By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Cabinetmaker in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg
Author: Brown, Mills
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Cabinetmaker in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                         in Eighteenth-Century

  Giving Attention to the City’s chief Craftsmen in the Furniture Way;
                and to their Tools & Methods of Working.

                  As interpreted by _JOHANNES HEUVEL_
             Master Cabinetmaker of _Colonial Williamsburg_

                      _Williamsburg Craft Series_

                  Published by _Colonial Williamsburg_

                           _The Cabinetmaker
                  in Eighteenth-Century_ Williamsburg

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital T]

The most historic piece of furniture in historic Williamsburg today is
the throne-like Speaker’s Chair that stands in the far end of the House
of Burgesses.

It is the very same chair that stood there when the portly Peyton
Randolph was speaker of the House, and men like George Mason and Thomas
Jefferson and Patrick Henry raised aloft in that chamber the banner of
human liberty.

The same chair was probably there in 1759, too, when a newly elected
burgess stood in his place to receive the plaudits of the House for his
bravery in the French and Indian War. From it Speaker John Robinson came
to the embarrassed young man’s rescue with the words: “Sit down, Mr.
Washington; your modesty is equal to your valour, and that surpasses the
power of any language I possess.”

Perhaps the Speaker’s Chair was among the “several other things” that
were saved—along with the colony’s records and the portraits of the
royal family—when flames gutted the Capitol in 1747. If so, this chair
_may_ be the very one installed when the Capitol building was first
completed in 1705. The Assembly had specified that the burgesses’
chamber should “be furnished with a large Armed Chair for the Speaker to
sit in, and a cushion stuft with hair Suitable to it.”

Because of these historic associations the Speaker’s Chair may seem a
most fitting key to open this account of furniture making in colonial
Williamsburg. Its true aptness to the topic, however, lies in other
circumstances: No one knows who made the chair or where it was made or
even when it was made. And this kind of uncertainty pervades the entire
subject of cabinetmaking in eighteenth-century Virginia.

    [Illustration: _A sketch of the Speaker’s Chair, reproduced full
    size from the 1777 journal of Ebenezer Hazard, a New England
    bookseller, historian, and surveyor general of the Post Office._]

To continue for a moment with the same example, the Speaker’s Chair has
the kind of scrolled arms frequently found on William and Mary
furniture—a style that in 1700 was passing out of fashion in England.
Its simple cabriole legs, with smooth knees and round feet, are typical
of the early Queen Anne style just then coming into English fashion. The
chair bears an overall resemblance, furthermore, to the one that stood
in the House of Commons, as shown in contemporary prints. Finally, a
great many items for the construction and furnishing of the Williamsburg
Capitol were ordered from London.

All these circumstances give strong reason to think that the chair came
from England. But they do not prove that it did. In fact, the stylistic
concepts and the workmanship are such as might well have come from the
shop of a Williamsburg cabinetmaker endeavoring, after the fire of 1747,
to reproduce the original chair from memory.

The fact that it is constructed in part of American black walnut might
seem to prove that the chair was made, if not in Williamsburg, at least
in the American colonies. Unfortunately, it proves nothing of the kind.
Because, among other reasons, they had found the American variety less
susceptible to “the worm” than English walnut, English cabinetmakers
preferred the American wood and used it extensively.

                          _GOODLY TALL TREES_

“Wheresoever we landed upon this [the James] River, wee saw the
goodliest Woods as Beech, Oke, Cedar, Cypresse, Wal-nuts, Sassafras, ...
and other Trees unknowne,” wrote George Percy, one of the original
Jamestown colonists in 1607. Captain John Smith, who explored and mapped
both Virginia and New England, recorded that “all the Countrey is
overgrowne with trees.”

Indian clearings, even those made in the course of fire-hunting, were
infinitesimal in the vast extent of the woods. The white man’s efforts
made a bigger dent, but after a century of English settlement the
Reverend Hugh Jones could still report that Virginia was “one continuous
forest.” And the same was true of the whole Atlantic coastal area—to say
nothing of the wilderness beyond the mountains.

The size of the individual trees in this primeval forest rarely failed
to excite comment, beginning with George Percy’s mention of the “goodly
tall Trees” he saw near Cape Henry, the Jamestown settlers’ first
landing site. With an unlimited supply of very wide boards to be had for
the sawing, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century colonial cabinetmakers
found good use for them in table tops and leaves, and the sides and tops
of chests. Boards were often 18 to 20 inches wide, and sometimes they
measured as much as two feet in width. In colonial days even wild cherry
sometimes stood 100 feet tall and four feet thick.

Up and down the coast of America grew an enormous variety of trees, both
evergreen and deciduous. All of them found some use in the colonial
home, from rough-hewn structural members to finely crafted furniture—and
even to common hairbrushes and combs. In 1774 William Aylett of King
William County, 50 miles from Williamsburg, advertised:

  PLANK and SCANTLING to be sold by the Subscriber at his Saw Mill near
  _Aylett_’s Warehouse, _Mattapony_ River, upon the most reasonable
  Terms, and of the following Kinds, _viz._ White Oak, Black Walnut,
  Sweet Gum, Ash, Poplar, Birch (which makes elegant Furniture) best
  Yellow Heart Pine for Flooring, and clear of Heart and Sap if
  required, common high Land and Slash Pine for other Uses....

Almost anything could be made of wood, and almost everything was,
including many of the articles we today are familiar with in steel,
iron, copper, aluminum, alloys, plastics, and rubber. Pitchforks,
tableware and kitchen utensils, wheels, axles, gears and bearings, tool
handles and sometimes the bodies of tools, all were made, at least in
part, of wood.

                        _THE WOODWORKING CRAFTS_

The variety of woodworking crafts was almost as great as the variety of
trees. In Williamsburg alone—and Williamsburg was by no means an
important center in this respect—mention has been found of all the
following during colonial times:


In addition, there were such related crafts as upholsterer, lumber
merchant, gilder, japanner, and coach painter.

Eighteenth-century Williamsburg was not, however, quite so crowded with
woodworking craftsmen as this list would indicate. For if the guild
traditions of the Old World required that each operation be the monopoly
of a specific craft, in the New World practical needs tended to force a
merging of related crafts. Only in a few of the big colonial
cities—Philadelphia, New York, Boston, or Charleston—was demand great
enough to keep some of the specialists going. Elsewhere the craftsmen of
town or village had to be versatile—or go hungry. A Williamsburg
cabinetmaker, thus, was likely to be also joiner, carver, and
upholsterer—and probably undertaker as well.

    [Illustration: _This illustration from Diderot’s famous
    eighteenth-century encyclopedia of the arts and sciences shows the
    interior and lumber yard of a large European joinery. Workers inside
    the shop are making, carving, and fitting various elements of
    paneling. Outside, to the right, two others are ripping a length of
    scantling with a pit saw._]

Right here it may be well to explain the difference between joinery and
cabinetmaking as crafts, always remembering that in Williamsburg and in
most of colonial America both might be practiced by the same craftsmen.
Joinery involved the making and installing of paneling, molding,
mantel-pieces, staircases, and similar interior trim in houses. A joiner
might also make furniture of the plainer sort. Cabinetmaking demanded
skills of a higher order to create furniture having such refinements as
curved surfaces, dovetail joints, cabriole legs, carved ornamentation,
veneered or inlaid surfaces, and upholstering.

Joiner and cabinetmaker were both concerned basically with fitting
together pieces of wood to make a whole structure. The pieces or parts
had to be shaped, of course; and it was in the shaping processes—sawing,
planing, and chiseling—that the worker’s real skill showed up. Pieces
properly formed will fit together neatly and enduringly, while no amount
of glue will make a sound joint of pieces that do not fit.

Two crafts always prominent in Europe are noticeably absent from the
list of Williamsburg woodworking crafts. Marquetry, the intricate
inlaying of patterns in contrasting woods, seems not to have been much
practiced anywhere on this side of the Atlantic; probably Williamsburg
cabinetmakers were rarely, if ever, called on for inlay work. The
absence of turnery from the list, however, does not mean it was unknown
here but only that Williamsburg cabinetmakers customarily did their own
lathe work instead of sending it out to a specialist.

Here, too, may be the best place to make first acquaintance of the four
Williamsburg practitioners about whom most information survives.
They—and the periods of their known activity as cabinetmakers in
Williamsburg—are: _Peter Scott_, 1732-75, who lived across the street
from Bruton Parish Church and had his shop somewhere nearby, and who
was, for forty years, a member of Williamsburg’s common council;
_Anthony Hay_, 1751-67, whose “large Cabinet Maker’s Shop” has been
re-created on its original Nicholson Street site, who turned innkeeper
as host of the Raleigh Tavern, and whose son George, as United States
attorney, prosecuted Aaron Burr for treason; _Edmund Dickinson_,
1764-78, who probably worked in Hay’s shop and eventually occupied it as
his own master; and _Benjamin Bucktrout_, 1766-78, whose funeral side
line became the chief business of his posterity in Williamsburg for
several generations.

                        _PRIME FURNITURE WOODS_

When Anthony Hay died in 1770, his executors advertised for sale his two
lots on Nicholson Street including a dwelling house, shop, and “Timber
Yard.” The reader should not assume from the words “timber yard” that
Hay (and his successors at the same location on Nicholson Street,
Bucktrout and Dickinson) supplied lumber to the town’s other users.
Probably it was stocked only for the proprietor’s own use. In any event,
the kinds of raw material that would have been piled in Hay’s yard can
be guessed fairly easily.

As we shall presently see, no surviving piece of eighteenth-century
furniture can be positively traced to Hay or any other Williamsburg
maker. But every piece having a possible claim to local origin,
including the Speaker’s Chair, contains either walnut or mahogany as the
primary wood. Similarly, few documentary records survive to tell about
the furniture actually made in Williamsburg shops and they do not always
mention the kinds of wood used. Where they do, however, walnut and
mahogany are invariably specified. Finally, archaeological excavation at
the site of the Hay cabinet shop turned up a roughed-out table leg
dating probably from Dickinson’s occupancy. Quite well preserved in the
damp silt of the stream bed, it was easily identified as walnut. All
things considered, therefore, Hay’s timber yard would surely have
contained ample supplies of both walnut and mahogany.

American black walnut, known in England as “Virginia walnut,” had been
the most important of native woods to the colonial cabinetmaker since
the seventeenth century. Strong, durable, hard enough to resist surface
marring in daily use but still easy to work and carve, it shows a
handsome grain, has a lovely color, and takes an excellent finish.

Known and infrequently used earlier, mahogany began to arrive in
quantity both in the colonies and the mother country about 1725. In
England, by the middle of the century, it had pushed aside walnut as a
furniture wood. Mahogany never rose to the same pre-eminence in the
colonies because other fine woods were so readily available. Mahogany
was imported from Jamaica and Honduras legally, from Santo Domingo and
Cuba illicitly via Jamaica. The wood from each source differed variously
in its characteristic graining, color, strength, hardness, and
workability. That from Santo Domingo, known as “Spanish mahogany,” was
considered most desirable.

The wood of the wild black cherry was a favorite among Connecticut
cabinetmakers, as it was farther south too, because of its natural
strength, close grain, warm color, and resistance to splitting and
warping. Peter Kalm, the Swedish botanist who visited Philadelphia in
1748, wrote:

  The Joiners say that among the trees of this country they chiefly use
  the wild cherry trees, and the curled maple.... The wood of the wild
  cherry-trees (Prunus Virginiana) is very good, and looks exceedingly
  well, it has a yellow color, and the older the furniture is, of which
  is made of it, the better it looks. But it is already difficult to get
  at it, for they cut it everywhere, and plant it nowhere.

Hay’s yard might well have had some cherry in its piles of lumber,
though probably not in great quantity. It might also have included a bit
of maple—a primary favorite in New England—perhaps in some choice pieces
showing the bird’s eye, curly, wavy, blister, or quilted grain patterns
that often occur in this wood.

In addition, cedar, hickory, ash, beech, birch, oak, elm, locust, apple,
holly, and other hard woods might have been present in the Nicholson
Street timber yard in small amounts. All could have found appropriate
use in some kind of cabinetry.

                         _SECONDARY MATERIALS_

A piece of furniture need not be made entirely of prime wood, and rarely
was. In the parlor of the Brush-Everard House in Williamsburg, for
example, stands a sofa made in Philadelphia about 1770; it has eight
legs that show, made of mahogany, and a frame that does not show,
constructed of chestnut, maple, pine, and tulip poplar. Not every
article can boast so many secondary woods, though the colonial
cabinetmaker had a wide choice. The secretary-bookcase in the library of
the same house was possibly made in Williamsburg and shows the more
usual combination of walnut and pine as primary and secondary woods.

Colonial cabinetmakers customarily selected a secondary wood that
answered the construction requirements of the article in question and
that was locally available and therefore cheap. The secondary wood in a
piece of colonial furniture is often the best clue to the place where it
was made. Yellow pine and tulip poplar were most often used in Virginia
and the other southern colonies; Hay and his successors would doubtless
have stocked goodly amounts of both, and very likely also some white
cedar and cypress.

Probably no list of the materials that might have been used in colonial
cabinetry can hope to be complete. None, certainly, could pretend to
completeness that did not include a word about nails, screws, glue, and
cabinet hardware.

The colonial cabinetmaker used heated animal glue regularly. It was
indispensable for veneering; for attaching carved surfaces and ornaments
to their plain foundations it was almost as important; and any joint,
however carefully made, was stouter for a bit of adhesive.

The eighteenth-century upholsterer, of course, could not have done his
work without brass tacks, and quantities of them have been found in the
course of archaeological excavation at the site of the
Hay-Bucktrout-Dickinson cabinet shop on Nicholson Street. The colonial
cabinetmaker sometimes used small nails for such special purposes as
attaching drawer guides. But he would no more have nailed together a
piece of furniture than would his modern counterpart. Screws he did use,
for attaching cleats, braces, hinges, or other hardware. He used as few
as possible, however, since all screws were handmade, probably imported,
and certainly not cheap. If a joint needed to be reinforced, he used
wooden pegs, not screws. (Treenails, used in house framing, were simply
large pegs.)

Even the simplest piece of case furniture—such as a chest, press,
bookcase, clock case, dressing table, or sideboard—needed at least one
lock and possibly a set of hinges before it could leave the
cabinetmaker’s hands as a finished article. These items of hardware
could be of iron on the cruder examples of cabinet work or of brass on
the better ones. The door handles, drawer pulls, escutcheon plates, and
other visible hardware on finer pieces were almost sure to be of brass,
to be designed for ornament as well as utility, and to be imported.

A number of brass hardware items—whole and cut-down hinges and
escutcheon plates in particular—have been excavated at the site of the
Hay shop, most of them in ground levels associated with Dickinson’s
tenure. These seem to say that Dickinson was accustomed to working with
fine furniture.

                          _SCRAPS OF EVIDENCE_

A great deal of authentic eighteenth-century furniture—both English and
American in origin—has been assembled for display in the Exhibition
Buildings of restored Williamsburg. The collection is acknowledged to be
one of the finest in the country. Unfortunately, it contains not one
stick of furniture that can be positively identified as coming from the
hand of a Williamsburg cabinetmaker.

We do have, however, many bits and pieces of documentary evidence about
various Williamsburg cabinetmakers of the colonial era and about the
kind of work they did. A number of them, for example, advertised their
services in the columns of the _Virginia Gazette_ from time to time.
Practitioners of other crafts often listed at great length the wares
they made and sold; but the cabinetmakers usually announced only that
they stood ready to make to order any kind of furniture. They were
confidently versatile, it would seem; that they kept busy making and
doing all sorts of things is corroborated by other scraps of written and
printed information.

Joshua Kendall, when he set up shop in Williamsburg, offered to make
“_Venetian_ SUN BLINDS for windows.”

    [Illustration: _Venetian blinds were widely made and used in both
    the Old World and the New. This how-to-do-it illustration also comes
    from Diderot’s encyclopedia._]

In 1755 Peter Scott announced that he intended to leave for England and
would sell his house and lots, “Two Negroes, bred to the Business of a
Cabinet-Maker,” and “sundry Pieces of Cabinet Work, of Mahogany and
Walnut, consisting of Desks, Book-Cases, Tables of various Sorts, Tools,
and some Materials.” Apparently his plan did not materialize, for when
he died 20 years later his estate included “A great variety of cabinet
makers tools, Mahogany, Walnut, Pine Plank, like wise new walnut book
cases, desks, tables, &c.”

From personal account books of John Mercer, lawyer, and Robert Carter of
Nomini Hall, planter and councilor, we know that Scott made a set of
book shelves for the former and twice repaired tables for him, and that
he made two card tables, one sideboard, and four picture frames for the

In 1772 Benjamin Bucktrout submitted a bill for services to the same
Robert Carter of Nomini Hall. It is worth quoting in full:

  1772                                                        £ _s_ _d_
  June 15     To mending a Meusick Stand                      0   1   6
  Octbr. 26   To 8 Mahogy. Chares Stufed over the Rails      16  13   8
              with Brass nails @£25/pr doz.
              To 4 Elbow Chares @ 55/                        11   0   0
  Decemr. 29  To 65 feet of pine @ d 1½                           8  3½
              To 150 8d nails for a packing Case for             12   0
              Harpsecord 2/ makeing and packing do. 10/
                                                            £28  15  5½

Three years later Edmund Dickinson rendered a similar statement:

  The Estate Colo John Prentis
  To Edmund B. Dickinson Dr

              Novr 23d 1773
              setting up bedsted 2/6 July 9th mend: &       £ 1   2   6
              Cleaning up 6 chairs
              15th puting lock on closet                          2   6
              19 coffin for his Son William with Nails &c     2  15   -
              and attendance
  1774        Jany 3d to 7 pulleys 17/6 January 21 setting    1   -   -
              up bed at Mrs Hay’s 2/6
              April 25 takeing down bedsted 2/6                   2   6
  1775        June 14 mend: bedsted 1/3 augt 23d puting           3   3
              lock on Room case 2/
              Sept 6th mend: Mahogany table                       2   6
              25 putting up bedsted & Curtains                    2   6
              Novr 4 to a Coffin lined throughout for         5  15   0
              himself & my Attendance
                                                            £11   5   9

Putting together these and other bits and pieces, several conclusions
seem warranted: Williamsburg cabinetmakers made furniture not only to
order but for open sale in their shops; they probably spent more time
repairing furniture than in making it; they were by no means too proud
to undertake such incidental jobs as putting up and taking down
bedsteads and curtains. Finally, they were capable of producing any and
all of the major items of furniture: chairs, beds, chests, desks,
bookcases, clothes and china presses, tables, and candlestands.

While perhaps not all of them would have had occasion to make every
variety of the less common articles, some doubtless were called on for
spinning wheels, bootjacks, bowls and trenchers, cradles, toys, tools,
coffins, spice chests, fire screens, music stands, trunks, cellarettes,
looking-glass frames, and so on and on.

                       _THE LATEST LONDON STYLES_

Every swing in London fashions in clothing, music, wigs, and the
decorative arts was normally echoed a few years later by a similar but
muted swing in colonial fashions. In each case the peak of the vogue
(not necessarily the first evidence of it) in the colonies came a decade
or two after the same style had reached its height in London.

The eighteenth century was the golden age of furniture design in
England. The decorative tastes of the Restoration and of the reign of
William and Mary set the stage for the appearance at the opening of the
century of the curvaceous style known as Queen Anne. There followed a
succession of partly overlapping, sometimes ill-defined and sometimes
distinct styles in English furniture design and interior design. These
succeeding fashions have since become known by the names of reigning
monarchs or of men whose books of collected designs set or summarized
the predominant taste of the years in question. We know these styles,
and style periods, as early and late Georgian, Chippendale, Adam,
Hepplewhite, and Sheraton.

In the American colonies the Queen Anne style did not come into full
flower until 1725 or thereabouts. The “decorated Queen Anne” or early
Georgian substyles cannot be clearly discerned in colonial furniture
before the advent of “Chippendale” influence, about 1750, swept all
before it. Thomas Chippendale’s famous _Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s
Director_, published in 1754, was but one of a number of books of
designs issued in London and widely used in colonial cabinetmaking
shops. It was foremost among them, however. And even if such
characteristic features of colonial Chippendale as the claw-and-ball
foot, for example, do not appear in Chippendale’s book, his name has
become a label—perhaps ill-fitting—for the whole middle period of
colonial furniture making.

