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Luke Beckerdite
Introduction

In 1993, the Chipstone Foundation established American Furniture with the goal that it would become the journal of record for its field. Since that date ten volumes have appeared containing a total of eighty-six articles, fifty book and exhibition reviews, and bibliographies on hundreds of publications in the field. The articles in American Furniture have always presented the latest research, and we have endeavored to make the journal useful to a broad and diverse audience. Today, many museum professionals, academics, conservators, craftsmen, collectors, and individuals in the trade consider American Furniture essential reading.

Like most of its predecessors, this volume includes articles that are about discovery and reassessment. Andrew Brunk’s “The Claypoole Family Joiners of Philadelphia: Their Legacy and the Context of Their Work” breaks new ground in attributing furniture to the shops of Joseph Claypoole, his son George, and his grandson George, Jr. Because the Claypooles’ work spanned several decades, the furniture attributed to them provides an index of stylistic shifts in Philadelphia as well as a model for understanding how designs, construction features, and patronage passed from father to son and master to apprentice in family shops. Similarly, Robert F. Trent and Michael Podmaniczky focus on a seventeenth-century cupboard fragment to clarify and expand previous interpretations of a shop tradition associated with various joiners employed by Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They show how the earliest phase of that tradition, distinguished by the use of mannerist carving, gradually gave way to an applied ornament style emanating from Boston. This pattern echoed earlier stylistic developments in London and other urban areas of the British Empire.

R. Curt Chinnici’s “Pennsylvania Clouded Limestone: Its Quarrying, Processing, and Use in the Stone Cutting, Furniture, and Architectural Trades” is a much needed addition to decorative arts scholarship. For centuries, marble, limestone, and other types of figured rock have been used as furniture components, and in many instances these materials were more valuable than the wooden forms they embellished. Chinnici’s discussion of tools and techniques will assist scholars in determining the originality and production date of stones used for furniture and architecture during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

In “Furniture Fakes from the Chipstone Collection,” Alan Miller and I argue that the “prevalence and persistence of fakery are intimately linked to the demands and expectations in the marketplace.” The authors document the techniques and marketing strategies used by a small group of fakers during the mid-twentieth century, and contrast evidence on fraudulent objects with that found on period work. Much of our study will be accessible on the Chipstone Foundation’s web site next year.

Jonathan Prown and Katherine Hemphill Prown’s “The Quiet Canon: Tradition and Exclusion in American Furniture Scholarship” is a constructive critique of traditional decorative arts installations. According to the authors, “the display of early American furniture—and the scholarship on which it is based—remains largely dependent on a specialized interpretive model crafted over a century ago.” They contend that decorative arts scholars need to take a more transdisciplinary approach in order to provide “an experience for visitors that is more intellectually and emotionally inclusive.”

There is little doubt that contemporary attitudes aVect the way we perceive the past. Peter Follansbee’s “Manuscripts, Marks, and Material Culture: Sources for Understanding the Joiner’s Trade in Seventeenth-Century America” suggests that many scholars and collectors continue to maintain romantic notions about historic trades. Using a variety of documentary sources, physical evidence on surviving furniture, and information gleaned from the use of period tools in reproduction work, Follansbee demonstrates that the lives of most seventeenth-century American furniture makers “were far more challenging than we imagine today.”

As Glenn Adamson’s “The Politics of the Caned Chair” reveals, American Furniture continues to provide a forum for presenting new and alternative interpretive models. This insightful article reveals how the makers and marketers of caned chairs exploited middle-class aspirations regarding fashionability and taste to create a commodity that fit perfectly into Britain’s mercantilist scheme. In colonial America, this approach gave rise to Boston’s dominance in the furniture export trade, a status that it enjoyed for more than half a century.

In “Survival of the Fittest: The Lloyd Family’s Furniture Legacy,” Alexandra Alevizatos Kirtley illustrates and discusses a range of furniture and household goods acquired and preserved by several successive generations of the Lloyd family of Talbot County, Maryland. She contends that family “assemblages” often represent a more direct and more informative link with the past than do institutional and private collections because the former reveal how “each generation reassesses and reorders objects and ephemera based on their own views regarding aesthetics, personal and family identity, historical significance, and sentiment.”

To make American Furniture available to a broader audience, issues will eventually be posted on the Chipstone Foundation’s web site. This site will also provide access to the highly acclaimed journal Ceramics in America as well as virtual exhibitions. Visit us at <www.chipstone.org>.

American Furniture 2002

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