American Furniture By E. T. Joy

carried broadly carved leafage, spirals or rings: and sometimes the columns were partly gilded and partly painted black. In brief, they lose their architectural character and, consequently, are no longer wall mirrors but, rather, looking-glasses to hang on a wall. The handles in the Early Empire period were, characteristically, projecting round brass knobs often stamped with the American eagle, the head of Washington or some other patriotic motive. The characteristic Late Empire handle was a ring pull hanging from the mouth of a brass lion's head. The tawny gleam of brass was in happy accord with the glowing red mahogany or rosewood in rich 'crotch-grained' veneers.

Seldom has veneerĀ¬ing been used with more brilliant effect. The forms of the furniture grew stiffer, colder and more austere, but the surfacing grew more resplendent. Despite the fact that the style was in the hands of master cabinet-makers, eminent among them Duncan Phyfe, the taste of the day was deteriorating. By 1830 American Empire had fallen from bad to worse, the forms becoming bulky, the pro-portions coarse, the rhythms heavy. Phyfe himself called it 'butcher furniture'. The decline continued until about 1840, when Americans began to turn from it and take up a new furniture style, the early Victorian.


Acorn clock:

shelf or mantel clock, generally about two feet high, with the upper portion shaped somewhat like an acorn. Popular in New England about 1825.


a fruitwood much used in America for turnings, also often in case pieces, such as slant-front desks, etc, to show off the rich-coloured pink-brown wood.


the American ash, a cream-coloured hardwood with oak-like graining; much used for furniture parts, such as upholstery frames, where strong, but not heavy, wood was desired.


half-loop metal pull, usually brass, hanging from metal bolts. First used in America about 1700; slowly grew into use for drawers of William and Mary pieces. The reigning fashion from 1720 to 1780 for drawers of Queen Anne and Chippendale pieces.

Ball foot:

called in England a Bun foot (q.v. under English furniture).


modern name for the American wall clock with a longish pendulum, the whole housed in a case shaped somewhat like a banjo (Plate 38A). Invented in the 17905 by Simon Willard (q.v.), and patented by him about 1800. Decoratively attractive, its popularity spread from 1800 through the next half-century. Banister-back chair: probably simpliĀ¬fied from the cane chair (q.v.) but with vertical split-banisters in the back. Generally maple, often ebonized. Widely used in rural America, 1700-25 until the end of the century (Fig. i).


the late Renaissance style of vigorously elaborate furniture with sweeping curves and resplendent ornament. It origi-nated in sixteenth-century Italy, spread through Europe, but was little practised in England, and known in America only in bomb 6 case-pieces and in greatly simplified forms of some William and Mary and Queen Anne furniture (see Rococo).


a light-coloured hardwood prolific in America yet little used for furniture, probably because it was thought to be subject to furniture worms.

Bell flower:

conventionalized hanging ('belle') flower-bud of three, occasionally five, petals carved or, more often, inlaid one below the other in strings dropping down the legs of a table or chair or, sometimes, a chair splat. Seen in American Hepplewhite and Sheraton, notably Maryland furniture (Fig. 2). It is practically the same as the English 'husk' motive.

Bell seat:

the rounded, somewhat bell-shaped, seat often found in late Philadelphia Queen Anne side chairs. Nowadays often called balloon seat. Mostly about 1740-55.

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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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