This video with Dr Jonathan Foyle takes you throught the research that has gone into Henry and Elizabeth First State bed which is a must watch for anyone who is researching or interested in period furniture from Regional Furniture Society, The Furniture History Society as well as English Heritage, National Trust
As part of my journey into the history of period furniture made by British immigrants from UK in Philadelphia between 1760-75, some interesting designs pop up. Designs which the craftsmen have taken from influence some 30 years earlier.
Over the last 32 years as a restorer I have also become a collector of books based around the History of British period furniture. With the shelves bowing under the weight of my collection Mrs Garland has put a new law into the house of One in, One out.
This to be fare is a good idea as I can declutter but also move forward with learning my new passion of the Colonial American furniture maker and there evolution within mechanics and materials by using more archaeology practices than just the old school opinions.
All of this started 5 years ago and it would not have even crossed my path but thanks to one piece. Plus the opportunity today to open departments to gain access to information which is on the World Wide Web. This has changed the way I physically examine and look at period furniture. We are so used to listening or reading a book that tell us about there research but in a lot of case no one have ever question it or asked for the evidence not even the publishers.
As I have found there are alot of followers interested in Colonial furniture who belive, if its in print its right but then if its not in print dose that mean its wrong?
No it means we all have to do more of are own correct due diligence and double/triple check and not be affected to ask those authors, how, why, were and lets see the physical evidence.
So to my question regarding Colonial America Furniture is on books for referencing.
Can you name three Colonial American furniture history books that I should read and have on my bookshelves.
And lastly Why?
This is to all American decorative arts Curator Restorer Dealers Historians all views most welcome.
They say when you are researching a piece of antique furniture and come to a brick wall, its best to throw it all away and start again.(not literally buy clear your mind and start afresh)
And in a way both myself and Ian Coulson did this regarding the work we had carried out on a tall post bed that we belived from the trace evidence to been made in Philadelphia circa 1769 and for John and Elizabeth Cadwalader.
While continuing researching those with more knowledge in this field kept saying its all made up or its English? Theses statements made us both dig a little more deeply because they didnt offer evidence with proof but just opinions.
Last year I came across a photo by Christopher Storb WordPress publication a retorer at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to which he looks closely at longcase clock which had been long term loan at the Museum before going to Christie auction rooms in New York.
So after some detective work I tracked the new owner and asked for a simple ask. To make a wax rubbing of the back piece of clock.
They kindly sent me a green wax rubbing of the marks which i believed to have been made by a chip out of a plane blade which showed up darker than the rest.
So I took this rubbing up to the bed so we can make are own copy of the chip marks on the bed canopy.
Once we had checked it became very clear that the piece on the back of clock is a off cut from the bed.
Now just like a finger print at a crime scene it puts both piece into one workshop. The history of the clock is known, it was carved by James Reynolds and made most possible in Benjamin Randolph workshop.
This wax rubbing finger print shows when you add all the other research we had found that without reasonable doubt that this tall post bed was Philadelphia late 1760s made and carved tall post bed from Benjamin Randolph workshop and hung by Pluncket Fleeson in red and white copperplate chintz.
It is very important to look past the facade because you might see something others dont.
This is why examination is very important before you make your opinion.
Over the past 4 years of researching the Philadelphia bed made for General John and Elizabeth Cadwalader only one objection keep coming up.
“The bed is English”.
This has been a frustration as the beds mechanics show clearly that the secondary timbers are traditionally used in American Antique Furniture making unlike the lack of Oak, Pine or Mahogany which is expected to be used on a quality piece like this made in 18th Century Britain.
With all the other research and evidence which clearly connects to the surviving Cadwalader paperwork from the craftsmen involved with the refurbishment of there new 2nd Street home.
They bought 1768 for which they wanted the furniture and interior to have a English feel of the last fashion from the UK but made in Philadelphia.
New evidence came to my attention back in Oct last year thanks to Christopher Storb WordPress ( 30th October 2016) a conservator at The Philadelphia Museum of Art which his blogs on the Strawberry Mansion longcase clock that had been on long-term loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art before going to Christie’s New York for sale No 2414 in 24 January 2011 Lot 59.