    [Illustration: _Chairs._

    _Three design chairs—the one to the right offering alternative
    treatments of certain details—from Chippendale’s_ Gentleman and
    Cabinet-Maker’s Director: Being a large Collection of the Most
    Elegant and Useful Designs of Household Furniture, in the Most
    Fashionable Taste. (_Third edition, London, 1762_)]

This period lasted through the Revolution; the wartime breach of
relations with England all but cut off the transfer to America of the
Adam style that was the rage of London in the 1770’s. After the
Revolution the designs of George Hepplewhite and, late in the century,
Thomas Sheraton followed the usual route across the Atlantic.

Throughout the century, too, some regional differences can be discerned.
New England followed old England in social customs and tastes but with a
tinge of stateliness and a restraint of design in furniture that may
have had distant Puritan ancestry. In New York, certainly, the ideas of
the original Dutch settlers persisted in coloring later English
influences in matters of taste. German immigrants to Pennsylvania
brought sturdy non-English preferences to the areas they settled outside
Philadelphia. The city itself, of course, always remained a cosmopolitan
center—if a somewhat sober one—whose furniture showed the English
origins of many of its chief makers.

The southern colonies, and particularly Virginia, were more closely tied
to the mother country in sentiment and economy than were the others.
Virginians, therefore, probably mirrored English tastes more faithfully
than many of their compatriots.

                         _APRON-STRING EFFECTS_

English products were so much admired in Virginia, in fact, and so
easily obtained by those who could afford choice things, that the local
artisan had little chance to compete. Whether cause or consequence of
this lack of demand for their services, Virginia cabinetmakers appear to
have been less highly skilled and less highly schooled in the craft than
their colleagues in London and in a number of large colonial cities.
There was no “school” of cabinetry in eighteenth-century Williamsburg
such as developed in Philadelphia, Newport, Charleston, and elsewhere.

A Virginian who wanted fine furniture might order it from one of these
cities. More likely, he would buy it at a sale of “venture” furniture
made in a northern or middle colony and shipped south to be sold for the
best price it would bring. Or, he could send to England for his wants.

This was not so difficult a transaction as might at first appear.
Tobacco was the source of Virginia’s wealth, and tobacco had to be
shipped to England for sale. The typical large Tidewater planter
consigned his annual crop to an English merchant who received, handled,
and sold it. After expense deductions, the balance in the merchant’s
hands represented the planter’s profits.

What was more natural than to spend it right there in England? Articles
of English make were thought (usually with reason) to be of better
material and workmanship than “country made” pieces, and they were
undeniably more in fashion. The tobacco ships were returning to Virginia
anyway, needed freight for their holds, and could unload almost at the
planter’s front door. As a result of these circumstances, it was
customary to send with each shipment of tobacco an order for goods to be
sent back.

This dependence on the English market did not prevail—at least to the
same extent—outside of the Chesapeake Bay area. In consequence,
cabinetmakers as far apart as Boston and Charleston produced to order
some very fine pieces of furniture. Some few examples bear the maker’s
signature or shop label; others can be identified with confidence
because of characteristic traits in their design or execution.
Cabinetmakers of the Townsend-Goddard dynasty in Newport, Rhode Island,
produced block-fronted and shell-carved case pieces that sparkle in many
museums today. Thomas Affleck, Jonathan Gostelowe, Benjamin Randolph,
and others in Philadelphia made that city a center of pre-Revolutionary
cabinetry, and created the “Philadelphia Chippendale” school of
furniture design.

Virginia cabinetmakers, too, rarely labeled or signed their products; or
if they did, the products have not survived in more than a very few
examples. What is known to be of Virginia origin is rarely ornate. The
examples to be seen in Williamsburg today, for instance, are truly
provincial: sturdy, generally well-proportioned, capably made, and
inclined to be simple in decoration.

                        _MADE IN WILLIAMSBURG?_

In two of the bedrooms at the Brush-Everard House in Williamsburg and in
one at the Raleigh Tavern stand commodious pieces of furniture that
today would probably have to be called cupboards. The eighteenth-century
housewife called them clothes presses, and they served her as a place to
keep the family’s entire supply of bedding and clothing not in daily

Two of these pieces are extremely simple in design, so simple that they
may be said to lack any conscious “design” at all. Some two hundred
years of use testify to the sturdiness of their construction; but they
were clearly not made for show. The third—the one in the ground floor
bedroom of the Brush-Everard House—is more sophisticated. It is of
mahogany and southern pine rather than of walnut and pine as are the
other two. It has ogee-curved bracket feet instead of straight bracket
feet. And it boasts a nicely made fretwork cornice.

These touches do not make it a distinguished piece of furniture or an
overly beautiful one. However, the importance of these three pieces lies
not in their appearance, but rather in the fact that all three have been
handed down from generation to generation in the Galt family of
Williamsburg and are believed to have been made by one of the town’s
eighteenth-century cabinetmakers.

Samuel Galt followed the watchmaking and silversmithing craft in
Williamsburg from 1750 until his death. His older son, James, was also a
silversmith until he became, in 1770, the first “keeper” of the
“Lunatick Hospital” in Williamsburg. The younger son, John Minson Galt,
acquired a medical education in Edinburgh and London, then became a
partner in Dr. James Pasteur’s apothecary and chirurgical establishment
in Williamsburg.

Unfortunately the Galt family tradition does not say which of
Williamsburg’s eighteenth-century craftsmen created the articles in
question. The most prominent pre-Revolutionary cabinetmakers were all
active during some part of the period when the Galts, father and sons,
were founding the family’s name and fame. It is possible, judging from
appearance alone, that the two simpler pieces could have been made for
the earliest Galt by the earliest (known) cabinetmaker, Peter Scott,
while the third was constructed for a later and more pretentious
household by a later craftsman, perhaps Edmund Dickinson.

Dickinson was well equipped to make better furniture than any of these
three clothes presses. An apprentice in Anthony Hay’s cabinet shop on
Nicholson Street, he may have stayed on as journeyman during Benjamin
Bucktrout’s proprietorship of the shop and timber yard. In any case, he
became master of the establishment himself in 1771. Seven years later,
serving as an officer in the Revolutionary army, he was killed at the
Battle of Monmouth.

The appraisers of Dickinson’s estate—one of them was Bucktrout—valued
his possessions at the respectable total of £164 6_s._ 6_d._ About £20
of this represented Dickinson’s library of 40 volumes. Some of these had
probably been gathered by Hay in the first place, but it was still a
large and wide-ranging collection of books for a craftsman. In addition
to a copy of “Chippendale’s Designs” valued by itself at £6, there were
books of poetry and history, English and French dictionaries, and many
volumes of the _Tatler_, the _Spectator_, and the _Connoisseur_.

                       _THE COMPLEAT TOOL CHEST_

Another section of the Dickinson inventory demands particular attention
here: the list of the cabinetmaker’s tools. These were valued by the
appraisers at close to £50, and included 81 planes of different sorts,
11 saws, one stock or brace and 20 bits, 63 chisels and gouges, four
clamps and a bench vise, a dozen miscellaneous items, and a tool box.

