American Furniture By E. T. Joy

furniture in America has been made of pine, especially the soft white pine of New England. Antique examples of it are much prized today for countrified settings. White pine also was much used for the unseen parts of furniture and other secondary purposes, as well as for overlaying with veneer. Its presence often identifies the furniture as American. Short-leaf, yellow, hard pine is often used as the secondary wood in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia furniture. The long-leaf, yellow, hard pine, so plentiful in the South, does not make good furniture.


see Tulipwood.

Press cupboard:

a developed form of buffet or court cupboard (q.v.) in which both the upper and lower portions are closed. Sometimes the lower portion is a chest of drawers, probably for holding pressed linens. Early ones are generally of oak with much Jacobean ornamentation (Plate 37); seldom two alike, c. 1650-1700, though they con¬tinued to be made up to 1800-125.


a term sometimes used to de¬scribe the simple, functional, seventeenth-century New England furniture of the early Puritans (see Pilgrim furniture).


small, graceful, grouped convex mouldings, like reeds, carved perpendicularly on bed posts, seating furniture, table legs, etc, as ornament. Much used in Sheraton-esque American furniture, 1800-25, especially by Duncan Phyfe.

Rising sun:

when a fan-shaped ornament is carved half-circle, and the resulting spray of stalks suggests sun rays, it is picturesquely called a rising sun (Fig. 15). 'Setting sun' is sometimes used. It was so often the only decoration on New England highboys that its presence generally indicates the New England origin of the piece. James (later President) Madison recalled that when the Constitution of the United States was finally adopted after much contention, Benjamin Franklin pointed to a decoration of this type painted on the back of the chairman's chair and said he had looked at it many times during the sessions 'without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting, but now I... know that it is a rising . . . sun'.

Rocking chair:

a chair of almost any simple type mounted on bends, rockers. An American institution, the rocking chair may also be an American invention. Authentic fislat-back' examples are said to date as early as 1650-1700, though 1800 would seem to be safer. Special types were developed (see Boston rocker, Salem rocker, Windsor).


the final, ornate mode of the Baroque style (q.v.). Rococo found little expression in American furniture, unless we count the exuberant ornament on Phila¬delphia and Maryland Chippendale pieces and the tamed embellishment employed by some New York and New England cabinet¬makers. Just as English rococo is more re¬strained than French, so is the American still more restrained. Far less popular in England than in France, it was still less popular in America.


rose-shaped or disc-like ornament (in origin a patera) occasionally applied to the tips of scrolled arches in American high¬boys, secretaries and grandfather clocks. Later often applied to the ends of seat rails and top rails of chairs in the American Directory style of Duncan Phyfe, etc.


see Corner chair.

Rounded ends:

the top rail of early Chippendale chairs is sometimes made with rounded ends, somewhat in the style of a Queen Anne chair (see Cupid's bow).


alternative term for the rocker of a rocking chair.

Rush seat:

a seat woven of rushes. Used in America from the earliest times, generally with simple furniture. Still popular for country chairs (see Splint seat).

Saddle seat:

when the seat of a Windsor chair is cut away from the centre in a down¬ward slope to the sides, the shape somewhat resembles the seat of a saddle, and is pictur¬esquely so named.

Salem rocker:

Salem, Massachusetts, variant of the Windsor rocker (q.v.) and with a lower back than the Boston rocker (q.v.), early nineteenth century.

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