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June Lucas
Paint-Decorated Furniture from Piedmont North Carolina

American Furniture 2009

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Contents
  • Figure 1
    Figure 1

    Chest, Catawba County, North Carolina, 1800–1820. Yellow pine. H. 14", W. 24 1/4", D. 12". (Private collection; photo, Wesley Stewart.) This small chest was made in the Catawba Valley region of the piedmont. The façade is ­decorated with seven compass roses and an inscription in script. Only the first name of the owner—“Sarah”—is legible. The lid has ovolo-molded edges and wooden pintle hinges that are nailed to the back and sides of the top. The wedged dovetails and use of a center foot suggest that the maker was of Germanic descent. 

  • Figure 2
    Figure 2

    Chest, Davidson County, North Carolina, 1800–1820. Yellow pine. H. 22 1/2", W. 51 3/4", D. 19 3/4". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The wedged dovetails and pinned feet and moldings suggest that the maker of this chest was trained in the Germanic tradition. The decorator probably used a rag to dab on the salmon paint and then brushed in the black background of the compass roses. No other chests with a similarly shaped central drop and foot are known.

  • Figure 3
    Figure 3

    Map illustrating the eastern and western boundaries of the North Carolina piedmont, modern North Carolina counties, and major towns about 1800. (Artwork, Wynne Patterson.)

  • Figure 4
    Figure 4

    Map illustrating the major routes taken by early North Carolina settlers into the piedmont region and the major rivers along which they settled. (Adapted from a map in Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003], p. 11; artwork, Wynne Patterson.)

  • Figure 5
    Figure 5

    Map illustrating the ethnic settlement patterns in piedmont North Carolina as indicated by religious congregations about 1800. (Adapted from a map in Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003], p. 12.)

  • Figure 6
    Figure 6

    John and Rachel Allen House, Alamance County, North Carolina, 1782. (Courtesy, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.) The Allen House is representative of a typical log dwelling inhabited by early settlers in piedmont North Carolina. Until 1967 the house stood on its original site near Snow Camp but now is part of the Alamance Battleground State Historic Site.

  • Figure 7
    Figure 7

    Chest, Rowan County, North Carolina, possibly 1768. Tulip poplar with oak. H. 23", W. 50 1/2", D. 23". (Courtesy, North Carolina Museum of History; photo, Eric Blevins.)

  • Figure 8
    Figure 8

    Detail of fingerpainted tulips on the chest illustrated in fig. 7. (Photo, Eric Blevins.)

  • Figure 9
    Figure 9

    Detail of crab lock on the chest illustrated in fig. 7. (Photo, Eric Blevins.)

  • Figure 10
    Figure 10

    Latta Plantation, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, early nineteenth century. (Courtesy, Historic Latta Plantation, Huntersville, North Carolina.) Latta Plantation exemplifies the type of frame house a member of North Carolina’s emerging backcountry elite might have occupied. The home was built by James Latta, who came from Ireland in 1785 and married Jane Knox. They were part of the strong Presbyterian community in Mecklenburg County. Today Latta Plantation is a living history farm located within Latta Plantation Nature Preserve. 

  • Figure 11
    Figure 11

    Chest, probably Alamance County, North Carolina, 1800–1820. Yellow pine. H. 26 1/4", W. 49 1/4", D. 20 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The chest has three lower drawers (the central one was never fitted with a brass pull) separated by panels with molded surrounds. The corners of each drawer front are decorated with quarter fans like those at the corners of the case above. The front edges of the case, the recessed panels separating the three lower drawers, and most of the moldings are painted in colors that contrast with the ochre background. Marks on the surface of the chest indicate that the decorator used a compass, templates, and straightedge to lay out his work. 

  • Figure 12
    Figure 12

    Detail of the central panel on the chest illustrated in fig. 11. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 13
    Figure 13

    Detail of the right panel on the chest illustrated in fig. 11. (Photo, Gavin ­Ashworth.)

  • Figure 14
    Figure 14

    Chest, probably Alamance County, North Carolina, 1800–1820. Yellow pine. H. 26 3/4", W. 49 3/4", D. 21 1/4". (Courtesy, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) Unlike the chest illustrated in fig. 11, this example has two drawers separated by painted lines that simulate inlaid fluting, another possible concession to neoclassical taste

  • Figure 15
    Figure 15

    Sugar pot, Alamance County, North Carolina, 1780–1820. Lead-glazed earthenware. H. 7 1/2". (Courtesy, Old Salem Museums & Gardens; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 16
    Figure 16

    Signature of Josiah C. Foster on the underside of the lid on the chest illustrated in fig. 14. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 17
    Figure 17

    Chest attributed to Daniel Anthony or Henry Anthony, Alamance County, North Carolina, 1800–1850. Walnut with tulip poplar. H. 26 1/2", W. 49 3/8", D. 20 1/2". (Courtesy, North Carolina Museum of History; photo, Eric Blevins.)

  • Figure 18
    Figure 18

    Composite detail showing the drawer dovetails on the chests illustrated in figs. 11 (left) and 17 (right). (Photos, Gavin Ashworth [left] and Eric Blevins [right].)

  • Figure 19
    Figure 19

    Details of the left front feet of the chests illustrated in figs. 14 (left) and 17 (right). (Photos, Gavin Ashworth [left] and Eric Blevins [right]). 

  • Figure 20
    Figure 20

    Chest, Alamance County, North Carolina, 1790–1820. Tulip poplar with yellow pine. H. 23 1/2", W. 43 1/2", D. 19 3/4". (Private ­collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) As on the chests illustrated in figs. 11 and 14, the polychrome areas of decoration are painted on a light ochre background. The base and lid moldings on this chest are painted reddish orange to contrast with the case. The lid is attached to the case with forged iron strap hinges. The case and the feet are joined with wedged dovetails, and the lid, base moldings, and feet are attached with both wooden pins and nails. The maker produced a walnut chest identical to this example, which also has a recovery history in the Kimesville area. 

  • Figure 21
    Figure 21

    Detail of the left panel on the chest illustrated in fig. 20. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 22
    Figure 22

    Chest, Stanly County, North Carolina, 1820–1840. Yellow pine. H. 25 3/4", W. 47 1/4", D. 20". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The decorator used a round brush or wadded cloth to produce overlapping circular patterns in the salmon and blue grounds. After laying out his designs with a straightedge and compass, the decorator used the same ornamental technique to apply the white paint. 

  • Figure 23
    Figure 23

    Detail of the central fylfot on the lid of the chest illustrated in fig. 22. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The decorator used a brush to apply the thin black line accentuating the lobes of the ­fylfots. 

  • Figure 24
    Figure 24

    Chest, Cabarrus County, North Carolina, 1808–1840. Tulip poplar with yellow pine. H. 25", W. 49 5/8", D. 22 1/4". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The inner foot profile is a single cove and ovolo.

  • Figure 25
    Figure 25

    Chest, Stanly County, North Carolina, 1823–1840. Yellow pine. H. 30 1/2", W. 50 1/2", D. 24". (Collection of Elbert H. Parsons Jr.; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 26
    Figure 26

    Detail of a side of the chest illustrated in fig. 22. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The feet on this chest terminate with an ovolo at the top. 

  • Figure 27
    Figure 27

    Detail of a side of the chest illustrated in fig. 25. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The feet on this chest terminate with an additional cove at the top, making them taller and broader than those illustrated in fig. 26. 

  • Figure 28
    Figure 28

    Detail showing coped moldings on the chest illustrated in fig. 25. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 29
    Figure 29

    Cupboard attributed to the Jacob Sanders shop, Montgomery County, North Carolina, 1790–1820. Yellow pine. H. 84 1/4", W. 50 1/4", D. 21 3/8". (Courtesy, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) A front baseboard that descends to a pronounced peak is common on pieces from this group. Approximately twenty examples are known. 

  • Figure 30
    Figure 30

    Detail showing the case dovetails, heavy beading, and applied ogee moldings on the cupboard illustrated in fig. 29. (Courtesy, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 31
    Figure 31

    Detail showing a mitered and nailed foot joint and a strap-and-pintle hinge on the cupboard illustrated in fig. 29. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The pintle hinges allow the doors to be easily removed. 

  • Figure 32
    Figure 32

    Detail of the stacked cornice and fascia on the cupboard illustrated in fig. 29. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The lunettes were laid out with a compass and then sawed. 

