Collections › MESDA Collection › Chest


Place Made:
Chowan County North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
walnut –yellow pine –poplar –oak
HOA: 30; WOA: 47; DOA: 21 3/4
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Chest with raised panels, four on the front and back, two on each side; heavy applied molding separates the panels from a single drawer; feet are extensions of the frame; hinged top with battens.

DATE: This is possibly the earliest known piece of North Carolina furniture. Joined chests of this type are rare in the coastal plain, six-board chests being more common. The raised, or fielded, panels have led to the suggestion that the piece dates well into the 18th-century but fielded panels have been recorded on the Continent before 1650, in England at least by 1670, and in New England in the 17th century. The chest has a heavy ogee molding on the muntins (upright frame sections) but no molding on the rails (horizontal sections), which would have been a later feature, providing an architectural surround for the entire panel.

CONSTRUCTION: The drawer, rather than being side-hung, rests on supports mortised into the front rail and nailed to the inside of the rear feet. The lower side rails are high at the sides, exposing the drawer from the side view. Both the back of the drawer and the drawer supports are exposed in the rear. The bed molding does not run across the back, which is finished with fielded panels. The chest has two important transitional features. The lower drawer rail, shaped as an extension of the feet, seems to be a transition between joined construction and the later dovetailed carcass. However, within the joiner’s tradition, there are mortise-and tenon joints at the junctures with the feet. The form of this base rail, with the center foot, seems continental or Dutch in concept. Another transitional feature is the lipped drawer front. The drawer bottom is beveled only at the front. Single large dovetails at front and rear, each reinforced with one nail, join the frame. The lip-molded top is fitted with heavy battens nailed in place and originally was hung on a pair of small offset cross-garnet hinges (now missing). All of the timber for the chest appears to have been pit-sawn.

WOODS: walnut with yellow pine drawer bottom and back, walnut drawer sides, poplar drawer runners.

This chest was discovered in Chowan County, North Carolina, during the first half of the 20th Century.
Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton