Research on Antiques & Collectibles


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The earliest American furniture which would have been known to Williamsburg must have been made locally, for importation from the North was not well established until the second quarter of the 1700's. Southern furniture is very difficult to date, since the early styles were continued over a long period. Queen Anne gate-leg tables, for instance, were made even into the 1800's. Examples of early types, however, have been secured for Williamsburg. The unusual William and Mary highboy, a Virginia piece in the Brush-Everard house, was probably made in the first half of the 1700's.

The very unusual five-stretcher table in the governor's office, while an early type, was probably made later than its style indicates. An oval center-stretcher table and walnut cupboard with glazed doors in the Palace kitchen are among the earlier pieces of southern work.


By the Chippendale period American furniture was represented in Williamsburg by local pieces and by New England, Philadelphia, and other northern examples. Pieces of northern work selected for the Palace are few in number but represent the finest American craftsmanship. Such are the Philadelphia highboy and similar lowboy in the northeast bedchamber, and the New England bombe chest-on-chest in the southeast chamber. Of exceptional interest is the Randolph "sample chair" in the former, one of six known. Although these unusually elaborate chairs have never been proved the work of the Philadelphia cabinetmaker Benjamin Randolph, they are believed to have been made as samples of his skill. Another outstanding example of Philadelphia work is the long-case clock in the little dining room, the work of Edward Duffield of Philadelphia (w. 1756-1775). Several of Duffield's long-case clocks are known, and they are in cases by the finest Philadelphia cabinetmakers.


While American Furniture in the post-Revolutionary styles is not to be seen in the Palace or in the Brush-Everard house, it has been considered appropriate in the Raleigh Tavern and the Wythe house. The Tavern was famous for its sumptuous furnishings, and since one of its proprietors, Anthony Hay, had himself been a cabinetmaker, we can be certain that the furniture was of superior character. The finest pieces are in the Apollo and Daphne rooms, where the gentry were entertained, and it is there that examples of the Hepplewhite and Sheraton styles are to be found. A handsome southern sideboard with fan inlay, in the Daphne room, represents these late-century additions to the furnishings with which the Raleigh would have begun its existence in the 1740's. In the public dining room and the taproom the furnishings are more utilitarian in character and less up-to-date in style.

Noteworthy among the later pieces which have been introduced in the Wythe house are a New England Sheraton secretary in the study and a Sheraton sideboard in the front dining room. The chairs in this room are Hepplewhite, and examples of both Hepplewhite and Sheraton furniture may be seen in the bedrooms. There are also small pieces of southern origin throughout the house.