HE term "colonial furniture," used in its literal sense, includes the household effects of the colonists from the time of the settlement at Jamestown until the war of the Revolution. This restricted definition excludes the work of the great English cabinet-makers of the late eighteenth century, and all pieces which owe their origin to the style known as the Empire. Thus the furniture of Sheraton and Hepplewhite, and the later designs of Chippendale, are debarred from the category, together with all those massive mahogany shapes having carved columns and claw-feet which have long been the stronghold of colonial collections. Correctly speaking, these pieces should be classed as late Georgian and American Empire. To limit the adjective "colonial" to the furniture imported or made by the colonists prior to 1776 would disqualify more than half of the old mahogany in this country. The word has been used so long in a wider sense and has been applied so continually to everything in furniture, from the earliest possessions of the Pilgrims to the designs in vogue as late as 1820, that it is doubtful if the literal meaning is ever accepted. From one point of view the broader use of the term is the right one. It was not until 1830 that American furniture-makers ceased to be governed by the standards of the Old World. English taste in house-furnishing prevailed long after English supremacy was at an end. The colonial period in furniture outlived the colonial period in history fifty years. When black walnut replaced mahogany and styles became "indigenous/' the last vestige of outside influence was over. Then came the decline.
In the accepted definition two centuries of furniture-making are covered, 1620-1S20. The first hundred years may be called the age of oak, and the second the age of mahogany. During the earlier period the history of all handicraft in this country was closely allied to that of England and Holland. In the later epoch Dutch influence lessened, and England shared with France the honor of molding taste in America.
The early seventeenth century in England was a time of transition. The Tudor adaptation of the Renaissance was slowly giving way to the Jacobean. Furniture was heavy in every sense of the word and exhibited a combination of styles which bordered on the grotesque. A little leaven of simplicity was sadly needed and this, later in the century, was provided by the Dutch. When William of Orange became king of England, in 16SS, the triumph of Dutch designs was com-
plete. Holland occupied a unique position commercially. She was in touch with the great nations of the world, and wielded a power second only to that of Italy. Her ports were open to Spain, Portugal, China, and Japan. Via Flanders came French and Italian merchandise. With the accession of William the best that Holland possessed passed into England. Furniture-making was permanently benefited by the introduction of Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish models. In an Anglicized form many of these types reached the colonies. In New England styles in furniture were of tardy growth. In the south, where a closer touch was kept with England, fashions in costumes and in house furnishings changed more rapidly.
Colonial furniture, from the first, showed a variety of types, for the early settlers reproduced as nearly as was possible, in a strange country, the homes of their native land. The furniture of the Pilgrims was unlike that of the English colonists in the south, and each differed from that of the Dutch settlers. Equally distinct were the household belongings of the Huguenots in Canada, and they in turn were unlike those of the French explorers in Louisiana. The Quaker and Swedish settlers in Pennsylvania added still another element. While the English of the south were fairly representative of one class, and lived after the manner of their kind in the old
country, there were slight differences between the colonial homes of Virginia and those of Georgia and Carolina. After the roughness of pioneer life passed away the dividing lines between the English and the Dutch, and between the north and the south, became more marked, and remained so until the beginning of the eighteenth century. At that time Manhattan had been for some years under English rule, and the Massachusetts settlers, with increasing prosperity, were enabled to maintain a more comfortable style of living.
The early homes of the Pilgrims and the Puritans were sparsely furnished. The struggle for existence in those first bleak winters made everything but the bare necessities impossible. Long settles, built with high backs to shut out the wind, turned chairs of local workmanship, a few chests, plain deal tables, and an occasional arm-chair comprised the furnishings of the main apartment in the usual New England house. The original Mayflower furniture was of the simplest description and extremely meager. Inasmuch as the Mayflower made several voyages between old Plymouth and new Plymouth, and each time returned to America laden with household belongings, it is quite true that a good deal of furniture "came over in the Mayflower," but it did not come on the first passage. In Pilgrim Hall are several pieces which may be considered the genuine Mayflower articles. Peregrine White's rude cradle, Miles Standish's ship chest, and the chairs used by Governor Carver and Elder Brewster are among the relics of that memorable first voyage. The chairs are noteworthy as they represent the earliest type known in New England. They have turned posts and spindles, and are sturdily built. Little used by the Dutch and lightly regarded by the southern planters, this severe type was the common one in the homes of the Plymouth and Bay colonists. Many of the turned chairs were imported, but judging from old inventories, quantities were made in this country.
Among the first trades mentioned in New England records were those of the housewright, the joiner, the carver, and the turner. The list of men who earned their living by furniture-making was a long one. In the Bay colony were John Dix, joiner; William Pettigrew, turner; Increase Allen, carver; Thomas Tarbox, clock-maker; Solomon Andrews, turner; Ebenezer Holworthy, varnisher; Martin Rogers, upholsterer. In 1642 there were twenty joiners in Boston and over thirty turners. In the Plymouth colony Kenelm Wynslow was a prominent furniture-maker and was a registered craftsman in 1634.
Six years after the landing of the Pilgrims a law was passed in which it was declared that "no handicrafts men soever as taylors, shoemakers, carpenters, joiners, smiths, sawyers, or whatsoever, which doe or may reside or belong to the plantation Plimoth, shall use their science or trades at home, or abroad, for any strangers or foreigners, till such time as the colony be served."
The boundless forests of New England supplied workmen with oak, walnut, ash, hickory, cedar, maple, deal, birch, cherry, and pine. Imported furniture was usually of oak, but native pieces were often of the softer woods. Painted furniture formed a large part of the turner's stock in trade. To the heavy coats of paint is due the preservation of many an old-time chest and settle which would otherwise have long since been destroyed.
Contemporary with the turned chair in England was the wainscot chair made of oak, and heavily carved. This chair was too cumbersome for easy transportation, and is not enumerated in the earliest inventories. In Salem, 1638, "2 wains-coate chairs" were among the household effects of Giles Perkins, magistrate; in Boston, 1640, William Pettigrew, turner, advertised "3 wainscoate chairs, with cushions"; and in 1643, Deliverance Mayhew, of Plymouth, bequeathed to her daughter Patience " 1 wainscoate chair, 6 turned chairs, and 2 joyned stools."
Less massive than the wainscot chair was the "leather chair" which was of Italian origin. It was introduced into England by the Dutch who obtained it froifi the Flemings. The Italian model had the spiral supports of the late Renaissance period. The colonial typie was substantially built, with turned legs and heavy under-braces. Following closely upon the leather chair came the "turkey chair"—so called from the oriental fabric with which it was upholstered. This was of lighter construction and was designed with a greater regard for comfort. These four styles—turned, wainscot, leather, and turkey— are mentioned over and over in wills and other documents. A Boston inventory of 1668 includes "2 joyned stools, 1 turned chair, 4 turkey-work chairs, 2 deal chests, plain, 1 oaken chest, carved, 3 leather chairs, 1 chest of drawers, cedar, 1 great wainscoate table."
The wainscot table was a combination table and chair. Economy of space, as
well as that of money, was an important factor in early colonial house-furnishing. Similar to the wainscot table was the settle-table, a piece of furniture which served many purposes. When drawn close to the fireside it made a comfortable seat for several people. When the back was lowered and adjusted by means of a wooden bolt it formed a dining-table large enough to accommodate an entire family. Beneath the lid was a convenient storing-place for household linen and for treasured pieces of pewter, too valuable for cupboard or shelf. An additional device provided the settle with candle-holders, which, with the aid of the fire, enabled the sitter to peruse his Bible or almanac. The settle was the most characteristic article of early New England furniture. Local workmen evolved a type which English designers did not surpass. Severe in line and devoid of ornament it was far more beautiful than the imported model. Built of finest oak and carved with rare skill, the old English settle wins our admiration, but does not hold the eye and kindle the imagination as does the simple one of New England pine. What fireside tales the latter suggests! The long winter evening when howling winds accentuated the warmth and cheer within; when blazing logs lighted up dim corners, making gold the ears of yellow corn hanging from the rafters, and transforming the pewter dishes on the dresser into brightest silver! What dreary theologicaHdiscussions, what long political arguments, what Puritan romances are conjured up by the old pine settle!
For more than a century this primitive piece of furniture held its own against more modern innovations. In reality the colonial settle was simply a long chest with a back to which side pieces were added. The chest in New England passed through many stages of development, some of them quite independent of English influence. A modification of the chest resulted in a low set of drawers. At first one drawer was placed beneath the chest, the whole being elevated on four straight feet. Then a second drawer was added. This piece of furniture was the chest with drawers. The next stage was the chest of drawers which came into existence about the year 1690. In many cases the straight supports were replaced by heavy ball-feet— the latter having become popular in England. This solid ball foot must not be confounded with the claw-and-ball which was a later design. One evolution of the chest of drawers was the bureau, another was the high-boy, a third the low-boy, and a fourth the beautiful desk of the eighteenth century.
The desks of pioneer colonial days were in reality boxes, known under the various names of "writing-boxes," "desk-boxes," and "paper-boxes." They were almost exclusively the property of clergymen and town clerks. Letter-writing had little part in the busy lives of the New Englanders.
From the many references in early inventories and wills to the furniture of the day, a vivid picture of the living-rooms of the first settlers is presented. The sleeping-rooms of the period are less clearly defined. Little mention is made of the bedstead, although allusions to "feather," "straw," and "flock" beds are numerous. From the massive designs in vogue in England and Holland the colonial bed of the seventeenth century may be conjectured. Few of these heavy structures were imported until after 1650. A plainer piece of furniture, following in general lines the English model, was made in the Plymouth and Bay colonies at an early date.
Toward the close of the seventeenth century the bed increased in importance. A list of the household furnishings of a Salem merchant, in 1690, included "1 great oaken bedd, 1 truckle bedd of maple, 1 large sack bottom bedd, 6 Camblett bedd curtains, 2 calicoe bedd curtains, 8 blankett sheets, 1 paire silk bedd curtains." The settee, which was a link between the settle and the sofa, was sometimes used as a bed. This piece of furniture was both of imported and domestic make. The back and seat were usually incased in turkey-work. With the exception of the arms and braces the entire frame was concealed. The construction of the colonial settee was identical with one type of the Renaissance seat. From Italy it passed into France, and from France to England. Holland had no part in its development. From the Italian palace of the sixteenth century to the New England home of the seventeenth was a far-away cry and yet, barring crude workmanship, the colonial bench was a faithful copy of the Renaissance design. The Dutch settlers were unfamiliar with this settee, as they also were with the New England settle. Aside from a few pieces which were typical of the homes of the Pilgrims and Puritans, the Dutch colonists possessed a far greater variety of furniture.
Life in New Netherlands differed essentially from life in New England.
The winters of Manhattan were milder and the Indians less menacing; but the chief difference between the English colonists of the North and the Dutch settlers lay in their motives for seeking America. The Dutch came to colonize; the English for religious freedom; the Dutch to found a trading-post in the interest of the West India Company; the English, that their children might escape the divine right of kings. The Dutch were a nation of organizers and the Manhattan settlers' were equipped with all the necessities of pioneer life. From the first the privations endured by the New Englanders were unknown to them. Their genius for commerce, coupled with their knowledge of seamanship, robbed the long voyage across the Atlantic of half its terrors. Therefore, a close touch was kept with the mother country. Returning vessels brought back Holland bricks and tiles and in a few years New Amsterdam was old Amsterdam in miniature. While Dutch sovereignty extended over a period of less than sixty years, Dutch manners and customs left an impress that a century of English rule could not remove. When New Amsterdam became New York, and Rensselaerswyck became Albany, it was a change of letter, and little else. The English crown was added to the arms of the colony, but the Dutch beaver was not displaced, and the loyal Hollanders still sang Boven Orange.
Madam Knight, a Massachusetts traveler visiting Manhattan in 1704, writes in her journal: "The Buildings, Brick generally, are very stately, and high, though not altogether like ours in Boston. The Bricks in some of the Houses are of divers coullers, and laid in checkers, being glazed, and very agreeable. The inside of them
is neat to admiration.
The fireplaces have no Jambs, as ours have. 173
But the backs
run flush with the walls, and the Hearth is of tyles and is as farr out into the Room at the ends as before the fire, which is generally Five foot in the Low'r rooms; and the piece over where the mantel should be is made as ours with joyner's work, and I suppose fastened to iron rodds inside. The hearths are laid with tyles in divers forms and coullers."
The big fore-room of the Dutch dwelling was a pleasant place with its great hearth, its plastered walls, made bright by racks of Delft, and its comfortable, substantial furniture. Chairs there were in several patterns, tables of various designs, long built-in settles, painted and carved chests, and a great assortment of cupboards. Most of these pieces were imported. The trade of the turner and joiner did not flourish in Manhattan as it did in Massachusetts. The close touch kept with Holland made domestic furniture unnecessary. Many of the chests and cupboards were richly carved, some were painted in the bright colors which the Dutch loved so well, others were ornamented with marquetry. The various cup-
boards chronicled in New Amsterdam inventories are bewildering. There were cupboards for linen, for silver, for Delft dishes; cupboards for hats, for cloaks, and for shoes. An important piece of furniture was the kos, or kas, upon which the finest marquetry and carving were lavished. The kas was a huge cupboard, or press, and was the most characteristic article of Dutch handicraft. Ornamented to a high degree, it was often the most sumptuous piece of furniture in the house. When inlaid with tropical woods it presented a brilliant appearance and rivaled a Dutch tulip garden in wealth of color.
generation to another, and was carefully § ^SjjgSgg I
recorded in the wills of the period. The ^ widow of Governor Stuyvesant made mention of hers in the following manner: "To my son, Nicoleas, I leave my great kas, or cubbard, standing at the house of Mr. Johnannes Van Brugh, together with all the China earthen ware lock'd up in said cubbard."
This same Johannes Van Brugh presented his daughter Ivatherine, at the time of her marriage to Philip Livingston, with a superb kas. It has been described by Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer, into whose family it passed by inheritance. "The kas is of oak, and handsomely carved on the outside, and is filled with curiously contrived smalt drawers and receptacles, and had ample room for the linen and silver of the household of its mistress. The keyhole is concealed under a swing-cover of wood, which, when in place, looks like part of the ornamental carving; and the great H m 1H
iron key, with its crooked wards, seems 11 fj SI
more fitted to unlock a fortress than a W J] II
marriage-chest." Ivatherine Van Brugh B M Iti
Livingston owned the finest dinner-set JB II
of Delft in New Amsterdam, numbering ^ ^
more than a hundred peices and doubt- mahogany high-boy with scroll top less some of the treasured dishes were stored in this great kas.
Typically Dutch was the slaap-bauck, or built-in bedstead, one of the few pieces of furniture which was not sent over from Holland. This was usually provided by the builder of the house. When Oloff Van Cortlandt erected a home in the Bowerie for his bride, Annekje Lockermans, it was stipulated in the contract that special care should be taken in making the slaap-bauck. In the Cortlandt house, which was one of the most pretentious in town, the slaap-bauck was placed in the sitting-room, and was arranged solely for guests who might arrive unexpectedly. It was built behind a sliding door, which concealed it by day, and which could be lowered at night to form a shelf for the mattress. In many houses this simple contrivance was the only provision made for sleeping. The old Dutch slaap-bauck was the ancestor of the modern folding-bed.
In the small articles of furniture the homes of Manhattan were particularly rich. Mirrors, clocks, pictures, china ornaments, and candlesticks jvere ordered directly from Amsterdam. The hanging clocks of brass were among the most beautiful of the importations. The dials were decorated with heraldic devices in color, surmounted by picturesque figures in hammered metal. Holland's extensive foreign trade was shown in the bric-a-brac. The china ornaments, variously referred to as mantel and chimney images, were of East India origin. Interesting bits were lacquers from Japan and ivory carvings from China. These quaint souvenirs of long sea voyages gave color to the Dutch interiors, and emphasized the difference between the homes of New Netherlands and the somber ones of New England.
Pewter played a prominent part in the interiors of Manhattan. Cupboards and racks were filled with bowls and porringers, the latter hanging by their beaten handles in precise rows. Proud was the Vrouw of her pewter; prouder of her silver. This was not exposed to the view of any chance visitor. Hidden away in heavy oak chests were the precious pieces—treasured heirlooms handed down from one
generation to another. The collection slowly increased, for members of the family were encouraged to put their earnings into silver. The money thus saved was called "silver money," and was sent to Holland when a favorable occasion presented itself. Into the hands of some trustworthy sea-captain it was given, and after many months the little heap of coins returned in the guise of a beeker, a sugar-box, or—perhaps a coffee-urn. Then it was carefully wrapped and put away in the chest, entered in an inventory, and mentioned later in a will, but not brought .forth, except to grace a christening or a wedding.
With the coming of the English settlers to Virginia a much more luxurious phase of colonial life came into existence. Under the royal charter land grants were extensive and the estates of the Virginia plantation included miles of territory. Toward the middle of the seventeenth century the home of the southern colonist was one of ease and was closely modeled on that of the English land-owner. Favored by climate, and served by faithful slaves, the problems that confronted the northern colonist were unknown to the Virginia gentleman. Blessed by wealth and education, he had the leisure to cultivate the gentle arts of living.
Land passed from father to son, each in turn adding to the beauty of the estate.
' American architecture of the seventeenth century reached its height in the mansions of Virginia and her sister colony, Maryland. Old letters and inventories show that these houses were richly furnished. Mention is made of Westover, the home of William Byrd, Esq., with its paneled hall and carved staircase, its dining-room, furnished in oak, and its "faire south parlour," hung in silken curtains of Italian .weave. William Byrd possessed a fine library. His book-plate, executed in the Jacobean style, is still preserved.
Robert Carter, of Carotoman, left a host of memoranda concerning his mode of
living. The upholstery of his sedan chair, the pattern of his furniture, the designs of his silver, were duly recorded. Thanks to these items a vivid picture is retained of the southern mansion of the seventeenth century. Detailed orders were sent to London merchants, and the newest styles in furniture and table-ware soon found their way across the water.
The carved oak which has been handed down in many Virginia families is of unusual beauty, and of a character unknown in New England. Upholstery was used to a much greater extent in the south than in the north. "Spanish leather, gold Venetian cloth, red Lyons, velvet, and green turkey-work" are mentioned in a letter bearing the date 1640. Furniture showed a great variety of designs. Seven kinds of cupboards were listed in the rare Chippendale chair inventory of the Fitz-Hugh house. The court and livery cupboards mentioned so often in colonial documents of the south, and occasionally in those of New England, were carved and paneled in the Jacobean style. The prices for some of these pieces were relatively very high. In 1640 the values were:' "One livery cubbard and shelf, £25; A great cupbart, £38 3s."
Another piece of furniture which, in the Puritan house, was of rigid simplicity, was the "thousand-legged table," or "gate table." This was a peculiarly constructed article having many leaveb, which were supported by heavily braced legs. In the south this table became quite an ornamental affair. Smaller tables were the "folding," and "drawing" ones, which were similar in design, but less richly carved.
Toward the end of the seventeenth , century in England the heavily carved and paneled pieces were replaced by lighter designs. Chairs were built on more graceful lines, tables became less cumbersome, cupboards lost their massive proportions. Furniture was constructed with a greater regard for comfort and utility. The new designs were easy of transportation, and soon influenced woodworkers on this side of the water. The names of the colonial craftsmen had changed. The joiner and the turner and the housewright had become the cabinet-maker, the chair-maker, and the carpenter.
In 1690 the "Handcrafts Guild," of Boston, numbered more than sixty men
who made furniture, and over forty who were engaged in the trade of upholstering. The execution of many of the colonial pieces is of a high order, and bears the test of comparison with English work of the period. American woods were unlike those of England, and this fact makes the origin of most seventeenth century furniture unmistakable. Two extremely interesting pieces intro__duced into New England
English furniture-mak-~ ^ " ers obtained the designs four poster, late eighteenth century from Holland, where they had long been held in favor. The original Spanish chair was upholstered in leather; the legs terminated in hoof-shaped feet, and the underbracing was carved. The Flemish chair had scrolled feet, and the seat and back were of finely woven cane. In being transplanted from one country to another these chairs lost many of their distinctive features. Dutch designers robbed them of some of their grace and English woodworkers added several Jacobean touches. Few Spanish and Flemish chairs of pure type reached America. In England the characteristics of both were blended, and this composite chair was imported in great quantities by both the northern and southern colonists. With Spanish feet, Dutch arms, English back, and Flemish underbracing, its nationality was somewhat puzzling. The Salem chair, illustrated on page 172, is an excellent example of the Flemish type as it is found in this
american empire table country. The frame of this old piece has the quality of teak, age having toned the wood to rich, deep brown. Originally the seat of this chair was cane also, the upholstery being added at a later date.
With the discarding of the great cupboards, the elevated chest of drawers, familiarly known as high-boys, came into use. The names "high-boy" and "lowboy" are not found in old furniture annals and are of comparatively late date. "High chests" and "low chests" are frequently mentioned, and it was by these terms that they were known in colonial days. The first high-boys contained from american empire table
american empire sofa a american empire sofa four to six long drawers and four or more divided drawers, all of which opened with brass drop handles. Six turned feet connected by a stretcher formed the supports. The tops were straight, and were finished with a heavy molding. Oak and walnut were the principal woods used in their construction. An idea of their value may be gained from prices gathered from old advertisements. The highest figure is £15, and the lowest £2 10s. There was little change in the construction of the high-boy until about 1720, when the introduction of the cabriole, or bandy-leg, revolutionized this piece of furniture, as it did the chair and the table. Instead of six turned supports, the high chest of drawers rested on four slender ones. The stretcher, in a modified form, remained, but in another decade it was discarded, and the high-boy of 1730 stood on independent feet. The high-boy, page 175, shows the type in use at a slightly later date, when the scroll top was introduced. The drawers display the fan carving destined to be a feature of so many colonial pieces.
Mr. Luke Vincent Lockwood has made a careful study of the high chest of drawers, and in his book, Colonial Furniture in America presents a detailed history of its development. Mr. Lockwood has rendered a service to collectors and to all lovers of old furniture, by his scholarly analysis of colonial styles. In speaking of the high-boy, he says: "The chest of drawers proper has usually four drawers, graduating in size from seven to four inches in width; the section above the fourth drawer is divided commonly into five drawers; a deep one, ornamented with the rising sun, with the space each side of this equally divided into small drawers. The table part has a drawer running all the way across the top, and under this three deep drawers, the center one also having the rising sun. The large majority of low-boys offered for sale are the lower or table part of the high-boys, and can be distinguished from the table proper by their height and the more substantial make of the leg. The genuine low-boy seldom mentions measures over 34 inches in height; the high-boy tables average about 38 inches. The little low-boys, to the trained eye, are easily distinguished from the pieces made by supplying a top to the high-boy table. It may also be added, that when they are thus separated, the chest of drawers is often finished with feet, and offered for sale as a colonial bureau."