    [Illustration: _A cabinetmaker’s workbench and a variety of
    woodworking tools of the eighteenth century. Among them may be seen
    several bench planes, two kinds of frame saw, an assortment of
    chisels, some measuring and marking tools, a brace and bit, gimlets,
    etc. This illustration is taken from Joseph Moxon’s_ Mechanick
    Exercises, _published in London in 1683_.]

No doubt most of these tools were made in England, though the inventory
does not say so. Perhaps all of them were. Three years before Dickinson
became master of his shop—just about the time he would have been
acquiring many of his tools—John Blair, the acting governor of the
colony, reported to the Board of Trade in London that:

  Our pig-iron and some bar-iron is chiefly shipped to Britain. We do
  not make a saw, augur, gimlet, file or nails, nor steel; and most
  tools in the country are imported from Britain.

The inventory does not list hammers, files, or rasps of any kind, which
is surprising as they would have been normal and necessary equipment in
any woodworking shop—and a number of the latter have been found at the
site of the Hay-Dickinson shop. Perhaps the appraisers overlooked them.

However, the inventory does not list workbenches or lathes either, which
is the more surprising. A workbench is an absolute necessity for cabinet
work, a lathe only a little less so, and neither is likely to be
overlooked. It may be that the appraisers did not list them as tools
because they were deemed to be permanent shop fixtures. At any rate,
while we have no proof that Dickinson owned either a bench or a lathe,
reason says he would have had at least one of each. Matthew Tuell, a
carpenter, owned a wheel lathe and turning tools; and the partnership of
Honey & Harrocks owned lathes, did their own turning, and possibly
turned for other cabinetmakers.

Eighteenth-century lathes were machine tools of a sort but not “power
tools” since human muscle provided their motive force. Three varieties
can be seen in the reconstructed cabinet shop in Williamsburg: the bow
lathe, the treadle lathe, and the great wheel lathe. The last named is
the most impressive and the most effective, turning up some 700 rpm on
the spindle with a good strong apprentice cranking the large wheel.

The power woodworking lathe today is a considerably more complicated
machine, but the fundamental principles involved in wood turning have
not changed. Similarly, in the other great category of woodworking
tools—hand tools—each separate operation is accomplished in precisely
the same way by tools that are basically the same as they were in the
eighteenth century, or even in the eighteenth century B.C.

    [Illustration: _Turner._

    _A turner, whose treadle lathe spins at different speeds according
    to which spindle pulley is used for the drive belt. This picture is
    taken from_ The Book of Trades or Library of Useful Arts, _first
    American edition, published by Jacob Johnson and sold in his
    bookstores in Philadelphia and Richmond in 1807. Courtesy, Library
    of Congress._]

With obvious exceptions, all woodworking tools are intended primarily to
remove small amounts of material by some kind of cutting or tearing
action. With this simple fact in mind, it is no surprise to learn that
saws, planes, chisels, and boring tools found in ancient Egyptian tombs,
or depicted by artists of that time, were not significantly different
from those of the eighteenth century after Christ. (Examples of
furniture made in ancient Egypt, incidentally, still exist, the oldest
known articles being stools dating at least from the First Dynasty—3500
B.C.!) Nor should it be surprising to find that the colonial
cabinetmaker’s tools, although cruder and less convenient than those
sold in a modern hardware store, were fundamentally the same and did the
same jobs in the same ways. Furthermore, in the hands of a skilled
craftsman the eighteenth-century tools performed their assigned tasks
every bit as well as do their twentieth-century counterparts.

                     _PLAIN PLANES AND FANCY ONES_

If it appears that Dickinson’s 81 planes were far more than any
cabinetmaker needed, the number is easily explained by the likelihood
that only a few were “bench planes,” the rest being “fitting-planes” or
specially shaped “molding planes.”

Then as now the bench plane category included a group of flat-bottomed
planes used for smoothing, leveling, and squaring pieces of wood.
Varying in length from the smoothing plane of about 6 inches to the
jointer of perhaps 30 inches, the group included also the trying plane,
long plane, fore plane, jack plane, and strike block.

Fitting planes were those—each designed for a particular purpose—used to
prepare pieces of wood for fitting together. This group included planes
for making rabbets, tongues, grooves, and similar shapes, and having
such names as the plough, match, fillister, and moving fillister. The
last was essentially a rabbet plane with an adjustable fence to guide
the width of its cut, often an adjustable stop to regulate the depth of
cut, and sometimes a routing bit or tooth just ahead of the leading edge
of the main blade.

The third and largest group in any eighteenth-century tool collection
included the molding planes for producing ornamental trim in an almost
infinite variety of shapes. In the absence of machine-made millwork in
stock sizes and profiles, the colonial woodworker had to produce his
own. In some instances, he may even have made his own molding planes

The eighteenth-century plane was a simple but effective device. It had
only three basic parts: a body, an iron, and a wedge. The body or
“stock” was a rectangular block of beech (or some other hard wood) with
a shaped vertical opening through the center. The iron, inserted into
this opening, was held at the proper pitch and blade exposure by tapping
the wedge tightly into position. Handles were usually attached to the
larger planes.

On a bench plane the bottom or sole of the stock was flat, of course,
and this was particularly important for a jointer, whose sole had to be
perfectly true. But the sole of a molding plane was shaped to fit the
curve or angle or combination of surfaces its blade would produce. Since
even a simple quarter-round molding might on occasion be needed in
several different sizes for different uses, the well-equipped
cabinetmaker would need perhaps nine planes right there.

George Washington’s well-known order of goods from London for the
furnishing of Mount Vernon in 1759 included in a long list of tools not
only a considerable number of bench and fitting planes, but about 50
molding planes: “10 pr Hollows & Rounds, 4 two Square Asticles
[astragals], 6 Ogees, 1 Snipes Bill, 4 Quarter Rounds, 4 Sash Plains, 3
Bead Ditto, 6 Ovelos.” To these a cabinetmaker would have added ogive,
reed, flute, beaded flute, fillet and fascia combinations, and other
molding profiles favored on eighteenth-century furniture. Remembering
that a number of these shapes too, might have been needed in more than
one size, Dickinson’s 81 planes begin to seem hardly enough.

    [Illustration: _Several shapes of molding planes, with the irons of
    corresponding profile; also a moving fillister in the lower part of
    the picture. This illustration and the two that follow it are taken
    from a three-volume eighteenth-century French manual on woodworking
    by Andre-Jacob Roubo._]

                     _BIG SAWS AND LITTLE CHISELS_

The familiar carpenter’s handsaw, with a blade wide and stiff enough to
cut on the push stroke, was not unknown in colonial times and Dickinson
apparently had one. But various kinds of frame and back saws were much
more common. Dickinson had one large frame saw—its valuation at £5
indicates it must have been of good quality as well as good-sized—that
was probably a pit saw. This was a two-man affair for ripping logs into
boards. A whip saw (one of these was also listed) was like a modern
two-man crosscut saw.

Dickinson also possessed a small frame saw, a bow saw, a “tenant”
(tenon) saw, a panel saw, a sash saw, and three dovetail saws. The
latter three, called “dovetailed” in the inventory, were back saws with
short blades and very fine teeth. The tenon saw might have been either a
back or a frame saw, as both varieties were used in cutting the tenons
for mortise joints. Vagaries in craft nomenclature leave us in doubt
about the precise appearance of many tools, including Dickinson’s panel
and sash saws.

Except that it was doubtless made of wood rather than steel and had a
somewhat different chuck, Dickinson’s bit stock would have resembled the
boring brace in any modern tool box. His “20 bitts,” however, probably
lacked the spiral shank of their present descendants and thus required
considerably more skill on the part of the user to bore a straight hole.

Chisels and gouges, of which Dickinson had a total of 53, have not
changed in appearance or structure over many centuries. Like other
tools, they come in different shapes and sizes and some possess special
designs for special purposes. Of Dickinson’s collection, 47 were carving
chisels and gouges, which argues that he did his own carving. However,
one of the two carvers known to have worked in eighteenth-century
Williamsburg was George Hamilton, a journeyman in Dickinson’s shop in
1774. The other, James Wilson, worked with or for Anthony Hay some
twenty years earlier.

Dickinson’s “6 Morticeing Chissels”—along with his “tenant” saw and
fitting planes—serve as reminders that the basic techniques of
cabinetmaking have likewise changed little through the years.

In the making of an article of furniture the component pieces must be
attached to each other at various points: sometimes side-by-side with
grain running parallel, sometimes end to end, or end into side, or
crossing one another. At each juncture the cabinetmaker had his choice
of a number of joints that were appropriate in such a situation. The
eighteenth-century craftsman knew them all and was skilled in the making
of all those used today: butt, lap, rabbet, tongue and groove, mortise
and tenon, mitre, dado, dovetail, and their numerous combinations and

In cabinetmaking the most useful joints are undoubtedly the mortise and
tenon and the dovetail, the former for joining structural members at
right angles, the latter for holding together adjacent sides of drawers,
chests, boxes, and the like. Both kinds of joints are very strong if
well made, weak if poorly fitted. Skill and experience, thus, were (and
are) prerequisite to good furniture making.

                            _ON THE SURFACE_

Some veneering appeared on colonial furniture at least by the beginning
of the eighteenth century. But it was not widely practiced, in part
because fine cabinet woods were relatively cheap and in part, no doubt,
because making veneer by hand required a good deal of skilled work and
labor was relatively expensive. In any case, it was the large and
otherwise unadorned surfaces of Hepplewhite and Sheraton furniture that
invited matched veneering. Since these fashions came to America after
the Revolution and after Williamsburg had passed its apogee,
Williamsburg cabinetmakers probably did little if any veneering.

    [Illustration: _Two men with a good-sized but fine-toothed frame saw
    here cut a log into thin slices of veneer._

Applying a finish to woodwork is an ancient art and has always served
two purposes: to give the wood a protective coating and to enhance its
appearance. By the eighteenth century the techniques for applying
several different kinds of finish were well understood and widely used
in the colonial cabinet shop.

Painting, generally limited to the cheapest sort of furniture, was
little practiced by quality cabinetmakers. The imitation of oriental
lacquer called japanning was not common in the colonies, and in any case
was the province of the japanner. The cabinetmaker favored oil, wax, or
varnish finishes to produce a hard, transparent, and glassy-smooth

To prepare the surface of the wood, colonial cabinetmakers had planes,
scrapers, glasspaper, and sandpaper—the latter two available by the late
eighteenth century and probably much before that. Stains were used to
enrich the natural color and emphasize the grain of the wood, and
pulverized chalk, plaster of Paris, or the like was used to fill the
pores of coarse-grained woods.

Wax, usually beeswax melted and mixed with turpentine, was cheap, easy
to apply, and easy to renew. Rubbed on, allowed to dry, and polished
with a cloth—and repeated by generations of industrious housewives or
servants—wax produced a beautiful finish, especially on mahogany or

Linseed oil thinned with turpentine was frequently the only finish
applied on these and other hard, close-grained woods. The mixture was
applied generously, allowed to stand for several hours, and wiped off.
The surface was then rubbed for hours with the bare hand or a piece of
cloth or felt, and the process was repeated again and again until the
wood showed a fine rich sheen.

As the wood absorbed the oil its grain rose slightly and had to be
smoothed down again between coats. Sheraton advocated a technique that
combined filling, oiling, and smoothing in one operation: the oil was
poured on and allowed to stand, then sprinkled with fine brick dust and
rubbed with a cloth. The brick dust filled the grain and combined with
the oil to form a putty that was mildly abrasive and would, Sheraton
said, “secure a fine polish by continued rubbing.”

Eighteenth-century cabinetmakers employed both oil varnishes and spirit
varnishes. The former was made by dissolving a natural resin—copal was
one of the most commonly used—in hot oil and thinning with turpentine.
The only spirit varnish of importance was that made of lac—in the form
of stick lac, seed lac, or shell lac—dissolved in alcohol. (Lac is the
resinous secretion of an insect encrusted on the twigs of certain East
Indian trees.)

The application of a varnish required less labor than wax or oil but
more skill. It was flowed on, allowed to dry, and rubbed down with a
fine abrasive. This was repeated with as many coats as might be
necessary, and wax applied as a final coat. Eighteenth-century
Anglo-American cabinetmakers seem to have preferred lac varnishes,
particularly shellac, for walnut furniture, wax and oil finishes for

                        _WILLIAMSBURG WORKSHOPS_

The elegant grounds of the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg seem at
first glance a most unlikely site for a cabinetmaker’s shop, especially
in the time of Lord Dunmore. His Majesty’s last and unlamented viceroy
in Virginia was no basement do-it-yourselfer. But after the Revolution
his claim for the value of lost possessions included “A quantity of
Mahogany and other Woods; with tools for four Cabinet Makers.”

Although Dunmore’s tools and lumber were probably destined for the
plantation he was seating near Warm Springs as a private venture, the
possibility cannot be dismissed that some furniture work was done at the
Palace. At one spot on the grounds several items of cabinet hardware
have been excavated. And the amount of furniture in an establishment as
big as the Palace could no doubt have kept a man busy just repairing the
everyday wear and tear.

Whatever the situation under the royal governors, however, the practice
in 1776 was to have such work done in the shops of the town’s private
entrepreneurs. When Patrick Henry was about to take up residence as the
independent commonwealth’s first chief executive, the state government
issued warrants to several Williamsburg cabinetmakers for making or
repairing Palace furniture. Honey and Harrocks received a little more
than £19 for mending 28 chairs there; £21 went to a certain Richard
Booker (about whose identity there remains great uncertainty) for making
some chairs; and our friend Edmund Dickinson took in £92 “for furniture
furnished the Pallace.”

Judging by Bucktrout’s charge of £25 per dozen for straight chairs and
£16 for a mahogany desk and bookcase, Dickinson was dealing with
something on the order of 35 chairs or their equivalent in other kinds
of furniture. It would appear that his shop, the same one where Anthony
Hay and Benjamin Bucktrout had earlier plied their craft, was the
largest such establishment in Williamsburg at the time. It has now been
reconstructed, its dimensions precisely fixed by surviving foundations,
and furnished as an operating craft shop according to indications of the
Dickinson inventory, archaeological findings on the site, and other

    [Illustration: _This eighteenth-century woodworker’s bench resembles
    its twentieth-century counterpart in every essential feature of
    construction and equipment, though differing in various details._

The original shop was built about 1750 on the bank of the small stream
that still flows through the Nicholson Street property. Hay bought it in
1756 and some ten years later built an addition on piers over the
stream. His reason for this seemingly awkward arrangement cannot now be
ascertained. No evidence indicates that he ever installed a water wheel,
and in any event the stream’s flow could have operated a lathe only in
the very wettest weather.

It’s an ill waterway, however, that flows nobody good! This one served a
double end. In the first place, it provided a convenient place for the
cabinetmakers’ apprentices to dump the trash that accumulated in the
shop. And in the second place, the damp silt of the stream bed
effectively preserved that trash against decay, transforming it into a
twentieth-century treasure trove for today’s archaeologists.

Mention has already been made of the woodworking tools and fragments of
cabinet hardware excavated at the site of the shop. Diggers also found a
few component pieces of a table and chairs. Indeed the Anthony Hay shop,
house, kitchen, and well have proved to be the richest archaeological
dig in Williamsburg. Besides cabinet items, the colonial artifacts
include domestic glass and ceramic wares, harness hardware, shoe
buckles, garden tools, table utensils, and a large number of gun flints.
The last, along with bits of several weapons, recall the period during
the Revolution when the shop was converted into an armory.

                         _WORKERS IN THE SHOP_

The formal duties of an apprentice and his master toward each other were
spelled out in an indenture signed by each when the apprenticeship
began. Dickinson was probably an apprentice to Hay and may have been a
journeyman employee of Bucktrout in the same shop before himself
becoming its master. In turn, Dickinson took on an apprentice by the
name of James Tyrie who would help him and be taught the cabinetmaking
craft. In the agreement between them the master undertook that:

  ... his said Apprentice in the same art of a Cabinet Maker which he
  useth by the best means that he can shall teach and instruct or cause
  to be taught and instructed finding unto the said Apprentice
  sufficient Meat Drink Washing Lodging &c during the said term of five

For his part, Tyrie pledged that he:

  ... his said Master shall faithfully serve his secrets keep his lawful
  commands every where gladly do, he shall do no damage to his said
  Master nor see to be done of others, but that he to his power shall
  let or forth with give warning to his said Master of the same he shall
  not waste the Goods of his said Master nor lend them unlawfully to any
  he shall not commit fornication nor contract Matrimony within the said
  term He shall not play at Cards Dice Tables or any other unlawful
  Games whereby his said Master may have any loss, with his own Goods or
  others during the said term, without Licence of his said Master He
  shall neither buy nor sell He shall not Haunt Taverns nor Play Houses
  nor absent himself from his said Masters Service Day nor Night
  unlawfully But in all things as a faithful Apprentice he shall Behave
  himself towards his said Master and all his, during the said term.

What happened to Tyrie we do not know. Perhaps the coming of the War for
Independence holds the key to his destiny; perhaps he, like many another
apprentice, ran away from his master. One of Bucktrout’s apprentices,
David Davis, took off one day wearing a whole new suit of clothing and
new shoes. The important circumstance, however, was that an
apprenticeship of up to seven years was the normal—indeed the only—way
for a boy to gain entry into the business world. It was also the normal
source to the master of a constantly renewed supply of cheap, unskilled

    [Illustration: _Artifacts from the site of Anthony Hay’s
    cabinetmaking shop: (1) unfinished table leg, walnut; (2) fragment
    of an oboe, boxwood with brass stops; (3) crest rail of a chair in
    the Chippendale style; (4 to 12) cabinet fittings, brass, including
    ornamental column base from a tall case clock (6) and a chair caster
    (7); and (13 to 18) carpenter’s tools, all of iron and heavily
    encrusted with rust. Redrawn from photographs._]

Three other sources of help were available to him: wage-earning
journeymen, indentured servants, and slaves—all of whom might be skilled
workers in the craft. Williamsburg cabinetmakers advertised from time to
time in the _Virginia Gazette_ for the services of capable journeymen, a
circumstance that argues both the need of the proprietors for help and
the availability of potential helpers. As to any specific workers they
may have acquired in this category, the record is silent.

Other advertisements listed joiners and cabinetmakers among the cargoes
of ships bringing indentured passengers whose services for a period were
to be auctioned off to the highest bidder or sold for a fixed fee. But
no evidence has been found that any Williamsburg cabinetmaker augmented
his work force with indentured servants.

Formal apprenticeship of Negro slaves was not uncommon, and many
examples can be cited of Negroes who became skilled workers even without
the formality. The largest number in and around Williamsburg seem to
have been carpenters, but other crafts had skilled and semi-skilled
practitioners who were slaves. Peter Scott, for example, owned “two
Negroes, bred to the Business of a Cabinet-maker,” and Anthony Hay owned
a “very good” slave cabinetmaker even after he turned from that trade to
innkeeping. However, no instance has come to light from colonial
Virginia of a Negro, even a freedman, who became a journeyman or master
of any craft.

                            _GREENER GRASS_

As we have seen, Virginians who wanted fine furniture probably ordered
it from England. But competition from across the Atlantic was not the
local cabinetmaker’s only burden. A very large amount of furniture left
the busy shops of New England, New York, and Philadelphia in the
eighteenth century, consigned to southern ports or the West Indies. No
precise figure can be stated for the size or importance of this
coastwise trade, or for its importance in the life of Williamsburg
cabinetmakers; it could not have made things easier for them.

    [Illustration: _The interior of an eighteenth-century French
    marquetry establishment, with the workers using various tools. At
    the left is a type of vise called a “donkey”; against the wall may
    be seen a large cabinet bookcase, a slant-top desk, and a chest of
    drawers. These would have been made in a cabinet shop and brought
    here for inlay decoration._

Whether outside competition was the cause, or simply the narrowness of
the Virginia market in the first place, Williamsburg cabinetmakers—like
the practitioners of other crafts—found ways to augment their incomes.
Anthony Hay became proprietor of the Raleigh Tavern and Benjamin
Bucktrout turned storekeeper and state functionary.

The change in Hay’s case was clearly not motivated by poverty; he must
have been well-to-do or at any rate well respected to have acquired
backing, perhaps to the extent of £4000, to buy the Raleigh—and without
selling his house, cabinet shop, and timber yard.

Coffin-making was a normal part of the cabinetmaker’s business, and many
cabinetmakers took what was the logical next step of serving also as
funeral directors. When the popular Lord Botetourt, Governor Dunmore’s
predecessor, died in Williamsburg, two of the town’s cabinetmakers were
involved in the burial. Joshua Kendall made the three nested coffins,
and Benjamin Bucktrout provided the hearse and four days worth of
attendance in connection with the ceremonies.

Bucktrout was one of the several Williamsburg cabinetmakers who did
upholstering; he also sold upholstery materials in his shop on Francis
Street. By 1774 that shop had become a store—stocked with beer, cheese,
spices, woolens and cottons, hats, boots, women’s and children’s shoes,
gloves, guns, pistols, saddles, whips, and a number of other things—and
Bucktrout had to advertise that he still did cabinet work.

Eventually, however, Bucktrout seems to have abandoned his own business
to put all his time and effort into serving as purveyor to the public
hospitals of the state. A powder mill he devised and erected in or near
Williamsburg early in the Revolution did not function for lack of
saltpeter, and Bucktrout’s efforts to gain compensation or subsidy from
the Assembly were in vain.

Whether or not he turned Tory in 1779—and there is one accusation on
record to that effect—he was back in Williamsburg soon after the defeat
of Cornwallis, and remained a resident of the town for another 30 years.
In 1804 he was appointed town surveyor, thereby capping a career that
for versatility was matched by its virility. The widower Bucktrout must
have been about 60 years old when, in 1797, he took to wife a young girl
by the name of Mary Bruce. Before his death in 1812 she bore him four
children, the second receiving the name Horatio.

A century and a quarter later—in 1928—another Horatio Bucktrout sold the
family undertaking establishment and thus brought to an end the
Bucktrout saga in Williamsburg. The story of cabinetmaking as an active
eighteenth-century craft in Williamsburg had ended long before, of

                      _WILLIAMSBURG CABINETMAKERS_

In addition to Benjamin Bucktrout, Edmund Dickinson, Anthony Hay, and
Peter Scott—all of whom have been discussed at some length in the
preceding pages—the following are believed to complete the list of known
Williamsburg cabinetmakers in the eighteenth century.

_Richard Booker._ A cabinetmaker in Williamsburg in 1773, and for three
      or fours years thereafter, and again or still in 1792. The records
      are full of men by that name, and their identities are difficult
      to sort out.

_John Crump._ Was associated in 1775 with Richard Booker, in what
      capacity is not known.

_Richard Harrocks._ Had a shop in 1776 and 1777, part of the time in
      partnership with James Honey.

_James Honey_ (died 1787). Was a house joiner rather than cabinetmaker,
      but was briefly in the cabinetmaking business with Richard

_William Kennedy._ In 1769 was briefly a partner of Bucktrout; then had
      his own business in the Pelham shop on Francis Street, but his
      activities there are unknown.

_Matthew Moody, Jr._ Had cabinetmaking business around 1764 or 1765 and
      later was a carpenter.

_John Ormeston._ Was in Williamsburg from 1763 to 1766; may have been a
      cabinetmaker or a riding-chair maker or both.

_Thomas Orton_ (died 1778). His name appears in the records once with
      the word cabinetmaker appended to it.

_James Spiers._ Coachmaker, cabinetmaker, upholsterer from 1744 to about
      1755; his shop may have been near that of Scott.

                          _SUGGESTED READINGS_

The number of books in print on how to make furniture is almost endless;
the determined do-it-yourself antique-maker will want to start with
Joseph Moxon, _Mechanick Exercises_ (London, 1683); Thomas Chippendale,
_Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director_ (London, 1754); and Thomas
Sheraton, _The Cabinet Dictionary_ (London, 1803). Among more recent
publications, space permits mention of three—not necessarily the best or
most complete, but at least representative: F. E. Hoard and A. W.
Marlow, _The Cabinetmaker’s Treasury_ (New York, Macmillan, 1952);
Lester Margon, _Construction of American Furniture Treasures_ (New York,
Home Craftsman, 1949); and Raymond F. Yates, _Antique Reproductions for
the Home Craftsman_ (New York, Whittlesey House, 1950). The last named
includes a discussion of old-time hand tools and techniques; although
not strictly concerned with cabinetmaking tools, Henry D. Mercer,
_Ancient Carpenters’ Tools_ (Doylestown, Pa., Doylestown Hist. Soc.,
1929) is very informative.

On the historical aspects of furniture and fashion there are, again, a
multitude of books; a good start can be made with Frank Davis, _A
Picture History of Furniture_ (New York, Macmillan, 1958) and Hermann
Schmitz, editor, _The Encyclopedia of Furniture_ (New York, Praeger,
1957, new edition). On English seventeenth- and eighteenth-century
styles Ralph Edwards and L. G. G. Ramsey, editors, _Connoisseur Period
Guides_ (London, The Connoisseur, 1956 _et seq._) and Robert W. Symonds,
_Furniture Making in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century England_
(London, The Connoisseur, 1955) are indispensable. Joseph Downs,
_American Furniture, Queen Anne and Chippendale Periods_ (New York,
Macmillan, 1952) and Albert Sack, _Fine Points of Furniture_ (New York,
Crown, 1950) are essential for the colonial story in furniture design.

Local developments—Virginia and elsewhere—will be found in the article
by Helen Comstock, “Furniture of Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and
Kentucky,” in _Antiques Magazine_, LXI (January, 1952). That magazine’s
recent compilation entitled _The Antiques Treasury_ (New York, Dutton,
1959) has useful information and many illustrations of furniture and
other furnishings in Williamsburg and in a number of other American
museums and restorations.

As to the craftsmen themselves and their life in colonial times, the
first place to look is Ethel Hall Bjerkoe, _The Cabinetmakers of
America_ (Garden City, N. Y., Doubleday, 1957); and for light on the
general, social, and economic status of craft workers Carl Bridenbaugh,
_The Colonial Craftsman_ (New York, N. Y. Univ. Press, 1950) will be
found helpful. _Seat of Empire_, by the same author; Hunter D. Farish,
editor, _The Journal ... of Philip Vickers Fithian_; and Edmund S.
Morgan, _Virginians at Home_ (all published by Colonial Williamsburg, in
1950, 1958, and 1952 respectively) will provide lively background for
the local phases of the picture.

_The Cabinetmaker in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg_ is based largely
on an unpublished monograph by Mills Brown, formerly of the Colonial
Williamsburg research staff. It has been prepared with the assistance of
Thomas K. Ford, editor, Colonial Williamsburg publications department.
Benjamin Bucktrout’s bill to Robert Carter of Nomini Hall, quoted on
page 12, is printed by permission of the Virginia Historical Society.

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—Silently corrected a few palpable typos.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Cabinetmaker in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.