John Head

My Christmas present to myself was Mr Jay Stiefel newly published book

‘The Cabinetmaker’s Account.

Well it arrived in this morning post and after opening the very well designed cardboard packaging the books quality is very high indeed.

Now its time to jump in and read it, added with the WordPress blogs of Mr Christopher Storb this is going to be very interesting read indeed with lots to learn with a open mind.

As we leave 2018 which for me was a quiet year regarding furniture history. But I did found some very interesting evidence form two other Philadelphian made pieces that bring craftsman together.

So I do feel this new year of 2019 is going to be very exciting.

To all furniture restorers and Historian Happy New Year.

John Head Furniture maker Philadelphia

This is well worth watching for any furniture Historian or maker regarding English maker within the early Colonial American period.

Thanks to Christopher Storb and Jake Plane sowing us the mechanic of a English craftsman in Philadelphia.

Lincolnshire Windsor chair by John Hubbard.

As a restorer there is a line between or a area where we have to throw are hands up and say.

Sorry but that job is beyond restoration or more to the point. The cost out weighs the article.

This is even truer today but as people who know me, I am a sucker for a restoration Conservation challenge and this project I have just finished is just the case.

A windsor chair made of Elm for the seat, Witch Elm for the back two legs and one curves arm surport. The rest is Yewwood plus two old short length replacement spindles being of Oak.

The chair came to me basically in a large box with very loose legs and stretchers, broken spindles and top crest as well as the stem bent arm section being in three section after someone else trying there restoration work.

As the chair belongs to a collectors museum this chair historically is worth my time.

Restoration Work.

First was to dismantle which was not really a problem but the damage and missing section to the arm curve was a problem.

Previous restoration by PVA glue and screws plu the odd nail all had to be removed before full dismantle.

After some time remove old glue back to clean timber faces I had to use the strongest glue possible becase the yewwood was already under pressure which traditional Animal glue would not hold.

This section I glued with a Epoxy resin to consolidate this main section and at the same time I also glue missing yewwood and witch elm to both curved arm where needed.

Once all was dry and cleaned the process of making and fixing rhe missing section began.

As the arm is steam bent I knew the only safe way because of movement and tension was to make it in three small section then glue and carve once dry.

Once the glue had gone off I could dry fix in the correct postion so to mark out for the new drill holes needed to take the one through spindle an two short spindles as well as the main hole for the top arch crest.

Once marked the holes were drilled then shaped to now take the old oxidized timber.

After some filing the arem section was glued into place with the three missing spindles.

Lastly because of the age Circa 1810 plus the length of time the top crest had been out it came to me split in two.

Some work was need first to clean up the two parts and then it was all glued back into position.

The last job was to clean up all the repairs once dry and colour out those areas only.

I finished just by using my hard beeswax polish to bring back its colour and reflection.

From a broken mess to the early rare signed John Hubbard of Grantham chair to which now can go back into place for show.

-18th January 1486

This date 18th January 1486 is the start of stability in our country by bring together two family’s by the State marriage of Henry VII to Elizabeth of York.


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

From Ireland 1740s to Philadelphia 1770s

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.

A design which has crossed the pond.
This chair cought my eye as one of the first of this design that I  have seen come up for sale on the open market.

Its a cross between a wing armchair (or easy chair as its know in the USA ) and the showwood frame base of a Gainsborough armchair.

I have only seen this design before on three chairs all made in Philadelphia between circa 1760-75.

Two are belived to be from Benjamin Randolph workshops 

From the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The green chair before reupholstering
Attributed to Benjamin Randolph workshop

 Compared with the one made by Thomas Affleck for John and Elizabeth Cadwalader that follows the same principle.

Thomas Affleck chair in the PMA

What has been interesting is the sizes regarding the hight of the backs are very close but the width and depth differ quite alot.

Would love to spend time and look closely at the mechanics of all the chair to see it there bigger difference that we do t see.

Christmas present to myself 

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.

Examining Philadelphia snap top table Circa 1770 in my kitchen


Back to basics while researching a rare bed from Mid 18th Century  Philadelphia 

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.

Photo of back of the Clock by Christopher Storb

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.

Wax rubbing from the clock

So I took this rubbing up to the bed so we can make are own copy of the chip marks on the bed canopy.

 See video

    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.

    Cadwalader tall post bed circa 1769

    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.

    Removable knee as described in Philadelphia Cabinetmakers price book 1772

    Cadwalader V the furniture expert 

    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”. 

    Made in Philadelphia between late 1768-70

    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.

    Strawberry mansion clock Christie’s 2011

    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.

    Strawberry mansion clock hood back by C Storb

    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.

    Wax rubbing back of the clock hood

    This rubbing I took to the bed in storage and did a brown rubbing taken from the back of the bed canopy.

    Brown rubbing from the bed canopy over laid the clock rubbing

    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 

    Showing the chip line which were left by a craftsmen

    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 

    Timothy Garland 

    Lincoln UK

    14 May 2017