Furniture of the Philadelphia area: forms and craftsmen before 1730
|McElroy, Cathryn J.
|The first chapter of William MacPherson Hornor’s “Blue Book: Philadelphia Furniture” is called “Until the Queen Anne.” That chapter is the only major source on furniture made in Pennsylvania in the 1680-1730 period. Horner, unfortunately, did not cite references in his study. Since Philadelphia is known for its fine craftsmen and school of furniture making in the last three quarters of the eighteenth century, it seemed worthwhile to try to more fully document the background and traditions that preceeded the development of the Queen Anne and Chippendale styles in that city. ☐ Three approaches were employed. One involved an intensive study of inventory and account records from Philadelphia for the period before 1730. This established the amount and forms of furniture used in the Philadelphia homes, the dates different forms were first mentioned, the materials used in construction, and the sources from which some of the furniture was obtained. Furniture is not a common article in account books, but several transactions dealing with imported furniture or mentioning Philadelphia joiners were recorded. It is evident that a selection of furniture, including case pieces, was sometimes sent to the colonies as venture cargo. Practically every type of furniture (couches, tea tables, desks and bookcases) was listed before 1730, and it became apparent that Philadelphians of many economic classes owned a good assortment of furniture. ☐ A second approach concentrated on the approximately one-hundred furniture-makers working in Philadelphia prior to 1730. The purpose was to discover any personal or trade connections among the men, and to determine what they were producing. Several new names were added to the list which Hornor compiled, and a substantial amount of biographical and professional information was discovered on a number of the craftsmen. ☐ The inventories of these craftsmen, and account under their names gave information on tools, woods, hardware, and work in progress. An assessment of these entries shows that colonial craftsmen manufactured a side variety of furniture forms from an early date. The cosmopolitan nature of Philadelphia’s joiners is shown by the fact that imported woods, as well as the fine selection of Pennsylvania woods, were used. The dates that new styles were introduced was not positively determined, but there is evidence that sophisticated products were fashioned. ☐ Finally, actual examples of furniture in the pre-Queen Anne styles were studied in order to identify any characteristics which might be peculiar to the forms made in the Philadelphia area. Several distinct features were noted, and while future studies in other areas will probably show that not all the observed characteristics were exclusively used in the Philadelphia area, it is certain that Philadelphia furniture was not only generally well-constructed and carefully styled, but that it had a distinct quality of its own.
|Montgomery, Charles F.
|University of Delaware, Department of Art History
|University of Delaware
|Furniture -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia
|Furniture -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia -- History
|Cabinetmakers -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia
|Furniture of the Philadelphia area: forms and craftsmen before 1730