Know Everything About The Best of American Furniture
furniture are rare to find outside America and they are highly priced
because of their rarity they fetch high price for the collectors.
There is not much difference in their styles and their designs and
decorations from that of the European one. The difference between the
Europe and the American is that the American used the local woods
cherry, and maple besides the walnut and the mahogany.
American furniture is to be seen outside the United States, and the
majority of English and Continental museums, large and small, show
none whatsoever. The reader (U.S. or British) may be interested to
know how it differs from the European. Occasionally, pieces are found
in English homes, whence they may have been brought back by returned
settlers, and if offered by auction it is found they fetch high
prices in comparison with similar English articles. This higher
valuation is justified by the fact that old American furniture is
rarer than English, much of it is already in museums in the United
States, and there is a large number of keen collectors to compete for
furniture resembles that made in England some fifty years
earlier, and this lag in time continued to be present through most of
the eighteenth century. However, by 1800 or so, with improved
conditions in the new country and better shipping facilities across
the Atlantic, there was very little difference between the interior
of a fashionable mansion in New York and one in London. As the early
settlers in New England were from the British Isles it would be
expected that the furniture they made was like that of their homeland
as they remembered it. So it was, but local variations occurred very
soon. For instance, the tall cane-backed Jacobean
chair was copied continually in America and remained popular
throughout the eighteenth century, but instead of the back being
filled with a panel of caning often it was given a series of shaped
uprights and became the 'banister-back' chair.
when mahogany became fashionable, English-style straight-fronted
kneehole desks and chests were made in Newport, Rhode Island, with
what is termed a 'block front; a type of break-front of serpentine
shape, with one or more of the flat 'blocks' carved with a sunray or
shell. Such variations on the designs from London became popular in
the locality where they were made, but they did not spread far. The
various districts that had been colonized each had their specialty,
but the most notable was certainly the furniture made in
Philadelphia. Basically of mid-eighteenth-century English design,
and other pieces were ornamented with carving and fretwork in a style
that differentiates them clearly from London work.
Later, in the
first half of the nineteenth century, an American version of Sheraton
furniture was very popular. The most famous examples were the
work of Duncan Phyfe, who had emigrated from Scotland, and whose name
is probably the best known of that of any American cabinet-maker.
Born in 1768, he died in 1854.
pieces made in the cities, American collectors eagerly seek old
country-made furniture, and there is great interest in Windsor chairs
and similar pieces, which resemble closely their European
originals. Eighteenth-century German settlers in eastern
Pennsylvania made versions of their home
furnishing known as 'Pennsylvania German' or 'Pennsylvania
Dutch1 mainly in light-colored fruit woods, and these also are very
popular in the United States.
difference in cabinet making on both sides of the Atlantic is in the
timbers that were used. Much furniture was made in America from local
woods: such as apple, cherry, and maple. Walnut remained in use in
some districts long after mahogany had become fashionable elsewhere,
and in Pennsylvania it was the principal wood until about 1850. Thus,
one finds a piece of American
furniture in a recognizable rendering of the Chippendale style,
but instead of being made from mahogany, as would be expected, it is
in walnut, or even cherry wood. Certain pieces of furniture are named
differently in America from what they are in England. Four of the
most important are:
Lowboy is a
modern word describing what is called in England a dressing
table; a low table fitted with drawers and rose on legs.
lowboy with, in addition, a chest
of drawers on top.
described in England as a chest of drawers: the English
bureau or writing desk is known in America as a 'slant-front desk'.
It is called
in England a bureau-bookcase:
a sloping-front writing desk with a bookcase above it
In addition to
Duncan Phyfe, mentioned above, other important cabinet-makers are:
Savery, of Philadelphia (1721 to 1787). John Townsend and his
brother-in-law, John Goddard, of Newport, Rhode Island (both lived
about 1730 to 1785).
of Boston (about 1769 to 1818).i