Randolph County or Chatham County, North Carolina, 1810-1830
Yellow pine
Catalog no. 149

Today, the term “dresser” refers to a piece of bedroom furnitur, during the eighteenth century, the word described a case form on which food was prepared and in which cooking and eating utensils were stored. The enclosed lower section on early dressers like this one housed pots and pans, while the open upper section was used to display stylish ceramics and metalwares that bespoke the owner's taste and status. Front-mounted plate rails on this dresser permit large dishes to lean forward, thus offering the best view of their ornamentation while preventing dust from accumulating. The uncommonly ornate stiles and rails that enframe the upper shelves also indicate the important display function of this form.

Part of a large group of related furniture from rural Randolph and Chatham Counties in the North Carolina Piedmont, this dresser is soundly constructed and colorfully painted. The overall scale and modest baroque styling suggest ties to Germanic furniture-making traditions. Yet similar elements also characterize rural British and, in particular, Irish furniture-making traditions. The application of decorative stiles and rails on the shelf section, extensive use of fretwork at the cornice level, colorful paint scheme, and construction of the case in one piece rather than two are typical of rural Irish furniture.