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

Line and Form: The Late Baroque Style, 1730-1760

Boston remained a center of cabinetmaking, chair-making, and the upholstery trades in this period, but fine furniture was made throughout the colony.

In Salem, Ipswich, Marblehead, and many other locations, cabinetmakers produced both ornate and plainer, everyday objects, but rarely constructed expensive pieces of upholstered furniture.

The late baroque style emphasized movement, especially the S-curve.  A version of that curve appeared on chests and desks with a so-called blockfront façade, in which the side sections of the front of a case piece project while the center section is recessed.  Possibly borrowed from Dutch furniture, the shape became especially popular in Massachusetts and quickly spread to other parts of New England.

The upholstery trade became increasingly important in Boston as comfort became a greater priority and interior decoration became more elaborate. The cost of upholstered goods was exceedingly high, because of the expensive imported fabrics and stuffing materials that covered a chair or draped a bed and filled the mattress.

Selected Bibliography

  • Heckscher, Morrison H.  American Furniture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Vol. 2.  The Late Colonial Period:  Queen Anne and Chippendale Styles.  New York:  Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985.
  • Jobe, Brock.  “The Boston Furniture Industry, 1720-1740.”  In Boston Furniture, 3-48.
  • Jobe, Brock, and Myrna Kaye, with the assistance of Philip Zea.  New England Furniture, the Colonial Era:  Selections from the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin, 1984.
  • Richards, Nancy E., and Nancy Goyne Evans, with Wendy A. Cooper and Michael Podmaniczky.  New England Furniture at Winterthur:  Queen Anne and Chippendale Periods.  Winterthur, Del.:  Winterthur Museum, 1997. 
  • Whitehill, Walter Muir, Jonathan L. Fairbanks, and Brock Jobe, ed.  Boston Furniture of the Eighteenth Century.  A Conference Held by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 11 and 12 May 1972. Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, vol. 48.   Boston:  Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1974.


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