship become apparent when their individual and collective works are

examined ill detail for both design and tech 11 ique.

An examination of methods and materials call alsooffer insight into the economics

of the cabinetmaker's trade. Urban examples oftellexhibit labor-intensive practices

designed to maximize they ield f rom wood. These details indicatean abundance of

available laborand a relatively highcost of materials, which were often imported.

111 contrast, ruralexamples show less of (//1 investment ill time and a willingness to use

native materials f reely. A ll cabinetmakers sought tooptimize their methods of

construction because they would be responsiblefor any future repairs that would be

required. Since lSth-century cabinetmakers were ill the business of making jurniture,

theirproducts were shaped by economicforces as well as by stylistic influences.

Thefirst part of this bookconcentrated on the evolution of[urniture styles during the

18th century. This section focuses 0 11 the other half of the subject; it is a close lookat the

materials aI1d techniques used by the lSth-century cabinetmaker. 111 thesectionson

materials, the purpose is to discuss what was available to theperiod makers, what the

characteristics of the materials were, how the period makers used them, and what our

current knowledge can add to the understanding of the material. The sections on

technique explore the traditional methodsof work, how they evolved Oller the century,

how they wereaffected by theavailability of materials and changingtastes, and how

modern techniques compare and contrast with l Sth-century methods.


h e workin g methods of 18th-century app lying mod ern method s of work to observation is not sur pr ising, given th e
cabinet makers were dictated by th eir tools, 250-year-old designs. A wid e belt sander difference in available tools and th e lack of
th eir materials and th e very designs th ey set will yield a smo oth tabl e top of even power equipment in th e 18th century. Th e
out to make. Every period original shows thi ckn ess, but it will not have th e imp ortance in pinpointing th e underlying
th e unmistakable signs of the maker's hand, unmistak able character of a hand-pl aned basis for th e look of a period surface is
whethe r it is in th e undulating sur face of a top . A duplicating carving machine will twofold : for th e collecto r, it yields more
hand-planed board or in th e marks made to produce a close approximation of a ball and informati on about how th e piece was built;
lay out and cut th e join ery. The evide nce of claw foot, but it will never capture th e spirit and for tod ay's maker, it offers th e key to
hand crafts manship is an inte gral part of of th e hand-sculpted original. replicating th at look successfully.
the nature of period originals, th ou gh it Even handmade replicas are sometimes
ofte n goes unnot iced to th e untrained eye. mad e in a manner th at fails to capt ure th e T H E CUT SURFACE
Th e marks of original tools, and th e true character of th e ori ginals. O ne cannot Th e most fundamenta l feature of original
met hods of work th ey represent, are so appl y th e mod ern sta ndar ds of absolutely sur faces is th e evidence th at period makers
impo rta nt to th e character of original pieces flat surfa ces, mach ine-like uniformity and cut, rath er th an sanded, wood. One reason
th at th ey warrant th eir own detailed perfection to objects that were originally for thi s was that th ey did not have th e
discussion. Th ey speak to th e fact that, in mad e by hand with relatively simple tools. readily available, long-lastin g abrasives th at
cent ur ies past, a deliberate human effort Period furniture should look like period we have today. Th e first definitiv e reference
was made to create an original object of furniture, and an l Sth-centu ry design with to sandpaper appears in an 1827 editio n of
beauty and utility from raw materials, basic a 20th-century surfa ce finish is not an The Cabinet-Maker'sGuide, published by
tools and a practical edu cation in design accurate re-creation of the original. Jacob B. Moore in Co ncord, Massachu sett s.
and th e ways of wood. Unde rst and ing the original tools, methods Thi s practical guide describes how to make
and standards is essential to faithful "glass-paper" by crushing glass in an iron
replications. mortar, sift ing it th rou gh a sieve and
The Importance Those wh o bu ild furniture in th e period sprinkling it onto glue-coated paper.
manner need to ach ieve an aut he ntic Pum ice sto ne, in solid-block form, is known
of Period Surfaces surface as a foundation for an authe ntic- to have been used as an abrasive, but, as
We have all seen repl icas of important looking fini sh. Apart from th e obvious with sandpaper, it was more for smoothing
originals th at are dimension ally accu rate differences in color, fin ish and patina, th e th e surface for fin ishing rat her th an for
and acade m ically perfect but lack th e look surfa ce of th e wood in a period piece is shaping th e wood. It is impor ta nt to
and feel of th e period piece. Th is fundamentally different from a su rface rem ember th at th e original makers were
shor tco ming is most often th e result of achieved by mod ern means. This

cutt ing, shaping and smoo t hing with sha rp Pitsawing is illustrated
ha nd tools th at left smoo t h su rfaces, so in The Book of Trades,
an English publication
th ere was very littl e nee d for sandpa pe r in
reprinted inAmerica in
th e act ua l shaping of wood. 1807. While water-
In any discu ssion of period surfaces it' s powered sawmills were
imp ort ant to distingu ish between th e levels operating in the colonies
of atte ntion afforded different areas in a as early as 1634,
pitsawing was required
given piece. Prim ar y surfaces are th ose that
to cut logs into boards in
are visible and finished; naturally th ey are areasaway from mills.
given th e greatest care in prep arati on , Since the coastal
smoo t hing and flattening. Secondary furniture-maki ngcenters
sur faces are th ose th at are not readil y had an abundance of
visible, including th e undersides of top s, worke rs but few
sawmills, pitsawing
th e insides of cases and frames, and th e
continued to be
backs of drawer fronts. They are plan ed flat practiced into the
and true but not dr essed beyond th at 19th century.
preparator y stage . Tertiary surfaces, suc h as (COURTESY DOVER
th e undersides of dr awer bottom s and th e
backs of cases, don't warrant mu ch planing
at all. In most inst an ces th ey are plan ed only
to redu ce th eir thickn ess, and they ofte n
show th e saw mark s of rough-saw n lumber
(see th e ph otos on p. 116 ).
O n period pieces, th e su btle marks of
hand tools are everyw here, if th ey are
fort unate enough to have survived . They are
not always readily ap parent, and it helps to
know wh at to look for. Knowing what to
expect requi res being fami liar with the
me t hods of t he or igina l craftsme n, and
knowin g where a certa in tool was likely to
have been used. The parallel waves of th e
plan e on seconda ry surfaces are th e most
obvious, but the tra ces of cabinet scrape rs
on primary su rfaces and the inimitable
mark s of chisels and marking tool s require
closer scrutiny. To historian s and scholars,
th ese mark s indi cate th e availabl e tools and dressed to their final dimen sion with Main e. By 1706 th ere wer e 70 sawm ills in
prevailin g meth od s of th e period ; to drawknives and hand planes. operation in th e colonies. In more rural
collectors an d antiqua rians, they are a clu e As th e 17th centu ry dr ew to a close and areas, mill s did not arrive until the middle
to origina lity and aut he nt icity. th e William and Mar y sty le came into of the ce nt u ry. Most of th ese water-powered
vogue, frame-and-pa nel join er y gave way to mill s cou ld develop only 2 hp to 3 hp-
th e dovet ailed join er y of thin boards (see eno ugh to o perate only one reciprocating
The Advent C hapter 8) . Dovet ailing was a radi cal blad e. Those th at cou ld develop more
departure from th e pr eviou s way of power had multiple blad es cutt ing severa l
of Sawn Stock bu ild ing furn iture, and with it came boards sim u lta neo us ly. The average m ill was
Th e earliest American furnit u re was of d ifferent method s of work. Instead of thick d oin g well if it cut 1,000 board-feet of
Jacobean frame-a nd-panel design . Its fram e members and thin panels, the new soft woo d a day. Where th ere were no water-
compo ne nts were eit her nearly square sty les requ ired thin boards that co uld only powered mill s, sawing was d on e by han d
fram e members or thin flat panel s, both of be produced by sawing them from a log. with a pitsaw. Two men were required to
wh ich were relati vely sho rt. These were As early as 1634 a sawm ill was ope rating work th e saw, o ne sta nd ing ato p the log and
easily split, or riven , from sho rt length s of on th e Piscat aqu a River, on wh at is now the the ot he r in th e pit below.
oak or ash using a froe and mallet and bord er between New Hampshire and


The uneven marks of pit is distinctive in th at th e saw marks left on
sawing are evident on th e board exte nd across its width, but show
the pine drawer bottom
th e variat ions th at are inh erent in hand
of a Hepplewhite
sideboard. work (top ph oto at left) . Th e mark s are not
perfectly parallel or stra ight, since one
sawyer could get ahead of th e other, and
th ere was not hing to hold th e saw perfectly
verti cal. Th e advent of water-powered mills,
which were basically mechani zed pitsaws,
produ ced saw marks th at are straight and
parallel (bottom photo at left ). Th e spacing
of th ese mark s is often un even , however,
since th e recipro cating blade cut at its own
pace. Ci rcular saw marks, with th eir
dist inctive cur ved shape, are not seen on
18th-century Am erican fu rn itu re. Th e
circu lar saw for cutt ing wood was invent ed
in England by Samuel Miller in 1777, but
circu lar saws did not come int o widespread
use in America until th e middle of t he 19th
Water-powered centu ry, when th ere were steam engines
reciprocatingsaws left powerful enough to ru n th em . Th e
parallel blade marks, as
band saw, also an English invention, was
seen on this underside
of a maple tabletop. patented in 1808 by William Newberry, but
it did not see popul ar use in th e United
States until afte r th e Civil War.

Hand Planing
Once th e roughsawn wood was properly
dri ed, it was cut and planed by hand to its
final dimension s. A number of different
planes were used in prepa ring and finishin g
stoc k, each with a specific purpose.

The first task was to flatt en th e stock,
remove th e saw marks and plane it to an
even thi ckn ess. Thi s would have been done
Sawn lumber was used to sheat he readily sawn, came into wid espread use. with wh at was th en called a fore plane, a
hou ses, and by th e end of th e 17th cen tur y Thi s change coincided with th e eme rging plan e 12 in. to 18 in. long with a blade, or
it was com ing int o use increasingly in th e tastes in fu rn iture aesth etic s, whe rein iron , about 2 in. wid e (see th e top photo on
makin g of furniture. While th e use of sawn th e sur face features of th e wood itself th e facing page). Since th e stock was wider
lumber in cabinet ma king offered new becam e an important part of th e design, th an th e plane, th e cutt ing edge was ground
challenges, it also created some new as evide nced by th e exte nsive use of and sharpe ned with a slightly convex edge,
possibilities. Ca binet ma kers were no longer matched figured ven eers on William and with not mu ch more than 1/ 16 in. of crown,
restri cted to using easily riven, st raight- Mary pieces. so th e corne rs of th e blade would not leave
grained woods. Other native hardwoods The saw marks of rou gh stoc k are rarely t racks. Thi s convex shape is responsible for
with more att ract ive color and figur e, such seen on fini shed furnitu re except on th e distinctive waved surface of hand -
as maple, walnut and br ittl e fruit wood s, all un seen surfa ces suc h as dr awer bottom s and planed wood, whi ch is especially noticeable
of wh ich were not easily split but were case backs. Th e nature of th e saw marks on secon da ry su rfaces. Fore planes are more
tells how th e piece was sawn. Pit-sawn wood


com monly known as jack planes today, bu t Measuring from 12 in. to
a 1677 text mentions t hat wh ile carp en ters 18 in. long, the fore or
jackplane was used to
called th em jack planes, join ers referr ed to
flatten and true rough-
th em as fore planes becau se they were used sawn lumber and to
to prepare th e stoc k before using ot he r piane it to the
planes. (Som e sources sta te that fore planes appropriate thickness.
were th e longer of th e two, bu t furniture (COURTESY BUD STEERE)

makers were likely to have used sma ller

planes th en carpente rs.)
By using a fore plane and planin g th e
sur face alterna tely wit h th e grain and th en
across it, a fairly flat and t ru e su rface can be
achieved. Th is planing tech nique is
especially important on wide board s or
panels tha t have been assem bled of board s
glued edge to edge, where there may be
some cupping across th e grain. In t he case Flattening a Board with a Fore Plane
of edge-glued panels, th e board s were
planed, glued togeth er and th en planed
Planing in alternating
again to ach ieve a flat su rface and un iform
directions is required to
thi ckness. Som e highly figur ed wood, suc h flatten a board.
as tiger maple, flam e che rry or birch,
cannot be planed easily in th e d irection of
th e grain, since t he figure d grain tends to
tear out . To dr ess t heir sur face flat and t ru e,
th ey can be planed in alte rnat ing diagon al Straight-grained wood
directions across the grain. Given th e
syste m of shop hierarchy at th e time, thi s Figured wood often requires
kind of preparatory planing would have .------ -
planing at a diagonal to
minimize the possibility of
been one of th e first jobs for apprentices.
tearing out the grain.

With th e stoc k planed flat and to its near
final thi ckn ess, a smoo thing plane was used
to dress th e surface. Smoothing planes of
Figured wood
th e period were 7 in. to 9 in. long with a
blade about 2 in. wid e and a coffin-shaped
wooden body (ph oto at right). As with fore
planes, th e blade was grou nd with a slightly
convex cutti ng edge, th ou gh with less of a Smoothing planes,
crown. Since th e pu rpose of t his plane was which measure from
7 in. to 9 in. long, were
to smooth th e su rface rath er than rem ove
used for smoothing
material quickly, it would be kept primary surfaces. This
exceptionally sharp and set for a very fine smoothing plane was
cut. Smoothing planes were used on made byCesar Chelor,
prim ary su rfaces that were to be eventua lly slave of Wre ntham,
fini shed, and probably would not have been Massachusetts, plane
maker Francis
used to smooth seconda ry sur faces. Th e
Nicholson, some time
cutting of th e fore plane was usually between 1753 (when
adequate for th ose surfaces . Chelor was given his
freedo m) and 1784
(when hedied) .


