The Furniture Chairs

As we have seen in the Stuart chapter, the elaborate, high-backed chair of Charles II extended into the reign of James, but the creeling of the back was set over the supports inStead of between them as formerly. This later fashion now persisted into the reign of William and Mary, there being a number of variations in details. Very soon, however, these chairs became simplified into the type illustrated in the example at the left in Plate 3. Except in the creating, elaboration has now gone by the board, and upholstering or leather frequently take the place of caning. The Flemish scroll has disappeared, the front Stretcher is simply turned with the Portuguese bulb at its centre, and the feet are "Spanish."

Later Still, we find that the creSting has been reduced to the simple design seen in the central chair in Plate 3, that the back is spooned, and, what is of great importance, that the turned back-supports, or Stiles, which had endured through so many years and through such a variety of changes, have now given way to a completely framed back. This framework is now moulded.

It is but seldom that we find in American chairs the flat, shaped or serpentine Stretcher that plays so large a part in the William and Mary legged-furniture of England, but it is one of the notable features of the highboys and lowboys.

The BaniSter-backed chair was also prominent. It was an American development through certain natural suggestions of it that we see in some English chairs. The example illustrated in Plate 6 B preserves the baluSter-turning of legs and arm-supports of the Stuart years but the feet and modified bulbs of the

CONCORD ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY. EAST FRONT CHAMBER Early-Georgian Highboy and Bedstead, William and Mary chairs in centre, Hepplewhite chair on the right

Photograph by Dillon

WILLIAM AND MARY HIGHBOY, Walnut front, Maple sides. C. i7ro. CHARLES II CHAIRS By Courtesy of Howard Reifsnyder, Esq.

A. BURL WALNUT DESK. C. 1705 Metropolitan Museum

Photograph by Dillon

B. WALNUT DESK WITH THREE FRONT FEET. C. 17x0 Howard Reifsnyder, Esq.


Stretcher place it with William and Mary furniture. Many of these chairs have the Spanish foot. As will readily be seen they are simplifications of the elaborate Stuart chair and almoSt all of them retain the creSting, though in some it is much modified.

A few day-beds with William and Mary characteristics have come down to us.

A slat-back chair with the large ball-foot appearing in so much William and Mary furniture, and with a very marked and comfortable "rake" in all its uprights, is seen in Plate 13 A. Such pieces are excellent for sijnple interiors.


The fine highboy illustrated in Plate 4 is of the perfected type of the period. In the earliest examples the three arches of the base were (very exceptionally) absent or (usually) alike, leaving an equal space above them, occupied except in primitive pieces by one long drawer across the front. When the type was developed by raising and so differentiating the central arch, the arrangement of drawers appropriately became that of the illustration.

Following English precedent throughout, the top mouldings in this highboy—made in New England— are deeper than in earlier examples, where they are of the simplest description. Even in the severe mouldings we may be able to determine which in fact made its earlieSt appearance, but their use was decidedly irregular. Provided that the cabinet-maker could feel that he was adhering to what was appropriate to the type, he would be apt to choose what his fancy, or his resources, indicated at the time. The proportions of the piece would also have influence.

In English furniture we can often note the efiedt of the two diverse influences of France and Holland; and that content—all unconsciously to our workmen, probably—seems to have transferred itself to America as well: among highboys, for instance, there are those of the slenderness and elegance of Plate 4 and others with the heaviness and "squatness" characteristic of Dutch furniture.

The inception of each new feature in English furniture has accurately been dated by the authorities of that country. The late Percy Macquoid and Mr. Herbert Ceszinsky, the greatest living authority on the subject, unite in giving 1690 as the earliest date of the appearance in England of the inverted-cup turned leg and the Portuguese bulb. The matter is perfectly simple—these features came in from Holland with William and his workmen. Such novelties were of course firSt made for the King and the nobility: how long would be required for these new fashions to reach our American workmen, be accepted by clients, and rendered into adtual furniture ? If we say that no highboys with cup-turning or the Portuguese bulb could have been made here before 1692 we shall certainly be ^ within reason. Considering the tardiness with which the Queen Anne and Chippendale Styles were taken up here under later and more favourable circumstances, about 1700 would probably be nearer the mark. Any earlier cheSts on Stands that we may find referred to in inventories would have had the plain turned or the spiral leg of the Stuart reigns.

' The only possible manner in which the cup and bulb could have had an earlier appearance here than 1692 would be through dired derivation from Holland, and as these highboys so closely followed the English Style this seems unlikely.

In England the trumpet and the peg-top turned legs and the square-pedeStal leg came in at the same time—1690: here, the trumpet form seems to be rather later, while the other two appear not to have been made. All four forms were firSt developed in France under Louis XIII and his successor.

Still following the English development, to a number of the later highboys the torus frieze (a very broad rounded moulding) was added, as the front to an upper drawer. The torus had appeared in Italy as early as the building of the Farnese palace by Vignola, about 1570, where it was used above doorways, and it became very usual all through Europe during the Baroque seventeenth century.

A few cupboards with bases like the highboys also occurred. These had solid doors.

Lowboys were made to match the highboys and were used as dressing-tables. In the highboys the Stretchers followed the form of the arches above them: in the lowboys they but occasionally did so and were usually serpentine, sometimes with a central finial.

The drawers of these pieces, and especially the finer examples, were frequently veneered in walnut or maple. A few highboys were japanned.

Small tables followed much the same lines as the lowboys.

The dressing-table illustrated in Plate 6 A is of the very end of the period, and in this will be noted the very important introduction of the cabriole leg, destined to prevail in furniture for the next fifty years. It is Still in primitive form, heavy and remaining square as originally cut out, collared on the outward sides, and with Spanish foot. The apron in this dressing-table is of unusual design. This piece of furniture was purchased from the Estate of Harriet Randolph and as it had been in the possession of her grandmother, hence probably belonged either to Captain Edward Fitz Randolph of General Anthony Wayne's Division or to Joseph Richardson, the silversmith, on the maternal side.


Plate 5 illustrates two fine slant-top desks, the firSt closed and the second showing the interior. Both have the ball or "bun" feet, the latter being moSt unusual in its possession of three of them in front. The waved apron was more frequently seen in England in this period than here. In Fig. A the drawers are handsomely veneered in burl walnut.

Higher secretaries with drawers and pigeon-holes also appeared. Some had a falling-front on which to write, and others the slanting top.


The handles and key-plates of the period are well shown in the illustrations. The drop-handles appearing in Plate 5 A are the earlier. In the others the bails are fastened with bent wires. Sometimes the plates were plain, as in the dressing-table, and sometimes engraved as in Plate 5 B.

Naturally furniture of these earlier periods is scarce—it is surprising that there is as much of it as there is. If the reader were to look up such plans or illustrations as exist of our cities even as late as 1725, he would realise 1yhat comparatively small towns they were and how fe\^ would be the houses apt to contain furniture of the better grade. Twenty-five years later Still, in 1750, the [population of Philadelphia, then the largest "city" on the continent, was 12,500 souls!



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