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Corner Cupboard

McAdams Family
Place Made:
Washington County Tennessee United States of America
Date Made:
walnut –poplar
HOA: 92″; WOA: 48″; DOA” 29″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Corner cupboard with thick beveled molding; rope and tassel inlay along top and down stiles; two eight-paned glass doors enclosing three shelves; waist molding divides the upper and lower case; the lower case has three small drawers with brass pulls and string and fan inlay; below is two paneled doors with string inlay and a central inlay with four leaves/petals enclosed by a circle; bracket feet.

SCHOOL: Perhaps no decorative motif is more definitively associated with East Tennessee furniture, especially corner cupboards, than the so-called “rope and tassel” inlaid above the doors and extending down the stiles of this case. The alternating light-dark barber-pole of the cord terminating in a tassel immediately evokes a strong regional association with upper East Tennessee furniture production. The belt of three drawers, distinctive waist molding, and case scoring also tie this extravagantly inlaid cupboard to a surviving plainer, unadorned example from the same shop. The arrangement of inlays on the lower doors calls to mind similar treatment featured on two desks with histories in the same area which are part of this school, if not in actuality, output from the same shop. Especially intriguing is evidence present in the quarter fan inlays of polychromatic shading/staining. Although this cupboard has been reduced somewhat in height, and the present apron is not consistent with the original aesthetic of the cabinetmaker, the survival of a full height foot and base molding on a cupboard from this same shop will allow an appropriate restoration without need for speculation.

For a complete examination of the McAdams Family of cabinetmakers (Hugh [1772-1814], Robert [1782-1823], and John [date unknown]) in Washington County, Tennessee, see Amber M. Clawson, “Building Tennessee: The McAdams Family Trade and Identity in the Southwest Backcountry,” PhD dissertation, Middle Tennessee State University, 2015.

The cupboard came with letters from the Murray family of Washington County, Tennessee, and it probably belonged originally to Ephraim Murray (d. 1835), a well-to-do land owner and surveyor, who moved with his family from Baltimore County, Maryland, to Washington County, Tennessee, in the early 1790s. His probate inventory lists “1 Cupboard & its contents.”
Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund