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Apothecary Chest

Place Made:
Baltimore Maryland United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany –tulip poplar
HOA: 21 1/4; WOA: 19 5/8; DOA 13 1/2
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Small cabinet; molded and hinged box lid lifts to expose small cubicles for bottles of two heights; two hinged compartments make half the depth of cabinet and contain numerous drawers; rear half of cabinet contains small drawers; ogee bracket feet; molded base.

FORM: Although made much later than the third edition of Chippendale’s Director (1762), its drawer configuration and basic design are related to a cabinet illustrated in plate 120 of that work. (RAES) These pieces – also called physics chest, traveling doctor’s shops, and family medicine chests – were used by both physicians and families. In the South, particularly on plantations, responsibility for nursing and healing the sick was one of many duties assigned to women. For example, while visiting the Byrds at Westover in Virginia, the Marquis de Chastellux wrote that Mrs. Byrd “takes great care of her [slaves], makes them as happy as their situation will admit, and serves them herself as a doctor in time of sickness.” Not many of these cabinets have survived. A Pennsylvania chest of about the same period as this example is in the Mabel Brady Garvan Collection at Yale University. The two cabinets operate similarly, but are not alike in design. A later chest descending in the Dandridge-Payne families of Virginia was featured in an article in the April 1950 issue of Antiques. (RAES)

Descended in the Fling family of Frederick, Maryland, and is believed to have been used on a plantation. (RAES)

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund