New England Begins 1620-1730 Colonial Expressions in the Georgian Era 1730-1790 Neoclassicism in the New Nation 1790-1840 Industry, Innovation, and Tradition 1835-1950 Reaction and Reform 1870-1945 The Factory and the Studio 1920-2013

Furniture makers in this period embraced the elegant late baroque style in which emphasis was placed on line and form rather than ornament. more

In the World

  • 1741George Frideric Handel composes Messiah
  • 1760Ascension of George III
  • 1754Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Directory published

In Massachusetts

  • 1770Boston Massacre
  • 1773Boston Tea Party
  • 1775Battle of Lexington and Concord

Colonial Expressions in the Georgian Era

Everyday Expressions, 1700-1800

Throughout the eighteenth century, the production of vernacular (or everyday) furniture was an important component of the furniture trade in both urban and rural areas.

Vernacular furniture was generally plain and not heavily adorned with stylistic embellishments. Forms such as ladder-back and banister-back chairs, Windsor chairs, and simple storage furniture such as six-board chests are just a few of the types of furniture that followed their own trajectory of production during this period.

These objects—often bold, direct, and strong forms, some with painted decorations—stood largely outside the flow of more style-conscious objects fashioned in the succession of international artistic styles.  They are, nevertheless, no less important as part of the larger picture, not only for their quantity but also for the light they shed on the material aspects of everyday life in this period and the high quality of design often achieved in humble objects.

In many cases, the makers of these types of objects are not known today.  Some created what has been called “simple city furniture,” objects characterized by their plain, unassuming style. Other artists and makers, especially those in rural areas, practiced furniture-making on a seasonal basis, working in the fields in the warmer months and in the shop in the winter.

Selected Bibliography

  • Benes, Peter D., ed.  Rural New England Furniture:  People, Place, and Production. Boston:  Boston University for the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, 2000.
  • Cullity, Brian.  Plain and Fancy:  New England Painted Furniture.  Sandwich, Mass.:  Heritage Plantation of Sandwich, 1987.
  • Evans, Nancy Goyne.  Windsor Chair Making in America:  From Craft Shop to Consumer.  Hanover and London:  University Press of New England, 2006.  See also two other titles by this author on Windsors and their use.
  • Fales, Dean A., Jr.  America Painted Furniture, 1660-1880.  New York:  E.P. Dutton, 1972.
  • Little , Nina Fletcher.  Little by Little:  Six Decades of Collecting American Decorative Arts.  New York:  E.P. Dutton, 1984.
  • Morse, John D.  Country Cabinetwork and Simple City Furniture.  Winterthur Conference Report 1969.  Charlottesville:  University Press of Virginia for the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1970.


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