  • Figure 33
    Figure 33

    Chest attributed to the Jacob Sanders shop, Montgomery County, North Carolina, 1790–1820. Yellow pine. H. 37 1/2", W. 37 1/2", D. 21 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) Fylfots and compass roses like those on this chest are the most common motifs on piedmont North Carolina furniture. 

  • Figure 34
    Figure 34

    Detail of a strap-and-pintle hinge on the chest illustrated in fig. 33. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 35
    Figure 35

    Dish dresser attributed to the Jacob Sanders shop, Montgomery County, North Carolina, 1790–1820. Yellow pine. H. 85", W. 50", D. 20 1/2". (Courtesy, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; photo, Craig McDougal.) This object has incurved feet like those on the dish dresser and chest illustrated in figs. 38 and 43. Like this example, most dish dressers in the group have central stiles, although not all are shaped.

  • Figure 36
    Figure 36

    Detail of the cornice decoration on the dish dresser illustrated in fig. 35. 

  • Figure 37
    Figure 37

    Hanging cupboard attributed to the Jacob Sanders shop, Montgomery County, North Carolina, 1790–1820. Yellow pine. H. 27 1/4", W. 18 1/2", D. 9 1/2". (Courtesy, Greensboro Historical Museum; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 38
    Figure 38

    Early photograph of a dish dresser with scalloped stiles similar to those on the hanging cupboard illustrated in fig. 37. (Courtesy, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.) The crescent-shaped scallops terminate at a shelf or plate rail and are connected by a vertical rod. The stiles on this dresser were removed and discarded during the twentieth century. 

  • Figure 39
    Figure 39

    Hanging cupboard attributed to the Jacob Sanders shop, Montgomery County, North Carolina, 1790–1820. Yellow pine. H. 29 3/4", W. 25 1/2", D. 13". (Wilkinson Collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 40
    Figure 40

    Detail of a strap-and-pintle hinge on the door of the hanging cupboard illustrated in fig. 39. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 41
    Figure 41

    Chest of drawers attributed to the Jacob Sanders shop, Montgomery County, North Carolina, 1790–1820. Walnut and light wood with yellow pine. H. 52 3/4", W. 39", D. 19 1/4". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 42
    Figure 42

    Detail of the lightwood cock-beading, lunetted fascia, and crescent inlay on the chest of drawers illustrated in fig. 41. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 43
    Figure 43

    Chest attributed to the Jacob Sanders shop, Montgomery County, North Carolina, 1790–1820. Yellow pine. H. 17 1/4", W. 31 1/4", D. 13 1/4". (Courtesy, Greensboro Historical Museum; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 44
    Figure 44

    Dish dresser, Montgomery or Randolph County, North Carolina, 1820–1850. Yellow pine. H. 80 1/2", W. 61 1/2", D. 21 1/4". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) This piece does not have a central stile like the four other related dressers. 

  • Figure 45
    Figure 45

    Chest, Rowan County, North Carolina, 1790–1820. Tulip poplar with yellow pine. H. 24", W. 49 1/4", D. 20 1/4". (Private collection; photo, Wesley Stewart.) The cream-colored paint on this chest was originally much thicker. The sides and feet are joined with wedged dovetails and the base is nailed in place. The foot is unusual in having sawtooth shaping where the bracket rises toward the base molding. 

  • Figure 46
    Figure 46

    Detail of the central motif on the chest illustrated in fig. 45. (Photo, Wesley Stewart.) Although now worn, the paint used for the lobe-and-spade-shaped design may have been ­patterned. 

  • Figure 47
    Figure 47

    Chest, Chatham County, North Carolina, 1801–1830. Yellow pine. H. 29", W. 48", D. 18". (Courtesy, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) Beneath the black ground is a red primer coat, probably applied to seal the resinous yellow pine. The chest has wedged dovetails, unusually tall bracket feet, and an applied, filleted ogee beneath its molded top.

  • Figure 48
    Figure 48

    Detail of the central motif on the chest illustrated in fig. 47. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 49
    Figure 49

    Doubloon, Ephraim Brasher, New York, 1787. Gold. (Courtesy, American Numismatic Society.)