The jointer plane
measures from 20 in.
to 30 in. long and was
used to straighten the
edge of boards before
they were joined. The
length of the jointer
plane enabled it to
flatten slight curves in
edges that shorter
planes wou ld onlyfollow.

Cutting-Edge Geomet ry of Planes To achi eve th e very str aight edge required to
join two or more boards togeth er, a longer
SMOOTHING, FORE, TRYING jointer (or joyner) plan e would have been
used . Jointer planes range from 20 in. to
30 in. lon g with blades about 2 1/ 2 in. wide
(ph oto above). Th eir long length enabled
th em to st raighten cur ved profil es th at
sma ller planes wou ld only rid e over. Since
th e jointer was required to make a flat cut,
Body and since most edges were narrower th an
th e blade, th e cutt ing edge was ground and
sharpened straight and flat . Shorter jointer
planes were later referred to as tr ying or
truing planes, since th ey would be used to
make m inor adjust me nts to th e jointed
BLOCK PLAN E edge, and obta ining th at perfect edge-to--
Wedge Iron
edge fit was a process of tri al and erro r.

Special plan es for trimming across th e end
Body grain were called st rike block planes in
17th-eentury references, and later were
called st raight block planes or mit er planes.
Th ey were designed to hold th e blade at a
very low angle of 12 to 20 , so low th at th e
beveled side of th e blade is up. Thi s low
angle is required to cut cleanly across th e
grain, slicing th e fibers dir ect ly across th eir
length. Miter or st rike block planes of th e
period are known to have been about 12 in.
lon g. Th ey were essentia l for smoot hing
th e su rfaces of cross-grain cuts made with
a handsaw.

Most hand tools were imported, but over

th e cou rse of th e 18th centur y, American
toolm akin g grew, especially in th e area of
wooden planes. Th e bod y of Am erican
The low-angle strikeblock plane, sometimes called a miter plane, was designed to cut across end grain. planes was made of a hardwood like yellow
birch ; English plan e makers preferr ed to use

11 8 C II A P T E R S E VE N
beech. Cast-iron, brass or bronze planes did is honed with a leath er stro p th at rem oves
not appea r until th e end of th e 18th any wire edge th at has formed and polishes Cutting Actio n of
centur y, and th ey did not see widespread th e bevel. a Scrape r Blade
use unt il th e middl e of th e 19th cent ury. Th e cutting act ion of a plan e slices a thin
Most plane irons, even for Am erican-made layer from th e sur face of th e wood . Th e
planes, were imported from England . Th e quality of the cut su rface is affected by t he
irons were positioned at about 45 (except sharpness of th e blade and whether th e cut Scraper blade
for low-angle planes) and held in place with is with or against the grain. Cutting with
a wooden wedge. Th e amount th at th e th e grain impli es cutt ing in th e same
blade exten ded was adjusted by tap ping th e direction in which th e wood fibers are
top of th e blade gently. Irons are sha rpene d rising. Cutt ing against th e grain is cutti ng in
in the same manner as a ch isel. Th e bevel is th e direction th at th e fibers are falling.
ground at about a 25 angle with a grind ing Wh en going against th e grain, th e shaving
wheel, and th e beveled edge is sharpene d tend s to split off ahead of th e blade, and
with progressively finer oil- or water- below th e level of th e cut . Th e result is a (;

lubricated sto nes. Th e final cutt ing edge jagged surface of broken wood fibers. By
cutt ing with th e grain, in the dir ection of it s The cutting action of the hooked edge
rise, th e shaving will split off above th e level of a scraperbladelimits its depth of cut.
The fine cut does not tear out the grain,
of th e blade, leaving a smoo t h cut sur face. making the scraperideal for figured
Planing Direct io n Th e doubl e-iron blade th at is in general use wood surfaces.
today is int end ed to break th e chips off
before th ey can split ahead of th e cut.
Doubl e irons first appeared in 1767 as
With the grain
imp orted irons for Am erican-made plan es. th en drawn across th e su rface of th e wood,
Wh en planing across th e grain, th e in th e dir ection of th e grain, rem oving an
sharpness of t he blade is especially except ionally th in shaving, far thinner th an
important. Wood fibers are weak in th eir shavings produced by most planes. Since
adherence to one another, and th ey tend to th e cut is so gentle and shallow, th e scrape r
tear away from th e surface before th ey are does not tear out chunks where th e grain
cut from it. Plani ng across th e grain is often dip s, as planes can do, and th e orientation
easier t han planin g wit h it, and mate rial is of th e grain is not as impo rtant .
quick ly rem oved. Whil e th e final surface is Scrapers fall int o two categories: bevel-
not as smoot h as a cut with th e grain, cross- edge blades and square-edge blades. Bevel-
grain planing is ofte n th e only way to plane edge blades are sharpened like plane blades,
Against the grain
figured wood . and th en th e cutt ing edge is rolled int o a
hook shape by dr awing a hard ened
burnishing tool along its lengt h (see th e
Scraping d rawin g on p. 120). Square-edge blades are
After planing, primary surfaces were taken sharpened wit h sto nes to have sharp square
to a higher level of smoo t hness wit h cabinet edges, which are th en worked into hook
scrapers. Scrapers were especially important shapes wit h a bu rni sher. Eit her blade is
to early cabinet makers, and mu ch of what is dr awn across th e su rface so th at th e hook
now accomplished by sand ing was don e by does th e cutt ing. By bu rnishi ng th e blade
scraping in th e 18th century. wit h a large or small hook, you can vary th e
Double-iron blade acts
as chipbreaker. Scrapers differ from planes in the cutt ing chara cteristics of th e scraper. Th e
geomet ry of t heir cutting edge and in th e blades can be hand-held, or fixed in any
characterist ics of th eir cut . A scraper Cit is number of blad e hold ers available for th e
nothing like a paint scraper) is a sharp blade purpose. Eight eenth-eentury blade holders
th at is shaped to produ ce a microscopic were littl e more th an blocks of wood with a
hooked edge. Thi s sharp hooked edge is slot to hold th e scraper blade.


The fact th at the scrape r cu ts wit h
Bevel-Edge and its unique hooked edge p revents it fro m
Square -Edge Scrape rs cu tt ing d eep below the surface. The
shaving fro m a scra pe r can be less th an one
th ousandth of an inch th ick. By co mpa rison,
BEVEL-EDGE SCRAPER SQU ARE EDGE SCRAPER plan e shavings are rarely less than two
thousandths of an inch thick, and paper is
about four thou sandths of an inch thick.
A shaving this thin is so flexib le th at it
d oesn 't tend to splinter off mat eri al ah ead
of the blad e, an d the inside rad ius of th e
hook edge, whic h acts like a mi croscopi c
ch ipbrea ker, furt he r reduces th at possi-
bility. As a resu lt , the scrape r works nearly
as well against th e grain as it d oes with it,
making it abou t the on ly tool t hat can cut
and leave a good surface on highly figured
wood . Sin ce th e scrape r cu ts th e surface
rather than abrades it, it leaves no scratc hes
and d oes not clog th e wood por es with du st.
While th e scra pe r p roduces an authent ic
Bevel sharpened Cutting edge Blade sharpened Edges burnished
to a point burnished to a to square edges to a hook primary surface, its use does not end th ere.
hook with a on both sides Almos t any job th at wo u ld be done by
burnishingtool sand ing tod ay was originally d on e with a
scrape r. For exa m ple, to mak e tw o su rfaces
flush, suc h as w here a drawer divider meet s
a case or a case joins to a leg, mod ern
pr acti ce would call for block sand ing. Using
peri od method s, a hand plan e or spo keshave
would be used to even the sur faces, an d th e
fin al levelin g wo u ld be don e by scrap ing. It
is qu icker, clean er, easie r and far less pro ne
to erro r. A sha rp scrape r can remove a lot of
materi al qu ickly, and it produces a smoo t h
su rface without scratc h ing th e adjoining
areas. The user do es have to pay attent ion to
how t he to ols are cu tt ing and change
directi on if th e wood shows any signs of
tearing out . Scraper s do not cu t well across
the grain, and that can be a p robl em whe re
a level su rface jo ins anot he r at right angles.
Us ing th e scra pe r di agon ally across th e join t
can minimize any ill effects. A craf ts pe rson
wh o is p roficient with a scra pe r can build a
piece t hat is virt ua lly ready to fini sh
without t he use of sand pape r.

Scrapers have been madein a variety offorms for use on surfaces ofdifferent Spokeshaves
shapes. Flat surfaces are smoothed with a straight-edged blade held by hand or in a Spokeshaves are in essence littl e hand plan es
simple wooden holder. Curved molding profiles that cannot be made with straight
wit h handles on eit he r side . They are used to
molding planes can be shaped with profiled scrapers.
sha pe and smoot h com plex sha pes and
swee ping curves like th ose of cabriole legs.
Their cu tt ing blad es average about 11/ 2 in.

120 C H A P T E R S EVE N
Spokeshaves work like
small planes and are
used for smoothing and
shaping curved
surfaces. They feature
flat or curved soles, and,
like 18th-century planes,
had wooden bodies.

wid e and are usuall y grou nd st raight across . smoot h tran siti on from the back side of
Rasps and Files cab riole leg into its kn ee block, as well as
They are able to follow curved surfaces
becau se th e len gth of t heir sole is less than Whi le spokeshaves are ver sati le, th ey do dress th e top of a kn ee where it join s th e
1 in . f or smaller-rad ius curved surfaces, have th eir limitat ion s, and anything they apron . Rasping is a qui ck way of rou nd ing a
th ere are cu rved-sole spo keshaves that can can no t do can probably be acco m plished squ are co rne r o r easing a sha rp edge . In
cut wh ere flat- sole mod els can no t. For th e with a rasp or file. Rasp s and files wer e an addition, a ver y fin e rasp or wood file can
more specia lized t asks of hollow ing and important part of the peri od furniture d o anyt h ing th at a sand ing block can d o,
rou nd ing, spo keshaves are available with maker 's inventor y of tools. They were used and is especia lly useful in smoot hing away
convex and concave blad e profil es. for both shaping and smoot h ing, tasks that any fl at cu ts fro m a curved surface t hat has
A spokes have is o ne of the most useful are usu ally don e with ab rasives tod ay. Rasp s been ch iseled o r spokeshaved to shape.
tools for makin g pe riod pieces, and it is also have raised met al points th at remove A ca refu l exa minat ion of pe riod pieces
a joy to use . It can quic kly sha pe curved mat er ial aggressively, and are p rim aril y used reveals th e mar ks of rasps or files used in
components th at wo uld have or iginally for roug h shapi ng th at ca n't readil y be done their makin g. They are mos t often seen in
been roug h-eu t to sha pe wit h a bowsaw or with ot he r cu tt ing tools. Files have fine th e inco nspicu ou s places and under sid es of
framed saw. These pieces include cab riole parallel cu tt ing ridges, wh ich leave a curved aprons and rails. Many cab riole legs
legs, chair st iles, crest rails, back splats, smoot he r surface, and are used for fina l show th eir marks on th e und er side of t he
apro n pro files, and serpe nti ne and bombe sha ping and smoot h ing. Some of th e knee w here it meet s the knee block. File
forms. A spo keshave can be used to rou nd co m plex shapes of th e peri od , suc h as mark s are fr equ ently evident on t he sharp
or cha mfe r any co rne r or edge, especially a cab riole legs, sna ke feet and swee ping insid e co rners of sha ped arms and crest
cu rved edge, and can also cu t a round o r aprons, wer e brought to th eir fina l sha pe rails. O n ver y we ll-p rese rved o rigi na ls, t he
half-round sect ion on square stock . The with p rogressively fin er rasps and files. marks fro m individual teeth of th e file used
spokeshave lets th e user make co m plex There are a few ar eas of peri od pieces to br eak sharp edges or rou nd a p rofil e are
sculpted shapes with th e safety and cont rol that can be shaped on ly with rasps and files. often st ill visibl e. Files were used in places
of a tool th at rem oves a consiste nt and Rasping is abo ut the onl y way to shape the that other tools cou ld n't reach and in places
adjusta ble amo u nt of mat eri al with each top of a pad or Dutch foot (see pp . 152-153) that t oday would be sande d.
pass. Like th e plan e, it is a sharp cut t ing tool and blend it into th e round sect ion of an
and leaves a surface th at is clean and smoot h. an kle. Similarly, rasping and filin g can cu t a

Rasps. with aggressive

freestanding teeth, and
files, with a series of
raised cutting edges,
were used to shape and
smooth wood in areas
that othertools were not
able to reach. Both files
and rasps were used in
lieu ofabrasives.

P E R I 0 [) S UR F A C E S & THE I R M A K IN G 121

Shaping an Apron
Cutting Shaped Elements
During most of th e 18t h centu ry, Am erican
furniture was built with shaped aprons or
rails as int egral part s of the design. Th ese
______. - - Front of apron shapes were int end ed to be seen in profile
or as silhou ettes and played an imp ortant
part in creat ing th e gracefu l shapes, th e
balance of solid and void, and th e sense of
const rained energy that were amo ng th e
aest hetics of th e period . These shap es
Saw kerf A saw was used to include th e curved aprons of high chests
cut awaymost of the and d ressing tables, th e scalloped aprons of
material. The final
shape was cut with
rectangu lar tea tables and th e shaped seat
chisels. rails of chairs.
C utt ing th ese shaped parts was not
always easy. Eightee nth-eentu ry cabinet-
Chisel and gouge marks makers had handsaws used for cutt ing
lu m ber and join ery, but th ese cut in
Chamfered edge straight lines. Cutt ing along a cu rved line
required th e narrow blade of a framed saw.
Framed saws includ e th ose with a blad e
Chiseling the final held in tens ion in the cente r of a wooden
shapeleft the inside fram e, whi ch could cut gentle cu rves, and
edge ragged and
bowsaws, which have th e blade mounted on
splintered, so it was
usually chamfered. th e outside of a fram e and are better able to
Inside of apron cut more complex shapes. Even th e most
versati le bowsaw was limited by th e width
of its blade, wh ich was not less tha n % in.
and prevented th e saw from cutting very
tight curves.
Becaus e of th e limi tations of th eir saws,
18th-eent ur y cabinetma kers used a
Eighteenth-century com binat ion of sawing, chiseling and
cabinetmake rs used a rasping to achi eve th e final shapes of
combination of sawing,
aprons. T he gentle cur ves th at could be cut
chiselingand rasping to
make shaped aprons
to shape with a bowsaw were trimmed and
and rails. The marks of adjusted with chisels and spokeshaves.
these tools are usually Shapes that were more intricate were sawn
evi dent on the underside wh ere possible an d chiseled the rest of th e
of the components. way (see th e drawing at left). How mu ch
(This photo shows the
was sawn and how mu ch was ch iseled
underside of the front
legand apron of the depend ed on th e int ricacy of th e shape and
Queen Anne side chair t he capability of t he cabinetmaker's saw.
pictured on p. 245.) T he com bination of sawing and chiseling
from t he outs ide edge toward t he inside left
a ragged and splinte red inside edge. Thi s
edge was th en clean ed up by chamfering.
Th e undersides of th ese shaped apron s
are some of the most int erestin g parts of
per iod furniture. T he tool marks of th e
or iginal maker usu ally rem ain clearly

122 C 1-1 APT E R S EV E N

visible. Th ey offe r great insight int o th e
tools and methods of th e 18th century and Creating a Complex Molding Profile
are th e cabinet making fin gerprints of th e
crafts man wh o mad e th e piece more th an A moldingplane is capable of cutting
two centu ries ago. only one profile, but several profiles
could be cut on a board with a series
of rabbeted steps.
Making Moldings
Eighteenth-century moldings were eit her
cut with molding planes or scraped with
scratc h stoc ks. Plane makers made molding
planes in a number of stand ard shapes that
could be used singly or in com bination to
produ ce more comp lex shapes. Scrat ch
stoc ks were shaped scrape r blades used to
make shallow molding deta ils. Rabbeted cuts to Shaping each step
start the molding with a molding plane
Molding planes were mad e to cut only one
shape. Many cabinet ma kers used favorite
moldin g planes so ofte n th at th ose mold ed
profiles becam e ind icative of th eir work .
Planes could also be used in combinations
to make a wide variety of shapes for corn ice
moldi ngs. Th om as Sheraton 's Ca binet
Dictiona ry (Lond on , 180 3) illustrates how a
Individual moldings could be
rabb et plane is used to cut molding stoc k assembled into more complex
int o a series of ste ps, and each ste p is th en shapes, as on this cornice
shaped wit h a di fferent molding plan e as molding of a high chest.
if it was th e edge of an individual board
(see th e drawin g at right) . Similarl y,
complex moldings cou ld be assem bled
from single mold ings, each made with a
different moldi ng plane.

SCRATCH STOCKS dividers of cu rved-front case pieces are just

Scratch stocks are shopmade tools th at can Using a Scratch Stock tw o of th e many uses of scratc h stoc ks lat er
be shape d to any shallow design. Th ey are in th e 18th century.
made by filing th e desired profile in th e Scrat ch stocks were also used to mold
edge of a scraper blade, sharpening th e edge Shaped or flute tapered legs. Becau se molding or
like a scraper blad e, and affixing a fence of scraper fluting tapered wit h th e leg, th e scratc h
some sort . Th e blade is drawn along th e stoc k cou ld not be used with a simple fence.
sur face of th e wood repeatedly, gu ided by For this purpose, th e molding box was
th e fence, and th e wood is cut by a scraping devised . Th is box was designed to hold a
action. Since th ey were easily mad e, scratc h co mpone nt, like a tapered leg, in a fixed
stocks were a favorite tool of join ers for position whil e a scrape r cutte r in a slid ing
cutt ing shallow shad ow moldings on th e hold er was gui ded alon g its length . By
st iles and rails of join ed chests . Th e use of adjusting th e positi on of th e component,
scratc h stocks cont inued through th e th e cutte r could be made to cut stra ight
century wh enever a small mold ed shape, tapered flutes anywhere on th e leg.
especially on a cu rved shape, needed to be
cut . Th e beaded edges of cur ved chair st iles
and th e cockbeaded cases and dr awer



W ile Am eri can fu rn iture of th e mortise and ten on is a joint as old as of th e ot her member. Wh en th e tenon
18th century is che rished for its aest hetic woodworking itself, and was th e primar y is assem bled int o th e mort ise, th e two
qualit ies, th e pieces also set a sta nda rd for joint of fram e-and-panel furn iture pieces are held secure ly at right angles to
struct u ral int egrit y and ingenuity. Th e cons t ruct ion. Dovet ails had been kn own one anot her.
tra de of th e cabinet ma ker, wh ich included for millennia but saw a resurgence in use Th e joint is easily made with simple
more varied disciplines th an th at of th e near th e end of th e 17th centu ry. T he hand tools, including a saw, drill and
joiner, had not blossom ed in Am er ica until int erlocking tri angular eleme nts of dovet ail chisels. Ca binet makers lay out t he joint
toward t he end of th e 17th cent ury, so th e joints allowed thin pieces of wood to be with a mortising gauge, an adjusta ble
tech niqu es were st ill quite new and u nder joined without th e need for a th icker join ed markin g gauge th at can scribe two parallel
development during th e 18th century. frame. As exemplified by furniture of th e lines sim u lta neo usly. Th e gauge is used to
Never t heless, th e join er y and const ruct ion William and Mar y period , th e new method mark th e size and position of both th e
meth ods used during th at per iod were of join er y revolutioni zed th e way furniture morti se and th e tenon . To cut th e mort ise,
sop hist icated and elegant solut ions to th e was built. In addition to the important a series of holes are drill ed between th e
task at hand . Th ey reflect a familiarity and meth ods of join er y, th ere are a variety of scribed lines to rem ove most of th e wood,
u nd erstandi ng of wood an d its properties methods of attaching tops, moldings and and th e rem ainin g material is cut to t he
and were chose n with th e fun cti on al feet, all of w hich show an ingenuity, lines wit h chisels. Mortising chisels wit h
requ ireme nts of th e joint in mind . Over inventiven ess and innate kn owledge of th e th ick blades were made expressly for t his
the century, Am erican cabinet makers nature of wood . purpose. Th e tenon is cut wit h a tenon saw,
opti m ized th eir joinery. O ne rarely find s a small backsaw made for just such cuts.
join ts th at are more co mplicated th an they Th e tenon is th en trimmed to th e scribed
need to be or exam ples th at have failed Mortise-and- lines wit h ch isels. Th e resulting joint fits
becau se th e joine ry is not adequate. The togeth er snugly and wit h a flu sh joint
require me nt of having to make fu rn it ure of
Tenon Joinery
su rface. Most morti se-and-tenon joints in
lasti ng integ rity, balanced by th e need to The mortise and tenon is th e most un iversal pe riod pieces were drill ed and pegged
produce it by hand and for an affor da ble of joint s. It is used to join fram ed pieces, th rough to lock th e joint togeth er.
but profi table price, were driving forces like tables and cha irs, th at are composed Mortises and tenons th at are 3fs in. wide
behind the opt im izat ion of th e join ery and of nar row members, as oppose d to case are found on many 18th-century pieces,
st ruc ture of fu rn itu re. pieces th at are made up of flat panel s. Th e corresponding to th e width of a stan dard
The pr imary me t hods of joinery of mortise, or slot, is cut int o th e side of one chisel. Th e morti ses are located 1/ 4 in. to
18t h-century furn iture were th e mortise- member, and a sn ug-fitt ing ten on, made 112 in. from th e flu sh su rface of th e joint
and-tenon joint an d th e doveta il joint. Th e to fit int o th e mortise, is cut on th e end an d are laid out to leave a shou lder on both

Lay ing Out and Cutting a Mortise-and-Tenon Joint

1. Width of mortise 2. Length of mortise

and tenon is scribedwith
mortisinggauge. \ and tenon is laid out
with square.

3. Holes are drilled to remove

majorityof material from mortise.
4. Mortiseis chiseled to
scribed lines.

5. Tenon is cut with saw and trimmed 6. Joint is assembled,

to scribedlines with chisel. drilled and pegged.

Visible scribed lines


sides of th e ten on ed piece. It is usu ally th e mating surface of th e mortised part . out th e back of th e tenon when th e peg
possib le to see th e or iginal mortising gauge A peg dr iven th rou gh a cross-dr illed hole is forced th rough. Th e risk of breakage
marks on th e wood just outs ide th e joint . acco mplishes this perfectly (see t he d rawin g wou ld be of part icular concern when
Mortise-and-tenon joints were ma de below). The compressive force th at gives the work ing wit h well-dried and somewha t
in a wide number of variat ions. Some were joint its int egrit y can be ach ieved in one of bri ttle hardwoods. Per iod cabine tmake rs
angled; some were hou sed to have shou lde rs two ways. Th e joint can be clamped tightl y, freq uen tly used spoo n or shell bits t hat did
on three or four sides ; othe rs extended an d th en d rilled and pegged before th e not have an accu rate cente r point to drill
clea r th rou gh th e mortised member; and clamp is rem oved , or th e joint may be draw- sma ll-diameter holes, so th ey wou ld have
some were do ub led or ap pear in a series. bored . In draw bori ng, th e hole is d rilled had difficulty in positio ning a hole with
They were designed and cut to su it th e th rou gh th e mortised part first. Then th e t he kind of precision requ ired to make a
purpose of th e joint wit hout weake n ing th e joint is assem bled and th e exact posit ion of draw- bore d joint . Furthermore, any cabinet-
joined pieces. th e hole is marked on th e ten on . Th e maker of note would have had clamps
Tim e-hon ored method s of join ery have ten on ed part is th en rem oved and th e hole amo ng his invent ory of tools, and would
achieved th at distin cti on for th eir ability to is drill ed slightly closer to th e sho ulde r than not have needed to dr aw-bore a joint.
accom mo da te th e dynami c nature of wood . th e markin g. Wh en th e joint is reassembled, In th e pegged mortise-and -tenon joint,
To join two pieces of wood secu rely is th e holes are slightly out of align me nt; th e tenoned piece is free to expand and
simple enough, but for th e joint to endure it driving a peg through th e joint dr aws th e co nt ract without affecti ng th e st rength of
mu st maintain its st ruct u ral int egrit y whil e two parts tightl y together. th e joint (see th e dr awin g on th e facing
th e two compo ne nts are cont inually Draw boring, whil e clever and effective, page). Th e mortised piece is also free to
expandi ng and con t ract ing wit h cha nges in was probably not a com mo n pract ice in ex pan d and contrac t, with th e exception of
humid ity. (For more on wood and wood th e makin g of fin e fu rn itu re d u ring th e th e nar row width bet ween th e peg and th e
movement, see Appendix I on p. 293.) 18th cent ury. Most struct ura l tenon s in sho u lde r. Th at area is under consta nt
The key to maintaining a secure joint is period pieces are 3jg in. th ick and rarely comp ressive force in a tight joint, and is so
to retai n a co mp ressive force between lon ger th an I in. With suc h a delicate sma ll th at expansion and con trac tion th ere
the shoulder of th e tenon ed member and ten on, a m isalign me nt of more th an about wou ld be negligible. Th us th e pegged joint
113 2 in. in th e holes wou ld resu lt in breaking

Maintaining a Secure Joint

The integrity of a mortise-and-

tenon joint relieson maintaining
a compressive force along the
joint line, which is achieved by
clamping across thejoint or by
draw boring.

Holes in mortise
and tenon are
slightly off-center.

Peg driven through

hole tightens joint.


126 C H A P T E R E IG HT
is virtually immune to th e effects of
changes in humidity. Pegged and Wedged Mortise-an d-Tenon Joints
Th ere are some ot her variat ions of th e
mortise-and -tenon joint th at are occasion-
ally seen in fu rn itu re, but most lack th e
durability of th e simple pegged joint. O ne
of th ese is th e wedged mortise and tenon,
wh ere a th rou gh tenon is split with one or
more wedges to tight en th e joint. This
joint relies on th e outward pressu re of th e
, ' 1'
tenon at th e outs ide edge to maintain
~- - . .@ \ .11
'~~ .L \ I'1\
enough friction to keep th e joint together. Both members are free to
Unfortu nately, th e tenon will shrink in expand and contract.
width and th e mortised member is free to _ \ \. 1 \
shrin k away from th e tenon shou lde r. Once - -+--1= ~ =--'+1
i \
th at happ ens, th e int egrit y of th e joint is I
lost. Th e cross-wedged mortise and tenon is
anot her variation of th e joint that is ofte n
seen in early tr estle tables. Th e tenon is lon g
enoug h to pass through th e mortised piece
and exte nd out th e ot her side . Th e wedge
passes th rou gh th e outs ide of th e exte nded
tenon, drawing th e joint together. Th is
arra ngeme nt allows for easy tight eni ng or WED GED MORTI SE AND TEN ON
disassembly of th e joint wh en needed .
Alth ough thi s is a great idea for fu rn iture Tenon shrinks in width
th at will be assem bled or disassembl ed and loses wedged force.
freque ntly, it is not appro priate or practical
Mortisedpiece shrinks
for more refined pieces.
awayfrom shoulder.

Dovetail Joinery
Dovetails are th e int erlockin g tria ngular-
shaped joint s th at enable wide, th in pieces
of wood to be join ed end-to-end, usually at
right angles to one another. Because th e
grain in both pieces is oriented in th e same
direct ion, th e pieces are able to expand and
cont ract simulta neo usly wit h no adverse
effect on th e int egrity of th e joint. Th e joint CROSS -WEDGED
evolved over th e course of th e 18th century
as it was continually refined and opti mized.
Th e exte nsive use of dovetailin g began in I, ', Cross-wedged tenon may be
America with th e William and Mary period ,J
\ tightened but is impractical for
at th e end of th e 17th centu ry and signaled
a fu nda menta l change in th e way fu rn iture
was made. Th e use of th e dovet ail and th e ---. .4-
_ L~----l
refined furniture.

more complex fu rn it ure designs th at it

enab led marked th e divergence of th e
highly skilled trade of th e cabinet maker
from th at of th e join er. Th e new meth od of
construction formed th e st ruc t u ral basis for
th e many styles of fu rn itu re th at evolved
during th e 18th century and after. Dovet ail


join er y is virtually synonymo us with
Dovetail Joints 18th-century draw er and case const ruct ion,
and for th at reason it is best to explore th e
THROUGH DOVETAIL use of dovetail s in that context.
Half pin
Dovet ail joints are comprised of two pieces:
th e tail piece, whi ch has one or more angled
tails exte nding from it, and th e pin piece,
wh ich int erlocks with th e tail piece. Th e
shape of th e tails on th e tail piece is cut at
right angles to th e flat su rface of th e wood.
Th e tail piece can th en be used as a patt ern
to trace th e joint onto th e wood from which
Pin piece Spacing Tail piece th e pin s are cut. Th e pins are cut at right
angles to th e end of th e pin piece, but are at
an angle to th e su rface of th at piece. Among
th e definin g characte ristics of a dovetail
joint are th e angle, widt h and length of th e
tails. Th e spacing of th e tails determines th e
width of th e pin .
Dovet ail joints fall int o two main
catego ries: th rou gh dovet ails and half-blind
dovetail s (see th e drawin g at left) . Th rough
Pin width
(narrow end) dovet ails exte nd th rough th e th ickn ess of
th e pin piece and are flu sh with th e outside
surface. In instances where th e end of th e
tail piece would be better un seen , half-
HALF-BLIND DOVETAIL blind dovet ails are used and th e tails do
not exte nd th rough th e pin piece. Half-
blind dovet ails are preferr ed to join dr awer
fronts to th eir sides and on certain areas of
case construct ion, such as th e top edges of
slant-front desks whe re th e joinery is not
covered by a molding (see th e bottom
Scribed lines
dr awin g onp.1 39).


Pin piece Tail piece
Th e traditi on al method of making a
dovet ail joint is to lay out and cut th e tail
Tail length piece and use th at as a patt ern to mark and
Angle cut th e pin piece (see th e drawing on th e
facing page). A markin g gauge is used to
scribe a line across th e end of th e tail piece
equal to th e thi ckn ess of th e pin piece or
th e desired length of th e t ails. Th e locat ions
of th e tails are laid ou t on th e tail piece
using a bevel gauge set at th e proper angle.
Th e tri angular spaces betw een th e tails are
Pin width sawn and chiseled away. Th e markin g gauge
(narrow end) is th en used to scribe th e thi ckn ess of th e
tail piece across th e end of th e pin piece,
and, in th e case of a half-blind dovetail, th e

128 C H A P T E R E IG HT
Laying Out and Cutt ing Doveta il Joints

.----_ _.....,~ Marking gauge

Tail piece ..e-- Scribed lines Chiseled to
scribed lines

Dovetail angle k:::Ie--- Saw kerfs

Length of tail
or thickness of
pin piece

1. Line is scribedacross end of tail piece. 2. Position of tails is laid out with bevel 3. Spaces between tails are cut away
Distance from end equals thickness of pin gauge set for dovetail angle. with saw cuts and chisels.
piece or length of tail for half-blind dovetails.


Pin piece Tail piece Pin piece Pin piece Tail piece

Scribed line
on pin piece
from end =
of tail piece)

4. Location of tails is scribedonto pin piece. 5. Areas 6. Joint is assembled.

between pins
are sawn and
chiseled away.


Pin piece Tail piece Pin piece Tail piece

Thickness of tail
piece scribed here

C O N ST R U e T I O N J 0 I N E RY 129
lengths of th e tails are scribed across th e Furn iture in th e Jacobean style, made in Thi ck dr awer sides were required to
end grain. Th e tail piece is positioned over th e Ame rican colonies as late as th e ]680s, accommodate th e side groove and to
t he pin piece and th e pattern of th e had dr awers that were nailed togeth er. In withsta nd being nailed togeth er. Th e
dovetai ls is scribed onto th e end grain of th e th e English tradition , all th e drawer parts d rawer bottom s were also nailed to th e
pin piece. A saw cut is made on eithe r side were thi ck and usually made of oak. Th ese dr awer sides, and in keepin g with th e rest of
of th e pin s and th e material betw een th em dr awers were side hun g; th at is, th ey were the drawer st ructure were su bstantial. Th e
is sawn and/or chiseled away to th e scribed susp end ed and slid on runners nailed to th e assembly, wh ile strong and ru gged, was also
lines. Th e two parts of th e joint may th en inside of th e case th at fit int o correspond- very massive. Thi s weight limit ed th e size
be assembled . ing grooves in th e dr awer sides (see th e top and height of th e case, and as a result
ph oto below). Th e front of th e dr awer was Jacobean pieces remained low, horizontal
DR AW ER CONS T RUCT I ON joined to th e side by a nailed half-lap joint , and correspondingly stro ng and solid enough
Drawers are an int egral part of case so th e groove in t he dr awer side ended at to support th e drawers (see C hapter l ). In
furni t ure, and th eir meth od of const ruc t ion th e drawer front and was not visible when additio n, side-hung drawers were not easily
is a prima ry meth od of dat ing a period th e drawer was closed. repairable if th e groovewore out, which was
piece. Th e details of drawer const ruct ion Thi s kind of const ruction had several inevitable given th e weight th ey bore.
can be as revealing as th e overall style of advantages and disadvantages. Th e biggest Th e greatest advanta ge of thi s system of
a piece. disadvantage was th e weight of th e drawer. draw er suspension was that th e grooves
running on th e two rails fully const rained
th e movem ent of th e dr awer. Later drawers
The typical 17th-century would need runners to slide on, kickers
drawer was sidehung above th e drawer to keep it from tippin g
and built with nailed
down whe n pull ed out, and guides on
half-lap joints.
(COURTESYWETHERSFIELO eithe r side of th e dr awer to keep it moving
HISTORICAL SOCIETY) st raight. Th e grooves and runners of side-
hung dr awers did all th ese things. In
addition, since th e groove sto pped at th e
draw er front, th e front end of th e runner
acted as a very accu rate d rawer stop. Best of
all, th ese drawers were easy to bu ild, and,
with th e except ion of th eir mass, worked
quite well.
Over the course of the Toward t he end of th e 17th century,
18th century, dovetails when dovetails came int o more common
(and pins) became use, th ey were large and few in nu mb er.
smaller and more closely Wh ere drawer sides met th e fro nts, half-
blind dovetails were used so th e tails would
not exte nd throu gh to th e drawer front s
(ph oto, far left) . Through dovetails joined
th e sides to th e backs. Th e dr awer sides
were th e tail pieces and th e fron ts and backs
were th e pin pieces, th us or ientin g the join t
to th e stresses of being pulled in and out of
a case. Since th e joinery elim inated th e need
for nails, th e dr awer parts could be made
thinner, light er and from more fragile
wood , such as pin e. Th is trend preclud ed
th e use of grooves for side-hu ng drawers,
and cases were designed with runners along
th e bott om of th e dr awer openings for th e
d rawers to slide on (see th e drawi ng on
p. 26). Th e light er, dovetailed dr awers made
possible th e tr end toward th e vertical
proportions of th e William and Mary and
later period s.

130 C H A PT E R EI GH T
From th e end of th e 17th cent u ry
th rough th e beginning of th e 19th, Drawer Bottoms
dovetailed dr awer joinery evolved fro m
what seemed to be an arduo us but effect ive 17TH CENTURY
joint th at tested th e skill of th e maker to a
refine d and sophistica ted meth od of join ery
that attested to th e skill of the maker. Th e
early dovet ailed d rawers had as few as one
Butted and nailed
or two large dovet ails at each corner. Th ey
were not delicate, but th ey did th e job and
were an imp rovem ent over th e use of nails.
By th e star t of th e 18th century, cab inet-
makers found that more dovet ails mad e for
a stronger and more du rable joint, and th is
t rend continued for most of th e cen tu ry.
As th e num ber of dovet ails used in a joint EARLY 18TH CEN TURY

increased, th eir size becam e sma ller and

th eir pro port ions more delicate (see th e
bottom right photo on th e facing page). By
Let into rabbet
the close of th e centur y, as th e Heppl ewhite at front and sides;
style was su pplanted by She raton designs, sometimes with
drawer-front dovet ails had becom e stylized attached runner
enoug h almost to be cons ide red decor ative
as well as fun ctional.

Drawer fronts
Over th e course of th e cen tu ry, some
aspects of drawer-front dovet ails rem ained NEWP ORT VER SION
the same wh ile ot hers evolved. In a casua l
survey of 18th-century pieces, th e length
and angle of th e dovet ail did not vary over
time . Drawer-front dovetails were consis-
Let into front only; butted
tentl y about '/2 in. long. Th e angle of th e over sides and back;
doveta il varied by a few degrees in a single runner strip nailed on
piece and varied from 10 to 20 , averaging
15, amo ng pieces. Th e angle of th e dovet ail
seems to have had more to do with regional
or personal preference th an with evolutio n
over time. The most noticeable change
duri ng th e centur y was th e decrease in pin MID TO U\TE
width and spacing. Th e narrower side of pin 18TH CENTURY
widths often exceeded li z in. before mid-
century but was frequently less th en li s in. by
century's end. Similarly, th e century began
with dovetails spaced as far as 2 in. apart and
finished wit h th em closer to half th at . Let into grooves in
front and sides
Drawer bottoms
Th e earliest Oate- 17th-century) dovet ailed Drawer
drawers had bottom s th at were st ill nailed bottom slides
in from back.
onto th e d rawer sides. Over th e course of
th e next few decades, th e d rawer bottom s
followed th e tr end of th e rest of th e dr awer
structure and becam e th inn er and light er.

CO N S T R u e T I O N J a I N E R Y 131
Cabinetmakers with more refined methods Dovetail layout Th e most prevalent layout (left, in th e
rabb eted th e bottom of th e draw er The way th at dr awer dovetails are designed d rawing on th e facing page) places a full tail
components and let th e bott om into th em . is essential to producing an attractive and at th e top and a half tail at th e bott om . An
Hid e glue and progressively fin er nails were fun ctional joint. At th e front of th e d rawer, altern ative design (center, drawin g facing
used to secure th e bottom into the rabbet. th e doveta ils are laid out so th at th e grooves page) uses half tails top and bottom . In both
Newp ort cabinetmakers had a dist inctive or rabb ets for th e drawer bottom are cases, th e lowest pin is placed above th e
method of attaching d rawer bottoms th at concea led u nd er a full or half tai l, as shown groove for the drawer bott om . Th e pin s are
persisted for the rest of t he centu ry. T he in th e draw ing below. T he top of t he drawer evenly spaced and are usually close in size to
dr awer bottom, usually about '/4 in . to 3/s in. side is laid out with a full dovetail so that, th e front tails, th ou gh th ere may be fewer of
thi ck and tapered to li s in. thick at t he fron t from above, th e side app ears to butt rath er th em . Som e d rawers with backs rabbeted
and sides, fit int o a groove in th e drawer than overlap th e drawer fro nt. This leaves for th e dr awer bott om (right, drawing
fro nt and was nailed to th e bottom of th e th e top sur face of th e dr awer front unb roken facing page) have a layout th at incor porates
sides and back. Two thin st rips were nailed and allows a molded or rou nded top on th e th e rabb et wit h th e dovetail. T he first layout
over th e drawer bottom along each side. drawer side to terminate against th e dr awer is well-suited to drawers where th e top of
Th e drawer slid in and out of th e case on front . Th e layout with a full tail at th e th e sides and back are flat and level. Th e
th ese st rips, which cou ld easily be replaced bottom of the drawer front to conceal th e second layout works well where th e top of
if th ey ever wore out . groove leaves a very thi n half pin (left , in th e th e drawer side is rounded or molded and
A su perior met hod of draw er-bottom drawing below). An alternative method th e back can be mad e to abut it just below
installati on was to slide th e bottom into used during th e period was to conceal th e th e shaped edge. Th e third layout is rare and
grooves cut int o th e inside of th e drawer groove with a half tail (cente r,drawin g used only for small, inte rior desk drawers.
sides and front. The bottom was then below). Both layouts are historically With th e regional and individual
secu red with small nails to th e drawer back. accurate but th e version with all full tails variat ions in dovetailed d rawer construc-
Th e const ruction allowed for th e seasonal seems to have been more prevalent, despite tion , it is impossible to call anyone met hod
expansion and cont ract ion of the drawer its shortcomings. Newport-style drawers th e best. Whil e th e size and spacing of th e
bottom without splitt ing, and was a much with nailed-on bottoms used full tails as joints changed over tim e, a solid, reliable
more secure and elegant met hod of well, with the bot tom of th e draw er sides joint th at concealed th e grooves or rabbets
const ruct ion. T his met hod had been highe r th an the front to allow for t he t hick- was always t he goal. Som e meth ods, like
ado pted by many makers by th e second ness of th e bottom (right, drawing below) . sliding dr awer bottoms, proved to be more
qu arter of th e 18t h cent ury and was th e The rear joint wh ere th e sides meet th e successful th an others, but many variat ions
preferred method of const ruct ion for th e back also has a com mo n recurring layout in drawer const ruct ion are historically
rest of th e cen tury. and variation s th at are equally effect ive. cor rect. Th e joinery meth ods of a single

Dovetail Layouts : Drawer Fronts

- - - - - - - - - -1\ \ - - - - - - - - - - -i\ \'

Full tail Drawer front

Drawer side Fullta il~


for draWer\ Exposed side of
\ \ drawer bottom
bottom _

Full tail

Half pin Half tail Runner strip and drawer

bottom nailed on

132 C H A I' T ERE I G H T

cabinetmaker evolved and were perfected The front, back and
over time, so even th e work of a single sidesof a drawer are
prepared for dovetailing.
craftsman shows variations. Then , as now,
The components should
th e goal was to optimize th e joinery to besquarely cut and
achieve an elegant and st ructur ally soun d planed to a uniform
drawer. Th e result is ofte n so successful th at thickness.
it belies th e foret hought and plann ing th at
preceded th e work.

Th e first step in building a draw er is to
measure th e opening in th e case and plan
th e size of th e d rawer parts accordingly.
Every drawer requires clearan ce room,
which needs to be accounted for at th e
outset. A total of I/ l(; in. in width and height
is usually enough clearan ce; mor e than th at
can cause a drawer to feel too loose in its
opening. In addition, th e bui lder should
alwaysanticipate th e effects of expansion
and cont ract ion due to changes in humidity
on drawer clearance. Becau se of th e widt h sho uld be cut about 1/ 4 in. longer and ord er to make an even overlap, some makers
of th eir components, taller dr awers are I/ S in . taller than th e opening to allow for like to cut th e top rabb et first, adjust th e
affected more th an sho rte r dr awers. th e overlap. clearance of th e drawer front in th e case by
Eightee nt h-eentu ry lipp ed drawers have trimming th e drawer bottom (wh ich may
Drawer fronts a VIti-in. or 1/ 4-in. bead cut aro u nd th eir necessitate recutt ing th e bottom bead) and
Drawer fron ts are made first, usually from outside edge first. Aft er th e bead is cut, t he th en cu t th e side rabb ets. Th ere is no
stock planed to between 3/4 in. and % in. in top and side rabb et are cut to raise th e lip. overlapping lip at th e bottom of th e drawer.
thi ckness. Flush-fitt ing drawers sho uld be This rabb et is about 3/ 16 in . deep and 1/ 4 in. Once th e dr awer front has been cut, it can
cut 1/ 16 in. less in height and 1/ 16 in. less in nar rower than th e thi ckn ess of t he drawer be tested in th e draw er opening for fit and
width th an th e opening, and lipp ed drawers front to leave th e bead undisturbed . In t he appropriate am ount of clearan ce.

Dovetail Layouts: Drawer Backs

Drawer side


Half pin and rabbet

Half tail Half tail
for drawer bottom

C O N S T RU e T I O N J 0 I N E R Y 133
Lines are scribed across Lines are th en scribed across th e ends of
the endsof each th e components with a markin g gauge. It is
compon ent indicating
helpful to have two markin g gauges or one
the thickness of the
adjoining piece or, in the that is doubl e sided . O ne gauge is set for
caseof half-blind th e thi ckn ess of th e sides and back, and th e
dovetails, the length of othe r for th e length of th e front dovetails,
the tails. whi ch is not related to th e thi ckness of any
of th e components and is usually about
1/ 2 in. Th e gauge set for th e th ickness of th e

sides and back is used to scribe lines on th e

dra wer back, th e back end of th e d rawer
sides and th e back of th e drawer front.
The gauge set for th e length of th e fro nt
dovet ails is used to scribe th e front of t he
sides and th e end grain of th e dr awer fronts.
With th e exception of th e drawer front, th e
compo ne nts are scribed on both sides.

Laying out the dovetails

Now th e dovet ails can be laid out and
The material between scribed on th e dr awer sides. In doing so,
the tails is sawn and bear in mind th e posit ion of th e groove for
chiseled precisely to the
th e drawer bottom . It is importa nt to make
scribed lines.
sure th at part of a tail covers and conceals
th e groove. As a general rul e, th e groove is
usu ally 1/ 4 in. wide and 1/ 4 in. from th e
bottom edge. It is easiest to lay out th e top
and bottom features first and add th e
dovet ails, evenly spaced, between th em .
Laying out th e dovet ails can be confusi ng,
but thinki ng of th e layout in term s of
positioning th e pin s makes it less so. Taking
th e pin widt h at its narrowest part, thi s
widt h is marked on th e very end of th e
piece at regularl y spaced int ervals. Th e rest
of th e pin is marked back to th e scribed line
wit h th e use of a bevel gauge set for th e
appro priate angle. Th e area within th e pin
positio n can be marked to be cut away to
leave th e tails (top photo at left ).

Rem ember th at d rawers built under humid widt h of th e sides and back is equal to or Cutting the tails
cond itio ns need ver y littl e vertica l clea rance up to 1/ 16 in. less th an th e height of th e O nce th e layout is complete, th e marked
and th ose built under dr y con d itions need front, exclud ing th e overlapp ing lip . Th e areas between th e tails can be removed .
the most . Side-to-side clearance is not length of th e sides is di ctated by th e depth To save some tim e, both drawe r sides can
affected by hu m idity. of th e case, and th e widt h of th e back be clampe d or ta ped togeth er and cut
shou ld be made to equa l th e widt h of th e simu lta neo usly. T he material between th e
Drawer sides and backs drawer front, exclud ing th e lips at eithe r tails is remo ved by cutting along th e angled
After th e d rawer fronts are made and fit to end . It is important th at th e sides and back scribe lines wit h a saw, and th en making a
the case, th e sides an d backs are made fro m be plan ed to a uniform thi ckn ess and th e series of saw kerfs between th e first two.
th in ner secondary wood. Thi ckn esses of ends of each piece be cut squa rely. It is Th e two sides are sepa rated, and each is
% in. to liz in. are com mo n on period easiest to cut th e sides and back as one long trimmed to th e scribed lines wit h a sharp
pieces, but thi ckn ess varies with th e size of piece and th en cross-cut th em int o th e ch isel (bottom ph oto at left ) To ensure a
t he drawe r and th e part icu lar piece. The ind ividu al compone nts. st raight joint , t his trimming shou ld be done

134 C II A I'T ERE I G H T

Marking the Drawer Component s

1/11 1/ \11 111 1


1i3"-AL\?- ~=r-->-T

Each drawerpiece is laid out with the inside facing up, and the top corners
of adjacent pieces are numbered. The inside, outside, top, bottom and position
of each piece are then identifiable.

from both sides of th e piece. It is importan t The drawer side is used

to have t he edges of th e cuts straig ht and as a templateto tran sfer
the tail layout onto the
square , since these pieces will be used as
end of the drawer back.
patt erns from wh ich the rest of th e joint
is made.
The drawer parts may now be marked to
indicate how t hey will go togeth er. It is
helpful to lay t he sides, back and fron t in a
long row as if the drawer assemb ly had been
"unrolled" flat with all th e inside surfaces
facing up (see th e d rawing above). Th is
arrangem ent positions all bu t one of th e
mating edges next to each ot her. The up per
corne r of each adjacent piece may be marked
with a nu mber.Th is way,when all th e
pieces are in a jumble, t he inside, top and
position of each component will be clear.

Laying out and cutting the pins

Next, t he pins are cut in t he back to accept
the drawer sides. T his is best done by
clamp ing the drawer back vertica lly in th e The material between
vise and laying the correspon ding d rawer the pins is sawn and
chiseled to the scribed
side over the end . After carefu l alignme nt
of the two pieces, th e doveta ils are scribed
onto the end of th e drawer back with a fine
knife (top photo at right). If th e d rawer
side is position ed so th at it exten ds slightly
over the back (on ly about 1132 in. or so)
while t he joint is being scribed, th e pins
will be marked just a littl e larger and will
ensu re a very snug joint. O nce th e pins have
been marked, saw kerfs are cut straig ht
down on either side of th em, just outside
of the marked line, to th e scribed line.
Th e mater ial between th e pins is removed
by cutti ng along th e scribed line wit h a
coping saw. T he rema inder of th e material
is trimmed on the bench wit h a chisel
(bottom photo at right).

C O N ST R U e T I O N J 0 I N E R Y 135
The front pins are scribed from the tail piece onto the end of the drawer front in the A saw is used to cut on either side of the pins. The saw kerfmay extend across the
same manner that the pins were scribed onto the back. back of the drawer front but cannot extend past the scribed lineon the end grain.

Th e front dovet ails are cut in a sim ilar square. A cut is made with th e dovetail saw between the pin s can be ch iseled away by
fashion , with th e d rawer front held on eit her side of th e pin s followin g thi s line layers. A chisel cut is made just inside the
vertically in th e vise and t he draw er side and th e scribed pin line on th e end (photo scribed line across the areas that will be
position ed over its end to mark th e dovetail s at right above). In doing thi s, th e saw cut is removed. T hen hori zont al chisel cuts are
(photo at left above). Some makers shift th e mad e across th e edge of th e piece and made from th e end, splitt ing off a layer
dr awer bott om to one side so that it cont inues int o th e wood at an angle. This about li B in. th ick (photo below). T his is
overhangs th e bottom of th e drawer front cut cannot extend past th e scribed line on don e repeated ly until th e material between
by about 1/ 32 in. This positions th e pieces so th e end grain, but it can exte nd an inch or th e pins has been cut to all t he scribed lines.
th at th e assembled drawer slides on th e two across th e back. Now th e material Nar row or bevel-edge chisels are needed to
sides and th e bottom edge of t he draw er
front do es not dra g over th e case opening.
As on t he rear dovetails, th e side can be Since the front dovetails
shifted slightly to overhang th e back to are half-blind, the
material between the
make th e marked pin s slightly larger an d to
pins must be chiseled
ensure a tight joint. O nce the doveta ils are away in layers and
scribed, it is helpful to press t he edge of a trimmed to the scribed
chisel int o th e marked lines to make th em lines.
st raight and more visible.

C utt ing half-blind dovetails

In a half-blind dovetai l, cutt ing th e mat eri al
away from betw een th e pin s of th e drawer
fron t is th e most labor-int en sive part of th e
work. In othe r parts of th e work, most of
th e material can be sawn away, but in thi s
phase it mu st be cut with a chisel. The
d rawer fro nt is clamped face down with one
end at th e edge of th e bench . Th e pin
markin gs are exte nded alon g th e inside of
th e dr awer front for an inch or two wit h a

136 C HAP T E R E I G H T
remove material from th e inside corne rs of A groove is cut on the
th ose areas th at th e sawblade could not inside of the
components to receive
reach. All th e cut sur faces should be flat ,
the drawer bottom. The
square and to the line. drawer back is cut away
at the top of the groove
Assembling the drawer for installing the bottom .
Wit h all t he doveta ils cut, it' s tim e for a tri al Once in position, it is
held in place by a few
fit. Th e joints should be snug enough to go
small brads driven
togeth er with some resistance. Any part of through the bottom into
th e joint th at interferes with anoth er the drawer back.
shou ld be found and trimmed . Several light
taps with a mallet on a protect ive piece of
wood will usually be requ ired to close th e
joint comp letely. O nce th e dr awer is
togeth er, a line is drawn arou nd th e inside
to mark wh ere th e grooves for th e d rawer
bott om will be.
Th e drawer is taken apart and th e
groovesare cut on all th e pieces wit h a plane The completed drawer is
or dado blade. Th e groove should be about ready for installation in
the case.
1/ 4 in. deep, but in no case sho uld its depth

extend more th an halfway through th e

thi ckness of th e sides, because that would
weaken th em conside rably. Th e back,
which stops flu sh with th e top of th e
groove, should be marked at th e top of th e
grooveand cut to th e correct width. At th is
point, th e top of th e sides should be
chamfered or rounded as desired and any
other sharp edges should be brok en with a
single pass of a plane. Th e bottom of th e
drawer front should be rou nded slightly or
chamfered on th e inside edge to ease it over
th e drawer opening should it ever sta rt to
drag. With all th e final details taken care of,
th e drawer may be glued and assembled.
Th e joints are clamp ed across th e width of
th e drawer to be sure th e joints are fully
closed. Th e square ness of th e assembled
drawer shou ld be checked before th e glue
d ries. O nce th e glue has dri ed, any part of minimize th e effects of expansion and dra wer sto ps to limit th eir t ravel and may
th e joint s can be trimmed flu sh if cont raction. Drawer bottom s th at are need some m inor trimming to achieve an
necessary. assembl ed under cond it ions of high even space arou nd th eir perimeter. Lipped
Finally, th e dr awer bottom is fit and humidity can be expected to con t ract, and dr awers may require some minor tr immi ng
secured. It is usua lly th e same th ickness as th ose assemb led dur ing low humidity mu st of th e back of th e lip in orde r to close
th e d rawer sides and tapered at th e fro nt be given room to expand. It is advisab le to t ightl y to th e case all aro u nd.
and sides to th e width of th e groove. leave a littl e ext ra widt h on th e dr awer
Because of th eir width, drawer bottom s bott om exte nd ing fro m th e back of th e CASE CONSTRUCTION
expand and cont ract more th an any othe r dr awer so that future adju stments can be Ju st as th e dovetail joint revolutioni zed
part of th e drawer, and one should made if th e wood shrinks conside rably. The th e assem bly of dr awers, so did it cha nge
ant icipate and plan for thi s movement as bottom is secure d by a few cut brads nailed th e basic const ruct ion of case pieces. Th e
wit h any other wide piece of wood. The int o th e drawer back. frame-an d-pa nel syste m of th e 17th century
grain of th e drawer bott om sho uld be T he d rawer is now complete an d may be was sup planted by dovetailed case
oriented along its longest dim ension to fit to th e open ing. Flush dr awers requ ire

C ON S T R u e T I O N J 0 I N E R Y 137
18th-Century Case Constructi on


Top rabbeted for back

Front and sides of top are
rabbeted on some cases.

