Collections › MESDA Collection › Tea Chest

Tea Chest

Place Made:
Baltimore Maryland United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany et al
HOA:8 1/2; WOA:10 3/4; DOA:6 1/2
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Tea chest with hinged top; ivory escutcheon in the shape of a bellflower; string inlay; ogee bracket feet; interior contains three tin cannisters.

The three tin cannisters were used for the storage of various types of black and green teas, popular in the 18th century. In England the middle cannister often had sugar in it. The string inlay is similar to known Baltimore types. The construction of this example is extremely fine and is exemplified not only in the selection of mahogany but in the quality of secondary woods. A very tight grain yellow pine was used for the bottom and for the core of the top. Poplar, which is seen in Maryland pieces, was used for the dividers between the cannisters. Holly and mahogany were used as veneers on the inside of the top, a rather special treatment.

One of the three cannisters has numerous inscriptions alluding to a later owner and her possible friends and amours. A “Miss Maria McIlvaine” of “Baltimore” is mentioned frequently and is possibly the author of the writing. Maria McIlvaine was born on April 12, 1809 to the Baltimore merchant tailor Alexander McIlvaine (d. 1814) and his wife Sarah (b. 1766); she appears as an unmarried woman with her 84-year old mother in the 1850 US Census. “Miss Eliza Matchet” is probably Eliza Matilda Matchett (b. 1810) who married John Wesley Woods, a printer, on May 24, 1832. She was probably a member of the Matchett family that published Baltimore city directories and maps throughout the first half of the 19th century. Poetical verses and the year “1829” also appear on the cannister, and the word “Baltimore” is inscribed numerous times, as well as the names “Henry” and “Matthew” with unfortunately indeciipherable last names.
Credit Line:
Mr. and Mrs. George Kaufman Purchase Fund