This Pembroke or breakfast table may be one of the earliest extant examples of furniture attributed to the Shaw shop. Possibly dating from the early partnership of Shaw and Chisholm, it is in the Chippendale style in form and ornament. The design for a square top table with serpentine sides and ends is adapted from the plates for ‘Breakfast Tables,’ illustrated in Chippendale’s DIRECTOR. The rounding of the molded edge of the top with a slight bead is a treatment characteristically employed by Shaw to finish the edges of his furniture.
RELATED OBJECTS: MESDA exhibits another Pembroke table (3125) which was made by Shaw and is inscribed, “Mary Shaws table” indicating that it was owned by John Shaw’s daughter Mary.
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.
CONSTRUCTION: drawer sides extend well beyond drawer back; this is a construction characteristic associated with Shaw.
WOODS: Primary wood is mahogany; secondary woods are poplar and yellow pine; drawer construction, leaf supports, hinges and hinge rails are poplar; inner and outer frames and drawer support are yellow pine.