WOODS: poplar seat, maple legs and arm supports, ash stretchers, poplar and yellow pine arms.
DECORATION: This example originally was painted red, and that color has been restored.
STYLE: This bench is among the earliest known example of documented Windsor furniture from Virginia. The stylish base and well-sculpted seat are of urban quality, although the turnings of the arm supports and the chunky termination of the arms suggest a rural chairmaker.
MAKER: A 1797 receipt among the Skipwith Papers in the Swem Library, College of William and Mary, documents Sir Peyton Skipwith’s purchase of “2 Portico Settees” from the Granville County, North Carolina, Windsor chairmaker David Ruth. This settee is one of the pair listed on the receipt and intended for use at Skipwith’s newly constructed estate Prestwould. Skipwith’s original order included two dozen fan-backed chairs, a regular sized settee, six small chairs, and a child’s chair, some of which survive today at Prestwould.
David Ruth (1761-1825) made Windsor chairs and carriages in Granville County, North Carolina, just across the border from Mecklenburg County, Virginia, where Prestwould is located. Born in Philadelphia, Ruth fought with the Continental Army during the American Revolution but moved to Granville County shortly thereafter in the late 1780s. There, he enjoyed the patronage of the Skipwith family at Prestwould Plantation and the North Carolina state government. Ruth is documented receiving several commissions for Windsor chairs and tables for the North Carolina Capitol building and other government offices. In 1802, Ruth relocated permanently to Raleigh where he operated his business with his son, David (1791-1862), an ornamental painter and chair maker. His younger son, George Washington Ruth (1799-1858), trained as a silversmith.
RELATED OBJECT: For a large settee attributed to David Ruth, see MESDA Acc. # 2741. It descended in the Tarry family of Ivy Hill Plantation in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.