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Pembroke Table

Pfeninger, Martin\Attributed to
Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany –cypress –ash
HOA 28 7/8; WOA closed 21 1/2, open 35 3/4; DOA 26 3/4
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Pembroke table: Top has serpentine shaping on all sides with thumbnail molding, chamfered on bottom (top approx. 1/2″ thick); serpentine skirts have 3/32″ string inlay and edge banding on drawer; upper leg has rectangular string panel enclosing elongated dogwood blossom, while the lower leg (delineated by a thin bolection) has the same stringing the full length, with entwined stringing at the top supporting three husks, and a single bell flower at the foot (not the same as the husks) with its central lobe pointing up; legs are inlaid on two surfaces and are chamfered on the back corner; four string inlaid brackets enclose a smaller version of the dogwood motif; all floral inlays are delicately shaded apparently with a burin and the shading is filled in with black ink or a similar substance; the feet (3/4″ high) are applied rosewood (?) overlays which are splayed; ends of hinged gates have ogee shaping (Bivins, 1999)

CONSTRUCTION: The top is screwed on through gouge cuts in the interior frame (drawer runners cut in two places to allow passage of screwdriver); leaves originally hung with butterfly hinges; end skirt veneered on mahogany core; drawer bottom is feathered on sides and front (Bivins 1999).

MAKER: Martin Pfeninger (d. 1782) was amost surely born in Germany, although where and when is not known. By 1768 he was in London where he married Margaret Till in St. Martins in the Field Parish. Four years later in 1772 he was in Charleston where he was recorded performing work for cabinetmaker Thomas Elfe, and he may have gotten his start in Charleston with Elfe. He was operating his own shop by 1773 on the corner of Tradd and Meeting Streets. Pfeninger was almost immediately accepted by Charleston’s Germanic community. In July of 1776 he became a member of the German Friendly Society and appears to have attended St. John’s Lutheran Church, both of which served as the main support groups for German immigrants in Charleston. He appears to have originated the ornate pre-Revolutionary German School of Cabinetmaking in Charleston, and most likely employed the post-Revolutionary German School cabinetmakers: Jacob Saas, Charles Desel, and Henry Gesken. Pfeninger died on 20 September 1782.

GROUP: The characteristics that help us to attribute this piece to Charleston include the fact that the thinness of the top with its shaping and the inlay work have an English feel. Also, the form of the foot is highly unusual in American neoclassical furniture. (Bivins 1999).
This table is related to the MESDA’s Charleston gaming table (Acc. 1185) and the Holmes-Edwards library bookcase in the Heyward Washington House in Charleston, South Carolina. (FLH 1999)

Credit Line:
Gift of Mildred Paden, Betty Crockett, Rosalind Willis, and Rob Willis in memory of Anne and Meade Willis