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China Press

Place Made:
Warren and Franklin Counties North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
walnut, yellow pine
HOA: 101 3/4; WOA: 46 1/4; DOA: 19
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: China press with a broken pediment, cove and denticulated cornice moldings, a fluted plinth (missing finial); two eight-light glass doors with beaded edges, hinged to the case sides, three interior shelves, waist molding attached to a frame on the upper case, vertical backboards; on the lower case, two pairs (for a total of four) thumbnail-molded drawers, half dustboards, no drawer supports, over a thumbnail-molded sliding tray with blind-tenoned battens, two flat paneled doors with beaded edges, one interior shelf, vertical backboards, brass hardware (replaced); ogee bracket feet (replaced).

GROUP: This is one of five presses made by an unidentified cabinetmaker who worked in the Warren and Franklin County area of northeastern North Carolina. Its style is associated with the Sharrock family of cabinetmakers in Northampton County, and it is possible that it was made by one of the many craftsmen in that family. However, Warren County enjoyed a surfeit of transplated Virginia cabinetmakers in the late eighteenth century: brothers Jordan and Green Worsham from Dinwiddie County; William Andrews (d. 1806), his son Drury Andrews (d. 1844), and Hamilton Bonner from Prince George County; and John Pettway (d. 1796) from Sussex County. The china press’s original owner, William Green (1739-1799), had business and even family relationships with many of these craftsmen. In 1796, Green attended the estate sale of John Pettway; the following year, he purchased property from Jordan Worsham; in 1799, William Andrews attended Green’s own estate sale; and in 1801, Green’s younger daughter Lucy married Hamilton Bonner.

This particular china press is unusual in having four small drawers in two tiers above a pull-out serving board. However, the location of the serving board below the drawers, rather than above, is typical of this group. In addition to MESDA’s example, the other presses by this maker are in the collections of Colonial Williamsburg, the DAR Museum, Historic Hope Plantation, and the Sally-Billy House at Historic Halifax.

This piece descended matrilineally for at least five generations in the family of William Green (1739-1799) and his first wife, Mary (Christmas) Green, of Warren County, North Carolina. Like many Roanoke River Valley planters, Green was born in Virginia and moved to North Carolina during the third quarter of the eighteenth century. At the time of his death, he owned a large plantation in Warren County with 44 slaves and several thousand acres of speculative land in Piedmont Georgia. His probate inventory documented the china press as well as its contents by itemizing all of the chinaware, glassware, and silverware that filled the shelves and drawers of both the upper and lower cases. It listed “1 China Press and its contents (viz.), 15 dishes and puding pans, 27 plates, 2 Butter potts, 2 Sugar dishes, 6 Coffee Cups and saucers, 10 Tea Cups and saucers, 4 China Bowls, 2 delft Bowls, 2 Cream pots, 1 Tea Jar, 4 large Tumblers with tops, 4 Glass Bowls, 12 sillabub glasses, 3 Goblets, 2 water Bottles, 8 Salt Sellers, 1 Glass can, 5 Tumblers, 2 wine glasses, 1 Set of Casters, 11 Silver Tea spoons, 6 Table spoons silver, 1 Glass Sugar Dish.”

In 1810, it appeared again as “1 China Press” in the probate inventory of Green’s son-in-law, Hugh Johnston (1762-1810) of Largo plantation. In 1848, it was the “1 China Press” valued at $14 in the estate papers of Green’s daughter, Sarah (Green) Johnston (1774-1848). It was later at Kinderhook plantation, the home of the Johnstons’ daughter, Mary Christmas (Johnston) Jones (1793-1858). It descended to her daughter Priscilla (Jones) White (1819-1897), who lived at Ingleside in Warrenton, North Carolina, and then to her granddaughter, Helen (White) Holt, after which it was generously given to MESDA by their descendants.

Credit Line:
Gift of Thomas and Lela M. Holt in Memory of Thomas J. and Helen White Holt