Top front rail

Side rabbeted for rails

Side rabbeted for back Drawer divider


Backoverlaps case bottom.


Bottom front rail

Bottom front rail sometimes

overlaps case bottom.

const ruct ion, reducin g bulk and weight limitat ions of th is system outweighed came to be narrower and closer togeth er.
and facilit ating th e trend to vertically whatever advan tages it had, and by th e The dovetail s usuall y do not show on
oriented designs. Whereas 17t h-eentu ry beginning of th e 18th centu ry dovet ailed primary sur faces, since th ey are plann ed to
cons t ruct ion required join ed rails, st iles and case construction was ubiquitous. Th ere be eithe r covered by a molding or oriented
panels for a component like a chest side, th e were new con cerns that arose from building to be expose d on seconda ry surfaces . O ne of
newer const ruct ion reduced th at to one cases from nothing but wid e boards, suc h as th e few places wh ere dovet ails are seen on
wide board join ed to th e rest of th e case by how to deal with th eir movem ent, bu t th ese th e primary su rface of a case piece is on th e
dovet ails. were nothing that could not be anticipated top edges of slant-front desks, wh ere th ey
O ne nice feature of th e fram e-and -pan el and plann ed for. had to be aesthetically pleasing as well as
syste m was that its floating panel s mad e th e Like drawer const ruct ion, dovetail ed fun ct ion al (see th e bottom dr awing on th e
piece relatively immune to th e effects of case construction evolved in style over time. facing page). The cases of slant-front desks
variati on s in humidity. However, th e Early dovetails were large and widely and chests, wh eth er th ey are chests of
spaced; over th e cours e of t he century they

138 C II APT ERE I G 1-1 T

drawers, chests-on-frame, chests-on-ehests
or th e top case of high chests, are st ructur- Dovetailed Cross-Ra ils
ally similar. High-chest bases and dr essing for Top Atta chment
tables are also similar, having been of
dovetailed constr uct ion early in th e cent u ry
and morti se-and -tenon constructio n later. Attached top

C hes ts a nd desks
Chests and desks begin as empty vertica l
boxes wit h only a top, a bottom and two
sides joined by through dovet ails. In most
instances, th e top and bottom of th e case
are laid out as th e tail pieces and are used to
tran sfer th e dovet ail patt ern onto th e upper
and lower ends of t he case sides. In laying
out th e details of th e join ery, special
conside ration shou ld be given to th e
rabb ets for attach ing th e back of th e case
and th e top and bottom front rails. Th e Cross-rail
back meets th e top in a rabb et and does not
exte nd th rou gh to th e top surface. Th e
front rail abuts th e underside of th e top or
meets it in a rabbet . An elegant way to
provide rabbets at th e fro nt and back
withou t having th em exte nd th rou gh to th e joint is not visible from th e top and is
sides is to rabbet th e front, back and sides to tot ally covered by a molding applied to th e Half-Blind Doveta ils
th e same depth . This makes th e dovet ails case side. on Slant-Fron t Desks
somew hat less thi ck, but th ey becom e Cases th at will have an attac hed
easier to cu t and fit and are just as effect ive overhanging top are ofte n built with front Full tail
a joint. and rear cross-pieces th at are join ed with at front
By plann ing half tails at th e front and half-blind dovet ails to th e case sides
back of th e case to cover th e end of th e (d rawin g above). Th ese cross-rails secu re th e
rabb ets in th e side, th e result is a clean and case sides and provid e a st ructu re to wh ich
un com plicated-lookin g joint . Th e side of t he top is later fastened. In th ese inst ances,
th e joint, th e pin side, is covered with a th e cross-rails are t he tai l pieces and the
molding so only th e tail side is ever seen. doveta ils do not extend to the outsides of
Th e bottom of the case is also a tai l piece, th e case. Th e cross-rails and th e join ery are
but it is narrower than th e top or sides. At hidden once th e top is attached .
th e bottom of th e case, th e case back Slant-front desks also employ ha lf-blind
overlaps th e bottom . Th e bottom front rail dovetai ls on th e top joint (drawing at right).
either abuts or overlaps th e bottom . Th e This joint is quite visible, and th rou gh dove-
case bottom can be laid out wit h full tails; tails would be too intrusive. By orient ing
no half tails are required. Th e lower-ease th e dovet ails so that th e desk top is th e tail
mold ing covers th e pin side of th e joint th at piece, th e assem bled joint is on th e top of
is visible on th e case side . th e case and th e sides are left untou ched .
In cases where th e top dovet ails need to As with ot her cases, a half tail at th e back of
be hidd en, as on a low chest of drawers, th e case concea ls th e rabb et for th e back
half-blind dovetails are used . In th ese cases, board . Th e front of th e joint uses a full tail
th e top of th e sides becom e th e tail pieces so th at th e front of th e top abuts th e side
and are dovet ailed to th e top. Th ey are laid and makes a nice, uncluttered joint.
out with a half tail at th e back to cover th e
rabbet for th e back in th e case top and
either a half or full tail at th e front. Th e

C O N ST R U e T I O N J 0 I N E RY 139
Dressing tabl es and high- ch est bases
Case Construct ion with Turned Legs Dressing tables and th e bott om s of high
chests share a st ructu re th at is different
Front and back dovetailed to sides from th at of chests. Th ese pieces began th e
century as hori zon tal boxes comprising a
fro nt, back and sides joined at th e four
corn ers with dovetai ls. Th e back joints were
half-blind dovetai ls with the back as th e tail
piece, so th e joint was only visible from th e
back. Th e front rails and apro ns were
dovetailed to th e sides in a similar mann er.
Th e joints on th e front were eit her veneered
over or hidd en under thin strips of wood
placed vertically along th e front edges of
th e case.
T he t urned William and Mary legs of
the period were joined to t he case by means
of glue blocks. Th ese blocks were glued
int o th e four lower inside corne rs of th e
case and were drill ed to receive th e turned
ten on of th e leg (see th e top drawing at
left). Th e turned legs were also joined to
one anot her by stretche rs just above th e
feet, which st rengt hened th e assembl y and
distributed any side load amo ng all th e legs.
W hen th e William and Mary style passed
out of fashion in favor of t he Qu een Ann e
style with its cabriole legs, thi s method of
joining legs to th e case was found to be in
need of improvement. With out stretchers,
each cabriole leg had to be attac hed
ind epend entl y and be able to with stand
th e sideways force of bein g dragged . Th e
Case Construction solut ion changed th e essent ial structure of
with Cabriole Legs th e piece.
Glue blocks were elim inat ed, and t he
square top sect ion of the cabriole leg was
exte nded up to t he top of th e case. All th e
compo nents of th e case, th e front, sides and
Front, sidesand back, were tenon ed int o th e legs, makin g
back are tenoned th e leg an int egral part of th e st ructure
into legs.
rath er th an an addition. Th e one drawback
to thi s meth od of const ruct ion was th at th e
hori zontally oriented case compo nents
were not free to expand and cont ract with
changes in humidity since t hey were
const rained by being tenoned int o vertica lly
oriented leg blocks. Cra cking of case sides
and backs was frequently th e resu lt (see th e
sidebar on th e facing page).
Th is new method of const ruct ion for
dr essing tables and high-chest bases became
th e norm everywhere but in Newport.

140 C H A P T ERE I G H T

M ost of th e meth ods of

joinery used by period
furniture makers allowed for
compression. Wh en th e piece is
exposed to lower humidity, th e
compressive force will decrease.
should be atte mpted. To
compress a piece of wood more
th an I% in its wid th will exceed
offset a cha nge in moisture
conte nt averaging about 3.5%,
well within th e range of normal
changes in humidity, but there Th e precompression will th e elasti c limit of the wood. variati on s in moisture content
are a few components th at do prevent or at least dr astically Beyond th at point th e wood will for well-sealed wood . Thi s allows
not. Th e most notable are th e redu ce th e possibility th at th e tak e on a permanent compres- a precompressed side th at was
sides of case pieces such as side will experience enough sive set and will not return fully assembled at 60% relati ve
dressing tables and th e bases of tension to crack as its moisture to its original dimen sion wh en humidity to experience a d rop
high chests. In both of th ese conte nt d rops. the force is released. Within to 35% relative humidit y before
pieces, th e grain of th e sides There is a limit to th e that I % however, enough going int o ten sion . (See also
runs horizontally and often amou nt of precompression that precompression is possible to App endix I on p. 29 3.)
exceeds 12 in. in width. Pieces
this wide can show appreciable
movement with even mod erat e
changes in humidity, but since Precomp ress io n
Vertical clamps
th e sides are tenon ed and pegged precompress side.
into th e vertical legs, th e normal
expansion and contractio n is
constrained. Since th e sides
cannot move freely, and since
wood is quite weak in tension
across th e grain, th e sides will
Horizontal clamps
inevitably crack. hold assembly until
An effective way to glue dries.
prevent th e cracking of th ese
const rained pieces is to make
sure th ey never go int o tension
across th e grain. Wh en th e piece
Precompressing a case
is being assembl ed, th e sides can side that is mortised into
be clamped tightly across th e legs reduces tendency for
grain to put th e ent ire side int o sides to crack in tension
compression. Th e clamp s are left caused by shrinkage.
in place un til the glue in the
joints has cured. On ce th e
clamps have been removed and
th e joints have been pegged, th e
sides will conti nue to be in

Newport cabinet makers continued to use case with glue blocks. Th e leg was Drawer divid ers
th e William and Mary case const ruct ion shouldered ju st above th e knee, so th e Drawer divid ers not only separate one
into th e Qu een Ann e and C hippendale weight of th e case was born e by th e leg itself dra wer opening from anot her, but th ey also
periods. Th ey appa rently were pleased with and not a glued block. Glu ed and nailed playa st ruc tu ral role in keepin g th e case
the way th e case par ts were free to expan d blocks held th e block of th e leg into th e sides stra ight and parallel. The d ividers are
and contrac t, and they found a good inside case corner and resisted side loads on dovetailed int o th e case wit h sliding
met hod by wh ich to attac h th e legs. t he leg, bu t th ey did not carry any weight. dovetails, which are slightly differen t from
Newport makers dovetailed th e case and Judic ious use of glue on th ese glue blocks th e dovetai ls used to join case and d rawer
affixed th e cabriole legs wit h th e leg block left th e legs free to be slid out of th e case sides. Slidin g dovetails joi n a tail cut across
held in place on th e inside corne r of th e for tr ansport. th e end of a piece to a correspo nd ingly

C O N ST R U e T I O N J 0 I N E RY 141
shaped groove or cuto ut in another piece.
Joining Drawer A sliding dovetail can join a piece at right
Dividers to Case Sides angles anywh ere along th e length of
another. Th e joint is not limited to end-to-
end joining as are standard dovetail s.
Drawer dividers of 18t h-eentur y pieces
are dovetaile d into the case by a variety of
Case side means . Many pieces from early in the
century have dovetai led divid ers th at
exte nd th rough th e full width of th e case
Slidingdovetail extends and are flu sh with th e outside su rface. Th e
through case side. actu al depth of th e dovetail is less th an
I in ., and th e rest of th e divider is a full
2 in. or 3 in. in width. While joints of thi s
typ e were easily made and ent irely
fun ctional, th eir aesth etic shortco ming was
that t he end grain of th e divider showed on
th e case side. Interest ingly, that was oft en
the only part of th e joint th at was visible,
since th e front su rface was ofte n covered
with a single- or doubl e-arch mold ing
su rro u nd ing th e d rawer openings.
Half-blind sliding dovetail Th e more elegant method, wh ich came
int o wid espr ead use, employed a shor te r
dovetail that did not exte nd through th e
case side. As with the earlier version, t he
divid er was 2 in. or 3 in. wid e, but th e
dovetail was less than 1 in. deep . Th is kind
of blind sliding dovetail required more
skill and time to make, but was required as
refin em ents in cabinet ma king increasingly
called for unbroken su rfaces and a
minimization of exposed const ruction.
Shouldered dovetail provides dado Often th e installat ion of drawer div iders
for drawerrunner. was com bined with a meth od for installin g
drawer runners. A good way to posit ion
runners was to let th em int o shallow ( 1/Hin.)
dado es and affix th em with a couple of
nails. This way, th e dadoes carry th e weight
of th e d rawers and th e nails serve to keep
th e runners in th e dadoes. In cutti ng th ese
dad oes, especially by hand with a saw and
plane as th e original makers did , it is easiest
to let th em exte nd to th e front and back
edges of th e case. Rat her than sto pping
short of the dovetai l for th e draw er divider,
Dovetail with mitered shoulder for
case with cockbea ding th e two were simp ly sup erimposed and
com bined to make a shou ldered dovetai l.
This arrangem ent ensured th e prop er
alignm ent of th e runner and divider at th e
outset and over time. Th e lis-in. shoulder
also position ed th e dovet ail so th at it was
not partially hidden under an overlapping
drawer lip.

142 C H A I' T E RE I G II T
Th e bombe and serpenti ne case pieces
of th e second half of th e centu ry had cock- Drawe r Ru nne rs
beadin g sur rou nding th e dr awer opening.
Th ough st raight-fronted pieces had beading
on either th e case or dr awer, th e complexity
of th e cu rved fronts required th e beadin g to Case side
be cut from th e solid of th e case and dr awer
dividers. Th e bead had to be mitered wh ere
th e dividers met th e case. To do thi s, th e Drawer runne let into shallow
dovet ail on th e end of th e divid er was given dado and nailed and glued in front
half only to allow movement of
an angled shou lde r, but this precluded th e
case side
use of a ru nn er dado th at exte nds to th e
fron t of th e case.
Drawer divider
Drawer runners
In order to move smoot hly in a case, d rawers
m ust be const rained in th eir u p-and-d own
and sideways movem ent. Th e dr awers slide
on runners, are prevent ed fro m ti pping
downward when th ey are pull ed out by
kickers above th e d rawer, and are kept
straight in th eir openings by guides along
th e drawer sides. In most dovet ailed chest
cases, th e inside sur faces of th e case act as
guides and th e runners for th e draw er above
serve as kickers. Top drawers need th eir own
kickers nailed to th e inside of th e case.
As previou sly menti oned, th e best way
to attach runners is to nail th em int o shallow
dadoes in th e case sides. In atta ch ing th e
runners, some th ou ght shou ld be given to ./

th eir relationship wit h th e expansion and

cont ract ion of th e case side . The runners Drawer divider
should be a fraction of an inch sho rte r th en
th e depth of th e case so th at as th e case
shrinks th e runners will not pu sh off th e
back boards. A littl e gap of not mu ch more It is imp ortant to rem ember that with a This is an elegant meth od of attaching
th an 1/ 16 in. should be left between th e back let-in runner, th e dado carrie s th e weight of dr awer run ners for which th e original
of th e divider and th e front of th e runner so the drawer th rou gh th e runner, not th e makers sho u ld be com mended, but it is a
th e divider is not pu shed out in th e same nails th em selves. Th e nails serve only to labor-int en sive method th at never saw
way. In nailing th e ru nner in place, one na il keep th e runner in th e dado. Often th e wid espr ead use.
shou ld be close to th e front end, and th e ru n ner will pop out of th e dado at th e rear
ot her no more th an halfway back. If th ere of th e case if it is nailed only at th e front D ustboa rds
were to be one nail at either end of th e and th e case side will cu p inward . To Many 18th-century cabinet makers installed
runner, th e case side would likely crack in cou nte r th is problem, th e attac hed side of du stb oard s between dr awers to keep th e
th e middl e up on shrinking or loosen a nail th e runner may be plan ed with a slight conte nts of th e dr awers as clean as possible.
up on expand ing. Placin g th e nails in th e concave shape along its length before it is These du stboard s exte nded th e fu ll width
fron t half of th e divider allows most of th e nailed in place. and depth of the case and doubl ed as
side to expand and contract freely and Som e 18th-eentury pieces are kn own dr awer runners. Th e board s were let int o
subjects th e nails to only half as mu ch wood to have drawer runners that were affixed the dadoes on eit her side of th e case and
movem ent. Similarly, if glue is used in with shallow sliding doveta ils that exte nded were ofte n dadoed int o th e back of th e
additio n to th e nails, it sho uld be applied over their full lengt h. Th ese runners stay in dr awer divid er. They were free to expand
only at th e fron t sectio n of th e runner. place without th e use of nails and allow and cont ract within th e side dadoes.
th e sides to expand and contract freely.

CON S T R U e T I O N J 0 I N E R Y 143
Du stb oard s were ofte n made from th e same TOPS
th in-sawn secondary stoc k as th e dr awer
Case Attachments Pieces with att ached tops present a unique
components and are th erefore ofte n thinner Many parts of 18th-eentury fu rni t u re- problem for furniture makers. Tops are
th an th e widt h of th e side dadoes. To make includ ing tops , moldings and feet- are usually th e widest component of a piece,
up th e difference, a filler st rip was add ed, add ed to th e basic st ructure of th e case after and as su ch th ey are subject to th e greatest
thus filling th e space and serving as a kicker it is assem bled . Becau se th ese part s are not amou nt of expansion and contraction. Th e
for th e dr awer below (see th e bottom int egral to th e case, th ey are join ed by a top is also th e one component th at needs to
d rawing on p. 143). variety of means, each designed to attach remain flat and inta ct more than any other.
Ot her kinds of cases require a more th e part secu rely whil e allowing both th e We have already discussed chest top s th at
complicated system of runners and gu ides. case and attac hed parts to expand and are int egral to th e case itself; we will now
C hest cases with front qu arter colu m ns cont ract inde pende ntly.
have inn er case sides th at are not in line
wit h th e sides of th e drawer openings.
Th ese cases require added drawer gu ides
attached to th e inn er case sides, and a Battens for Top Attachment
syste m of freestanding runners th at are
join ed to th e dr awer divid ers at th e front
and a rail at th e back. Dr essing tables and
high-ehest bases require runners let int o th e
fron t and rear of th e case, and gu ides and
kickers th at are eit her let int o th e inside
of th e leg blocks or nailed to th e inn er
case sides.

Sliding Dovetail for

Top Attachment

Case top slides

onto dovetail
on case side.

Battens attached
across a frame or
case are used
to attach top
CROSS SECTION from underneath.

Rabbet for back

A sliding dovetail joins a

top to a side while allowing
the top to expand and
contract with changes in

144 C H A I' T ER EIG H T

look at ot her tops th at are adde d to a case or,
as with tables, a fram e. Top Attachment
One way th at a top can be adde d to a
frame is wit h sliding doveta ils. The Top Top
geometry of t he sliding dovet ail allows th e
top to expand and cont ract along th e
dovetail while rema in ing secure ly attached .
This meth od is somet imes used to join a top
to a dr essing table of mortise-and -ten on
constr uctio n by cut ting full-lengt h tails on
t he top of th e case sides so th ey exte nd up
past t he top of th e leg blocks at th e corners
(see th e d rawing at left on th e facing page). Screws can be A tenoned cleat Frame
Th e dovetail cut int o th e under side of the used by them- holds the top to
selves to secure the frame while
top stops sho rt of th e front edge, so th e top a top if they allowingthe top
can be slid on from th e front. The only are screwed to expand and
visible signs of th e joint are on the back through angled contract.
edge of th e top. pockets in the
A sim ilar met hod was used for attac hing
overhanging case tops, whe re th e top joints
of th e case were slid ing dovet ails and th e
botto m joints were conventional through
Top Peg
doveta ils. Somet imes th ese sliding dovetail s
were tapered over th eir len gth so th ey
wou ld tight en as th ey were pressed into
th eir fin al positi on . A variat ion on th e
sliding dovet ail is a wedged slid ing dovet ail, Glue block
where th e doveta il is on on ly one side of th e
joint and sma ll wedges are driv en into th e rectangulartea
straig ht side of th e joint to lock it in place. tables, the top Frame Glue blocks Frame
Thi s met hod elimina tes th e ext raordina ry is rabbeted and pegs were a
where it joins favorite method
precision and tr ial-and -error fitti ng of of attachinga
the frame, and
stra ight or tapered sliding dovet ails. It the top and top, but they did
appea rs to have only half th e hold ing power moldingare not allow for any
of two-sided slid ing dovet ails, but, wit h th e glued and nailed expansion or
in place. contraction.
use of th e wedges, th e joint can be mad e
very tight over its entire len gth .
Cross-pieces were mention ed in th e
discussion of case const ruct ion (see p. 139) .
These members are dovet ailed across th e
fro nt and back of th e top of th e case and th e top is attached to th e batten , usu ally fram e, the top was able to expand and
create a false case top to whi ch th e over- with screws. Batten s we re favored amo ng cont ract. A more elegant method involved
hanging case top is attac hed. Som etimes the . Newpor t cabinet ma kers, who u sed th em to the use of sho rt cleats, whi ch were ten on ed
front of th e top is screwed in place and the attac h the tops of dr essin g tables, tea tables into mortises in th e fram e and screwed o r
rear is affixed with sma ll sliding dovet ails to and dining tables. nailed to th e undersid e of th e top . The
allow t he top to expand and cont ract freely. Screws were also used to screw directl y advantages of ten on ed cleat s we re th at they
Tops can also be attac he d wit h batten s th rou gh fram es int o th e underside of table- allowed the top to ex pand and co nt ract
(see th e d rawing at right on th e facin g page). to ps (see the drawin g above). An angled freely wh ile st ill holding th e top secur ely
A batten is a narrow strip of woo d th at pocket was chiseled into the inside of th e in place.
exte nds across th e width of th e top . It is frame, and th e screw ente red th e top at an A com mo n method of const ruc t ion for
first attac hed to th e case or fram e and th en angle. By providing an oversized hole in th e rect angular tea t ables was to rabb et th e

C O N S T Ru e T I O N J 0 I N E R Y 145
underside of th e top, t hereby allowing it to and add some glue blocks around th e MOLDI N GS
drop onto th e fram e. The thin edge was inside; often this method of attachment Th e historically accu rate method of
given a rounded profil e and allowed to was augmented by driving wooden pegs atta ching most case moldings is to glue and
overhang th e frame. Th e top moldi ng was th rou gh th e tabletop into th e frame. Made nail th em in place. Original pieces were
appli ed dir ectly over th e top and nai led to fit tightl y, the pegs help ed to hold the nai led with thin brads th at were tapered
th rou gh th e top int o th e frame. Becaus e t he top in place. Neither th e pegs nor th e glue over th eir entire length and held quite
top was not free to expand and contract blocks allowed th e top to expand and secu rely. Across th e front of cases, th e
across its width, man y of th ese tables have cont ract , and th e tops inevitably cracked appli cati on of a molding is straightforward,
cracked tops. A better method wou ld have and som e of the glue blocks came loose. but on th e sides , perpendicu lar to th e grain,
been to let th e top into a rabb et in t he Nevertheless, there was still enough of a th e expansion and contraction of th e case
fram e and apply a mo ldin g to the frame, bond to keep th e tops attached. T hose that m ust be considered.
th ereby secu ring th e top in place whi le eventually came loose were frequ ently put Moldings that are secur ely glued and
allowing it to expand and contract freely. back in place with pocket ed screws th rough nailed in place restrict th e movem ent of th e
A less refin ed method of attach ing th e fram e. side and will lead to a cracked side or an
tops was simply to glue th em to th e frame un attached molding, depend ing on
wh ether th e side shrinks or swells. Wh en
th e side expands, it usually pu lls apart t he
mitered joint wh ere th e front and side
Applied-Molding Attachment moldings meet .
Th e best way to attach moldin gs to th e
case side is to affix th e moldin g at th e
mitered joint secu rely and let th e rest of th e
mold ing be less firml y attached. Thi s means
appl ying a conce nt rat ion of glue at th e
miter join t and th e area within a few inches
As case -
expands and of it, and mu ch less glue along th e length of
contracts, th e molding. Th e molding is best cross-
front joint
remains intact. I Side molding
nailed through th e miter joint itself and at
regular int ervals of 4 in. or 5 in. along th e
length of th e mo ldin g. The nails toward the
back of th e case will flex to accommodate
th e movem ent of th e case side. Wh en th e
Top of case Very little glue is case side expands or cont racts as a result of
usedtoward back changes in humidity, th e front of th e
of case.
molding will remain secu re and th e mit er
joint will remain inta ct whi le th e back part
of the attachm ent yields.
Front and miter are Boston cabinet makers were fond of
glued well.
gluing and nailing a st rip of wood on th e
bottom of th e case exte nd ing from front to
back on eithe r side. Thi s st rip provided a
Cross-nail miter joint. subframe of sorts, to whi ch th e moldin g
and feet cou ld be atta ched . The sides of th e
case were able to move on the sub fram e
without seriously compro mising th e
Front molding attac hme nt of th e moldin g or feet.

