American Furniture By E. T. Joy

Phyfe, Duncan:

New York master cabinet¬maker (b. 1768, d. 1854). Born in Scotland, I in went in his early 'teens to Albany, New York, and there became apprenticed to a c.-ibinet-maker. In 1790, aged twenty-one, he arrived in New York City, where shortly he set up a shop and made fine quality furni-iure in the Sheraton and Directory styles. I'hyfe's work possesses a grace of line, a refinement of proportions and a delicacy of ornament - reeding, fluting, cameo-carving -which lends it both elegance and a distinc-tive air. Among his chairs, sofas and tables he produced so many little masterpieces incorporating the lyre motive that he is now considered its chief American exponent. Phyfe's individuality again stands out in his Empire-style furniture. He was so successful, that at one time he employed a hundred workmen; eventually his work suffered from his success. He retired from business in 1847. Fine collections of Phyfe furniture are owned by the Museum of the City of New York; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Taft Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio; and Henry Ford's Edison Institute, Dearborn, Michigan.

Pimm, John:

one of the ablest Boston cabinet-makers in the Queen Anne style (fl. 1735, d. 1773). A handsome japanned highboy, signed by him, survives. Prince, Samuel: able and highly pros-perous New York cabinet-maker (d. 1778). He is especially identified with furniture in the Chippendale manner. Thomas Burling was apprenticed to him.

Randolph Benjamin:

shares with Thomas Affleck the reputation of being the leading exponent of the Philadelphia Chippendale school (fl. 1762, d. 1792). He owned con-siderable property and is believed to have had , the largest cabinet-making shop in Philadelphia. Of him Nagel says: eNo other American cabinet-maker mastered the true spirit of the rococo more completely or came closer to the English tradition than Ran-dolph'. A finely carved French Chippendale wing chair attributed to him has been sold at auction to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., for $33,000.

Rittenhouse, David:

noted American astronomer, surveyor, inventor, and clock-maker of Philadelphia (b. 1732, d. 1796). Of his grandfather clocks, already famous in his day, only a few survive. He is said to have constructed his first clock when he was but seventeen. Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, wrote of him: 'We have supposed Mr Rittenhouse second to no astronomer; that in genius he must be first because he is self taught'. Rittenhouse (from the original Dutch, Rittenhuisjen) was a grandson of the first Mennonite bishop in America. He became Director of the United States Mint, and succeeded Benjamin Frank-lin as President of the American Philosophical Society. His brother, Benjamin, was also a clockmaker.

Sanderson, Elijah:

able cabinet-maker of Salem, Mass. (b. 1751, d. 1825). Together with his brother Jacob (b. 1757, d. 1810) he employed the finest craftsmen available, including the carver Samuel Mclntire. They shipped much of their furniture to Southern states, where it is said to have been sold on the piers. They also shipped furniture to South America.

Savery, William:

renowned cabinet¬maker of Philadelphia (b. 1721, d. 1787). At one time reckoned the paramount furniture craftsman in Pennsylvania, he is still con-sidered peerlessly sound. Joseph Downs tells us that his career began in 1742, continued forty-five years, and that his work ranged from simple maple rush-bottom chairs to soberly elegant carved Chippendale maho-gany highboys.

Seymour, John:

master cabinet-maker of Boston (fl. 1790-1820). His distinctive Federal furniture interprets Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Directory designs, often combining features of each. He is famous for his masterly satinwood inlays and tambour doors. He had a son in business with him.

Shaw, John:

exceptionally skilful cabinet¬maker of Annapolis, Maryland. He flourished in the late eighteenth century. There exist several labelled examples of his work in Hepplewhite and Sheraton styles.

Terry, Eli:

master clockmaker of Con-necticut (b. 1772, d. 1852). He developed nine clocks, which he patented, the best known being the so-called 'Terry' clock, a then inexpensive shelf or mantel timepiece with wooden works running thirty hours. It is housed in a case with a scrolled-arch top, small round pillars at the sides, and delicately small feet. Early in his career Terry toured the countryside, peddling his clocks from door to door.

Thomas, Seth:

Connecticut clockmaker (b. 1785, d. 1859), once a workman for Eli Terry. He bought up the rights to make 'Terry5 clocks, but seems to have created no clock of his own. Today clocks bearing the name Seth Thomas are still being manufactured.

Townsend, John:

renowned cabinet¬maker of Newport, R.I. (b. 1733). He made excellent block-front furniture and is believed to have been associated with his brother-in-law, John Goddard, in originating it. Cap-tured in the Revolution, he was released from a British prison ship in 1777, took up residence in Norwich and, later, Middle-town, Conn., where groups of block-front furniture-makers sprang up around him. Outstanding member of a famous furniture-making family, including his father, Job, several brothers, sons and nephews. Some scholars think the Townsends deserve most of the credit now given to John Goddard for originating block-front furniture.

Tufft, Thomas:

well-known cabinet¬maker of the Philadelphia Chippendale school (fl. 1765, d. 1793). His identified work is not as elaborate as some, but his chairs and carved highboys and lowboys set a standard of exquisite detail'.

Weaver, Holmes:

Newport, R.I., cabinet¬maker (b. 1769, d. 1848). Produced excellent work in Hepplewhite and Sheraton styles. Was at one time clerk of the supreme court of his county.

Willard, Simon:

widely regarded as America's foremost clockmaker (b. 1753, d. 1848). Member of a famous family of Massachusetts clockmakers, including his father, Benjamin; three brothers (Benjamin, Jr., Ephraim and Aaron); a son, Simon, Jr.; nephews and cousins. His most famous clock — a weight-driven, accurate, eight-day move¬ment, housed in a banjo-shaped case - he patented in 1800, having invented it several years earlier. He also made grandfather clocks of the finest workmanship. His reputation grew so great that other clockmakers are known to have put his name on their clocks.

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Philip Burke has a wide range of 18th and 19th century English and continental antique furniture.

The different styles of antique furniture that comes in may only last a few days in the workshop before they are sold. If you require a piece of furniture not listed please call and we will do our best to cater for your needs.



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Antique furniture is not always beautiful and pristine--in fact, some of the most valuable pieces show wear and fading. Whether or not to restore antique furniture can be a complex question, but it also depends on the definition of "restore."


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