Of all the seventeenth-century furniture made in Essex County, the only objects that rival the work of Thomas Dennis of Ipswich are case pieces and tables with histories of ownership in the towns of Beverly, Topsfield, Ipswich, Newbury, Andover, and North Andover. Unlike most early joinery, the products of this anonymous shop are unusually diverse in design, construction, and decoration. Several examples show the influence of Boston furniture in the London style—most notably in the use of drawer dovetails, multiple channel moldings with mitered inserts, and classical turning sequences. At the same time, these Essex County pieces depart from Boston practice in having channel moldings with mitered inserts on drawer fronts rather than on case stiles. The architectural jetties on four cupboards from this shop have no direct precedent in British furniture. With their dramatic overhangs and turned pendants, these jetties differ from framed examples, which often capture large turned pillars. Several of the ornamental details and some of the architectural tropes used by the artisans in this shop appear to be indebted to sixteenth-century French joinery, specifically to the Second School of Fontainebleau.
Many of the pieces in the Essex County group have carved initials and dates. Most of the original owners, identified through genealogical research or by process of elimination, were members of the Puritan gentry, including the Appleton family of Ipswich and the Perkins families of Ipswich and Topsfield. The Appletons never acquired vast wealth, but they became socially prominent and prosperous through intermarriage with such grandees as John Winthrop, Thomas Dudley, Henry Dunster, Simon Bradstreet, Rev. John Woodbridge, Rev. Nathaniel Rogers, Major-General Daniel Denison, Rev. Samuel Phillips, and Richard Dummer. Their extended family included five presidents of Harvard College and ministers from the coveted pulpits of Watertown, Cambridge, Topsfield, Rowley, Ipswich, and Newbury.
Although this Essex County shop did produce relatively standardized objects, such as joined chests, the compositional and ornamental variety of its major forms is difficult to explain using the tools of conventional furniture history. The artisans continually refined their designs, working toward some ideal aesthetic goal. Because the easiest way for seventeenth-century joiners to earn a living was to produce standardized forms using repetitive work methods, this departure from the norm seems counterproductive. It is difficult to imagine that any of the objects illustrated here were stock-in-trade, but the nature of the relationship between the makers and patrons remains unclear. Customer preference undoubtedly influenced the shop’s designs, and the allure of the unique was probably a selling point. The furniture produced by these joiners presents direct evidence of that most elusive mystery with which the art historian must struggle—the nature of the creative process.
The Historiography of Essex County Furniture
The case pieces and tables attributed to this shop are hardly newcomers to decorative arts literature. A description of the cupboard base that descended in the Appleton family (fig. 21) appeared in an article by William H. Sumner in the New England Historic and Genealogical Register in October 1855. This furniture also attained a measure of prestige through its association with prominent Puritans and with the joined oak forms of the English Arts and Crafts movement, which became popular in the United States after the Civil War. Salem, Massachusetts, antiquarian Henry Fitz Gilbert Waters (1833–1913) commissioned replicas of several cupboards in the group and marketed them as period objects. A centennial exhibition of colonial artifacts held at Plummer Hall in Salem in December 1875 included fraudulent examples, as did Clarence Cook’s superficial but popular book The House Beautiful (1877). Waters and his cabinetmaker undoubtedly studied and made drawings of period examples, several of which remained in the families of original owners in Boston, Beverly, and Ipswich. That is the only plausible explanation for the replicas having riven oak and the unusual secondary wood sycamore, which occurs in furniture from this shop.
Waters also acquired and conserved several period examples. During the 1880s, he met furniture historian Irving W. Lyon, who subsequently employed him to conduct genealogical research in England. Lyon illustrated only two genuine Essex County pieces in his seminal work The Colonial Furniture of New England (1891), and his papers indicate that he was suspicious of Waters. Subsequent books by Esther Singleton and Frances Clary Morse followed Lyon’s example in illustrating objects from the Waters collection, but these authors chose some of the spurious examples and made no significant new comments about the objects.
Wallace Nutting illustrated newly discovered objects from this shop in Pilgrim Century Furniture (1921, 1924) and Furniture Treasury (1927). In the latter book, he speculated that the maker lived “somewhere from Salem to Newburyport” and that “a little research...should locate the town and perhaps the workmen.” His remarks apparently motivated Lyon’s equally capable son, Irving P. Lyon, to conduct research on Essex County joinery during the 1930s. The results of his work—two articles in Old-Time New England and six articles in Antiques—set a new standard for documentary investigation and formal analysis. While his father pioneered the use of probate inventories in American decorative arts scholarship, Irving P. Lyon developed a methodology that assessed traditional histories of ownership through genealogical research, identified workmen in a variety of public records, and combined this information with technical study to distinguish various shop traditions. He identified Ipswich joiner Thomas Dennis as the maker of a large group of carved furniture, and most of his attributions are accepted today. Lyon erred, however, in attributing examples from this Essex County shop to Dennis. He theorized that Dennis’ work evolved over forty years to encompass an applied ornament style, and his argument remained unchallenged for twenty years.
In 1960, Helen Park published two articles that questioned some of Lyon’s attributions. Her work inspired Benno M. Forman’s research on Essex County joinery, which he conducted while a student in the Winterthur Program between 1966 and 1968. Forman scrutinized public records to identify furniture craftsmen and analyzed the design and structural details of all the objects known to him. In his thesis and a subsequent article, he separated Essex County production from the London-style joinery of the Boston-Charlestown area. Forman followed this impressive achievement by attributing what Lyon had referred to as the “geometric-panels” phase of Dennis’ production to the Symonds shops of Salem, Rowley, and Topsfield. However, by not challenging the attribution of the Staniford chest of drawers (fig. 1) to Dennis, Forman implicitly accepted Lyon’s theory that Dennis moved from a carved style to an applied ornament style. In addition to the authority of Lyon’s articles, Forman placed great emphasis on the many documents linking Dennis with Thomas (1648–1730) and Margaret (Harris) (1657–1750) Staniford, the original owners of the chest. 
Using probate inventories, Forman cited benches, molding planes, fine tenon saws, and holdfasts as evidence of the joiner’s trade and suggested that most carpenters did not own such tools. To some extent, he pushed the joiner/carpenter distinction almost to the point of joiner versus carpenter. By eliminating carpenters as candidates for furniture makers, he made it easier to attribute schools of joinery to specific artisans or shop traditions. Many seventeenth-century joiners did architectural work, and numerous artisans referred to as carpenters made joined furniture of good quality. As the furniture attributed to this Essex County shop reveals, its makers could produce elaborate stylistic effects with the simplest equipment.
In New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century and in two subsequent articles, Robert F. Trent asserted that the entire Essex County group was not the work of Dennis but possibly associated with the Emery shop tradition of Newbury. A chest made for Thomas and Margaret Staniford in 1676 clarified this distinction when it appeared in 1982. Clearly a product of Dennis’ shop, it differed from an Essex County chest of drawers made for the same couple two years later (fig. 1). This article does not defend Trent’s Emery attribution, but it does argue that this Essex County shop was located in the vicinity of Ipswich or Newbury.
The Shop Becomes Established
The chest of drawers illustrated in figure 1 has the most credible provenance of any piece attributed to this shop. It descended from Thomas and Margaret Staniford through several generations of the Heard family of Ipswich. Her grandmother, Margaret (Reade) Lake (1598–1672), was one of three sisters who married members of the Puritan elite about the time of the Great Migration from England to the Massachusetts Bay. Elizabeth Reade (1616–1672) was John Winthrop, Jr.’s second wife, and Martha Reade (b. 1602) married Deputy Governor Samuel Symonds of Ipswich. Abandoned by her husband John Lake, Margaret often lived in John Winthrop, Jr.’s household.
The Staniford chest of drawers is the earliest dated example from New England. With its oak façade, unusual drawer arrangement, and distinctive carving, it differs significantly from seventeenth-century Boston work. In that city, the London-trained joiners of the intermarried Mason and Messinger families made Italo-Netherlandish case pieces with drawers of varied heights, Corinthian base and waist moldings, Ionic entablatures, and vertical channel moldings with mitered inserts. Although Boston case pieces often have oak side frames and panels, their façades are invariably walnut and/or cedrela. No surviving example has carved decoration; however, the table shown in figure 23 and firebacks cast at the Saugus Ironworks from patterns supplied by Boston joiners have simple relief carving similar to that on London case pieces.
The concept of a chest of drawers as a specialized form spread from Boston to other areas of New England. Boston three- and four-drawer chests typically have drawer ornament divided differently. On the former, the upper drawer typically has three geometric panels, the second drawer has two, and the third drawer has three. On the latter, each drawer has two panels separated by a central plaque or reserve. The Staniford example is unusual in having five drawers, all of equal height. Although precedents for this arrangement can be found in continental baroque furniture, most of the associated stylistic conventions did not arrive in New England until the 1690s. The maker of the Staniford chest also departed from Boston practice in the division of his drawer ornament. The upper drawer has three panels, the second has two, the middle has three, the fourth has two, and the bottom has three. Although the drawers are unmarked and interchangeable, this arrangement appears to be correct given the location of the small half-columns and the relationship of the initial and date plaques to those on other pieces in the group. The practice of alternating the ornamental divisions on successive drawer fronts became a staple of this shop’s vocabulary and may have influenced the work of other Essex County joiners.
The moldings and large half-columns (fig. 2) of the Staniford chest divide the façade into a frieze/column/surbase composition. Mitered moldings, plaques of various sizes, and shallow strapwork carving give the drawers and façade a staccato quality that differs significantly from seventeenth-century Boston and London chests. Boston case pieces occasionally have inset and applied plaques, but they are usually framed by applied mitered moldings. On the Staniford chest, the plaques incised with letters or numerals were intended to contrast with other parts of the case. Their edges are exposed, and they are made of tulip poplar and maple, which would have been green and light yellow respectively.
The painted decoration may have been added after Margaret Staniford’s death in 1750. When new, the chest’s oak and ebonized maple components resembled those on other pieces in the group. The only other pigment found on furniture from this shop is red, which occurs on the strapwork carving and applied arches of two cupboards.
The painted decoration covers several repairs that collectively alter the composition of the chest. One drawer in the middle row of three is replaced, as are the large and small blocks between the top and the large half-columns. These blocks cover portions of the channel moldings on the stiles, which were probably visible originally, as they are below the large half-columns. With the blocks removed and small half-columns placed on either side of the channel moldings, the uppermost drawer would lose much of its frieze-like emphasis.
The joiner used a scratch-stock (fig. 3) to cut almost all of the moldings (see fig. 4) on the framed elements and appliqués of the Staniford chest and other pieces in the group. Although molding planes are ancient tools and were certainly present in seventeenth-century America, most New England joiners, including those in the Essex County shop, produced small moldings with scratch-stocks. Unlike molding planes, which have shaped angled blades, conforming soles, and remove wood by cutting, scratch stocks have upright blades, L-shaped frames that act as depth stops, and remove wood by scraping. Because they do not have a conforming sole, scratch-stocks can produce curved moldings either when worked by hand against a piece of curved stock or when mounted on a rotating arm. They scrape on the forward and backward strokes, often producing slight irregularities or “chatter marks” exactly perpendicular to the molding unless the tool is skewed. These marks are clearly visible on the moldings produced in this shop. On the bottom drawer of the Staniford chest, the scratch-stock channels are subdivided into panels with mitered inserts that may have been chopped with a special die. A similar feature appears on the stiles of Boston case pieces, but its use on horizontal drawer fronts and rails appears unique to this Essex County group.
The small half-columns on the chest may have been influenced by Boston work, whereas the large half-columns (fig. 2)—distinguished by stacks of barrel turnings—resemble those on case furniture made in Paris and its environs during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. This same magnificent furniture provided the immediate antecedents for FrenchCanadian buffets that are often described as Louis XIII but are more properly Henri IV, if not Henri II, in style.
Surveys of French furniture reveal that late medieval case pieces were organized with Gothic tracery in the panels and miniature applied buttresses on the stiles and on the muntins between the panels. This formula was reworked during the Mannerist period by substituting floral carving or rondels with profile busts in the panels and pilasters or turned appliqués on the stiles and muntins. Adaptations of these stacked reel and baluster turnings, known as “candelabra,” were derived from Roman frescoes in the Golden House of Nero and were a staple of French court design. In time, the candelabra lost their bases and became floating abstractions, but their visual emphases in the composition of façades remained the same. As codified by the group of Italian and French architects and designers now known as the Second School of Fontainbleau, these exquisitely proportioned forms, with extreme thick and thin passages, were the object of much scrutiny by connoisseurs. Italian architect Sebastiano Serlio (1475–1554) had a profound influence on French court styles during this period. His Architettura (1537–1547) contains a lengthy discussion about drawing classical vases, translated in the English edition (1611) as “cups” or “vessels” (fig. 5). In the study of classical proportions, vases were almost as important as the five orders of columns:
It is an excellent thing for a man to study or practise... with the Compasse, whereby in time men may find out that which they never imagined: as this night it happened unto me, for that seeking to find a neerer rule, to make ye forme of an Egge [than]...Albertus Durens hath set downe: I found this way to make an Anticke [Roman] vessell, placing the foote beneath at the foot of an Egge, and the necke with the handles above upon the thickest part of the Egge.
