Furniture

Figure of Sheraton Table Design Drawing
Sheraton Table Design
Furniture made in 18th-century Virginia often displays a combination of features characteristic of the region. The objects made in urban areas along the Chesapeake Bay frequently exhibit many of the same construction techniques found in British cabinetmaking.

British design and construction strongly influenced Virginia-made furniture, in part, because many of the cabinetmakers in the colony were British immigrants or were trained by British immigrants. These craftsmen used several labor-intensive refinements that were standard for quality Southern furniture, including full dustboards between drawers, stacked footblocks, and interlocking joints between the upper and lower sections of a large case piece — refinements not usually found on Northern-made pieces.

Traditionally, many of these sophisticated pieces of furniture have been attributed to shops located in the colonial capital, Williamsburg. The cabinetmaking shops operated there by Anthony Hay and Peter Scott, for example, are well-known and well-documented. However, recent scholarship suggests that other Virginia port cities also supported highly skilled furniture-making communities, capable of producing quality work. By 1800, more than a dozen cabinetmakers had practiced their trade in Fredericksburg, the principal trading town on the Rappahannock River.

Even more Virginia furniture was produced by rural craftsmen who were often cross-trained in the arts of both cabinetmaking and house joinery. The work of these artisans typically features the same techniques, such as panel-and-frame construction with mortise and tenon joints, used for the production of architectural woodwork. The Foundation's collection includes objects that feature cabinetmaking traditions of urban centers and rural areas.