  • Figure 50
    Figure 50

    Touchmark of Jehiel Johnson, Fayetteville, North Carolina, 1817–1819. Pewter. (Courtesy, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.)

  • Figure 51
    Figure 51

    Detail of the right side of the chest illustrated in fig. 47. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The case extends about one inch beyond the rear edge of the back feet, presumably to accommodate an architectural baseboard. 

  • Figure 52
    Figure 52

    Chest, Chatham or Randolph County, North Carolina, 1801–1830. Yellow pine. H. 27 3/8", W. 51 1/8", D. 22 3/8". (Courtesy, High Museum of Art.)

  • Figure 53
    Figure 53

    Chest, Chatham County, North Carolina, 1840–1850. Yellow pine. H. 24 1/2", W. 41", D. 19". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 54
    Figure 54

    Detail of the central façade decoration on the chest illustrated in fig. 53. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) Three chests in this group have the owner’s initials painted in script. The circular belly of the vase and some of the leaves originally had a light pink wash, but only faint outlines and tiny fragmented areas of color remain. The upper section of the vase retains a thicker, darker coat of pink paint like that on the flowers and buds. 

  • Figure 55
    Figure 55

    Detail of a rear foot on the chest illustrated in fig. 53. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 56
    Figure 56

    Chest, Chatham County, North Carolina, 1840–1850. Yellow pine. H. 23 1/2", W. 43 1/2", D 18 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The case and feet of this chest are joined with wedged dovetails. The rear feet do not extend beyond the back of the case, and their ­supports are nailed into the bottom in a conventional manner.

  • Figure 57
    Figure 57

    Chest, possibly Rutherford County, North Carolina, 1800–1850. Yellow pine. H. 26 3/4", W. 41 1/2", D. 16". (Private collection; photo, Wesley Stewart.) The decorator of this chest probably used a sponge or rag dipped in black paint to apply the arcs and dots on the façade. This object and the chest illustrated in fig. 58 are similar in form, but their construction differs. The case of the former is dovetailed, whereas the case of the latter is joined and secured with screws.

  • Figure 58
    Figure 58

    Chest, possibly Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, 1800–1850. Yellow pine. H. 30 1/4", W. 44 1/2", D. 19 7/8". (Private collection; photo, courtesy Deanne Levison.) The front and back boards are screwed to the side boards, the frame is constructed with pinned mortise-and-tenon joints, and both the case and waist molding are nailed to the frame. 

  • Figure 59
    Figure 59

    Chest, Wake County, North Carolina, 1800–1820. Yellow pine. H. 24", W. 29", D. 15". (Wilkinson Collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The lid has lost much of its paint, but it appears to have been blue with red edges and moldings. The front and side boards are joined with blind dovetails, the rear and side boards are joined with half-blind dovetails, and the front and side feet are joined with fully exposed dovetails. The lid battens are attached with pinned tongue-and-groove joints, and the moldings and base are secured with cut nails. 

  • Figure 60
    Figure 60

    Frontispiece of B. Langley and T. Langley, The Builder’s Jewel: or the Youth’s Instructor and Workman’s Remembrancer, 12th ed. (Dublin: James Williams in Skinner-Row, 1768). (Courtesy, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.)

  • Figure 61
    Figure 61

    Detail of the central motif on the façade of the chest illustrated in fig. 59. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 62
    Figure 62

    Detail of pillars topped with terrestrial and celestial globes (R. W. Jeremy L. Cross, G.L., The True Masonic Chart or Hieroglyphic Monitor, 5th ed. [New York, 1842], p. 12). (Courtesy, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.) These pillars symbolized the Fellow Crafts Degree, Section Second.

  • Figure 63
    Figure 63

    Detail of the right bird on the façade of the chest illustrated in fig. 59. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The design of the birds on the chest is similar to that of the eagle in the lower right quadrant of the shield shown in fig. 65.

  • Figure 64
    Figure 64

    Detail of the cover of Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (1873).

  • Figure 65
    Figure 65

    Detail of facing cherubim guarding the ark of the covenant (R. W. Jeremy L. Cross, G.L., The True Masonic Chart or Hieroglyphic Monitor, 5th ed. [New York, 1842], p. 42). (Courtesy, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.)

