Collections › MESDA Collection › Card Table

Card Table

Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany, cypress, ash
HOA: 28 1/4; WOA: 33; DOA: 17 (closed)
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Card table: Plain, shaped folding top; cabriole legs with pad feet; single drawer in front with original brass; apron fitted with a drawer for the storage of playing cards and counters (Construction of this drawer is somewhat unusual, for, like the small interior drawers of many desks, its bottom is glued into a flush rabbet at the front, sides, and back.); cockbeaded drawer.

CONSTRUCTION: Frame: Drawer flanked by full-height partitions joined to inner frame with vertical sliding dovetail, and nailed into rabbets at each side of the drawer opening; the drawer supports are nailed to the bottoms of the partitions. Fly frame/leg joinery: Pinned mortise and tenon. Hinge form: Round with stops. Top attachment: Glue blocks only. Drawer: Frame joinery: Dovetailed, back passes sides. Bottom-to-frame joinery: Bottom fits flush rabbets in front, sides, and back. Bottom section/joinery: Four flat butt-jointed boards perpendicular to front. Runner system: Drawer sides and bottom. Front edge finish: Flush, cockbeaded.

TECHNIQUE: Unlike most Charleston dining tables, the stiles of the fly leg on this card table are fitted flush with the frame. This was done to create the appearance of an unbroken surface along the side frames of the table behind the corner blocking. To achieve this flush fit, the maker rabbeted both the stile of the fly leg and the frame of the table. Not so noticeable in this view is that the shoulder of the leg stile rabbet is sharply angled in to lessen friction. Even the frame rabbet is angled somewhat, but in this instance to allow the leg stile to close against the outside line of the joint, ensuring the appearance of a tight joint when the table is closed. These are sophisticated and unusual details.

TERM: The first Charleston inventory to mention a card table was dated January 1732/3. Although several Charleston card tables survive from this period, no cabinetmakers advertised the making of this form and the earliest record of such is in the 1768-1775 account books of Thomas Elfe.

CONDITION: Knee responds replaced; brass original.

This card table descended in the family of William McGillivray Morrison (1903-1960), Charleston’s mayor from 1947 to 1959. The McGillivray family had occupied the house on 10 Atlantic Street for much of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1813, Alexander Hinckley McGillivray (1781-1835) married Eliza Bampfield Geyer, the granddaughter of wealthy Charleston merchant William Bampfield (1731-1773). Bampfield’s probate inventory suggests that he was the card table’s original owner. It itemizes the contents of a stylishly furnished, colonial Charleston single house with “1 small Card Table & 1 Tea Table mahogany” worth 12 pounds in the West Parlour. Bampfield’s sociable nature is further documented by his memberships in multiple social organizations–the St. George’s Society, St. Andrew’s Society and South Carolina Society–and his election to serve as a church warden and vestryman at St. Michael’s Church.

For a related McGillivray and Geyer family object, see the Charleston-made sewing table (Acc. 2024.143).

Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank R. Liggett III