From Mr Storb article shows a number of image of the clock hood mainly the facade but for the last one is showing the back and its construction.
The arched section dovetailed across the back got my attention. The markings left by a chip out of a plan iron, marks I had see before and they are very pratical.
I found the clock and got the Curator to send me a wax rubbing of that hole back piece.
This rubbing I took to the bed in storage and did a brown rubbing taken from the back of the bed canopy.
Once done I over layed then to see and they were a perfect match with sizing and execution.
This means one thing that the canopy and clock section had been planed by the same man with the hand tool. In fact the piece on the clock is a off-cut from the bed
This is clear evidence that the bed was made in one workshop in Philadelphia and with the connection and attributation to James Reynolds who carved the clock. Then its more than likely constructed in Benjamin Randolph shop between late 1768 -70.
Scholars have talked about the importance of evidence left by tools marks from the craftsmen in Colonial furniture which again we don’t see on English 18th century period furniture of this quality.
This evidence and method will open up new research plus the opportunity of finding of other Philadelphia piece with these markings which are all time relative that can be put into this one workshop, one craftsmens, one chip plane iron
The case for Cadwalader is the article title in the new Vol II of Mortise and Tenon Magazine. It a journey through from how we went from a photograph in a book published in 1910 to restoring and then the roller coaster ride that followed.
Evidence up on evidence has been found both physically by being left by the craftsmen and the paperwork of the Cadwalader family held in The Pennsylvania Historical Society.
A lot has been said about the bed being English and cut down both are very much untrue with the timber analysis showing American timbers as the secondary woods.
Even the top of the bed post show clearly that they hve not been cut or aulter and showing hammered marks.
So with this and other evidence it been and all keep pointing to the lost John and Elizabeth Cadwalader bed but one new and very important find has happened.
Something so simple but is so compelling that it brings together a number of the rarest and most important furniture made in Philadelphia between 1768-71
1st is the Cadwalader games table in the PMA
2 Fox and Grape High Chest
3 Richard Butts attributed carved games table sold in Sotheby’s Jan 2017.
4 The Cadwalader bed
All plus one other piece have anomaly noth seen on other piece made inside or out side of Philadelphia. These marks are very rare and from a chip out of a plane iron blade. All time relevant and not all over the bed. Just the canopy.
Showing the comparison with another piece of Philadelphia furniture that also not left American and in a private collection in the blue green colour and the brown taken from the bed.
Clearly showing the rubbing that both sections of timber have been planed by the same man and his plane alone.
Evidence which cannot be questioned that helps put this bed and all the original components have been made in Philadelphia 1768-9.
After three and a half years of reaching the mechanics of this bed constructed by using secondary Colonial timbers of birch and tulip poplar we are on the last few weeks before the Mortice and Tenon magazine is released.
Both for myself and Ian Coulson it has been a very bumpy road of ups and downs by highs of excitement when we have found a connection which has taken us on another journey of discovery within the workshop practices happening only in Philadelphia between 1768-70.
Even in the last few weeks new physical evidence has been found to added another recorded Philadelphia piece of furniture into a small group that were made more than likely in a conveyer belt way.
Image showing the difference in timber where the walnut was use to repair.
This too is new and unpublished research but go’s back to a observation made when Winterthur Museum published The Cadwalader Furniture Study mid 1990s. But the connection is very compeling and nothing to do with the facade or decoration by carving. Constructional from the beginning.
Regarding the downs we had a few mainly based on opinions that its not correct or John Cadwalader its English. These options have been made in most cases very quickly and at the very early stages, but when we have looked closely and cross referenced them they have very little grounding.
Then again the opposition we must thank because it made little sence to the bed that stood in front of us. It made us both more determined to do due diligence on both the physical and Cadwalader paperwork which survived.
This is a article which takes you through the basic travelling time we had from first seeing and knowing about the bed from a photograph published in 1910 to the auction through the restoration and then the science and paper-trail .
This magazine is a must for all Students and Experts of American Period Furniture.
Lookforward to opening the John Cadwalader bed debate further please see the link below