A Flood of Northern Imports
The quantity of furniture exported from the North to the South from the 1730s to the 1780s was relatively modest. Shipments increased dramatically toward century's end, due in part to the growing southern interest in neoclassical furniture with its renewed emphasis on curved case forms, veneers, and inlays. By the 1790s, cabinet manufactories in Boston, New York, and other cities employed large, highly specialized crews who could produce furniture in the new style cost effectively and in volume.
Most of the northern furniture shipped south during this period was simple and inexpensive. Commonly sold as venture cargo at dockside, the goods were subject to damage in the process. Venture sales were an uncertain business. In 1803, the captain of a New England ship docked at Richmond, Virginia, wrote to Salem cabinetmaker Elijah Sanderson about furniture the artisan had consigned for venture sale:
The goods are not sold as yet [but] part of them are sold. I have tried them twice at vendue [i.e., auction] but sold very little and what is sold is very lo . . . the reason they don't sell quick [is that] their is Ben a vessel here from New York with furniture & sold it very lo.
Unsold goods usually were reloaded and offered at the next port of call.