A variation of the usual high-boy of 1730 was the type with a blocked front. This style is rarely found to-day, but the blocked desks which are of later date, convey an idea of the general arrangement of the drawers. With the appearance of the scroll top, or broken cornice, the high-boy entered the third period of its development. The scroll top was the dividing line between old and new forms. It transformed the high-boy into a thing of beauty; it added lightness and grace to the cupboard, and it wrought a wonderful change in the desk. Contemporary with the scroll top were the delicately carved finials and the finely executed brass handles.
The tall clock, no less than the high-boy, was improved by the scroll. When cabinet-makers discarded the straight cornice, clock-makers followed in their footsteps. Clock-making in the colonies forms a chapter by itself. The earliest time-pieces were portable, and were of English make. Hanging clocks, described in old documents as "lantern" and "chamber," were little known in New England until the late seventeenth century. When tall clocks replaced them, the field for beautiful cabinetwork was a wide one. The craft of the "clock man" in the colonies developed slowly. People of means imported their timekeepers; those in humble circumstances depended on the hour-glass and the sun-dial. The eighteenth century was almost at an end before American clock-making reached the dignity of an art. The names of Seth Thomas and Aaron Willard came into prominence about the year 1S00. The "banjo" clock was made by Willard, and was very popular in the early american empire sewino-table
nineteenth century. Chauncey Jerome, at a later date, made the rectangular shelf-clock, which is a faithful timekeeper to-day in many Connecticut houses.
The year 1720 which ended the first hundred years of furniture-making in the colonies, was an important date in England. About that time mahogany came into use in London. The introduction of this wood has long been credited to Dr. Gibbon, an English physician, the story of which has been related in Chapter XII.
That mahogany furniture was in limited use in the colonies before 1720 is now placed beyond a doubt. In the will of John Jones of Philadelphia, 1708, a mahogany screen is mentioned, and in a New York advertisement, of similar date, a mahogany chest of drawers is offered for sale. The truth of the Gibbon story is open to question, although it is probable that mahogany furniture was little known in England before the second decade of the eighteenth century. It was not imported to any great extent in this country until after the year 1740. Without mahogany the cabriole-legged desks and secretaries, the carved four-post bedsteads, and the graceful fiddle-back chairs would not have reached a high degree of beauty. Chair-making, especially, was revolutionized by the introduction of this West India wood.
About the year 1730 "the fiddle-back chair," sometimes called "the Queen Anne," sometimes "the Dutch," and again, "the bandy-legged," became popular in the colonies. It formed an important link in the history of chair-making and marked the dividing-line between the heavily braced types, so long in vogue, and the delicately constructed styles made famous by the late Georgian furniture-makers. The first Queen Anne chairs imported into New England were made with slight underbraces, but in the second style these were lacking. The distinctive characteristics of the Queen Anne patterns were the cabriole leg, terminating in the flat or club foot, the broad splat of the back, and the depressed seat. A fine specimen of the second type is reproduced on page 173. This is pure "Fiddle-Back".
Contemporary with the Queen Anne chairs were the "slat-back" and "banister-back" chairs. These were made with seats of rush, and were very plentiful between the years 1730 and 1750. In the kitchen of the Whipple house which is illustrated on page 177, are two of the "slat-back" designs. Into this old kitchen have been gathered many articles typical of colonial days. The collection of flax-wheels, churns, lanterns, candlesticks, and pewter dishes rivals that of many a New England museum. A "thousand-legged table" is here, and in a shadowy corner may be seen a "fan-back" Windsor chair. Quite apart from the other chairs of colonial days were the many styles of "Windsors." From 1725 until early in the nineteenth century they held their own with .far more elegant designs. They were found in the homes of rich and poor and were not confined to any one locality.
The original Windsors were of English make, but American furniture-makers perfected several styles. Made of ash and hickory and heavily coated with paint,
they have outlived many a fine bit of carved mahogany. The various American Windsors were known as "round-backs," "fan-backs," and "bow-backs," the latter following in a general way the lines of an archer's bow. There were "arm-chairs," "rocking - chairs," "writing-chairs," and , "side-chairs" in the almost endless Windsor category. One of the sturdy "arm-chairs" may be seen in Washington's bedchamber, at Mt. Vernon, which is reproduced in this chapter.
