Collections › MESDA Collection › Chest of Drawers

Chest of Drawers

Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany, cypress
HOA: 31; WOA: 33; DOA: 20
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Small chest of drawers: Has four graduated molded edge drawers; set under a molded edge top which is attached to the case sides with sliding half dovetails; the whole upon straight bracket feet with vertical glue blocks; the drawers furnished with reproduction cotter-pin brasses to duplicate the original.

CONSTRUCTION: Case: Corner joinery: Bottom of case dovetailed to sides. Top attachment: Top of sides run with full-depth half-dovetails which engage the top. Back joinery: Horizontal butt-jointed boards nailed into rabbets in the top and case sides. Drawer rails: Glued to dustboards and fitted to case sides with half-dovetailed dadoes, the joints covered with vertical facing strips. Drawer supports: Drawer rails and dustboards. Dustboards: Full-bottom, 3/4 depth, fitted to case sides with sliding half-dovetail. Base system: Bed mold supported by multiple bed blocks. Foot block system: Mitred horizontal flankers originally notched to receive a shouldered vertical block bearing on both the flankers and the bed blocks. Drawers: Frame joinery: Dovetailed, back passes sides. Bottom-to-frame joinery: Bottoms fitted to dadoes in front and sides, nailed in back. Bottom section/joinery: Two butt-jointed boards parallel to front, bevelled at front and sides. Runner system: Drawer sides. Front edge finish: Thumb-molded, unlipped, held proud of case front by stops glued and nailed to rails.

STYLE: This small mahogany chest of drawers represents the transmission of British style to early Charleston. Case construction of this chest appears on furniture made in the Boston regions as well as on early case furniture made in the lower Chesapeake; it is one of the standard urban British construction methods brought to America. The cove and torus bed mold used is encountered on urban British furniture, particularly London work, not common on American case furniture. It is, however, the quintessential Charleston bed mold of the colonial period. This chest of drawers is the earliest known Charleston case piece that utilizes this very architectural feature. The molding is backed by a series of blocks glued to the bottom of the case. This base system is the usual arrangement on Charleston furniture of the period.

CONDITION: Brass pulls and backplates replaced; escutcheons added; left rear foot facing replaced; rear foot bracing replaced; vertical foot blocks replaced.

This chest has a history of descent from Daniel Cannon (1726-1802) and his second wife, Mary (Trusler) Doughty of Charleston. Cannon arrived in Charleston in 1740, where he learned the housewright’s trade; by the early 1760s he was one of the city’s most successful building contractors. Cannon’s second marriage to Mary brought with it significant household goods, as this is probably the mahogany chest of drawers listed in the 1755 inventory of her first husband, a successful vintner and victualler, Thomas Doughty.

The contents the Cannons’ house on Queen Street are documented by other pieces in MESDA’s collection: a silver sugar bowl (Acc. 2506) and a pair of silver sauce boats (Acc. 3407.1-2) engraved with their initials, “DMC.” MESDA also documented a portrait of Mary (Trusler) Doughty Cannon by Jeremiah Theus, now in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art (MESDA Object Database: S-8195).

Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. E. Norwood Robinson