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Flat high. Highboys remained standard within the Colonies lengthy after they’d gone out of trend in England. In Chester County, the easier flat-top highboy with its trifid ft remained standard lengthy after ball-and-claw foot and bonnet-top highboys reigned in Philadelphia.

This Pennsylvania space developed distinctive and recognizable furnishings.

From its inexperienced rolling hills within the south and plains-like farmland in its center to the almost mountainous terrain within the north, the topography of Chester County, Penn., is as numerous as its folks and, extra essential, its furnishings. As woodworkers, almost everybody who’s excited about interval furnishings has heard of Chester County. But do many even know the place Chester County is?

Spanish ft. While trifid ft and the extra rococo ball- and-claw foot have been the peak of trend in Philadelphia, the comparatively easy Spanish foot on this spice field on body typify the Chester County type. And by the point trifid ft have been out of fashion within the metropolis, they have been standard in Chester County.

By the center of the 18th century, Philadelphia had develop into not solely the most important metropolis within the Colonies, however the heart of furnishings design and manufacturing. The most astounding factor is that simply 25 miles or so west of the town, within the rural countryside of Chester County, a revolution was happening. It wasn’t fought with musket and ball; it was a battle of style. In order to grasp what was happening, we have to know the make-up of the residents of Chester County– one in all William Penn’s three unique counties.

When you research interval furnishings, there’s numerous speak about regionalism. That is, completely different areas of the nation had completely different preferences as to furnishings proportion, ornamentation and general design. What’s superb about Chester County is that inside one small county in Pennsylvania, we discover vital building and design variations.

Those micro-regional variations have been pushed by the varied teams of individuals populating the completely different components of the county. Once you perceive the cultural make-up of the county, it’s simpler to grasp the furnishings design variations. The one widespread thread, no matter area throughout the county, was that the furnishings needed to be easy.

Philadelphia extra. This Philadelphia highboy, with ball-and-claw ft, is much extra extremely embellished than what got here out of Chester County throughout the identical interval.

Throughout the 18th century, English and Welsh Quakers, Presbyterians and Church of England adherents settled in Chester County. Other European immigrants arrived as nicely however the majority have been from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The English Quakers settled within the japanese and southeastern components of the county and within the Great Valley. Irish Quakers and Scots-Irish Presbyterians gravitated to the southern and western components. The Pennsylvania Dutch settled within the north. These teams introduced with them all kinds of furnishings design tastes and building strategies.

One purpose for this migration to Chester County was the chance to make a dwelling. Three main highways that related to massive cities in (Philadelphia, Lancaster and Reading) handed by the county, so there was a gradual movement of products and providers. In the Colonies, wherever there was commerce, there have been cabinetmakers and different craftsmen plying their trades. 

Understated Design

Bandy legs. While the squat bandy legs with block ft on this chest are examples of the plainer Chester County style, the best way during which they’re connected to the carcase is restricted to the Octorara creek space. The bandy legs are first connected to a cross member which is in flip connected to the case utilizing picket threaded screws.

The English Quakers in Chester County introduced simplicity to their furnishings. While the likes of the Hollingsworth and Cadwalader households engaged elite Philadelphia cabinetmakers with commissions that rivaled their British cousins, Chester County households handled native craftsmen to create elegant items with far much less ostentatious adornment. Trifid, pad and Spanish ft reigned when ball-and-claw and bushy paw ft have been the craze in Philadelphia. The easy shell was most well-liked to the plush vegetation of rococo Philadelphia.

This is to not say that Chester County items have been colloquial or unrefined. Chester County residents had common dealings with their metropolis counterparts, and so they have been educated and conscious of the newest fashions within the metropolis. The settlers tended to be extra conservative and held on to types and designs far longer than in lots of locations.

Much just like the Colonial affinity for the highboy (which had gone out of trend in England lengthy earlier than the ripening of the Chippendale interval, however remained standard within the Colonies till the Federal interval) the residents of the county continued making spice packing containers and different types past the boundaries of trend within the cities.

Wainscot chair. This furnishings kind was standard all through the early years of the Colonies, in Chester County in addition to elsewhere. Much just like the spice field, the wainscot chair remained “in style” lengthy after it had gone out of trend in Philadelphia.

One of the first regional variations between Chester County furnishings and furnishings from the town was wooden choice. Mahogany was arriving with regularity into the port of Philadelphia all through the 18th century. For city-dwellers, it was the modern wooden of selection. Mahogany from Santo Domingo, Honduras and Cuba was the dominant species for Philadelphia’s rich due to its deep reddish-brown colour and due to its workability. It carved nicely and completed even higher.

For the plainer Chester County elite, mahogany by no means grew to become extra standard than the native walnut (although it was utilized in small quantities). Being extra conservative led the county shopper to search for a wooden that was comparable in look and workability however available with out heading to the docks of Philadelphia. Although walnut was predominant, different species, together with mahogany, cherry and curly maple, have been used as main furnishings woods.

Secondary woods in Chester County and the encircling areas have been native and included poplar, which was predominant, pine and chestnut. What is missing is the common use of yellow pine and white cedar that seem in items made in Philadelphia.

Joinery Methods

Looking on the joinery strategies utilized in Chester County, we discover comparable strategies employed as these utilized in Philadelphia. The mortise-and-tenon joint was utilized in joined items whereas the dovetail was the strategy of selection for case items. (Joined items basically consist of 4 nook posts with rails mortised and tenoned into them. Case items are often based mostly on a field that’s dovetailed along with a back and front or high and backside.) The through-mortise-and-tenon joint was used on the rear legs of chairs within the county because it was within the metropolis. Basic joinery is one space the place little variation happens. Still, there are some variations that happen which might be distinctive to Chester County.

Line-and-berry inlay. This spice field displays line-and-berry inlay, which is discovered extra usually on Chester County items than on items from every other space.

These can finest be illustrated in a dialogue of the regional variations inside Chester County. In different areas of the Colonies, regional tastes lined broader areas of land. The Connecticut River Valley covers a far larger space than Chester County, but we discover comparable strategies of building and ornamentation alongside the complete valley.

Line-and-berry inlay, for instance, reveals up within the southeastern areas of Chester County, however not within the western or northern areas. There are different examples of design and ornamental parts which might be particular to sure areas of the county as nicely.

Farther south we discover design parts that not solely don’t happen in every other a part of the county, however nowhere else within the area. Through this space of the county winds the Octorara Creek, alongside which craftsmen developed a novel aptitude throughout the standard types Queen Anne and Chippendale types of the day. 

Tall clock. This Chester County tall clock would have been a standing image for its proprietor. While the items of Chester County have been plainer, they have been not at all unsophisticated.

Like the chests created in Philadelphia, the craftsmen alongside the Octorara employed cabriole legs and ogee ft, however with a twist.

In New England, bandy leg chests had quick cabriole legs with sq. inventory on the high of the leg as an attachment level to the case. In the Octorara space, nonetheless, the bandy legs had no sq. inventory on high of the legs. The entrance and rear legs of a chest have been connected to 1 one other, entrance to again, by way of a cross member. This board joined the 2 legs collectively and was then connected to the case utilizing threaded picket screws. This made transferring the chest simpler as a result of the ft have been detachable.

Another Octorara distinction comes within the type of ogee ft, and there are a selection of examples of low chests, tall chests and desks with ogee ft from the world. In many ogee ft, a small spur is a part of the design that’s created by a semi-circular cutout that radiates out from the principle physique of the foot. This semi-circular cutout then curves away from the principle physique of the foot in a convex arc resulting in the a part of the foot that terminates into the bottom moulding on the backside of the case. On an Octorara foot, nonetheless, the cutout is a half-circle becoming a member of the purpose of the spur to the principle physique of the foot.

Inlay Abounds

Simpler within the nation. Located simply exterior Philadelphia, Chester County, Penn., had its personal distinctive type of easy however elegant furnishings, most frequently product of native walnut.

Another distinction between Chester County furnishings and the encircling areas is an amazing quantity of line-and-berry inlay. While yow will discover string inlay on furnishings from different areas, nowhere is it seen as usually as on Chester County items.

Spice chests with line-and-berry inlay have been extraordinarily standard within the county, the place this inlay is also discovered on blanket chests, Bible or doc packing containers, low and tall chests, and even on drop-leaf tables; most of it comes from the southeastern area of the county.

Round ‘Birdcages’

Many tilt-top stands and tables, made all through the colonies, have a function referred to as a birdcage – a sq. picket construction that permits the desk to tilt in addition to rotate. In the center part of the county, in Downingtown, a lot of tilt-top tables and stands have been made with distinctive spherical birdcages. 

Rural – however Sophisticated

Because it’s a rural space, folks would possibly anticipate the furnishings of Chester County to be unsophisticated; they’d be unsuitable. Tall case clocks, an 18th-century standing image, have been made by many craftsmen dwelling within the county. Chests-on-frames, a form of highboy with fewer (if any) drawers within the base, in addition to full-sized highboys, have been made there by devoted craftsmen for discriminating shoppers, not by farmers for their very own use.

Birdcage. The mechanism that permits this candlestand to each tilt and rotate is known as a “birdcage.” In the Downington space of Chester County, these are sometimes spherical as a substitute of the standard sq. form. This design function is restricted to Downingtown, Penn.

In the early days of the county, wainscot chairs and ball-foot chests have been standard. Early craftsmen additionally made William & Mary highboys for shoppers, which shows data of this then-new furnishings kind. While the craftsmen of Chester County, and their patrons, have been conscious of the newest fashions, they tended to carry on to building strategies and design parts far longer. We see some chests, clearly from the Queen Anne or Chippendale durations, with parts held over from William & Mary, corresponding to raised-panel case sides.

When you contemplate how shut Chester County is to Philadelphia, it’s stunning how completely different the furnishings is. Although it has the general really feel of Pennsylvania furnishings, the individuals who settled in Chester County made furnishings of their very own by altering the designs to swimsuit their very own aesthetic, and started a furnishings revolution inside their communities. They might have adopted the style tendencies of Philadelphia, however they resisted.

Inspired by these rural craftsmen, up to date cabinetmakers working throughout the county at present proceed to create furnishings made to a excessive customary. And whereas we up to date cabinetmakers of Chester County construct items from quite a lot of areas in quite a lot of types, many have made the straightforward, elegant furnishings of our dwelling the mainstay of our our bodies of labor. Craftsmen from all around the nation additionally take inspiration from these early residents, guaranteeing that the stylistic revolution that started centuries in the past continues to this present day.


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