Collections › MESDA Collection › Ladies Work Table

Ladies Work Table

Place Made:
Baltimore Maryland United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany –mahogany veneer –brass –white pine
Height 30 3/8”, width 197/8”, depth 15 3/4”
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Sewing table with two cockbeaded drawers; turned columns on each corner; double-lyre base; four sabre legs.

FORM: This two drawer worktable with a double lyre base was made at the height of the fashion for Grecian-inspired furniture, and is modeled after Plate 26 of Sheraton’s 1793 Drawing Book. The form was popular in both Philadelphia and Baltimore, those produced in the former city being generally more elaborate, while those made in the latter, are usually more restrained. A closely related example with a sold Maryland history, can be found in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society, where it is attributed to the cabinetmaker William Camp (1773-1822), who began his career in Philadelphia, and maintained close ties to that city after his move to Baltimore in 1802. Another example is at the Baltimore Museum of Art. These Baltimore examples appear to be less heavily ornamented than their Philadelphia prototypes. Great quantities of classical furniture were exported from Baltimore, which was conveniently located in the nearby Chesapeake Bay, to numerous Virginia ports, including Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Norfolk, Petersburg, Richmond and Suffolk, yet also to more rural docks in smaller Bayside towns, such as Folly Landing, in Accomack County.

Philadelphians who produced the form include Joseph Beale (active 1801-1820) and Michel Bouvier (1792-1874); Philadelphia examples generally have a greater degree of decoration that includes figured maple veneered panels on the drawer fronts, case sides, and lyres, as well as sophisticated ormolu mounts and ring turnings on the turreted corners.

INSCRIPTION: Evidence of an old paper label, likely from the manufacturer, remains on the interior bottom of the top drawer. Similarly, a pencil inscription on the drawer bottom reads “M Braxton / of Virginia / 1812” This likely refers to the original owner, Mary Walker (Carter) Braxton (1763-1844) of Hybla Plantation in King William County, Virginia.

For more on Maryland examples, see:
Gregory Weidman, Furniture in Maryland (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1984), No. 164, pp. 189-190.

For a picture of the table from the BMA, see:
William Voss Elder, American Furniture 1680-1880 from the Collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore: BMA, 1987), no. 132, p. 171.

For information about more elaborate Philadelphia examples, see:
Kathleen Catalano,, “Cabinetmaking in Philadelphia 1820-1840, Transition from Craft to Industry”, Winterthur Portfolio 13 (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press,1979), 83.

Boor, et al, Philadelphia Empire Furniture (Hanover: The University of New England, 2006) figures 122-125, pp. 255-258.

Edgar G. Miller, Jr. American Antique Furniture, Volume II (New York: M. Barrows and Company, Inc., 1937(, nos. 1568 and 1570, p. 808.

Based on its pencil inscription referring to “M. Braxton,” this work table was probably first owned by Mary Walker (Carter) Braxton (1763-1844) of Hybla Plantation in King William County, Virginia, who was born at Corotoman Plantation and later grew up at Shirley Plantation in Charles City County. Her husband was George Braxton (1762-1809). Interestingly, Mary was the granddaughter of Charles Carter of Cleve whose tea table (acc. 3992) and corner chair (acc. 2921) made by the colonial Virginia cabinetmaker Robert Walker are also in the MESDA collection.
Credit Line:
Gift of Kelly and Randy Schrimsher