  • Figure 66
    Figure 66

    Detail of the right building on the façade of the chest illustrated in fig. 59. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 67
    Figure 67

    Detail of the right side of the chest illustrated in fig. 59. (Photo, Gavin Ashworth.)

  • Figure 68
    Figure 68

    Detail of a Masonic floorcloth (R. W. Jeremy L. Cross, G.L., The True Masonic Chart or Hieroglyphic Monitor, 5th ed. [New York, 1842], p. 8). (Courtesy, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.)

  • Figure 69
    Figure 69

    John Luker, Masonic master’s chair, pillars, and candlestands, Vinton County, Ohio, 1870. (Courtesy, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, gift of the Estate of Charles V. Hagler; photo, David Bohl.) The shape of the large pillars is similar to that of the central motif on the chest illustrated in fig. 59.

  • Figure 70
    Figure 70

    Cupboard, Catawba, Lincoln, Cleveland, or Burke County, North Carolina, 1880–1920. Yellow pine. H. 52 1/2", W. 35 3/4", D. 15". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The decorator typically used one ground color for the stiles and rails and another for the doors, top, and case sides. This allowed him to frame his ornamental designs. 

  • Figure 71
    Figure 71

    Cupboard, Catawba, Lincoln, ­Cleveland, or Burke County, North Carolina, 1880–1920. Yellow pine. H. 53", W. 36", D. 16". (Private collection; photo, Wesley Stewart.) The brown may be a stain or wash rather than an opaque paint. 

  • Figure 72
    Figure 72

    Dish dresser, Catawba, Lincoln, Cleveland, or Burke County, North Carolina, 1880–1920. Yellow pine. H. 76", W. 34", D. 15". (Private collection; photo, Gavin Ashworth.) The thick application of bright paint makes the more methodical decorator’s work particularly dramatic.

  • Figure 73
    Figure 73

    Composite detail showing the door decoration on (from left to right) a dish dresser (fig. 72) and two cupboards (figs. 70, 71). (Photo, Gavin Ashworth [left and middle] and Wesley Stewart [right].)

  • Figure 74
    Figure 74

    Cupboard, Catawba, Lincoln, Cleveland, or Burke County, North Carolina, 1880–1920. Yellow pine. H. 53", W. 36", D. 16 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Wesley Stewart.) The name “Zara Havner” is written in pencil on the inside surface of the left door. The only person with that name in North Carolina census records from the early twentieth century was an eight-year-old girl who lived in Icard Township in Burke County in 1900. She was the daughter of farmer Daniel A. Havner and his wife, Margaret. 

  • Figure 75
    Figure 75

    Cupboard, Catawba, Lincoln, Cleveland, or Burke County, North Carolina, 1880–1920. Yellow pine. H. 52", W. 36", D. 16". (Private collection; photo, Wesley Stewart.) On this cupboard and the example illustrated in fig. 76, the decorator used lunettes to outline the diamonds and the designs beneath them. The methodical painter of the related cupboards and dish dresser used sawtooth lines in the same context. This cupboard is the only example with quatrefoil motifs, which may have been intended to represent flowers.

  • Figure 76
    Figure 76

    Cupboard, Catawba, Lincoln, ­Cleveland, or Burke County, North Carolina, 1880–1920. Yellow pine. H. 53", W. 36", D. 15 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Wesley Stewart.)

  • Figure 77
    Figure 77

    Composite detail showing the door decoration on cupboards illustrated in (from left to right) figs. 74, 75, and 76. (Photos, Wesley Stewart.)

  • Figure 78
    Figure 78

    Basket, Qualla Boundary, North Carolina, ca. 1950. River cane. H. 11", W. 9", D. 8 1/2". (Private collection; photo, Wesley Stewart.)

  • Figure 79
    Figure 79

    Basket, Qualla Boundary, North Carolina, ca. 1950. River cane. H. 16", W. 17 1/2", D. 8". (Private collection; photo, Wesley Stewart.)

  • Figure 80
    Figure 80

    Washstand, Iredell County, North Carolina, ca. 1850–1875. Yellow pine. H. 30 1/2", W. 31", D. 17". (Private collection; photo, Wesley Stewart.)

  • Figure 81
    Figure 81

    Detail of the compass rose on top of the washstand illustrated in fig. 80. (Photo, Wesley Stewart.)