Turned and Joined Furniture
With its refined structural joints and surface finishes, the art of cabinetmaking
did not become widespread in Europe and America until the 1720s. Prior to
that time, most furniture was made by joiners, the same artisans who built
everything from boxes to houses. Joiners often worked with professional turners,
who made the lathe-turned legs on many joined tables and other furniture forms.
The Chesapeake was home to many joiners and turners in the seventeenth and
early eighteenth centuries, most of them English, Irish, Scottish, or French
Huguenot immigrants. Because the Chesapeake lacked urban centers in the 1600s,
these artisans operated in relative isolation which inhibited development
of the specific local woodworking traditions that characterize contemporary
New England furniture. As a consequence, it is often difficult to determine
the maker or place of origin of the earliest furniture produced in the Chesapeake.