ATTRIBUTION: In addition to the ownership of this table by the cabinetmaker’s own daughter, the attribution to John Shaw is made through several stylistic details: the applied molding at the frame base, the molded and shaped thin top, the double gate to support the leaves, the inlay designs of a trifid terminal to the stringing, the quatrefoil design in the upper leg and on the foot, the ovid spade foot, lightwood cockbeading at the drawer, and the finest imported West Indies mahogany.
MAKER: John Shaw was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1745 and was working in Annapolis by 1768. The first recorded reference to Shaw as a cabinetmaker appears in the records of a 1770 court case. By 1772 he was in partnership with Archibald Chisholm. According to advertisements, the Shaw and Chisholm firm not only sold furniture made by the two cabinetmakers, but also sold imported goods. In 1773 Joshua Collins, musical instrument maker, advertised in February 1773 that he was working at their shop. They advertised later that year as cabinetmakers and chairmakers. The partnership dissolved in November 1776. During the Revolution Shaw was appointed the Armorer of the State of Maryland.
In 1777 Shaw married Elizabeth Wellstead Pratt. The couple had five sons and two daughters. Their youngest son, George, was also a cabinetmaker (but died just a few months after John Shaw). After the death of his first wife in 1793, Shaw married Margaret Steuart in 1798 and had one additional daughter.
Much of Shaw’s work was commissioned by the Maryland government including furniture for the State House, the Chancery Office, the Land Office, and the Orphans’ Court. There are numerous pieces of furniture bearing the label of John Shaw. These examples tell the story of a versatile craftsman who developed a style all his own from his earliest Marlboro legged tables to a neoclassical taste tempered with shades of rococo. He died in Annapolis 1829.
WOODS: mahogany with birch cockbeading, light and dark wood inlays with oak gate and inner frame, yellow pine drawer supports, mahogany end frame and drawer front cores, and poplar drawer liner and bottom.