Chest of Drawers
TECHNIQUE: To create the inlaid decoration, including George and Barbara’s initials and the 1796 date of construction, the craftsman poured molten sulfur into carved channels, let it dry, and scraped it even with the wood surface. The inlay was bright yellow when it was first inserted.
STYLE:The sulfur-inlay technique is generally associated with furniture originating in the German communities of Lancaster County, PA. However, the arched drawers at the top of this tall chest are most often associated with Quaker furniture originating in Chester County, PA.
GROUP: At least fifteen pieces from this group have survived, although not all have suflur inlay. Of the surviving pieces, the Foust high chest is the most elaborate.
MAKER: The group is attributed to the shop of Joseph Wells (1729-1804), a Quaker living near Cane Creek Meeting in southern Alamance County, NC. Wells was first recorded in the region in 1751 as an early member of Cane Creek Meeting. His family had migrated from Chester County, Pennsylvania, to Frederick County, Maryland, and then to North Carolina. When George Foust bought his first piece of property in 1778, it was on both sides of Wells Creek, presumably named for the Wells family, and it bordered that of “Josh. Wells.” Listed on Joseph’s 1804 estate inventory and sale were joiner’s tools, 17 planes, a glue pot, a workbench, and 1 case of drawers part made. George Foust’s brothers, Daniel and Peter Foust, bought items at Joseph’s sale. Joseph Wells’ inventories strongly suggest he was making furniture, and considering that George Foust was a next-door neighbor, it seems reasonable to assume that George Foust, a German, commissioned his tall chest of drawers from Joseph Wells, his Quaker neighbor. Other extant pieces in this group descended in Quaker families. In addition to Joseph Wells, other men appear to have been working in his shop, including his sons Jesse and William, along with other family members and other men who were members of Cane Creek Meeting. The blending of a Quaker furniture form with a Germanic decorative technique illustrate the creative synthesis of styles often found in furniture made in the southern Backcountry.