Collections › MESDA Collection › Bedstead

Bedstead

Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
1760-1770
Medium:
mahogany
Dimensions:
HOA: 96; WOA: 55 3/4; DOA: 78
Accession Number:
3065 (2024.77)
Description:
DESCRIPTION: Four-poster bedstead; footposts fluted with stop-fluting on the lower third part; terminating in cabriole legs with claw-and-ball feet; headposts with turned legs below squared tapering upper posts; these supporting an arched headboard set in applied slotted battens for easy removal, with the original side rails indented for slats; brass cover for screw joints of rails.

CONSTRUCTION: The headboard is set between two pairs of mahogany strips attached to the headposts. This construction renders the headboard “removable,” but no evidence supports the popular notion that such headboards actually were removed in hot weather. The same construction has been observed on bedsteads made in New York City.

DESIGN: The feet of the headposts are a balustrade form evidently taken from Plate 32 of the second edition of Chippendale’s Director. (RAES)

FORM: The first mention of a bedstead in Charleston was on 24 September 1693 in the estate inventory of Mr. Francis Jones where “1 old bedstead” was listed. Pre-1750 Charleston-made bedsteads are unknown. Surviving Charleston bedsteads are of the high-post variety, as in this example. Occasionally more elaborate models with handle shutters and doors are listed. In Charleston inventories, low-post bedsteads are only occasionally mentioned. Items included with bedsteads in early records are “sacking” and iron rods. The latter item was used to support bedhangings.

Cabinetmaker Thomas Elfe recorded in his account book in May of 1773, that he had made for Humphrey Sommers “a double chest of drawers with a frett round,” (80 pounds) “a Mahogany bedstead flutted post & Brass Caps With a carved Cornish,” (65 pounds) “a Sett of Brass Casters,” (2 pounds) and “a Lady’s dressing drawers for daughter,” (45 pounds).

WOODS: Bedsteads in Charleston, as revealed in inventories, were of tulip poplar, red bay, sassafras, mulberry, and other locally-obtained woods in addition to mahogany. Thomas Elfe’s account book is interesting in that it mentions not only 62 mahogany bedsteads, but also an equal number of tulip poplar bedsteads. However, only the mahogany ones survive.

History:
Originally purchased in Charleston in the 1920s.
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alban K. Barrus