146 C H A P T ERE I G ilT

Findin g a st ructura lly sou nd meth od of Foot Attachment
attac hing feet to a case is a challenge. Th e
case side and bottom expand and cont ract FEET GLUED TO CASE BOTTOM
across th e grain, and th e molding applied to
th e outside edge does not. Th e feet are Front molding
attached to both of th ese dynami cally
dissimilar pieces and will have to bear th e
weight of th e finished piece and th e side
'--~_~~-.L~Corner glue block
forces of being dr agged across th e floor. In
additi on , the feet have to exhibit th e Glue blocks
et hereal or powerfu l qualities of th e era in Case side
which th ey were mad e.
Atta ched feet depend on glue for t heir
primary means of adherence. William and
Mary ball feet were turn ed wit h a rou nd Case bottom
tenon that was fit into a d rilled ho le in th e
und erside of the case and secu red wit h
-oE--'--------'---\, Glue block
glue. Bracket feet and ogee bracket feet were
also glued in place. Front feet are joined by
45 mit er joints at the edges; rear feet
usually have an abutt ing su pport on th e ~'--f- Corner block
back side. Th ey are glued togeth er and
glued to th e molding on th e case bottom . A
vertical glue block in th eir inside corne r Back foot
reinforces th e miter joint and carr ies most
of th e weight of th e case. Horizontal glue Back
blocks betw een th e feet , moldin g and case
help to adhere th e feet to th e case bottom . BOS TON METHOD
Band y legs, or short cabriole legs, were
joined in mu ch th e same way. T heir wid e
Front molding
knee blocks served as large glue blocks both
to support and ad here th e feet to t he case
Th e liberal use of glue and glue blocks L-t--r-N:r t-- Corner glue block
did not leave mu ch allowance for the
expansio n and cont raction of th e sides, and Glue block
most cabinetmakers pro bably figured th at Solid strip nailed Case side
eno ugh big glue blocks wou ld compensate to case bottom
for t he effects of wood movemen t. In
reality, th e feet were adhered well enough
to the case to move wit h it, and the glue
joint with th e stat ionary moldin g yielded .
In retrospect, th e Boston method of
attac hing th e feet and molding to a st rip of
wood on th e underside of t he case was
more structura lly sou nd and offered better Strips across
joint integrity. front and sides of
case bottom create
Corner block
stablearea to
attach feetand

CON S T R u e T I O N J 0 I N E R Y 147

h e cab riole leg is on e of th e With the cabriole shape

distinguishing features of Queen Anne used for both legs and
arm supports, and a
furniture, and its use held over into the
strong presence afforded
C hippenda le period. Good cabriole legs are by bold ball and claw
not diffi cu lt to make, but a discerning eye feet , the Newport
and carefu l planning are need ed to achi eve roundabout chair is a
th e subtle grace of th e best original tightly composed
exa mples. Since th e basis for Queen Anne symphony of sculptural
elements. This example
design lies in scu lpted shape, and th e
was made bythe author
cabriole legs are often th e most sculptural for a private collection
compone nts on a piece, the success of th e afteran original byJohn
piece can lie in th e refinement of the legs. Goddard of Newport,
Ball and claw feet were one of severa l 1760-1780.
types of animal feet used to terminate
cabriole legs. They are closely associated
with th e Am erican C hippendale period-
an associat ion that is more by coincide nce
th an design .

Ca briole Legs
On original pieces, th e characte rist ics
of th e cabriole legs can help identify th e
origin and skill level of th e maker, and
th ey are also indi cative of th e overall level
of soph istic ation of th e piece. High-style smooth ly flowin g conto u rs. As with othe r wit h th e crafts me n who were leadin g th e
pieces from th e shops of leading urban aspects of 18t h-centur y furniture, th e development of the style.
cabinet makers have legs th at flow smoothly cabriole legs of less-refin ed exa mples ofte n Because th e cur ved shape of cabriole legs
and are well int egrat ed with t he ent ire show the id iosyncrasies that give th e pieces is fund am ental to th eir form, even min or
design. More rural examples may appear th eir cha racte r, whil e formal pieces exh ibit irregulariti es can be glaringly apparent.
out of proportion to th e whole, or lack the skill in design and execut ion associated Irregularit ies becom e even mor e obvious

afte r th e piece has been fin ished to a In making th e pattern, th ere are many
nice luster, at wh ich point it is too late to Def in ing Dimens ions key features th at can be measured to aid in
reshape th e leg. Th ese irregulariti es are of Cab riole Legs faithfully replicat ing th e or iginals. The
not so mu ch th e result of variati ons in dr awing at left shows th e dimension s th at
dim ensions, but rath er of awkward define a cabriole leg. Besides th e obvious
transitions from one part of a cur ve to measurem ents, th ere are several point s th at
another, or min or bumps or dip s in an are imp ortant in defining th e cu rve. Th ese
otherwise smoo th cur ve. After a leg has points den ote th e width and location of th e
been handcrafted, it makes very littl e peak of th e kn ee, th e back of th e knee, th e
difference if one leg is, for example, '/ 16 in. thinnest part of th e ankle and th e infl ect ion
th inn er at th e knee th an anothe r, but it is points. Inflect ion points are th ose points
glaringly appa rent if th e cur ves of th e leg wh ere th e profil e changes from concave to
do not flow smoothly. A smoot h shape is convex. It is rare to find period originals
more important th an an actual dimension . th at have any discernible st raight sect ions
Wh en it is well executed, th e cur ve of th e along th e lengt h of th e leg. Th ere are
leg should carry th e eye from th e top of th e usually very slight curves th rou ghout th e
knee to th e tip of th e foot in a seamless length , and locating th e infl ecti on points
tr ansition wit hout int erruption or aid s trem endou sly in captur ing th eir most
distraction. su btle nu ances.
Th ere are a few general rul es of thumb
MAKING CA B RIOLE LEGS th at apply to cabrio le legs. Th en , as now,
Th ere are four ste ps in makin g a cabriole th e mak ers used rou gh stoc k in d im ension s
leg. First, a patt ern is made to define th e of inch multiples. Most large cabriole legs
profile. Second, th e profile is tra ced onto were cut from 3-in . sto ck, whi ch afte r
th e prepared blank, whi ch is th en sawn to dr yin g and planing cou ld be more like
rough shape. Third, th e bottom of th e 2314 in. or 2% in. This dimension is a
Dutch or pad foot is tu rn ed on th e lath e. com mo n th ickn ess at th e kn ee and foot for
Finally,th e conto urs are smoo t hed , and th e tall-chest, dre ssing-tabl e and dining-table
leg is shape d to its fin al form. At each step legs. Small er legs, suc h as th ose on chairs
of th e process, carefu l atte nt ion to th e K and tea tabl es, usu ally measure 2'/ 2 in. to
profile will help ensure well-shaped and 2% in . at th e knee. Ver y slender legs, suc h
consistent results. as those on tu ckaway tables, may have been
squee zed from 2-in . stock. Becau se th e leg
Making the pa ttern is cut from a straight an d squa re piece of
Successful cabriole legs begin with a stoc k, ju st wid e enough to accom mo da te
carefully made patt ern . One pattern of th e th e pattern, th e width at th e kn ee is nearly
profile is all th at is needed to defin e and always th at at th e foot . Proportionally, thi s
create th e leg. It is in thi s patt ern th at th e work s out very well: Th e foot usually looks
dim ensions of th e leg are set and th e cur ves A. overall length to be of proper size wh en its diam eter is
are worked out before any wood is cut. If B. maximum width at knee close to th e width of th e knee .
C. length of leg block
one is working from an original piece, th e D. width of leg block Experience in measuring man y cabriole
patt ern makin g is redu ced to th e relati vely E. height of adjoining knee block legs has yielded a few more empirical
simple task of copying th e leg profile, eit her F. depth of back curve maxim s: Even on very robust legs, th e knee
by tr acing or measuring. If working from a G. foot diameter rarely p rotrudes more th an 314in . beyond
H. foot height
ph otograph , it is helpful to have one th at th e leg block. The block tends to be no less
I. pad diameter
shows th e leg profile from stra ight ahead . J. pad height th an two-thirds th e width of th e knee on
Because th e legs are cur ved on all four sides, K. ankle diameter well-proportion ed legs, and th e ankl es are
lookin g at th e leg fro m an angle shows a L. ankle height frequ ently about 40% of th e kn ee width.
M.distance to peak of knee
shape th at is an exaggeration of th e pattern Th e locati on of th e peak of th e knee is
N. distance to peak of back curve
profile. Similarly, any part of th e leg th at is O. distance to front inflection point critica l to the appearan ce of th e leg. A good
not roun d in cross sect ion, and th at can P. distance to rear inflection point first app roxim ation is to locate it down
include all but th e foot and ankle, will Q. knee angle from th e block a distance about 1/ 4 in.
R. transition angle to knee block
appear to be thi cker th an th e patt ern profile greate r th an th e width of th e leg block. The
when viewed at an angle.

C A B R I O LE LEG S , B ALL & C LA W F E E T 149

angle at which th e top of th e knee meets effort required to perfect the patt ern more
th e block is about 45 The height of t he
Growth -Ring Orientat ion th an pays for itself by making th e rest of th e
adjoi ning knee block is roughly equal to th e work easier and yield ing a well-shaped leg.
widt h of th e leg block. The height of th e
foot is about one-quarter to one-t hird its Pr eparing and cutt ing the stoc k
diam eter, and th e pad, whi ch is usually Th e stoc k fro m whi ch th e legs are to be
worn down on originals, probably sta rt ed cut shou ld be dressed straight and square.
at I/~ in. tall. Once again, th e actual It should be about liz in. longer th en th e
measurem ents of original legs are th e best pattern or finished legs, and at least as wide.
sou rce for th eir repl ication , but th ese Th e ext ra length allows I/~ in. on each end
relatio nships in th eir geomet ry appear of th e leg th at will be marred by clamping
repeatedly.Th ey may be of use wh ere only and lath e centers; it will be trimm ed off
a few actua l measurements may be deter- when th e leg is complete . A littl e ext ra
mined and th e rest must be est imated. widt h allows for a continuous cut over
O nce th e imp ortant dimension s of t he th e knee wit hout th e blade ru nning off
leg have been determined, th e pattern may th e stoc k.
be drawn and cut from posterboard or t hin Before th e pattern is tra ced on th e stock,
wood. It may tak e a few attempts before th e th e orientation of th e growt h rings on th e
profile pattern truly captures th e feel of th e end grain shou ld be noted. Th e leg should
original. Measurem ents can go only so far in be cut so th at th ose rings are or iented to
qua ntifying th e cu rves of a well-shaped point in th e dire ct ion of th e knee. As shown
cabriole, and a discerning eye is always in th e d rawing at left, alignin g the rings t his
essent ial. Even a direct tr acing from an way ens ur es th at th e visible features of the
original will require some smoot hing, as wood (t he grain patt ern ) follow th e shape of
small variat ions in th e shape can alter th e th e leg. Alignin g th e end-grain growt h rings
look of th e fini shed leg. It is very important across t he leg, from side to side, orients th e
to have smoot hly flowin g cu rves in th e grain pattern in a way that is in opposition
patte rn , and sight ing alon g th e lengt h of th e to th e conto u rs of th e leg. Whil e th e grain
pattern can help show any irregularities By orienting the growth rings on the end orientation is not noticeable on darkly
more clearly. The pattern will look like th e grain to point toward the knee, the grain finished pieces, it is quite apparent on light
patternsfollowthe contours of the leg.
d rawing of th e leg on p. 149, but it is not Orienting them in the opposite direction pieces made of grainy wood like mahogany.
necessary to include th e shape of th e foot, yields a less attractive pattern. On some pieces, like those in whi ch t he legs
because th is will be turned later. The ext ra are th e major element of th e form, this
orientat ion of th e grain adds to th e qualities
of th e fini shed piece. It is one of th e small
The pattern is used to features that separates truly inspired
draw the leg profil e onto furniture from th e ordinary.
the wood . The extra
Th e best way to mark th e stock for th e
1/4 in. at each endwill be

cut off when the leg is optimal grain orientation is to draw a

complete. diagon al line on th e end grain in th e direc-
tion of th e growt h rings. One end of th at
line will be th e corner of th e knee, and th e
other will be th e inside corner of th e leg. In
choosing which will be which, it's import ant
to rem ember th at th e leg block and th e
ankle will be at th e inside corner, and that
corne r should be free of any imperfections
in th e stoc k. It is helpful to mark th e inside
corner to aid in locatin g th e patt ern.
O nce th e best or ientation of th e grain
is determ ined, th e patt ern can at last be
traced onto th e wood. With 1/~ in. left at
either end of th e pattern, th e profile is

150 C II A I' T E RN I N E
drawn on two adjacent sides of th e blank so scribed line of th e block first (usin g a frame line from th e pattern on th e bottom .
th at th e ankle and block are positioned in saw or bandsaw). Th en, sta rt ing from th e tip Th e leg is set up in th e lath e using th e
th eir marked corne r (ph oto, facing page). of th e foot, th e cut is cont inued up th e leg, cente r marks on eit her end, with th e foot
For th e sake of accuracy, a marking gauge over th e knee, to meet th e first cut . By using nearest th e t ailstock. Th e eccent ricity of
should be used to scribe th e straight line of a piece of stock slightly larger th an th e width th e piece will require sta rt ing th e lath e at
th e block. If th e leg is to have a turned of th e leg, th e cut over th e knee can be mad e its slowest speed.
Dut ch foot, th e centers of both ends are cont inuous and smoot h. Very careful sawing Th e square foot may now be turned to
marked by d rawing crossed diagonal lines. will make th e rest of th e leg shaping that near round . Before th e pencil lines are
Th e leg may th en be sawn to shape. mu ch easier. For th e utmost in accuracy, turned off, a parting tool is used to cut
To create a sharp corne r wh ere th e block half th e line on th e leg should be left. strai ght in below th e bottom line, leaving
meets th e knee, a cut is mad e along th e Aft er th e profil e on one side has been a stub less than I in. in diam eter. Thi s stu b
cut out, th e scraps can be reattached with a is cut off when th e leg is complete.
spot of hot glue or double-sided tape and With th e foot turned near round, th e
th e second side can be cut out. On ce all t he profil e of th e bottom of th e foot and th e
Sawing the Profile Line sawing is done, th e scraps can be pu lled off pad may be turned. Usin g calipers ensures
to reveal t he rough cut shape of t he leg. a cons isten t diam eter of t he foot and pad
Sawing from from leg to leg. Th e shape of the bottom of
both ends of the Turning th e foot t he foot is best determined by eye. Before
profile line to
the intersection
Before the leg is shap ed, t he foot and pad t he leg is completed, th e lathe should be
of the block and are turned on th e lath e (see p. 183). At th is stopped to make sure there are no flats
knee results in point, th e foot is st ill square stoc k, defin ed from th e square stoc k rem aining on th e
a sharp inside by th e sawn shap e on th e top and th e penci l largest diam eter of th e foot.
cornerat that

After onesideof the leg

has been cut, the scraps
are reattached (with hot
glueor tape) to aid in
cutting the second side.
With the scraps
removed, the legshows
its rough-cut shape.

The foot is turned from

the square using the
lineson the wood and
the sawn shape as
references . A skew chisel