The W.H. Cabinetmaker
Roanoke River Basin,
North Carolina, 1789
Black walnut with yellow pine and oak
Catalog no. 135
Among the most distinctive furniture from the Roanoke River basin in North Carolina is a group of some thirty pieces made in the W.H. shop, so called because of the initials that appear on about half of the objects. The prospect door on this desk is inscribed W.H. / August / the 5 1789. The initials probably are those of the maker. Structural and stylistic details suggest that W.H. was a German-trained artisan. His identity is unknown, but he may have been one of the hired Hessian soldiers who deserted from the British army during the Revolution. Records confirm that several Hessian deserters with the initials W.H. settled in North Carolina.
Germanic attributes of W.H. furniture include the exposed construction details on many of the pieces. The artisan also used large, ebonized, stylized floral ornaments like that on the lid of this desk. Similar decoration appears on German-inspired objects such as fraktur and painted chests. The small inlaid flowers on either side of the desk also are related to German ornamentation.
Click on desk for detail