The Eastern Shore of Virginia, which is separated from the V irginia mainland by the Chesapeake Bay, shows an independent development of furniture styles. Since the peninsula is shared w ith Maryland and Delaware, it might initially appear that a stronger influence would be felt from Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley than Tidewater Virginia. But certain forms appear to be indigenous, suggesting an independence from outside influences, and a high level of creativity on the part of the native artisans.
That an academic urban style developed on the Eastern Shore during the colonial period seems highly improbable. Sophisticated furniture from Philadelphia and New England has been passed down through generations of Eastern Shore families, suggesting an active coastal trade... >
Fredericksburg, situated on the falls of the Rappahannock River, had become Virginia’s leading industrial center by 1770. From the early eighteenth-century settlement of Germanna, anil the iron furnace established there by Lieutenant- Governor Alexander Spotswood in 1714, the Rappahannock River basin supported this industry.’ Fredericksburg’s prominence in industrial development is also well documented by two manufactories of firearms, which were established there during the Revolution. One of these w as financed by the state while the other, the Rappahannock Forge, was a private venture established by James I lunter.2
A large number of Fredericksburg firearms and clock movements from the eighteenth century have survived, although no signed furniture made there is presently known... >
Richmond did not achieve prominence as an urban center until late in the colonial period, and it was not until the capital was moved from Williamsburg in 1780 that it became the focal point for political activity in Virginia. The city blossomed after that date and, like others during the federal period, attracted a community of craftsmen. There is currently no documented furniture from colonial Richmond, and labeled pieces from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries do not retain features from an earlier style. Some unsigned examples have historical circumstances suggesting an origin there and pre-Revolutionary details found on them may provide some clues for the future identification of its early furniture.
Only two advertisements were placed in the Virginia Gazette by Richm... >
Southeast Virginia is the area bounded by the James River to the north, the Carolinas to the south, and the Piedmont to the west. Colonial furniture pro – duccd there is dramatic testimony to the combined influence of Williamsburg and Norfolk on rural cabinetmaking. Styles from these urban centers also extended into the Albemarle Sound and the Roanoke River Valley of North Carolina, and westward into the V irginia Piedmont.
The features found on furniture from this region that are characteristic of Norfolk include half-dustboards and inward flaring ogee feet. I low – ever, full dustboards and desk interiors of the Williamsburg type are also seen... >
T he clothespress and chest made by John Selden raise some interesting questions regarding patronage patterns in colonial T idewater. Were the pieces purchased in Norfolk during 1775, or could they have been saved from the fire and taken to Blandford, where they were then sold to the Carters? Is it possible that Selden attempted to peddle his surviving cabinetwork on his move to Petersburg? T hese questions are difficult to answer. The only known document associated with Selden’s cabinetwork indicates that he may have had as wide a patronage as the major Williamsburg artisans: in September of 1776 he sold the state a large quantity of furniture for
the Governor’s Palace, then occupied by Patrick Henry, and charged the sum of £91... >
On New Year’s Day of 1776, Virginia’s largest town, Norfolk, was burned to the ground. Unfortunately, most of that area’s colonial furniture was destroyed in that fire, but court records for the county of Norfolk that survive from the period are testimony to the existence of a strong community of tradesmen. The lack of notices bv these artisans in the Virginia Gazette is puzzling, but it may indicate that their market w as strong enough to eliminate any need to advertise. With a population of 6,000, this shipping, mercantile, and manufacturing center w as the eighth largest urban area in colonial America, and a major focal point of business activity for Virginians south of the James River.1
Two signed pieces shown here present a major step in the identification anil study of ... >
There is a large corpus of Williamsburg furniture that cannot be assigned to specific shops based on present knowledge. This includes single items and small groups, some having details or construction that suggest one of the two shops already isolated in this study.
One of the most intriguing pieces in this study is a side table fashioned of black walnut (fig. 93). It has legs carved as three clustered columns and a skirt pierced in abstract rococo designs. The unusual rabbetted edge of the top, which is an old replacement, is identical to the Palace tea table and also incorporates indented corners. This was neither a logical nor an attractive design, and it appears that the restorer was copying the original, which, unknown to him, had lost the applied molding that formed a tray top... >
The five ceremonial chairs shown in this study comprise one of the most important groups made in eighteenth-century America. Two of them (figs. 7, 46) have histories of usage in the Capitol building in Williamsburg. The remaining three are Masonic Master’s chairs (figs. 47, 49, 59).
As a rule, furniture from eastern Virginia is stylistically conservative, relatively plain on the exterior, and extremely well constructed. These five chairs represent opposites of this general stylistic trend. They are the most exuberant, fully decorative examples from the colonial Tidewater area. This contrast reflects the society that produced and used them: a society that emphasized elaborate public ceremony, as opposed to a conservative approach to private life.
The Capitol Speaker’s chair is known to ha... >
The excavation of the Anthony I lay shop by Ivor Noel I lume, Colonial Williamsburg’s resident archaeologist, was the most successful of several cabinetmaking sites examined in Williamsburg. Many artifacts w ere recovered, yielding a remarkable quantity of information regarding the building and its activities, and providing the main thrust of Noel I lume’s Williamsburg Cabinetmakers—the Archaeological Evidence (see footnote 48). This booklet gives an account of the excavation and illustrates and discusses many of the hundreds of artifacts from that site. The abundance of material contrasts markedly w ith the lack of evidence yielded by the excavation of the site where Peter Scott’s shop stood for over forty years.
Several artifacts excavated at the I lay site provide firm evi... >
Kdmund Dickinson operated the Hay shop from 1771 until 1776, and if written documentation is any indication, he ran a very successful business. Unfortunately, no indisputably documented furniture by him is known, and again a group of furniture is attributed to the 1 lay shop on circumstantial evidence. Only in one instance can Dickinson possibly be associated with furniture that corresponds to a written document: a tea table (fig. 57) reputedly sold from the Governor’s Palace in the eighteenth century, and a chair with a history indicating that it was among the property abandoned by Lord Dunmorc and sold in 1776. This chair was purchased by a member of the Galt family of Williamsburg who continued to own it until it w as acquired recently by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation... >