History of American Colonial Furniture


History of American Colonial Furniture. The American styles of furniture are sometimes divided into two historical groups namely the Colonial and the Federal. In American history the term Colonial refers to the thirteen original British Colonies which subsequently became the United States of America and to the period. Thus the term Colonial as applied to architecture and the decorative arts is used to cover that style which prevailed before and at the time of the American Revolution. In furniture it include the Jacobean, William and Mary, Queen Anne and Chippendale styles.

The earliest furniture made in America was in the Jacobean style, 1603-1688. Early Jacobean furniture was very scarce. Late Jacobean articles were slightly more plentiful. The Jacobean style was superseded by the William and Mary style, 1689-1702.

History of American  Colonial Furniture

In all of the different styles a number of years, probably five to ten years, intervened until the new styles became fashionable in America after they were adopted in England. In America many of the English designs were closely followed. This close similarity existing between the styles of England and America can be attributed to a great extent to the wide circulation of pattern books of engraved ornament and designs for furniture.

Architectural publications and builders’ handbooks were employed in a similar manner in architecture. These pattern books, which were a great formative influence both in England and in America, created a high standard of knowledge among the craftsmen, making the 18th century a period of remarkable achievement.

Copies of these different publications appeared in America often within a few years of their original issue in England. In this manner the new English fashions were mirrored in America. Naturally the very elegant and ambitious cabinetwork made in England for the royalty and aristocracy was not found in America, since that class of society did not exist here. During the Wil- ham and Mary style highboys and lowboys were introduced in America and remained in vogue for almost one hundred years. Gate- leg tables became popular. The cabriole leg, which was introduced in England around 1700, was found in America early in the 18th century.

It continued in vogue in America during the Queen Anne and Chippendale styles. However, straight quadrangular legs were employed on many chairs and tables and other articles of furniture designed in the Chippendale style. From around 1710 certain principles of the Queen Anne style occasionally appeared in American furniture 1720.

The English Early Georgian style furniture with its characteristic phases, such as the lion mask and satyr mask, was seldom if ever found in America. Furniture of a pronounced architectural character was also limited, although numerous examples of secretary cabinets displayed pilasters or fluted columns. The elaborate carved and giltwood furniture in the taste of William Kent made for the English Palladian mansions was unknown.

History of American  Colonial Furniture

The Queen Anne style continued in vogue in America until around 1755—1760, when it was supplanted by the Chippendale style. However, from around 1745—1750 some of the American cabinet- work was executed in the early Chippendale style. The Queen Anne style was characterized by its graceful curvilinear lines. Many fine chairs, highboys, lowboys and other articles of furniture were made in America in the Queen Anne style. The cabriole leg commonly terminated in the Dutch or club foot. Although the claw and ball foot began to be used in America around 1735-1740, it is chiefly identified with the Chippendale style in America and was in general use for about 1750-1755 to 1785. Mahogany was introduced in the first quarter of the 18 century and was increasingly employed Windsor chairs became popular from around 1725 onwards.

The Chippendale style prevailed in America from around 1755 to 1785 and came into full expression around 1760. Undoubtedly the finest examples of the Chippendale style in America were made by the Philadelphia cabinetmakers. Philadelé phia-style highboys and lowboys are renowned. Townsend- and Goddard block front pieces in the Chippendale style are also celebrated. The Adam style, with the exce tion of a few articles such as mirrors, mantel pieces and fire-grates, was never developed in America. This was due to some extent tp the suspension of commercial relations tween the two countries during the Revolutionary War. By the time normal busin Hepplewhite style was the prevailing fashion in England and the American cabinetmakers

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History of American Colonial Furniture

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