The year 1760 marked another stage in the history of furniture-making in the colonies. In England the great epoch of cabinet-making was at hand—that brilliant period, covering less than fifty years, with which the names of Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton are inseparably associated. Shearer, Ince, Mayhew, Manwaring, and Richardson were worthy followers of the three masters, but their influence was little felt in America. How many of the Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton pieces found in this country actually came from the hands of the great designers? Their names have become generic terms, sometimes denoting a style, sometimes a period. "After the manner of" Chippendale, or Hepplewhite, or Sheraton would be a safer way to classify most of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century furniture found in America. Doubtless a great deal of the work in England which now bears the names of these men was designed by them and executed by others. In this country English models were so carefully copied that it sometimes is difficult to locate the makers. Chippendale's influence was strongest in America between the years 1760rl780. During the latter decade, Hepplewhite was also a potent factor in determining styles in furniture. Sheraton's publication, The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book, appeared in 1793. From that date until the designs of the Empire came into fashion, Sheraton was the guiding-star of the furniture-makers in America.
Fortunately the popularity of Chippendale's Chinese and Gothic styles found little echo on this side of the Atlantic. Most of the pieces bearing his name in America are entirely free from these absurdities. His early furniture shows traces of Dutch influence which lingered in England in spite of newer fashions. He made use of the bandy-legged chair, imparting great delicacy to the construction. The
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first Chippendale chairs which were known in America were made with the bandyleg and ball-and-claw foot. The backs were a variation of the Dutch splat, pierced and slightly curving. The next type imported showed a more elaborate back, and straight, tapering legs. About 1770 a slight departure from the regulation Chippendale chair resulted in the "ladder-back" design: The supports of this chair were straight, and the back was divided with horizontal bars. Mt. Vernon contains several of these patterns. In the West Parlor, shown in the frontispiece, a ladder-back chair is placed on either side of the fine Louis XVI fauteuil.
Many of the "roundabout" chairs designed by Chippendale are admirably constructed. In his hands the heavy Dutch model, the original "roundabout," was given a new beauty. The large upholstered chairs of the late colonial period, the "wing" and "cozy" styles were not made by Chippendale. Ince and.Manwaring designed several patterns, which were more common in England than in this country. An American type of wing chair is shown on page 181.
Thomas Sheraton made many chairs and tables, but in this country his fame rests chiefly on his sideboards. The urn-shaped knife-boxes which are a part of many of these pieces, show how strongly he was guided by the standards of the Adam> brothers. Most of Sheraton's work in this country is of a high order. To many minds the old furniture which bears his name is the finest of all colonial styles.
Four famous colonial chairs are illustrated here. First, the Flemish type; second, the pure fiddle-back; third, the Windsor; and fourth the chintz-covered "wing." There were several modifications of these types, but they were merely in detail.
After the War of 1812 English patterns declined in favor and furniture-makers turned to France for inspiration. The American development of the Empire style is a lasting credit to the designers of this country, and forms a fitting close to the second century of colonial furniture-making. The table and sofa, pages 183 and 184, are typical examples of the American Empire and show what spirit could be imparted to massive designs.
While the Empire style in America followed in a general way the trend of the movement in France, it was free from the incongruities which marred many of the foreign pieces. Carved columns, claw-feet, pine-apple finials, and ornamental brasses were the hall-marks of the American Empire. Realistic heads of lions and griffins, and the many Egyptian details to which French furniture-makers resorted, were happily absent from the work of the day on this side of the water.
By 1830 the Empire style in this country had run its course. Designs lost their vitality and became heavy and ponderous. When black walnut superseded mahogany the characteristics which had made furniture-making an art for more than a hundred years ceased to exist. Varied as were colonial types there were certain features common to all. Whatever extravagances marked English and continental styles, designs in this country leaned toward simplicity. It is this quality that renders colonial furniture as satisfactory to-day as when it came from the hands of its maker.
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