The existence of Roman and French prototypes for certain details found on the Essex County group is the rationale for describing the applied turnings on the Staniford chest and related case pieces as “half-columns” rather than “split spindles”—a modern term used by many American authors. Although it is unlikely that the turner owned a copy of Architettura or was of direct French descent, he was an extremely accomplished artisan with an acute knowledge of classical proportion and form. The fact that all of the half-columns and pillars on furniture from the Essex County group are by the same hand suggests that the shop collaborated with the same turner for twenty-five years or that the shop master was also a turner.
The drawer construction of the Staniford chest is typical of this shop. Each front is made from a wedge-shaped piece of riven oak that tapers in section from top to bottom. The joiner (or joiners) used the broadest dimension for the base to accommodate a rabbet for nailing on the bottom boards and planed similar rabbets in the ends to receive the drawer sides. In many instances, these workmen used two wrought nails with short shanks to secure the sides to the front. Often the nails protrude just above the surface, but occasionally they are countersunk. Some drawer fronts were too thin at the top to receive nails from the sides. On these examples, the joiners drove nails through the upper corners of the front into the end grain of the sides. The drawer bottoms on pieces from this shop are usually water-sawn sycamore or riven oak. All of the bottom boards are oriented front-to-back, and they have fine tongue-and-groove, V-shaped, or butt joints. Drawer backs are invariably nailed, and on some examples they are housed in rabbets on the back ends of the drawer sides. As on many pieces of seventeenth-century case furniture, drawers from this group are side-hung. Workmen in the shop occasionally departed from these construction practices, but the combination of details cited above are standard.
Abundant forests and a shortage of skilled labor promoted distinctive timbering and woodworking practices in New England. Water-powered sawmills were located on just about every stream. The principal product of these mills was white pine boards. In contrast, oak logs were almost always riven—split radially to align the face with the medullary ray plane. On the Staniford chest, the oak components are riven, but the top and drawer bottoms are water-sawn sycamore (fig. 6). Some objects attributed to this shop have water-sawn oak, an extremely rare feature on New England furniture. The most common use of this wood was three-inch by five-inch joists and studs for house frames.
The sides and back of the chest have superimposed vertical panels of approximately equal size (figs. 1, 7). Most joiners preferred to use repeatable designs and standardized components to expedite assembly. Although seventeenth-century woodworkers chose trees and harvested timber with specific parts in mind, they often had to produce smaller components when they encountered defects in the wood or made errors in the riving process. This sort of decision making probably became more critical later in the seventeenth century, when supplies of oak diminished in the vicinity of older towns. A variety of panel widths and configurations are evident on later pieces in the Essex County group. Like the water-sawn oak, sycamore, and pine used by this shop, these features may have resulted from timber shortages.
The maker of the Staniford chest often used marks similar to those found in architectural joinery to designate the orientation and alignment of individual components and assembled frames. These marks are often visible on the internal surfaces and outside backs of case pieces, but no consistent pattern is discernable. The marks on the Staniford chest are less comprehensive and more random than those on the cupboard illustrated in figure 36. On the latter piece, every component is marked, in some instances in a seemingly contradictory fashion. Many seventeenth-century joiners used marking systems, but few are as elaborate as those associated with this shop.
The Staniford chest has two features that do not occur on other case pieces attributed to this shop. All of the framing members of the back have molded and chamfered decoration on their inside surfaces. It is unlikely that the joiners simply erred and flipped the back 180 degrees during assembly, since few pieces in the Essex County group have backs with molded and chamfered decoration on either surface. Also unusual are the two diagonal braces dovetailed to the bottom rails at the front and rear. Although their precise function is unknown, they resemble wind braces in house framing and may have been used to prevent the case from wracking. These features, which contrast with the mature construction and ornament of the chest, are the only indications that it may have been one of the first examples produced by this shop.
Dated two years later than the chest, the cupboard shown in figure 8 reputedly belonged to Peter Woodbury of Beverly, Massachusetts. Irving W. Lyon illustrated it in Colonial Furniture of New England, and his son subsequently published its family history. Just as misinterpretations of the Staniford chest caused previous scholars to consider it a product of Thomas Dennis’ shop, the history of the Woodbury cupboard diverted attention from its more likely origin in Ipswich or Newbury. The Woodbury cupboard and Staniford chest are undoubtedly from the same shop. Their drawer construction is identical, including the use of water-sawn sycamore bottom boards. The cupboard also has sycamore moldings surrounding the drawer fronts and date panel of the lower case.
The upper pillars of the cupboard (fig. 9) are taller and slightly more complex than the ones below (fig. 10). Similarly, the four large half-columns at the front corners of the storage compartment (fig. 11) are more intricate than the two at the rear (fig. 12). To some degree, this hierarchy of ornament conforms to the superimposition of orders in classical architecture. As on the outer façade of the Colosseum of Emperor Vespasian in Rome, the orders in multi-storied structures were arrayed according to a decorum in which the Doric order was always placed under the Ionic, the Ionic under the Corinthian, and the Corinthian under the Composite.
The joiner of the Woodbury cupboard introduced surface arcades as a decorative element for the side panels of the storage compartment (fig. 8). Arcades are the most architectonic feature of this shop’s design vocabulary. They are literal translations of classical design, interspersed with Mannerist conceits. The joiner used a scratch-stock cutter to mold the jambs, which function as abutments of the arch. On the earliest cupboards from this shop, the jambs rest on tapered plinths. This feature is not architecturally correct, but the tradesmen in this shop used it as an expedient and economical solution because they were already making a series of tapered imposts onto which the upper ends of the jambs abut. The joiner of the Woodbury cupboard molded the curves of the arches with a “sweep,” a scratch-stock cutter mounted on a trammel. He also used the same cutter to make the moldings on the jambs below.
On the Woodbury cupboard, turned bosses decorate the arch spandrels, and pendants drop from the keystones rather than the center imposts in correct architectural fashion. Similar pendants and bosses appear on five firebacks cast at Saugus Ironworks between 1655 and 1662. Although Boston woodworkers produced the casting patterns, they used several details found on furniture from the Essex County group including drop-ground carving and scratch-stock and sweep-generated moldings.
The Boston chest illustrated in figure 13 and a chest of drawers with doors (Yale University Art Gallery) have panels with composite applied arches comprised of scratch-stock and sweep-generated moldings. Although furniture from that town may have inspired the arcades produced by the Essex County joiners, the lack of dated metropolitan parallels makes any speculation tentative. Other New England shops decorated panels with surface arches, but it is unlikely their furniture influenced this Essex County group.
The framing of the upper storage compartment resembles that of English cupboards but is considerably more complex. The stiles of the trapezoidal case are pentagonal in cross-section, to allow for ninety-degree shoulders on the connecting rails (fig. 14). This enabled the maker to use stronger joints than if angled shoulders united the parts. Boston joiners used a somewhat different approach. A cupboard that reputedly belonged to Isaac and Elizabeth Lawton of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, has a trapezoidal upper case with rectangular rear stiles and side rails cut at an angle and toe-nailed to the faces of the rear stiles.
The construction of cupboards in the Essex County group is superior to that of contemporary Boston examples. The trapezoidal section of the Woodbury cupboard is recessed, a design that appears to be unique to this shop. The tops of the rear stiles have tenons that engage mortises in the bottom edge of the long rear rail that passes over them. This rail joins the square corner stiles, and two turned rear pillars support the overhang. British and New England cupboards with trapezoidal frames usually have rear stiles positioned at the extreme corners and pillars that support the front stiles.
The Woodbury cupboard also deviates from standard design in having a jetty on the side and rear façades. The deep side rails between the lower front and back stiles are seated in notches in the rear stiles and protrude out toward the back of the cupboard. The top edge of this extension and the lower edge of the upper rear rail are joined with a half-lap or notch. Continuing beyond the cupboard’s side, the upper rear rail joins the suspended back stiles to form the rear jetty (fig. 15). The side jetty extends from the narrow rail tenoned to the top of the front stiles. All of the overhanging sections of the jetties are sealed with soffit boards, which help reinforce the frame and protect the contents of the cupboard from dust and vermin. The soffit boards are nailed to the upper edge of the inner sections of each overhang, and their beveled edges are set in grooves in the inner face of the suspended rails.
An early four-drawer chest (fig. 16) attributed to this shop is illustrated in the third edition of Luke Vincent Lockwood’s Colonial Furniture in America (1926). It and the cupboard illustrated in figure 17 are the only case pieces with scalloped ornament integral to the lower rail, rather than applied under it. Three of the drawer dividers or rails on the chest have multiple astragal moldings with carved imbrication, a motif that appears on a related example dated 1685 (fig. 53). The large applied half-columns flanking the drawers are thirty-six inches high, the largest ones on any object from this shop. The lowest element of these appliqués repeats the straight-sided vase turning on a leaf table (fig. 22) and cupboard (fig. 17) from the same shop.
Although the joiner who made the chest shown in figure 16 used tangentially-sawn oak for his drawer fronts, he hewed and planed the boards to produce a wedge-shaped cross section. This is the only known instance of a New England joiner reworking sawn material to accommodate joinery practices based on the use of riven timber. All other case pieces attributed to this shop have drawer fronts made of riven oak.
A cupboard formerly owned by Henry Fitz Gilbert Waters (fig. 17) may be the earliest example from this shop. It departs from the design vocabulary of the other cupboards in having horizontally configured spandrel appliqués and structural channel-molded muntins, rather than applied ones, separating the side panels of the trapezoidal storage compartment. Each panel is a separate theater for its own arch, which is comprised of appliqués including a keystone with a long turned pendant and canted imposts and jamb plinths. These multiple arch panels appear to be the genesis of the surface arcades found on later cupboards from the same shop. Moldings produced by the same scratch-stock cutters also link the Waters cupboard with other pieces in the group. The ogee with fillet on the arches, jambs, and lower rails of the frieze appears on the cupboards illustrated in figures 21 and 27.
Cupboards made by the Harvard College joiners in Cambridge, Massachusetts, may have inspired certain details found on furniture in the Essex County group. The overall composition of the Waters cupboard (fig. 17) is strikingly similar to that of the Cambridge example shown in figure 18. Both cupboards have an open base with a lower shelf, integral turned front feet, channel-molded stiles that extend to the floor in the back, and a single drawer with a central plaque and applied half-columns flanked by rectangular panels trimmed with moldings. Like their Essex County contemporaries, the Harvard joiners also decorated case panels with composite arch appliqués.
The base of a British cupboard (see fig. 100) is an even closer cognate to the Waters cupboard. Although the former example’s history is unknown, it is probably from a coastal town or city where local artisans were exposed to Italian and French designs. Its molded and scrolled lower rail is very similar to that of the Waters cupboard, and its pillar has design sequences closely related to turnings in the Essex County group. If the pierced brackets on the British example are original, they could prefigure those on the cupboard illustrated in figure 75.
The scalloped lower rail on the Waters cupboard (figs. 17, 19) resembles that on the chest illustrated in figure 16. Like the Staniford chest of drawers (fig. 1), these objects have turned ornament that appears somewhat embryonic when compared with other work from the Essex County group. The lower pillars of the Waters cupboard (fig. 20) have much thicker necks than any of the later ones associated with this shop, and the cove and astragal elements interrupting the balusters are deep and unusually complex. The profile of these pillars echoes that of the large half-columns on the chest shown in figure 16. Similarly, the small half-columns flanking the cupboard’s drawer are compressed versions of the horizontal appliqués on the drawers of the chest.
Like several objects in this group, the cupboard or chest base illustrated in figure 21 has a credible provenance. In an 1855 article titled “The Eliot Bureau,” William H. Sumner proposed that the initials “IAE” on the base referred to Rev. John Eliot (1604–1690) of Roxbury, Massachusetts. Forty years later, Irving P. Lyon refuted Sumner’s assertion and identified John and Elizabeth (Rogers) Appleton of Ipswich as the original owners. John (1652–1739) was born in Ipswich and married Elizabeth on November 23, 1681. She was the daughter of John Rogers, pastor of the church in Ipswich and later president of Harvard College. Among the many positions Appleton held were Judge of Probate, and Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas.
Although Sumner must be credited for saving the cupboard base and recording its condition, the restoration done under his supervision altered the piece to the extent that its original appearance is difficult to discern. Unlike “standard” cupboards in this group, the base has no framed overhang on the front. It does, however, have side jetties related to those on three cupboards (figs. 8, 36, 75) and superimposed side panels similar to those on two chests (figs. 1, 16). Based on this configuration, the piece was probably a chest of drawers with a door rather than a cupboard with a recessed façade. Only two other American examples of this sophisticated form survive—one from Boston (Yale University Art Gallery) and the other from New Haven (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). The Appleton base may have had an upper case, perhaps with a cupboard, or like the Boston chest, a compartment with a tier of drawers. Unfortunately, the top boards are replaced and no evidence of a superstructure survives.
Notches in the rear stiles indicate that the Appleton base originally had supports for four drawers. This also suggests that the door had iron dovetail hinges and that the pintles described in Sumner’s article were later additions. A door hung between the front stiles with pintle hinges would have prevented the drawers from sliding out of the case. The original hinges were probably nailed to the inside edge of the door frame and the inner face of the front stile. This attachment may account for the unusual orientation of the front stiles, which have the narrow face on the façade and the wide face on the side. The aforementioned Boston and New Haven chests differ in having doors that fit over the stiles and dovetail hinges that are nailed to the front of the stiles and the inside face of the door.
A round joined leaf table (fig. 22) shares several features with many of the case forms in the Essex County group. Only two other New England examples of this form are known, and both are from Boston (see fig. 23). Because the frame of the table is trapezoidal, like the storage compartments of contemporary cupboards and presses, Wallace Nutting described it as a “card table in the court cupboard style.” There is no reason to assume that such tables were intended specifically for gaming, however, nor is there any evidence supporting Nutting’s theory that the Essex County example “was presumably made to accompany one of the court cupboards.” Leaf tables undoubtedly served a variety of functions including dining, gaming, and other domestic pursuits.
The joiner designed the table so it could be constructed in stages. At the bottom are four turned maple feet with round tenons that are glued into mortises in the stiles of the shelf section. Although the feet have lost height, they originally resembled those on several cupboards in the group. The shelf section follows the same plan as the trapezoidal storage compartments of the case forms. The joiner made the stiles pentagonal to allow for ninety degree joints with the rails and used the lower tenons of the pillars to secure the shelf (figs. 22, 24). The pillars (fig. 25) are similar to those on several other pieces attributed to this shop (see figs. 33, 43), and the small half-columns relate to those on the Staniford chest (fig. 1) and the Woodbury cupboard (fig. 8). With the exception of having a drawer, the upper section of the table is essentially the same as the shelf section below. Each leaf is made from a single piece of water-sawn oak over seventeen inches wide, and the lower one is attached with six large wooden pins (pegs). When open, the folding leaf is supported by a fly leg (fig. 26) with a turned baluster identical to that on the pivoting post centered between the rear pillars. Although one might assume that the maker erred in inverting one of the balusters, joiners in this shop clearly considered either orientation to be correct.
Experimentation with Style and Structure
The furniture attributed to the Essex County shop is the most diverse and most “high concept” joinery from seventeenth-century America. Although the shop had developed two basic cupboard formats by the mid-1680s—one with storage compartments and drawers in the base and the other with one or two drawers and an open shelf in the base—no two examples are the same.
The cupboard illustrated in figure 27 is the earliest dated example with a storage compartment and drawers in the base. The interior of the lower storage compartment is divided into two sections by a riven oak panel captured in grooved slats nailed behind the center panel of the façade and at the rear of the cupboard. Although the lower portions of the feet and the pendants once present on the arcades of the upper compartment are missing, the pendants were smaller versions of the turnings on the stiles flanking the lower drawer (fig. 28). The case has never been disassembled, so the lower pillars are undoubtedly in their original positions.
The turner’s notion of form had evolved since he made the ornaments for the Woodbury and Appleton cupboards (figs. 8, 21). The large half-columns (figs. 29 - 31) have a series of dramatic thick-and-thin moves that characterize his work from 1683 to the 1690s. When he turned the pillars of the leaf table (figs. 22, 25), which are roughly contemporary with those of the cupboard shown in figure 27, he omitted the second base torus, so that the bottom of the baluster recurves or takes on an S-shape. This shape becomes even more pronounced on later turnings. The small half-columns flanking the upper drawer of the cupboard mirror those on the leaf table. On both pieces the applied turnings are single rather than paired.
The base molding on the cupboard (fig. 27) echoes that on the Staniford chest (fig. 1) made five years earlier. The joiner used the same scratch-cutter, but his stock for the base molding of the cupboard was larger, producing a fascia at the bottom. Similarly, the arcades on the upper case are almost identical to those on the Woodbury cupboard, although the moldings on the spandrels are simpler than those on the jambs. This became a standard shop practice after 1680, probably because the joiners found the less complex cutter easier to control on the end-grain of the spandrel plaques.
A different scratch-stock cutter produced the applied moldings on the doors and fixed center panel of the lower case. To accentuate the verticality of the panel, the joiner used a fenced rabbet or filister plane to cut a three-eighth-inch shoulder on the extra stock on the outer edge of the molding. A similar treatment appears on the two rectangular panels of the Appleton cupboard base (fig. 21), where the recessed shoulder has square-cut dentils. The upper door of the cupboard illustrated in figure 27 has applied moldings that differ from those on the lower doors and panel; however, all of the door frames have a simple ogee and fillet on their inside edges. The same scratch-stock moldings are also on the lower edge of the frieze and rail below the center drawer.
The drawer fronts, rails, and muntins between the side panels have channel moldings with an ovolo element on each side. On both drawers, the channels are interrupted with mitered inserts with matching ovolos. The inserts terminating the channels cover the wrought nails used to attach the drawer fronts to the sides. Although the joiner cut the miters with a chisel, it is possible that he used a jig or die to expedite production and to ensure the accuracy of his work. The sheer number of inserts on pieces attributed to this Essex County shop suggests the use of a specialized setup. The joiners used these inserts to create rhythm and variety in their façades. These techniques were relatively simple, but their results were profound.
During the 1800s, James Lovell Little of Brookline, Massachusetts, collected the base of a cupboard (fig. 34) similar to the preceding example. Clarence Cook illustrated the fragment in The House Beautiful and noted that it was “found in a barnyard where it had for many years been given over to the hens...it was no easy matter to remove the traces of [their]... housekeeping.” The base lacks several refinements present on the cupboard shown in figure 27 and may pre-date it. There is no soffit in the front jetty; the lower rails are decorated with a scratch bead rather than a base molding; the mitered inserts on the drawer fronts are not clustered to accentuate the three piers of the façade (center panel and flanking doors); and the applied molding on the center panel does not have a recessed shoulder.
The half-columns on the stiles are similar to those on the preceding cupboard (fig. 27), but they appear to have been inverted during a restoration campaign. Both are attached with modern nails, and, like the larger half-columns and pillars below, they have paint that may mimic an original color scheme. Similar red and black paint survives on the half-columns and panels of a chest from this shop. The pillars (fig. 35) are also unusual in that they resemble those most often used for upper cases, and the profile of the front feet, which are integral with the stiles, is unique in this group.
The most unprecedented case piece attributed to this shop is inlaid with the initials “AHP” and the date 1683 (fig. 36), making it contemporary with the cupboard illustrated in figure 27. Irving P. Lyon identified the original owners as Abraham and Hannah (Beamsley) Perkins, who were married at Ipswich in 1661. The Perkins cupboard is the only example made in one case, and it has no enclosed storage compartment. All three sections are fitted with drawers. The upper section has recessed sides and an overhanging head supported by four turned pillars (fig. 37) that rest on the mid-section containing the dated drawer. The cupboard has side jetties framed like those of the Woodbury example (fig. 8) and a short front jetty at the waist. The rail below the dated drawer extends forward about one-half inch from the stiles to create a slight overhang.
The Perkins cupboard combines strong horizontal features—drawer fronts with varied ornament separated by rails with applied and integral moldings—with vertical elements — stiles, pillars (fig. 37), half-columns (figs. 36, 38), and pendants (fig. 39)—on alternating planes. With its molded channels and clusters of mitered inserts, the top drawer is very similar to that of the cupboard shown in figure 27. The third and fifth drawers below have a carved motif identical to that on the Staniford chest of drawers (fig. 1).
In its use of turned ornament, the Perkins cupboard is the most unified object from this shop. The design and placement of the appliqués and inserts give the façade a repetitive rhythm unparalleled in seventeenth-century American furniture. Because the case has been entirely disassembled, it is impossible to determine the original orientation of the pillars. Nevertheless, these turnings are related to others in the group (see figs. 10, 27, 32), differing primarily in the number of coved passages. Other features that distinguish the Perkins cupboard are its stepped dentil and astragal moldings.
Although four different sizes of half-columns appear on the cupboard, the form and sequence of their turned elements are basically the same and contribute to the façade’s unified design. All of these appliqués are less than half-round because the turner glued the stock for each pair to a central core about three-sixteenths of an inch thick. Without a center core, the pressure of tightening the blank on the lathe could cause the work-piece to open up, snag the turner’s tool, and tear or break. Stylistic concerns may also have prompted the turner to produce appliqués less than half-round.
The cupboard illustrated in figure 40 has nine initials and dates one year later than the Perkins example. According to Irving P. Lyon, the original owners were Ephraim and Hannah (Eames) Foster of North Andover, who married at Ipswich in 1677. Like the cupboards shown in figures 36 and 47, the Foster example has an open base with a drawer. This design represents a significant departure from that of the Waters and Woodbury cupboards (figs. 8, 17).
Like several other pieces in the group, the Foster cupboard has a storage compartment fitted with a shelf formed by an extension of the soffit boards. The back of the storage compartment (fig. 41) is comprised of scrub-planed, tongue-and-groove boards that are set in grooves in the top rail and nailed to the lower, inner rear rail. This rail also supports the floorboards, which are set into grooves in the side rails and a rabbet in the front rail. To allow room for the groove, the joiner made the side rails taller than the front rail. This framing system required him to nail the floorboards to the rabbet and back rail before attaching the rear boards.
By the mid-1680s, the joiners in this shop had established a hierarchy for the major turnings on their case forms and routinely placed complex square-shouldered pillars (see fig. 42) over relatively simple baluster-shaped ones (see fig. 43). The maker of the Foster cupboard also used a hierarchical arrangement for his large half-columns (fig. 44). The most ornate ones are on either side of the storage compartment door, and the others diminish in complexity from front to back and top to bottom (figs. 44, 46). Boston half-columns based on the Tuscan order may have inspired the small examples flanking the upper drawer (fig. 45).
The large quantity of dated furniture attributed to this shop sheds light on the evolution of this turner’s style. When he made the lower pillars for the Woodbury cupboard in 1680 (figs. 8, 10), his transition from the base of the baluster to the lower torus and fillet was quite abrupt. Four years later, the flow of his work had improved significantly. The lower pillars of the Foster cupboard, for example, have a cove molding above the torus that complements the S-shape of the baluster above (fig. 43). As the 1680s progressed, his resolution of these complex forms became increasingly graceful as his concepts and skills continued to develop.
A cupboard formerly owned by Boston collector Charles Hitchcock Tyler (fig. 47) shares several features with the Foster example. Although it has the period initials “HEA” and the number “1” carved on the inner surface of the bottom rail, the original owner has not been identified. This is the only cupboard without surface arcades, suggesting that it was one of the least expensive examples made by this shop.
The appliqués on the door and carved bracket (fig. 48) introduce a new element that became standard in this shop’s production. These button-like ornaments are very uniform and appear to have been produced with a rotary cutter. The turned pendant that was originally fastened to the underside of the bracket is missing, but it probably resembled the period example on the leaf table (fig. 22).
The turnings on the cupboard document the influence of Boston styles on Essex County furniture and link it to other pieces in the group. Boston turnings clearly inspired the Tuscan half-columns flanking the door (fig. 49), but the Essex County shop’s interpretations are much more complex. The feet, pillars (fig. 50), and half-columns on the lower stiles (figs. 51) are similar to the turner’s earlier work, and the large half-columns at the back of the storage compartment (fig. 52) are related to those on the Perkins cupboard and the Capen chest of drawers (figs. 38, 53, 54).
Marked “IPC” and dated 1685, the Capen chest of drawers (fig. 53) is one of the most remarkable case forms attributed to this shop. Genealogical evidence suggests that the original owners were Rev. Joseph Capen (1658–1725) and his wife Priscilla Appleton (1657–1743) of Topsfield. They married about 1685 and lived in the Capen House, which has two summer beams dated 1683. Given the fact that Priscilla’s brother John owned the case piece illustrated in figure 21, it is possible that the chest was part of the dower provided by her father, who was also named John.
In terms of ornament, condition, and documentation, the Capen chest is one of the most important seventeenth-century examples made outside Boston. Gouge-carved moldings similar to those visible in figure 16divide the façade into two distinct units—each comprised of two drawers flanked by pairs of large half-columns (fig. 54). The carved brackets (figs. 55, 56) are the most elaborate in the group. The center one is an inch shorter than the side brackets because it had a turned pendant similar to the original one on the leaf table (fig. 22).
Aside from the appliqués, all of the wood in the chest is oak. The top is comprised of four riven boards, several of which have a pronounced taper and may have come from a small tree. The ends of the case are framed with one horizontal panel over two vertical panels, and the back is framed with two pairs of superimposed vertical panels.
Two chests of drawers in the Essex County group have applied decoration similar to that on the Capen example. An example marked “TEP” (fig. 57) belonged to Samuel Dale Stevens (1859–1922), a North Andover collector who acquired most of his objects from local families rather than dealers. The date plaque is missing, but genealogical research strongly suggests that the original owners were Timothy Perkins (b. 1658) and Edna Hazen (b. 1667) of Topsfield, who were married in 1686. His father William (1607–1682) was minister of the Topsfield church and the predecessor of Joseph Capen. The presence of the Capen and Perkins chests in Topsfield is a significant index of this shop’s reputation. During the seventeenth century, Samuel Symonds (1638–1722) dominated the market for turning and joinery in Topsfield and Rowley. He moved to Rowley from Salem in 1662 and remained active until his death.
To insure correct placement of the drawers, the maker of the “TEP” chest marked them and the case with chisel cuts (fig. 58). The first and third drawers have rectangular panels with crossets formed by applied plaques and moldings (fig. 59), whereas the second and fourth drawers have V-shaped crossets (fig. 60) similar to those on the later cupboards (see figs. 66, 85). As on other pieces in the group, all of the moldings are oak.
The feet on the “TEP” chest (fig. 61) differ from those associated with this shop in having an extra reel in the neck. Although their diameter is approximately the same as the stiles, the feet are separate components. Like all of the cupboards, the chest has stiles that are square in cross section. Boston chests may have inspired this feature, but they typically have feet turned from stock larger than the stiles. The patron who commissioned the “TEP” chest evidently specified turned feet and a base molding.
Another chest (fig. 62) similar to the “TEP” example has rectangular stiles that extend to the floor and nail evidence indicating that it had a base molding and four pairs of half-columns similar to those illustrated in figure 53. Its water-sawn oak top (fig. 63) is over twenty inches wide, and several of the water-sawn sycamore drawer bottoms are approximately thirteen inches wide. Although the chest has lost all of its ornament, the drawers have deep scribe lines and scars indicating that the original moldings and plaques were identical to those on the “TEP” chest (figs. 57, 59). Quarter-inch chisel marks designate the positions of the plaques on the top drawer (fig. 64) and small gouge marks designate those on the third drawer. Numerical chisel marks also indicate the placement of the V-shaped plaques on the second and fourth drawers (fig. 65). Numbering systems for the identification and alignment of structural components are relatively common on seventeenth-century furniture, but little evidence of their use for applied ornament survives.
Monuments of Mannerist Design
By the late 1680s, this Essex County shop was producing the most elaborate and conceptually ambitious case furniture in British North America. A remarkable cupboard with the initials “IK” (figs. 66, 67) has long been considered a masterpiece of seventeenth-century design. Wallace Nutting illustrated it in Furniture Treasury and noted that it was from the estate of Charles Paine of Weston, Massachusetts. In 1936, Paine’s son John informed Irving P. Lyon that his great-grandmother, Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee (1780–1865), was the earliest known owner of the cupboard. Her parents were Micajah and Sibyll (Farnham) Sawyer of Newburyport.
The basic design of the Sawyer cupboard matches the description of a “chest of drawers & cupboard all in one” valued at £1.5 in the 1690 probate inventory of Robert Stone of Salem. These two-stage joined case forms with one (see fig. 66) or more tiers of drawers (see fig. 36) can be considered forerunners of the early baroque high chest. This is especially true of the Sawyer cupboard, which has the most advanced surviving drawer construction of any piece in the Essex County group (fig. 68). The third drawer from the top, for example, has two dovetails at each corner. No other contemporary New England joined case piece has drawers with multiple dovetails at every corner. In the Anglo-American furniture making tradition, the use of multiple dovetails to join large boards is generally associated with the baroque style. English cabinetmakers such as John Brocas introduced this style in Boston about 1695.
With its channel-molded frieze, complex door moldings, strong turnings, and triple arcades, the upper section of the Sawyer cupboard is one of the most elaborate attributed to this shop. The channel-moldings are punctuated with mitered inserts and bosses like those on the upper drawer of the Perkins cupboard (fig. 36), and the arcades are unique in having three arches each with elongated pendants on panels with applied bosses and triangular base plaques. The top of the Sawyer cupboard is also unusual in being made of water-sawn pine rather than oak. Considering the status and cost of this imposing object, the patron who commissioned it probably intended to cover the top with a cupboard cloth or cushions.
The lower section of the Sawyer cupboard is similar to the base of the one illustrated in figure 27, but it has drawers between the pillars rather than a central panel flanked by two storage compartments. To alleviate the strong horizontal emphasis of the base and add variety to the façade, the maker of the Sawyer cupboard divided the ornament on the first, third, and fourth drawers into two sections and the second drawer into three sections. He accentuated the latter drawer’s polyrhythmic effect by dividing each of its three sections into three with a carved lunette and trefoil motif. Whereas two integral reserves bisect the second drawer, thin plaques with half-columns divide the top, third, and fourth drawers. All of these components help balance the horizontal elements and create a strong vertical axis at the center of the lower case. The missing bracket pendant, originally nailed under the case, extended the visual line established by these components approximately four inches below the base molding. On the top drawer, the joiner positioned the raised plaques so their knobs would be aligned with the front corners of the trapezoidal storage compartment. By carefully sizing each component, he was also able to align the bosses on the horizontal inner plaques with the reserves and knobs trisecting the carved drawer below. These virtuoso details contribute to the rhythm and complexity of the façade and complement the vertical orientation of the stiles, pillars, and half-columns.
It is difficult to determine why the joiners made such significant alterations to the decorative vocabulary previously used on drawer fronts. It is doubtful that many years separate the Sawyer cupboard from the Capen chest (fig. 53), given the similarity between their turned half-columns. The most plausible explanation for these changes is competition with Boston and Salem furniture. Like many Boston chests, the Sawyer cupboard has drawers with rectangular panels surrounded by broad chamfered moldings.
Although several of the moldings on the Sawyer cupboard match those on earlier pieces in the group, the joiner required new tools to produce a number of components. He apparently cut the waist molding with the same scratch-stock iron that produced the dentil molding on the Perkins cupboard (fig. 36), but varied the design by chopping out triangular segments rather than dentils separated by lunettes. In contrast, the production of the base molding (fig. 69) required several tools including conventional planes. The joiner used a hollow plane and a fenced rabbet plane to cut the astragal and fillet elements and a scratch-stock cutter to form the upper elements. This may have been the same hollow plane that produced the imbricated moldings on two chests of drawers in the group (figs. 16, 53). The same bold molding sequences appear on the cupboard door (figs. 66, 70). The joiner used the same astragal element on the rail between the second and third drawers to define the perimeter and two repeats of the base sequence for the inner moldings. To vary the effect, he rotated the inner repeat by ninety degrees. The outer application of base molding on the door became a “bolection” where it transits the junction of the frame and underlying panel. To complete the composition, he used five brass, drawer pull backplates to decorate the center plaque and corners of the frame.
Because the Sawyer cupboard is built in two parts, the original orientation of the upper pillars is uncertain (fig. 71). This joiner’s mannerist concept of design and rhythm suggests that they may have been oriented in the opposite direction of the lower pillars (fig. 72) like the fly leg of the leaf table (fig. 26). The lower pillars have bold balusters with slender necks and pronounced collars. Their shape is more advanced than the corresponding pillars on the Foster cupboard (fig. 43), especially the areas where the baluster flows into the base and neck. The influence of Boston or Cambridge turning, manifest in the pillars of many earlier cupboards (see figs. 9, 10, 17), is barely discernable.
The small half-columns flanking the upper drawer (fig. 73) are more elaborate versions of those on the Perkins cupboard (fig. 38), and the ones flanking the lower drawer (fig. 69) are similar to the pillars directly above (fig. 71) but are inverted. This reversal relates to the treatment of the inner and outer posts of the fly leg assembly of the leaf table (figs. 22, 26). The large half-columns on the front corners of the storage compartment (fig. 74) have capped urns like those on the Capen chest (figs. 53, 54).
From an architectural standpoint, the most distinctive and structurally complex object attributed to the Essex County shop is a cupboard (fig. 75) that descended in the Weare family of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The initials on the bottom drawer, added during a nineteenth-century restoration, refer to Meshech Weare (1713–1786), the first president of the New Hampshire congress after the Revolutionary War. Presumably, the original owner was his father, Nathaniel (1663–1755), who was born in Newbury and married Huldah Hussey in 1692 and Mary Wait in 1703.
The Weare cupboard has a recessed upper section with four pillars (fig. 76) and is similar in concept to the Woodbury and Perkins examples (figs. 8, 36). Its trefoil carving resembles that on the Sawyer cupboard (fig. 66), and the scrolled motif on the second and fourth drawers is a variation of that on the second drawer of the Staniford chest (fig. 1). Traces of bright red paint like that on the cupboard illustrated in figure 27 remain in the ground. The brackets are pierced rather than carved, but they have essentially the same profile as the one shown in figure 55.
The turnings on the Weare cupboard are most like those on the Sawyer example (fig. 66), but their hierarchy in the overall composition is more intricate. Like the orders in classical architecture, the pillars and appliqués descend in rank from top-to-bottom and front-to-back. One pair of the upper pillars (fig. 76) has two coves and a collared flange on its neck, whereas the other has three coves and no flange. Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine which design superceded the other because the upper pillars are removable and their original orientation is unknown. The same is true of the lower pillars (fig. 77), which could have been switched and/or inverted when the base was disassembled during a nineteenth-century restoration attempt. These pillars suggest that the Weare cupboard is slightly later than the Sawyer example. Their thin necks and more pronounced curves are duplicated on later pillars in the group (see fig. 97).
As with the pillars, the complexity and location of the small half-columns denotes their “rank” in the overall design. The most elaborate ones (fig. 78), which are similar to those flanking the top drawer of the Sawyer cupboard, are on the façade, whereas simple Tuscan variants are on the sides. Other features linking these cupboards are the major half-columns on the upper case (fig. 79), small half-columns on the base (fig. 80), and front feet (fig. 81), although the turnings on the Weare example are slightly more detailed.
The lower section of the Weare cupboard (figs. 82, 84) is comprised of four distinct units, two of which extend to form jetties on the front and sides. The base, containing the drawer marked “MW,” has wide side rails with channel moldings painted black and four turned feet (figs. 81, 82). Directly above is a recessed compartment with two drawers. The sides of the compartment consist of panels framed by stiles and channel molded rails. Both panels have applied moldings around the perimeter and turned bosses in the center. The front stiles are tenoned to interior struts in the base, and the back stiles are tenoned to the rear rail. Over this recessed compartment is a unit the same size as the base. It is supported by four turned pillars and sealed with riven oak soffit boards. The rear rail of this unit has mortises that engage tenons on the top of the recessed section’s rear stiles. The only other connection between these two units is the soffit boards, which are nailed to the side and front rails of the recessed compartment. The same structural features join the uppermost unit of the lower section to the one directly below. These details are most apparent on the rear façade (fig. 82).
The jetties on the Weare cupboard are simplified versions of those occasionally found in seventeenth-century framed buildings. Architectural overhangs that protrude on the sides and front often receive additional support from an internal “dragon” beam. These diagonal beams extend from the interior framing and overshoot the corner post of the first story, providing support for the corner post of the second story. In contrast, nailed-in soffits stabilize many of the jetties on cupboards in the Essex County group.
Although no New England building with a dragon beam survives, the Ross Tavern in Ipswich has jetties on all four sides. The original function of an overhanging second story is in dispute, but most scholars agree that, by the seventeenth century, it was primarily an aesthetic conceit. Architectural historian Abbott Lowell Cummings has observed that jetties most often appear on “ambitious dwellings” in the Massachusetts Bay region. He also notes that jetties were popular in New England from 1670 to 1690—the period when the Essex County shop flourished. Cummings’ description of the evolution of architectural styles and patronage is certainly relevant to the furniture discussed here:
The earliest framed houses were added to almost as soon as they were finished, and the process of change and improvement went on continually, culminating in a “high” period at the end of the seventeenth century as the homes of ministers, merchants, and prosperous farmers blossomed forth with boldly projecting overhangs, pyramided gables, and ornamental brackets and drops.
The cupboard illustrated in figure 85 is less complex than the Sawyer and Weare examples, but exceptional by contemporary New England standards. Given the fact that two pieces in the group belonged to members of the Perkins family, the initials “EP” on the bottom drawer are intriguing. During the seventeenth century, patronage often followed family lines.
On the “EP” cupboard, the joiner divided the top drawer into three sections using vertical plaques the same width as the stiles flanking the door of the storage compartment. To establish a visual link between the upper and lower sections of the cupboard, he made the carved panels approximately the same width as the arcades of the trapezoidal storage compartment and the geometric panels approximately the same width as the door. Other features reflect the maker’s effort to balance various elements of the façade. The central plaques of the lower drawers, for example, establish a strong vertical line that alleviates the horizontal emphasis of the flanking panels. As on the lower case of the Sawyer cupboard (fig. 66), each drawer front is different but integrated in the overall composition.
Other features of the “EP” cupboard also have cognates in the group. The door is similar to the one on the Sawyer example, but the joiner omitted the large astragal (which appears on the rail between the second and third drawers) and used two repeats of the base molding mitered like the ones shown in figure 70. The surface arcades on the “EP” cupboard are identical to those on the Weare example (fig. 75), and the rear panel arrangement is similar to that of the Sawyer cupboard (fig. 66). On the “EP” cupboard, the maker used a single horizontal board for the lower case panel rather than a pair of panels.
The turnings on the “EP” cupboard differ only slightly from those on the Sawyer and Weare examples. The lower pillars (fig. 86) demonstrate the final form by this turner. He flattened the sides of the balusters, deepened and refined the curves of the necks, and made the collar flanges more pronounced. His upper pillars (fig. 87) are extrapolations of two on the Weare cupboard (figs. 76, 77), but with thinner necks and more prominent collar flanges. Similarly, the half-columns flanking the upper drawer of the “EP” cupboard (fig. 88) relate to those shown in figures 73 and 78. Like the Tuscan half-columns on either side of the bottom drawer (fig. 89), their placement is consistent with the ornamental hierarchy observed on other pieces in the group. The most complex appliqués on the “EP” cupboard are the large half-columns flanking the door. They have bold capped urns, a detail the turner introduced on the half-columns of the Capen chest of drawers (figs. 53, 54).
The base of a cupboard with turnings similar to those of the “EP” example is illustrated in the 1928 edition of Nutting’s Furniture Treasury (fig. 90). It is initialed “SK” and belonged to Arthur W. Wellington of Weston, Massachusetts, at the time of its publication. Nutting recognized the similarities between the base and other pieces now attributed to the Essex County group. He cited the Sawyer example in his caption and illustrated it and the “SK” and Foster cupboards on consecutive pages.
The cupboard illustrated in figure 91 is the latest example with storage compartments in both the upper and lower cases. Like the Spaulding cupboard (fig. 27), it had a shallow shelf set in grooves in the top rear rail of the upper case and a panel that partitioned the compartment in the lower case. The floor of the upper case is comprised of riven oak boards. Unlike most of the boards on other examples, these fit into grooves in the lower side and rear rails. Typically, the rear rail is positioned below the floor and inside the back panel. The horizontal back panel on this cupboard is beveled on all edges and set into grooves in the rear frame. Although this design simplified the joinery, it appears only in this example.
Client preference may account for the early design of this cupboard (fig. 91). Although possibly no more than ten years separate it and the cupboard shown in figure 27, the shop’s decorative vocabulary had changed significantly. The pillars and appliqués (fig. 91) are more akin to those on the “EP” and “SK” examples (figs. 85, 90). Although the joiner used canted imposts for the jamb plinths on the arch between the lower doors, all of theother elements comprising the arch and the arcades on the storage compartment above are typical of the last phase of this shop’s production. The curved spandrel moldings, which consist of three descending concave arcs, differ significantly from those on other arches in the group. Their irregular contours suggest that the joiner did not use a sweep. He also used a new scratch-stock cutter to make the perimeter moldings of the drawers.
The joiner designed the cupboard with a molded lower rail rather than a base molding. For the stiles on either side, the turner made long half-columns with extra flanged collars on their finials. Like the pillars and half-columns above, these appliqués give the sides of the façade a strong vertical emphasis. The upper and lower pillars (figs. 92, 93) are very similar to those of the “EP” cupboard (figs. 85 - 87), but they have scored collar flanges. The half-columns flanking the upper drawer are narrow versions of those on the Sawyer and Weare cupboards (figs. 66, 75), and the large ones on the trapezoidal storage compartment (figs. 94, 95) differ only slightly from those on the “EP” example (fig. 88). From a technical standpoint, the large half-columns on the lower case (fig. 96) are rivaled only by the most elaborate turnings on the Sawyer and “EP” cupboards (figs. 66, 88). With their complex base elements, compressed upper balls, and multiple collar flanges that increase in diameter from top to bottom, these half-columns are virtuoso examples of mannerist turning.
A square joined table (fig. 97) contemporary with these later cupboards descended in the Higgins family of eastern Massachusetts. In a letter dated June 24, 1937, Mrs. N. E. Bartlett informed Irving P. Lyon that the table formerly belonged to her husband’s maternal grandfather Solomon Higgins, who found it in the basement of a house on Central Avenue in Andover. Since this location was adjacent to the site of the town’s first meeting house, it is conceivable that the table was among the original furnishings of the church. Joiner Stephen Jaques may have made a communion table similar to it for the meeting house in Newbury.
Although the legs of the Higgins table resemble the pillars on several of the Essex County cupboards, they are the only large-scale oak turnings associated with this shop. Making this table entirely from riven oak was a challenging process for the turner and joiner. The balusters of the posts are almost four inches in diameter, which constitutes nearly the entire quarter of a medium-sized tree. Contrary to popular belief, trees of moderate diameter were much easier to rive than extremely large ones. Although the maker could have saved wood by gluing up stock or making the legs in sections (see fig. 22), he turned the balusters and feet from a single piece of wood and painstakingly worked down the upper and lower squares that join the rails and stretchers. The leaf table illustrated in figure 22 has a swing leg with an integral baluster and foot (fig. 25), but the diameters of the turned elements are within the dimensions of the square stock.
Obtaining and extracting timber suitable for the rails presented a similar problem; their height and thickness required large boards and a substantial amount of hewing to achieve the desired shape. Because the joiner required a broad surface for nailing on the brackets and scrolled pendants, he used the widest portion of the rails at the bottom. This orientation is similar to that of the riven drawer fronts on several case pieces in the group. The boards comprising the top are less wedge-shaped and are approximately six inches wide. They are held together by mitered cleats pinned to each end. The underside of the top has four mortises that engage tenons cut on the outer corners of the four posts. This feature, which makes the top removable, may reflect the joiner’s concern that the upper edges of the rails were too thin to receive pins. All other New England square tables have pinned tops.
The chest of drawers illustrated in figure 98 presents a stark contrast to the other examples in the group (figs. 1, 16, 53, 62, 67). It has simple moldings and plaques made of maple rather than oak and drawers that diminish in height from top to bottom. Given the date on the chest, this arrangement may reflect incipient influences of the new baroque style. If so, the influences were, at the most, superficial. The stiles have channel moldings with mitered inserts—a detail occasionally found on earlier Boston joined chests. Most of the construction features of the chest occur on earlier examples from the shop. The drawers are dovetailed at the front and nailed at the back, the interior has orientation and sub-assembly marks, and the ends have scratch-stock moldings and chamfers like those on the chests shown in figures 1, 16 and 53. The rear framing is somewhat simpler and consists of three horizontal rails between the rear stiles and two horizontal pine panels. This feature is probably a reaction to the availability of sawn versus riven timber rather than a modification of earlier construction practices.
Context and Catalysts
With dates ranging from 1678 to 1701, the furniture in the Essex County group is clearly the product of a second- or third-generation shop tradition. New England furniture styles and patronage changed significantly between 1630 and 1700. During the first decades of the seventeenth century, immigrants from many provincial centers in England introduced the carved mannerist style. Rooted in Renaissance classical design, this style developed in northern Europe, arrived in the channel ports during the 1560s, and subsequently spread throughout England and her colonies. By the end of the sixteenth century, the carved style was being displaced in London by another phase of mannerism that had developed in Italy and Germany. This new style, characterized by the use of applied architectural ornament, matured in London during the late 1620s and arrived in Boston by the mid-1630s. Boston joiners and turners undoubtedly influenced furniture styles in surrounding counties, but to what extent and when remains unclear. Many case pieces from Plymouth Colony, Cambridge, Woburn, and Salem have ornamental details derived from Boston furniture, but most date from the last decades of the seventeenth century.
Although a few details associated with the Essex County group have Boston precedents, the case pieces and tables discussed above have more in common with Parisian furniture from the last half of the sixteenth century. The Second School of Fountainbleau, which flourished from 1540 to 1590, had a profound impact on French regional traditions. The joiners in this school produced highly architectural forms such as display cabinets and one- and two-part dressoirs (fig. 99), which were the immediate antecedents of the seventeenth-century English cupboard (fig. 100). Many English ports traded directly with the continent and provided sanctuary for Protestant refugees who began leaving France during the mid-sixteenth century. Considering the period when the Second School of Fountainbleau flourished, it seems likely that Huguenot artisans played a pivotal role in transmitting Parisian styles to England.
The complex jetties on the most elaborate Essex County case pieces are unprecedented in British work. English cupboards from the West Country and the North Country occasionally have upper cases with cantilevered side rails, hanging posts, and turned pendants, but they display none of the compositional audacity of the Essex County cupboards. Parallels with contemporary jettied architecture in Ipswich and Newbury are also pertinent; however, the architectural and furniture joinery are not similar enough to establish a direct link.
The earliest dated case pieces in the Essex County group are mature forms, which suggests that they are extensions of an earlier shop tradition—perhaps one established during the 1630s—or the products of a small group of immigrant artisans who arrived in Massachusetts during the 1670s. Neither explanation is conclusive because no Massachusetts antecedents for the group are known, and the artisans in this shop have not been identified. The extensive use of orientation and assembly marks similar to those on buildings suggests that the joiners may have done architectural work. New England woodworkers often practiced a variety of trades ranging from ship-building to lumbering.
During the seventeenth century, ten families dominated the woodworking trades in Ipswich and Newbury. The Burnham, Norton, Roper, Strong, Waite, Wardell, Woodward, Rindge, Dennis, and Tilton traditions were in Ipswich, and the Chase-Follansbee, Titcomb, Parker, Jaques, Hale, Emery, Boynton, Lunt, Badger, and March traditions were in Newbury. A member of one of these dynasties almost certainly established the Essex County shop. These families competed on a variety of fronts, the most important of which involved large public projects such as the construction of meeting houses. On July 5, 1698, the residents of Newbury voted to build a new meeting house sixty feet wide, fifty feet deep, and over twenty-four feet high. To supervise the project, they hired Stephen Jaques (1661–ca. 1744), son of carpenter Henry Jaques (ca. 1618–1687) and brother-in-law of three other prominent Newbury woodworkers. An 1806 description of the meeting house notes:
The roof was constructed with four gable ends, or projections, one on each side, each containing a large window, which gave light to the upper galleries. The turret was in the centre. The space within was open to the roof, where was visible plenty of timber, with great needles and little needles pointing downwards, to serve at once for strength and ornament. There were many ornaments of antique sculpture and wainscot.
The large and small “needles” were the ends of vertical beams, sawn or carved into pendants similar to those on house jetties and the cupboards in the Essex County group.
Not to be outdone, the residents of Ipswich voted to build a new meeting house shortly thereafter. On November 11, 1698, they appointed a committee of prominent citizens and two carpenters —Captain Daniel Rindge, Jr. (ca. 1654–1738) and Abraham Tilton, Sr. (1638–1728)—to consider the size of the building and how to pay for it. Among the leaders were two members of the Appleton family, who were related to the owners of the cupboard base and chest of drawers illustrated in figures 21 and 53. Three days later, the committee recommended that the building be sixty feet wide, sixty-six feet long, and twenty-six feet to the eaves, and that the town commission Abraham Tilton, Sr. and his son Abraham Tilton, Jr. (1666–1756) to build the structure “provided they could have a convenient price.” When the Tiltons responded that the project would cost £1,100, “Abraham Perkins...said that he would build it for nine hundred pounds....And the Town...unanimously consented.” Perkins’ bid was clearly made on behalf of his son-in-law, Daniel Rindge, Jr. A prominent tradesman with strong ties to the regional elite, Rindge is the only woodworker linked directly to patrons of the Essex County shop. His father-in-law owned the cupboard illustrated in figure 21, and his daughter Hannah (1684–1749) married Thomas Staniford (1680–1740), whose parents commissioned the chest shown in figure 1. These connections make him a strong candidate for master of the Essex County shop.
The Ipswich and Newbury meeting houses, which undoubtedly had ornamental structural details and furnishings, demonstrate that the mannerist impulse remained popular in Essex County during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and was only gradually replaced by the baroque style. Contrary to traditional assumptions, joiners accustomed to producing frame-and-panel forms did not stop practicing their trade when dovetailed board cases and elaborate veneers became popular. They simply adapted their styles and techniques to meet changing tastes. Indeed, some of the design features and construction details typical of the Essex County group—two-piece case forms with drawers in each section and dovetailed drawers—prefigure those associated with the baroque style. The cupboards, chests, and tables attributed to this shop are more than consummate examples of American joinery. They are the products of an extremely sophisticated woodworking tradition and a conduit linking the dominant styles of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and early eighteenth centuries.
For the Appleton family, see Robert F. Trent, Historic Furnishings Report—Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, Saugus, Massachusetts (Harper’s Ferry, W.Va.: National Parks Service, 1982), pp. 6–24.
William H. Sumner, “The Eliot Bureau,” New England Historic Genealogical Register 9, no. 4 (October 1855): 329–33. Robert F. Trent and Peter Follansbee, “Repairs Versus Deception in Essex County Cupboards, 1830–1890,” in Rural New England Furniture: People, Place, and Production, edited by Peter Benes (Boston: Boston University and the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, 2000), pp. 13–28. Clarence Cook, The House Beautiful (New York: Scribner, Armstrong, and Co., 1877), pp. 226–27, no. 72.
Irving Whitall Lyon, The Colonial Furniture of New England (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1891), figs. 15, 16. Esther Singleton, The Furniture of Our Forefathers (New York: Doubleday, Page and Co., 1900–1901), pp. 168–69. Frances Clary Morse, Furniture of the Olden Time (1902; reprint and rev. ed., New York: Macmillan, 1936), p. 87. Trent and Follansbee, “Repairs Versus Deception,” pp. 13–28.
Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, 2 vols. (Framingham, Mass.: Old America Co., 1928), no. 211. Irving P. Lyon, “A Pedigreed Cupboard, Dated 1681 and Initialed IEA for John and Elizabeth Appleton of Ipswich, Massachusetts,” Old Time New England 28, no. 4 (April 1938): 118–22; and Irving P. Lyon, “The Cupboard of Ephraim and Hannah Foster of North Andover, Massachusetts. Dated 1684, Analysis of Its Many Initials,” Old Time New England 28, no. 4 (April 1938): 123–25. Irving P. Lyon, “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts, Part 1, Florid Type,” Antiques 32, no. 5 (November 1937): 230–37; “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts, Part 2, Florid Type, Miscellaneous Examples,” Antiques 32, no. 6 (December 1937): 298–301; “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts, Part 3, Florid Type, Scroll Detail,” Antiques 33, no. 2 (February 1938): 73–75; “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts, Part 4, The Small-Panel Type,” Antiques 33, no. 4 (April 1938): 198–203; “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts, Part 5, Small-Panel-Type Affiliates,”Antiques 33, no. 6 (June 1938): 322–25; “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts, Part 6, Other Affiliates: A Group Characterized by Geometrical Panels,” Antiques 34, no. 2 (February 1939): 79–81. All of Lyon’s Antiques articles are reprinted in Pilgrim Century Furniture: An Historical Survey, edited by Robert F. Trent (New York: Main Street/Universe Books, 1976), pp. 55–78.
Helen Park, “Thomas Dennis, Ipswich Joiner: A Re-examination,” Antiques 78, no. 1 (July 1960): 40–44. Helen Park, “The Seventeenth-Century Furniture of Essex County and Its Makers,” Antiques 78, no. 4 (October 1960): 350–55. Both of Park’s articles are reprinted in Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture, pp. 84–94. Benno M. Forman, “The Seventeenth-Century Case Furniture of Essex County, Massachusetts and Its Makers” (master’s thesis, University of Delaware, 1968). Benno M. Forman, “Urban Aspects of Massachusetts Furniture in the Late Seventeenth Century,” in Country Cabinetwork and Simple City Furniture, edited by John D. Morse (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia for the Winterthur Museum, 1970), pp. 1–33.
Forman, “The Case Furniture of Essex County,” pp. 28–40. The versatility of British woodworkers is demonstrated in Rural Economy in Yorkshire in 1641, being the Account Books of Henry Best, of Elmswell, in the East Riding of the County of York (Durham, Eng.: George Andrews, 1857), pp. 153, 156:
1620, Apr 4. Agreed with Matthewe Carter, for paylinge the swyne stye with sawne ashe payles, to give him for his worke 9d. (per) yeardes, and hee is to sawe them, and to sawe the rayles and postes, and sett them in a groundsell, and rabbit them in to the rayle above; agreed also with him to pale the yearde, and hee is to sawe the rayles and postes, and to have 4d per yearde, for his labor. 1622
Dec 13. Bargained with Matthewe Carter and John Carter his sonne, of Greate Driffeylde, carpenters, to digg upp a walnutt tree of myne, and to sawe it into 2 ynch and a half plankes, and the rest of the small peeces into such peeces as it is fittest for; and to make mee two chayres, one for my selfe, and the other a lesser, well turned and wrought, and I am to give them for doing these things above mentioned, workman like, 10s in money, a bushel of barley, and a pecke of oatmeale, and give them in money 3d for their godspenny.
New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century, edited by Jonathan L. Fairbanks and Robert F. Trent, 3 vols. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1982) 3: 531–32. Robert F. Trent, “The Emery Attributions,” Essex Institute Historical Collections 121, no. 3 (July 1985): 210–20. Old Town and the Waterside: Two Hundred Years of Tradition and Change in Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, 1635–1835, edited by Peter Benes (Newburyport, Mass.: Historical Society of Old Newbury, 1986), pp. 36, 40–41.
For the provenance of the Staniford chest, see Robert W. Skinner, Inc., Fine Americana, Bolton, Massachusetts, October 29, 1982, lot 214A. Additional information on this chest is in Winterthur Museum, object file, 1982.276. For the Reade, Lake, Winthrop, and Symonds inter-marriages, see David Cressy, Coming Over: Migration and Communication Between England and New England in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 277–86. Rev. Hugh Peter was stepfather to the Reade sisters, having married their mother Elizabeth after Edmund Reade died. See Roger Thompson, Mobility and Migration: East Anglican Founders of New England, 1629–1640 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994), pp. 152, 166, 196; and Walter Goodwin Davis, “Ancestry of John Lake, Husband of Margaret (Reade) Lake,” The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 84, no. 335 (July 1930): 304–17.
The Harris and Staniford families lived near Thomas Dennis and witnessed several legal documents for him. These connections may explain why Thomas and Margaret Staniford commissioned Dennis to make them an expensive joined and carved chest the year of their marriage. Irving P. Lyon, “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts,” in Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture, p. 69. For the London and Boston chests, see Benno M. Forman, “The Chest of Drawers in America, 1635–1670: The Origins of the Joined Chest of Drawers,”Winterthur Portfolio 20, no. 1 (spring 1985): 1–30; and Robert F. Trent, “The Chest of Drawers in America: A Postscript,” Winterthur Portfolio 20, no. 1 (spring 1985): 31–48.
Benno M. Forman, “New Findings on the Vocabulary Chest,” Winterthur Newsletter 25, no. 5 (September 1979): n.p.
No seventeenth-century scratch-stock is known. Joseph Moxon does not mention scratch-stocks specifically; however, his description of molding planes notes that: “if it be very hard Wood you are to Plane upon...[the angle of the blade to the sole of the plane] is set to 80 Degrees, and sometimes quite upright: So that these hard Woods, are, indeed, more properly said to be Scraped, than Planed” (Joseph Moxon, Mechanick Exercises; or the Doctrine of Handy-works Applied to the Arts of Smithing, Joinery, Carpentry, Turning, Bricklaying [3d ed., 1703; reprint, Mendham, N.J.: Astragal Press, 1994], pp. 73–74). Roubo illustrates examples constructed like a marking or cutting gauge, with an adjustable fence tightened by a wooden wedge (J. A. Roubo, L’Art du Mensuisier, 3 vols. [1769; reprint , Paris: Leonce Laget, 1977], 1: pl. 21, figs. 13–14). The Roubo version of the scratch-stock is discussed in Josef M. Greber, The History of the Woodworking Plane, translated by Seth W. Burchard (Delmar, N. Y.: Early American Industries Association, 1991), pp. 139–40. The authors thank Jay Gaynor for this reference and his insights on scratch-stocks. The 1675 inventory of Lynn, Massachusetts, joiner George Coall (Cole) listed two joynters, a fore plane, three smoothing planes, “2 Plans and revolving plains,” four round planes, three rabbet planes, three hollow planes, and “9 Cresing plains” (W. L. Goodman, “Tools and Techniques of the Early Settlers in the New World,” Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association 29, no. 3 [September 1976]: 40–51). Goodman notes that the creasing planes were most likely “side beads and reeds, and possibly...one or two ogees or ovolo[s].” It is possible that Coall’s “cresing plains” may have been scratch-stocks and that seventeenth-century parlance did not distinguish scratch-stocks from molding planes with conforming soles. Modern scratch-stocks are shop-made, often from small scraps of wood and metal. Some seventeenth-century appraisers may have neglected to list scratch-stocks, whereas others may have referred to them generically (i.e. as “small tools” or “a lot of planes”).
Sebastiano Serlio, The Five Books of Architecture (English edition, 1611; reprint, New York: Dover, 1982), bk. 1, ch. 1, fol. 9.
Edith Mannon, Mobilier Regional (Paris: Charles Massin, 1998), pp. 21–32; Jacqueline Boccador, Le Mobilier Francais du Moyen Age a la Renaissance (Paris: Monelle Hayot, 1988), passim; Jacques Thirion, Le Mobilier du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance en France (Pairs: Editions Faton, 1998), pp. 90–197.
Many New England joiners made drawers with grooved fronts to accept the beveled edges of bottom boards. Because Benno M. Forman and Richard Candee demonstrated thirty years ago that the New England sawmilling industry was up and running by the 1630s, one need not rely on technological determinism to explain the presence in these objects of water-sawn oak, sycamore, and pine. After all, the widespread use of riven oak and water-sawn pine in New England furniture was strictly tied to utility. The rarity of water-sawn hardwoods in early New England furniture, to say nothing of pit-sawn timbers of any species, does not make the Essex County shop tradition idiosyncratic. By the 1670s, supplies of oak timber were dwindling in coastal towns that were founded in the 1630s. The proximity of Ipswich and Newbury to sawmills on the Merrimac and Piscataqua Rivers may have influenced the use of water-sawn oak boards for the tops of cases, although the use of water-sawn sycamore is more difficult to explain.
The Sudbury communion table in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum is an exception. It was made from mill-sawn oak joists. For more on this table, see Robert F. Trent, “Joiners and Joinery of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, 1630–1730,” in Arts of the Anglo-American Community in the Seventeenth Century, edited by Ian M. G. Quimby (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1975), p. 140. A Braintree, Massachusetts, chest in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution and a New Haven chest of drawers with doors in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, also have mill-sawn oak boards. These chests are illustrated and discussed in Peter Follansbee and John Alexander, “Seventeenth-Century Joinery from Braintree, Massachusetts: The Savell Shop Tradition” in American Furniture, edited by Luke Beckerdite (Hanover, N. H.: University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, 1996), pp. 81–104, fig. 9; and Fairbanks and Trent, eds., New England Begins, 3: 524–25. For more on seventeenth-century mill sawing, see Benno M. Forman, “Mill Sawing in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts,” Old Time New England 60, no. 220 (April–June 1970): 110–30, and Richard M. Candee, “Merchant and Millwright—The Water Powered Sawmills of the Piscataqua,” Old Time New England 60, no. 220 (April–June, 1970): 131–49. For wood processing, see Forman, “The Seventeenth-Century Case Furniture of Essex County,” pp. 1–13. Robert F. Trent, “What Can a Chair and a Box Do for You?” Maine Antique Digest 15, no. 4 (April 1987); 10c–13c. The methods for converting trees into usable timber differed between England and her colonies. By 1500, shortages of oak in metropolitan areas of England led to the importation of oak from Scandinavia and north Germany. This had political and military ramifications because the Royal Navy appropriated much of the wood, tar, and pitch that arrived in the “wainscot” and “mast” fleets. Wood purchased by the London building and furniture trades was reduced to panels, joists, and other units by pit sawing or frame sawing. Evidence suggests that oak or “wainscot” was imported in the form of great baulks, partly for ease of transport and partly to keep the wood slightly more moist than the ambient atmosphere (Trent, “The Chest of Drawers in America, 1635–1730: A Postscript,” pp. 31–32, nt. 2). This moisture would have made the baulks easier to break up into manageable panels and scantling and possibly minimized warpage during the voyage. The downside of this practice was that moist wood was far heavier than drier stock. Timber obtained from the imported baulks was sawn from many different orientations in the tree, both radial (quarter-sawn) and tangential (plain-sawn). Often saw kerfs are visible on internal surfaces of English furniture. Conversely, almost no English furniture contains wood sawn in wind- or water-powered sawmills such as those frequently built by the Dutch. Apparently, English sawyers actively militated against such mills, and the savings in labor costs versus the expense of maintaining such elaborate machinery probably was not cost-effective in an English context. For more examples of this practice, see Rev. William Harrison, A Description of England (1577, 1587) as quoted in Victor Chinnery, Oak Furniture: The British Tradition (Suffolk, Eng.: Antique Collectors Club, 1979), p. 544: “Of all oke growing in England, the parke oke is the softest, and far more spalt and brittle than the hedge oke. And of all in Essex, that growing in Bardfield parke is the finest for joiner’s craft: for oftentimes have I seene of their workes made of that oke so fine and faire, as most of the wainescot that is brought thither out of Danske, for our wainescot is not made in England.”
For two examples of other New England shops that use alignment marks on their joinery, see Robert Blair St. George, “Style and Structure in the Joinery of Dedham and Medfield, Massachusetts, 1635–1685,” in American Furniture and Its Makers, edited by Ian M. G. Quimby (Chicago: University of Chicago Press for the Winterthur Museum, 1979), pp. 1–46; and Follansbee and Alexander, “Seventeenth-Century Joinery from Braintree,” p. 92.
Irving Whitall Lyon, Colonial Furniture of New England, fig. 16. When Lyon photographed the cupboard in 1886, he recorded but did not publish its family history. This history and the identification of Peter Woodbury as the probable original owner is included in Irving P. Lyon, “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts” in Trent, ed. Pilgrim Century Furniture, pp. 72, 75.
Moxon, Mechanick Exercises, pp. 217–19, contains a lengthy description of a sweep:
I Had, soon after the Fire of London, occasion to lay Moldings upon the Verges of several round and weighty pieces of Brass: and being [without]...a Lathe of my own, I intended to put them out to be Turned: But then Turners were all full of Employment, which made them so unreasonable in their Prizes, that I was forc’d to contrive this following way to lay Moldings on their Verges. I provided a strong Iron Bar for the Beam of a Sweep....To this Tool is filed a Tooth of Steel with such [moldings]...in the bottom of it, as I have intended to have...upon my work....Then I placed the Center-point of the sweep in a Center-hole made in a square Stud of Mettal, and fixed in the Center of the Plain of the Work, and removed the Socket that rides on the Beam of the Sweep, till the tooth stood just upon its intended place on the Verge of the Work, and there screw’d the Socket fast to the Beam. To work it out, I employ’d a Labourer, directing him in his Left Hand to hold the Head of the Center-pin, and with his Right Hand to draw about the Beam and Tooth, which (according to the strength) he us’d, cut and tore away great Flakes of the Metall, till it receiv’d the whole and perfect Form the Tooth would make; which was as compleat a Molding as any Skillfull Turner could have laid upon it. Having such good Success upon Brass, I improv’d the invention so, as to make it serve for Wood also. And make a Plain-Stock with my intended Molding on the Sole of it, and fitted an Iron to that Stock with the same Molding the Sole had. Through the sides of this Stock I fitted an Iron Beam, to do the Office of the Beam I used for the Sweep, viz to keep the Plain always at what position I lifted from the Center (for thus the Iron in the Plain wrought about the Center, even as the Tooth in the Sweep (before rehearsed) and to that purpose I made a round Hole of about half an Inch Diameter near the end of the Iron: then in the Center of the Work I fixed a round Iron Pin, exactly to fit the said round Hole, putting the round Hole over the pin, and fitting the Iron onto this Stock commodious to work with. I used this Plain with both hands, even as Joyners do other Plains.
The cutter that Moxon added to the sweep to adapt a metal-scraping tool to wood was clearly a scratch-stock. If he had used a molding plane with a conforming sole curved to match the arc of the intended molding, the tool would not have been adjustable and would have produced only one fixed arc. The sweep blades used by the joiners in the Essex County shop and by many of their contemporaries cut clockwise and counterclockwise. This allowed them to avoid working against the grain in a 180-degree arc. It is possible that the “revolving planes” listed in George Coall’s inventory (see nt. 11) were sweeps. Moxon’s claim that he invented this tool is incorrect
Susan Geib, “Hammersmith: The Saugus Ironworks as an Example of Early Industrialism,” in Fairbanks and Trent, eds., New England Begins, 3: 352–60. The five iron firebacks are illustrated in entry no. 381, written jointly by Geib and Robert F. Trent.
For the Boston chest of drawers with doors, see Gerald W. R. Ward, American Case Furniture in the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1988), pp. 125–28. For more examples of composite appliqué arches and arcades on seventeenth-century New England furniture, see Patricia E. Kane, Furniture of the New Haven Colony The Seventeenth-Century Style (New Haven, Conn.: New Haven Colony Historical Society, 1973), nos. 8–11; Robert Blair St. George, The Wrought Covenant: Source Material for the Study of Craftsmen and Community in Southeastern New England, 1620–1700 (Brockton, Mass.: Fuller Art Museum, 1979), nos. 17, 18, 54; Robert F. Trent, “New Insights on Early Rhode Island Furniture,” in American Furniture, edited by Luke Beckerdite (Hanover, N. H.: University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, 1999), fig. 7, p. 213; Robert F. Trent, “New England Joinery and Turning before 1700,” in Fairbanks and Trent, eds., New England Begins, 3, no. 473; and Trent, “Joiners and Joinery of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, 1630–1730,” figs. 2, 3, 5.
For an illustration of a 1666 English cupboard with rectangular rear stiles and toe-nailed side rails, see Margaret Jourdain, English Decoration and Furniture of the Early Renaissance, 1500–1650 (New York: Scribners Sons, 1924), fig. 301. For the history of the Lawton cupboard, see Robert F. Trent, “The Lawton Cupboard: A Unique Masterpiece of Early Boston Joinery and Turning,” Maine Antique Digest 16, no. 3 (March 1988): 1C–4C.
Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America, 3d. edition (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926), fig. 44. The chest of drawers belonged to Boston collector Dwight M. Prouty when Lockwood published it.
The side and rear façades of this chest are similar to those of the Staniford chest (fig. 1) in having two superimposed panels in each end and four in the rear. The Weare cupboard (fig. 75) has one drawer front made of sawn oak.
For Waters’ alterations, see Nutting, Furniture Treasury, fig, 458; and Lyon, “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts,” in Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture, p. 73. For more on Waters, see Richard H. Saunders, “Collecting American Decorative Arts in New England– Part I: 1793–1876” in Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture, pp. 14–21; Elizabeth Stillinger, The Antiquers (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), pp. 72–73; and Trent and Follansbee, “Repairs versus Deception,” pp. 13–28.
Trent, “The Joinery of Middlesex County,” fig. 4. The Cambridge joiners made arch appliqués that differ from those on the Essex County cupboards. The arches on the Cambridge cupboards have rectangular imposts that are architecturally correct rather than tapered ones. Because the Cambridge arcades lack jamb and haunch moldings, they do not have the visual impact of their Essex County equivalents. Trent has suggested that the Cambridge shop may have purchased Boston turned ornament (Catalogue entry for the Cambridge cupboard in David Wood, ed., The Concord Museum: Decorative Arts from a New England Collection [Concord, Mass.: Concord Museum, 1996], pp. 1–2).
The authors thank furniture historian Victor Chinnery for pointing out the British cupboard base.
Sumner, “The Eliot Bureau,” pp. 329–33; and Lyon, “A Pedigreed Cupboard,” pp. 118–22. John Appleton and Elizabeth Rogers were married in Ipswich on November 23, 1681. See Clarence A. Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700 (Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977), p. 20. John Appleton’s sister Priscilla married Rev. Joseph Capen of Topsfield, and they owned the chest of drawers illustrated in fig. 53. Lyon’s article describes the most likely connection between the last known owner, Judge Daniel Gookin of North Hampton, New Hampshire, and John and Elizabeth Appleton. For more on the Appletons of Ipswich, see T. Frank Waters, The Old Bay Road from Saltonstall’s Brook and Samuel Appleton’s Farm and A Genealogy of the Ipswich Descendants of Samuel Appleton (Salem, Mass.: Salem Press Co., 1907), pp. 30–31.
In “The Eliot Bureau,” pp. 329–30, Sumner reported:
[The base] was in a dilapidated state. The top was split and broken, and the outside had been painted with red paint, over which there had been a coat of whitewash. At that time I had an ingenious carpenter, Mr. John Wilson, at work on my mansion house...and after his scraping off the paint and whitewash from the Cabinet, we saw that I had a rich and highly ornamented piece of furniture...with the initials I E A 1681 cut into the wood upon the centre of the door in front. Under my direction, Mr. Wilson attempted to restore it according to the original design, and make it a useful article. Such of the ornaments as remained, were taken off; the broken ones pieced out; and those, which were wanting, were turned and resupplied in the fashion of the old ones. The door was entire, and swung on a round stick or post, about one inch in diameter. This I divided in the centre and hung it on two pair of brass hinges, so that it opens in the middle, instead of on one side of it. The drawer over the door is about four inches in depth, and is almost the only part which remains entire in its original state. There were two shelves inside, which were split and so much defaced, that I removed them, in order to give room for ten shallow pine drawers, which I put in, for papers. I put a thick oak plank under the bottom, and supported it by two oak blocks, for the whole to rest upon. I had a handsome oak board, polished and placed on it, for a top, instead of the old one, which was split and broken. The projecting ornaments in front, on the drawer and door, were very much broken, but not so much so, that the fashion of them could not be discovered. I put locks upon it, and varnished the whole over, so that, like a restored painting, it resembles the original, the initials and date never having been touched.
For the Boston and New Haven chests of drawers with doors, see Fairbanks and Trent, eds., New England Begins, 3: 522–25. The Boston example is described and illustrated in detail in Ward, American Case Furniture, pp. 125–28. English examples illustrated and discussed in Chinnery, Oak Furniture, pp. 370–71, are similar in form and execution to the Boston example. Chinnery calls these “enclosed chest[s] of drawers.”
Lyon, “A Pedigreed Cupboard,” p. 121. In an undated letter to a Mr. Robinson of Harvard University, Lyon wrote: “Now a word of advice. The piece was outrageously reconstructed by...Sumner. It should be now restored to its original state under competent advice. Your own Philip L. Spaulding is eminently qualified to supervise this restoration and would do it with tender regard to proprieties.” Spaulding owned the cupboard illustrated in fig. 27. The authors thank Sandra Grindlay, curator of Harvard University Art Museums, for making Lyon’s letter available.
Nutting, Furniture Treasury, fig. 1011. Lyon recorded that the table was found in the Furness home in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1921. See Lyon, “Oak Furniture of Ipswich Massachusetts,” in Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture, p. 75. Little is known about the table before the late nineteenth century. The Appleton provenance associated with the piece is not entirely clear. In the 1920s, the table was purchased from a Mrs. Lily May (Appleton) Furness of Manchester. She was born in Hamilton, Massachusetts, in 1858, the daughter of George Appleton, Jr., and Esther Knowlton Annable of Ipswich. Tracing the table back in the direct patrilineal line of the Appleton family does not lead back to the original owners of the Appleton cupboard, but to a cousin. The 1920 Federal Census for Manchester lists James C. Furness and Lillie M. Furness. Her place of birth is listed as Massachusetts. Her death record identifies her as Lilly May Appleton who was born in Hamilton, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1858, the daughter of George Appleton, Jr. and Esther Knowlton Annable. Index to Massachusetts Birth Records, 1856–1860, vol. 114, p. 205.
The cupboard belonged to collector Philip L. Spaulding. The caption in Wallace Nutting’s Furniture Treasury (1928) states that the cupboard is dated 1689 when it is actually dated 1683. An ash splint loop is attached to the backboard of the upper storage compartment with wrought nails. The date and purpose of this feature is unclear.
See caption for fig. 27: Ian C. Bristow, Interior House-Painting Colors and Technology, 1615–1840 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996), pp. 170–71.
The base appears in an 1896 photo of Little’s house. See fig. 7 in Saunders, “Collecting American Decorative Arts in New England–Part I: 1793–1876,” in Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture, p. 21. See Cook, The House Beautiful, pp. 226–27, fig. 72. The rear boards, which are most likely replacements, fit in a groove in the top rail, and are toe-nailed to the rear stiles. There is no groove in the inner edge of these stiles. The rear framing of the Perkins cupboard lacks these grooves as well.
Two related chests with one drawer have comparable red and black striped paint schemes. See Benes, ed., Old Town and the Waterside, p. 36; and Chinnery, Oak Furniture, p. 225, pl. 9.
Irving P. Lyon, “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts,” in Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture, pp. 67, 70. Francis Shaw (1855–1935) of Wayland, Massachusetts, owned the cupboard by the 1890s, and it eventually belonged to Mrs. B. A. Behrend, who corresponded with Lyon regarding the piece’s history and restoration. When it was sold in 1999, it appeared in the same condition as shown in the photographs from Lyon’s articles in the 1930s. It has since been restored, in an attempt to correct some of the earlier restoration work. For a discussion of the Perkins cupboard, see Sotheby’s Fine Americana and Silver, New York, June 17, 1999, lot 187.
The authors thank Philip Ruhl for his experimentation with and insights on this half-column turning technique
Lyon, “The Cupboard of Ephraim and Hannah Foster,” pp. 123–25. According to Lyon’s research, Hannah was born in 1661 and would have been sixteen when she married Ephriam. James Savage, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, 4 vols. (1860–1862; reprint, Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1965), 2: 90, 187, also gives 1661 as her birth date.
Richard H. Randall, Jr., American Furniture in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1965), fig. 22.
Charles Hummel, With Hammer in Hand (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia for the Winterthur Museum, 1968), fig. 11 illustrates rotary button bits.
Descendants of the Bradstreet, Wildes, and Waite or Waitt families of Topsfield, Massachusetts, donated the chest to the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine, in 1999. The chest probably passed from Joseph and Priscilla to their daughter Elizabeth Bradstreet (1691– 1781); to her daughter Mary Wildes (1731–1810); to her son Sylvanus Wildes (1754–1829); to his daughter Elizabeth (1787–1853), who married William Waitt (1785–1817). The donors’ grandmother stated that the previous owner of the chest was “Mrs Elizabeth Waite.” This genealogy was compiled from Vital Records of Topsfield, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849, 2 vols. (Topsfield, Mass: Topsfield Historical Society, 1903), 2: 208, 245; Douglas Wright Cruger, A Wildes Genealogy: the Family of John Wild of Topsfield Massachusetts and His Descendants in Old Arundel, Maine (Portland, Me.: privately printed, 1990), p. 7; Walter Goodwin Davis, The Ancestry of Dudley Wildes 1759–1820 of Topsfield Massachusetts (Portland, Me.: Anthoensen Press, 1959), pp. 1–36; and The Capen Family: Descendants of Bernard Capen of Dorchester, Massachusetts, compiled by Rev. Charles Albert Hayden (Minneapolis, Minn.: privately printed, 1929), pp. 20, 21, 36. For more on the Capens and their house, see Samuel Chamberlain and Narcissa G. Chamberlain, The Chamberlain Selection of New England Rooms 1639–1863 (New York: Hastings House, 1972), pp. 46–47; Abbott Lowell Cummings, “Massachusetts and Its First Period Houses: A Statistical Survey” in Architecture in Colonial Massachusetts, edited by Abbott Lowell Cummings (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1979), p. 187.
The tip of a turned pendant two inches long (like that of the leaf table shown in fig. 22) would be exactly level with the bellies of the side brackets.
A chest marked “HT 1685” is contemporary with the Capen chest of drawers. The former, known as the “Brown” chest, has a history in the Chebacco section of Ipswich (now Essex). Its turned ornament suggests that the shop may have begun using medium-height large half-columns for chests with one drawer. Lyon, “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts,” in Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture, pp. 69, 71; and Helen Park, “The Seventeenth-Century Furniture of Essex County and Its Makers” also in Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture, pp. 91, 352, fig. 5.
Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700, p. 572. These connections suggest that Timothy Perkins and Joseph Capen’s father-in-law commissioned their chests from the same shop. Given the strong local tradition that the latter’s daughter Priscilla abhorred the domestic arrangements provided by the church, it is possible that Timothy Perkins felt compelled to purchase a chest of drawers by the same maker as an oblique comment on the new minister’s wife. Samuel Symonds’ father John was the most important joiner in Salem. In 1682, Samuel made a ten-foot-long joined oak pulpit for the Topsfield meeting house, where he was a member of the congregation. For more on the Symonds family, see Forman, “The Seventeenth-Century Case Furniture of Essex County,” pp. 44–46.
Roland B. Hammond, The Collection of Samuel Dale Stevens (1859–1922) (North Andover, Mass.: North Andover Historical Society, 1971), p. 1.
In a slight variation on the Capen model, the maker or makers framed the rear of the “TEP” chest with two horizontal panels over four vertical ones, and the example illustrated in fig. 62 with two horizontal panels over three vertical ones.
Dr. Micajah Sawyer and Sibyll Farnham were married in Newburyport on November 27, 1766. Hannah Sawyer was the second wife of Lt. George Lee, who was possibly born in Salem. See Nutting, Furniture Treasury, fig. 444. John B. Paine to Irving P. Lyon, November 24, 1936, Irving P. Lyon Papers, Collection 62, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Museum. Thomas Amory Lee, “Old Boston Families No. 6, The Lee Family,” The New England Historic Genealogical Register 76, no. 301 (July 1922): 197–223. Massachusetts Death Records 1861–1865, (microfilm) vol. 185, p. 164. Vital Records of Newburyport, Massachusetts, 2 vols. (Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute, 1911), 1: 344, 2: 424.
Boston or London case pieces with dovetailed drawers may have been a source for some of the drawer construction techniques used by the Essex County joiners during the 1680s and 1690s. All of the drawers except the third from the top have nails and one dovetail securing the sides to the front. The second and fourth drawers have rabbeted backs that are nailed to the sides. The back of the top drawer has one rabbeted and nailed rear corner and the other joined with a single dovetail. The third drawer, which is the deepest, has two dovetails and nails securing each corner. For information about London-trained joiners in seventeenth-century Boston and the arrival of Brocas, see Forman, “The Chest of Drawers in America,” p. 21.
The top board of the base section is water-sawn oak. The 1661 inventory of Thomas Sallows of Salem lists “1 Court Cubbard 12s” and “1 Cushion for a Cubbard’s head 1s” (Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, 1635–1681, edited by George Francis Dow, 3 vols. [Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute, 1916–1920], 1: 418–19).
On the upper section, the joiner used three mitered inserts with bosses to divide the channel molding of the frieze. This design complements the vertical orientation of the stiles and half-columns of the storage compartment and resonates with the three bisected drawers of the lower case.
The maker of the Sawyer cupboard cut the channel moldings and edges of the arches and jambs with the same scratch-stock irons used on other examples in the group. The large astragal moldings, which appear to have been cut with a hollow plane and a fenced rabbet plane, are identical to those on the other cupboards that follow. On the first and third drawers of the Sawyer cupboard, the joiner made the inner edges of the chamfered moldings and plaques the same thickness. This enabled him to use the same scratch-stock moldings adjacent to either component. The joiner attached the backplates with brass upholstery nails. The pierced brass keyhole escutcheon on the door appears to be original, but the lock is replaced.
The back of the upper case is constructed like that of the Foster cupboard (fig. 40), but has a single water-sawn white pine board installed horizontally in the top of the frame. The joiner beveled the top edge and ends to fit into grooves in the rear stiles and upper rear rail, slid the panel in from below, and nailed it to the rear face of the lower rear rail. This rail, which supports the floorboards of the storage compartment, is positioned forward of the grooves for the back panel. The frame of the lower case has two white pine panels divided by a central muntin with edge moldings. The stiles and rails of the frame are chamfered. Although this is atypical of this shop, similar chamfering occurs on joined furniture from Plymouth Colony. See St. George, Wrought Covenant, p. 26, fig. 20A; and Peter Follansbee, “Unpacking the Little Chest,” Old Time New England 78, no. 268 (Spring/Summer 2000): 5–23. The sides of the Sawyer cupboard’s base have applied moldings around the panels, rather than scratch-stock edge moldings and chamfers on the frame like many other pieces in the group. Unlike all the other cupboards from this shop, the side panels of the upper case are horizontal. The drawer bottoms and floorboards of the storage compartment are riven oak and have V-joints. All of the other examples have either butt joints or tongue-and-groove joints. The Perkins cupboard is built as one case; however, it was completely disassembled, so its pillar orientation is not conclusive.
The Sawyer cupboard also has a variety of bosses. Large, turned oval bosses are on the stiles of the frieze and lower side panels of the base, and smaller turned ones are on the arcade panels and beneath the knobs of the carved drawer. Small round bosses made with a rotary cutter are on the upper stiles, arcade panels, and drawer plaques. All of the latter bosses are similar in diameter and cross-section except the ones on the top drawer, which have small central protrusions. The small half-columns on the upper rear stiles of the Sawyer cupboard are similar to the large half-columns on the Perkins cupboard, but the former have more collars.
Sybil Noyes, Charles Thornton Libby, and Walter Goodwin Davis, Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire (1928–1939; reprint, Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972), p. 364.
Small oval bosses are on the mitered inserts of the frieze rail, and larger ones are on the side corners of the upper stiles, side rails of the top drawer, and side panels of the lower case. Irregularities in the ornament on the sides of the front stiles likely stem from the restoration.
The interior struts are joined to the front and rear rails of the base. Three oak boards form a shelf at the front and sides of the recessed compartment. The soffit boards on the unit above the compartment have beveled edges that fit into grooves in the front and side rails. This feature occurs on all of the Essex County cupboards with jetties.
For a description of dragon beams, see Abbott Lowell Cummings, The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, 1625–1725 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979), pp. 55, 56. On the Weare cupboard, the soffit boards on the lower section engage the rails overhanging the sides and front. The boards at the sides extend front-to-back and those at the front extend side-to-side. The side boards provide the greatest stability because they fit into grooves in both the side and front rails. Framing members and pillars support some jetties (i. e., the jetty on the lower section of the cupboard illustrated in fig. 34) on furniture in the Essex County group. In fact, the cupboard shown in figure 34 never had a soffit in its framed overhang at the front.
Cummings, Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay, pp. 13–15, 112, 113, 207. Cummings illustrates two pendants from house frames in Newbury (figs. 188, 189) and others from Topsfield and Hamilton (figs. 165 and 166.) The discussion and sketch of the Ross Tavern framing is on pp. 74–77. Evidence suggests that jettied house frames were not common in New England before 1650. For a 1657 building contract that includes a jettied second story, see Abbott Lowell Cummings, “Massachusetts Bay Building Documents, 1638–1726” in Cummings, ed., Architecture in Colonial Massachusetts, p. 193.
Nutting, Furniture Treasury, figs. 444–47.
The cupboard descended in the family of Mrs. Charles Sprague Sargent, whose husband founded the Arnold Arboretum.
Randle Holme, Academie or Store house of Armory & Blazon (1688; reprint, Menston, Eng.: Scholar Press, 1972), bk. 3, ch. 3, p. 100 refers to diamond-shaped decoration: “Arris Ways, is anything set or hung Diamond wise, having one corner of the square set upwards, the other downwards.”
See caption for fig. 91: Only eight or nine New England square tables from the seventeenth century are known. Associated with either dining or reading and writing, they usually have riven oak bases and multi-board, oak tops. Some have maple frames. Despite their name, these tables were generally out of square by two or three inches. This example, however, is an exception. The top is 46" x 45 3/8", and the base is 38 1/8" x 37 7/8". These dimensions are close enough to be regarded as square by New England joinery standards. Lyon Papers, box 7. For the history of the table attributed to Jacques, see Benes, Old-Town and the Waterside, p. 72. Higgins’ sister married John L. Abbott.
Several one-drawer chests and an elaborate dressing box attributed to the Essex County shop have dates ranging from 1693 to 1701.
Forman, “The Chest of Drawers in America,” pp. 9–15; and Fairbanks and Trent, eds., New England Begins, 3: 501, 522–24, 539–40. Although furniture historian Benno M. Forman believed that the shift from the carved phase of mannerism to the applied ornamental style began during the 1660s in New England, recent research by Robert Trent suggests that it occurred much earlier. For Plymouth joinery, see St. George, Wrought Covenant, and Follansbee, “Unpacking the Little Chest.” For Cambridge joinery, see Trent, “Joiners and Joinery of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, 1630–1730,” pp. 123–148, and David Wood, ed., Concord Museum, pp. 1–2. For Woburn joinery, see David Wood, ed., Concord Museum, pp. 3–5. For Salem joinery, see Forman, “Seventeenth-Century Case Furniture of Essex County,” pp. 41–55.
Parisian styles reached England through trade with the continent and the immigration of French Protestant artisans. The Huguenot diaspora began during the sixteenth century and increased after Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685.
For West Country and North Country cupboards with cantilevered rails in the upper case, see Chinnery, Oak Furniture, pp. 486, 491–94.
In addition to houses and public buildings, furniture joiners occasionally worked on gristmills, fulling mills, sawmills, warehouses, wharves, and bridges. This was especially true of tradesmen residing near rivers or in the coastal regions of New England. Some furniture joiners also ventured into shipbuilding, block making, bridge building, coopering, pump making, dish turning, wagon making, and the production of ox yokes, whereas others did less specialized work such as fencing and making pipestave blanks for export to the West Indies and the wine islands.
For lists and genealogies of Ipswich woodworkers, see Forman, “Seventeenth-Century Case Furniture of Essex County”; Robert E. P. Hendrick, “John Gaines II and Thomas Gaines I, Turners of Ipswich, Massachusetts” (master’s thesis, University of Delaware, 1964); Susan Mackiewicz, “Woodworking Traditions in Newbury, Massachusetts, 1635–1745” (master’s thesis, University of Delaware, 1981); Robert Tarule, “The Joined Furniture of William Searle and Thomas Dennis: A Shop Based Inquiry into the Woodworking Technology of the Seventeenth-Century Joiner” (Ph. D. diss., Graduate School of the Union Institute, 1992); and Susan Spindler Nelson, “The Life and Times of Capt. Abraham Knowlton, Joiner of Ipswich, Massachusetts, 1699–1751” (master’s thesis, Boston University, 1998). Three tables, two joined cradles, and a joint stool, some of which have strong histories of ownership in Newbury, are attributed to the Jaques shop tradition. Mackiewicz, “Woodworking Traditions in Newbury, Massachusetts,” pp. 1–39. The quote pertaining to the meeting house is on p. 30. The First Parish, Newbury, Massachusetts 1635–1935, edited by Eliza Adams Little and Lucretia Little Isley (Newburyport, Mass.: privately printed, 1935), p. 31. Jaques Family Genealogy, edited by Roger Jaques and Patricia Jaques (Decorah, Iowa: Anundsen Publishing Co., 1995), pp. 26, 33, 67.
Abraham Hammett, The Hammett Papers: Early Inhabitants of Ipswich, Massachusetts 1633–1700 (Ipswich, Mass.: privately printed, 1880–1899), p. 246. George A. Perkins, The Family of John Perkins of Ipswich (Salem, Mass.: privately printed, 1889), p. 23.